Thursday, February 28, 2013

Phoenix Subway Fresh Fit 500 Pre-Race Notes

Phoenix Offers Johnson Opportunity, Challenges
Harvick and Hamlin were awesome last year at Phoenix (Getty)
Can Jimmie Johnson do it again? NASCAR’s media corps predicted Johnson will win his sixth NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship this season in the preseason poll. And that was before last Sunday, when Johnson raced his No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet to a second Daytona 500 victory.

Johnson has confirmed his stature as the driver to beat. But with 35 races remaining in the 2013 campaign, he’s just one of two dozen or so title contenders.

Only five Daytona 500 winners – Johnson, Jeff Gordon and NASCAR Hall of Famers Lee Petty, Richard Petty and Cale Yarborough – have gone on to capture the same season’s championship. Johnson was the most recent to achieve the feat in 2006.

Johnson hardly has stopped to take a breath since rolling into Victory Lane for the 61st time in his NASCAR Sprint Cup career. The Daytona 500 champion’s coast-to-coast odyssey includes stops in New York City, the ESPN campus in Bristol, Conn., Dallas-Ft. Worth and Los Angeles before wrapping up Thursday night in Phoenix.

"You know, I'm just enjoying this moment. This is a one-of-a-kind race. In the rush that follows, the notoriety that follows, it's great for all of us. Chad (Knaus), Rick (Hendrick), the company, Lowe's, Chevrolet. It's just time to sit back and enjoy," Johnson said in his Daytona 500 post-race interview.

"When we pull into the gates at Phoenix next weekend, it's a totally different game, as we all know. We'll enjoy this rush. If there's some down points through the year, we'll look back on this race and smile again."

Johnson will do double duty this week, making a rare NASCAR Nationwide Series appearance in Saturday’s Dollar General 200 Presented by AmeriGas in the No. 5 JR Motorsports Chevrolet.
Phoenix has been one of Johnson’s best tracks as well as the place – last November – where his championship hopes began to unravel thanks to a tire/suspension failure and accident. On the plus side, he boasts four wins, 12 top-five and 15 top-10 finishes, a Coors Light Pole, average finish of 6.7 and a series best Driver Rating of 115.8.

Johnson’s last Phoenix victory came in the fall of 2009. He won in the Valley of the Sun in three of his five championship seasons – 2007-09. Johnson finished fourth in last spring’s Subway Fresh Fit 500, the second of three races run since the one-mile track was repaved and somewhat reconfigured.

The last driver to win the opening two races of the season was Matt Kenseth in 2009.

Johnson’s teammates at Hendrick Motorsports may be his toughest competition on Sunday. Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kasey Kahne have won a combined five Phoenix races. HMS is the all-time Phoenix winner with nine victories.

Daytona Done, Gen-6 Readies For Downforce Tracks
By most measures, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Gen-6 race car passed its Daytona International Speedway debut with flying colors.

The racing from Sprint Unlimited through Budweiser Duel and the Daytona 500 was close and intense – and fans applauded the new look of the Chevrolet SS, Ford Fusion and Toyota Camry.

"I noticed something last night coming out of the track for dinner, just seemed to be a different vibe inside the infield," said Dale Earnhardt Jr. in his post-Daytona 500 media interview. "People seemed more excited about what was getting ready to happen today.

"I think it's a great way to start the season. The car is doing everything we hoped it would do," said the Daytona 500’s second-place finisher. "I think it will just get better. It's still a brand-new car. We have a whole season and the future to improve it and learn how to make it tick."

Now Gen-6 moves into the meat-and-potatoes portion of the schedule, beginning with Phoenix International Speedway’s one-mile oval and – on March 10 – the first intermediate layout at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, where teams will get an extra day of testing.

Daytona 500 winner Jimmie Johnson said it’s too early to judge the full potential of Gen-6, especially with the season’s first race being contested on an aerodynamic sensitive, restrictor plate-track.
"Once we get a downforce race or two behind us, we'll have a better understanding," Johnson said. "We're really excited for the races to come. But it is a little early. Maybe after Vegas, Bristol, we can see which team has the upper hand."

Mark Martin, a Phoenix winner with the previous Gen-5 platform, believes Phoenix will be an eye-opener because of the new car’s enhanced downforce. "When we get in these things next week, they are going to be stuck like glue and we're going to be breaking track records," Martin said.

Phoenix Natives Ride Momentum Into Home Track
This has been a long time coming for J.J. Yeley.
Yeley’s hometown is Phoenix, and he’s riding into his home track with some good feelings coming off the best Daytona 500 finish of his career.

Yeley, who drives for the two-car Tommy Baldwin Racing operation, finished 10th in Sunday’s Daytona 500. It was the eighth top-10 finish of his career, and first since June of 2008. He finished 10th on Sunday.
An encore performance may prove difficult for Yeley, who has yet to finish in the top 10 at his home track. At the one-mile track, Yeley’s best finish was 14th in November of 2007.

Yeley’s not the only driver familiar with Phoenix. There is, of course, Danica Patrick, an honorary Phoenix native. Though born in Roscoe, Ill., Patrick resides in both Phoenix and Chicago. And, clearly, she enjoys the home-track advantage.

Last November’s race marked a then-series-best for the Daytona 500 pole winner and top-10 finisher. She finished 17th in her second start with current Stewart-Haas Racing crew chief Tony Gibson, her current best series performance on a non-plate track.

Patrick made all kinds of history on Sunday, becoming the first female to leads laps in the Daytona 500, the first female to score a top-10 in the 500, and the 13th driver to lead both the Daytona 500 and Indianapolis 500. Patrick led five laps on Sunday, which put her on a list with only five other drivers who have led five laps in both races. A.J. Foyt, Mario Andretti, Robby Gordon, Juan Pablo Montoya and Tony Stewart are the others.

Phoenix Can Salve Daytona Disappointments
This Sunday’s Subway Fresh Fit 500 offers several drivers the opportunity to regain momentum that abruptly vanished during the Daytona 500.

Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, Tony Stewart and Matt Kenseth were fast enough to win the "Great American Race" before misfortune – accident or engine failure – dictated otherwise.
Each has tasted success at Phoenix International Raceway.

Harvick, on the verge of going winless last season after two championship "near misses," drove his No. 29 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet to victory in November. Harvick has won three times on the one-mile oval, posting six top-five and 10 top-10 finishes.

Busch set a one-lap qualifying record (138.766 mph, 25.943 seconds) when the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series visited Phoenix last fall. Busch, whose Phoenix victory came in 2005, owns the track’s third-best Driver Rating (99.9).

Stewart also is a one-time Phoenix winner but a third-place finish in the fall of 2011 was crucial to capturing his third NASCAR Sprint Cup championship. He has a second-best average running position of 10.2 but failed to record a top-15 finish at Phoenix last season.

Kenseth led the most laps in the Daytona 500 (86) before being sidelined by engine failure. He’ll make his first Phoenix start in a Joe Gibbs Toyota as teammate to last spring’s Subway Fresh Fit 500 winner Denny Hamlin. Kenseth’s lone Phoenix victory came in 2002.

Subway 500 Win A Springboard To The Chase
September and the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup™ is far off into the distance – 25 races to be exact. But this week’s stop at Phoenix International Raceway marks the first time teams will see a 2013 Chase track.

The most recent Phoenix race was crucial to last year’s championship. Brad Keselowski slipped through a final lap accident to grab sixth while Jimmie Johnson earlier had pounded the wall en route to a 32nd-place finish.

Sunday’s Subway Fresh Fit 500 won’t guarantee any driver this year’s title. But a victory could be pivotal. All but one Phoenix spring winner – Ryan Newman in 2010 – have qualified for the Chase.

Newman, who failed to qualify for last year’s postseason, is off to a good start finishing fifth in the Daytona 500. His four Coors Light Poles lead all drivers at Phoenix. Newman remains one pole short of the magic 50 milestone that only eight NASCAR Sprint Cup competitors have reached.

Between 2003 and 2009, three drivers – Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kevin Harvick – won eight of 12 Phoenix races. Eight different drivers have graced Victory Lane since the opening race of the 2009 season.

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, Etc.
The field for the Subway Fresh Fit 500 will be lined up with the fastest 36 drivers from qualifying followed by the next six eligible teams from 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup car owner standings and an eligible past champion. If no past champion is eligible, position 43 goes to the next highest finisher in 2012 owner points. … Milestone Watch: Jimmie Johnson will attempt to eclipse the 14,000 laps-led mark in this weekend’s Subway Fresh Fit 500. He currently has led 13,873 laps, needing 127 to eclipse the mark. … Mike Bliss will attempt to start his 150th NSCS race. … A trio of drivers, Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth, will each be looking for their 25th series win this weekend. … A win in the race by any of the Toyota drivers would give the manufacturer its 50th series win. … The honorary race officials are Jered Weaver, starting pitcher for the Anaheim Angels; John Skelton, quarterback for the Arizona Cardinals; and Todd Graham, head coach of the Arizona State University Sun Devils football team.

- NASCAR Media services

Phoneix Subway Fresh Fit 500 Notes

At Phoenix International Raceway:
Phoenix International Raceway Data
Season Race #: 2 of 36 (03-03-13)
Track Size: 1-mile
Banking/Turns 1 & 2: 10 - 11 degrees
Banking/Turns 3 & 4: 8 - 9 degrees
Banking/Frontstretch: 3 degrees
Banking/Backstretch: 9 degrees
Frontstretch Length: 1,179 feet
Backstretch Length: 1,551 feet
Race Length: 312 laps / 500 Kilometers
Top 12 Driver Rating at Phoenix
Jimmie Johnson........................ 115.8
Denny Hamlin........................... 100.4
Kyle Busch................................ 99.9
Kurt Busch................................ 99.3
Tony Stewart............................. 99.0
Jeff Gordon................................ 98.8
Kevin Harvick............................. 98.4
Carl Edwards............................. 98.3
Mark Martin............................... 97.8
Greg Biffle................................. 92.4
Ryan Newman........................... 88.9
Matt Kenseth............................. 85.5
Note: Driver Ratings compiled from 2005-2012 races (16 total) among active drivers at Phoenix International Raceway
Qualifying/Race Data
2012 pole winner: Mark Martin, Toyota, 136.815 mph, 26.313 sec., 03-01-12
2012 race winner: Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 110.085 mph, (2:50:35), 03-04-12
Track qualifying record: Kyle Busch, Toyota, 138.766 mph, 25.943 sec., 11-09-12
Track race record: Tony Stewart, Pontiac, 118.132 mph, (2:38:28), 11-7-99
·         Construction was completed in January 1964. The facility consisted of a one-mile oval and a 2.5-mile road course.
·         Alan Kulwicki won the first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Phoenix on Nov. 6, 1988.
·         The first spring race was held on April 23, 2005 and also the first night race, which was won by Kurt Busch.
·         The track underwent its first repave in 2011. The construction began in March and concluded in September of that year.
·         The following changes were made during the construction period (March – Sept., 2011):
o    Widened the frontstretch from 52 to 62 feet
o    Reconfigured pit road with the installation of concrete pit stalls
o    Pushed the dog-leg curve between Turn 2 and Turn 3 out 95 feet
o    Tightened the turn radius of the dog-leg from 800 to 500 feet
o    Implemented variable banking to ensure the immediate use of two racing grooves, including 10-11 degree banking between Turn 1 and Turn 2; 10-11 degree banking in the apex of the dog-leg; and 8-9 degree banking in Turn 4
·         There have been 33 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Phoenix International Raceway, one per season from 1988-2004 and two each season since.
·         184 drivers have competed in at least one NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Phoenix; 134 in more than one.
·         Geoffrey Bodine won the first pole in 1988 at a speed of 123.203 mph (29.220 sec.)
·         There have been 19 different pole winners, led by Ryan Newman with four.
·         Youngest Phoenix pole winner: Kyle Busch (4/22/06 – 20 years, 11 months, 20 days).
·         Oldest Phoenix pole winner: Mark Martin (03/04/12 – 53 years, 1 months, 24 days).
·         Ryan Newman, Jeff Gordon and Carl Edwards are the only drivers to win consecutive poles. Newman won three straight (2002-04), while Gordon won the fall of 2006 and spring of 2007, and Edwards won the fall of 2010 and spring of 2011.
·         There have been 23 different race winners at Phoenix, seven of which have won more than once, led by Jimmie Johnson, with four – (’07 fall, ’08 sweep, ’09 fall).
·         The seven drivers who have won more than once at Phoenix: Jimmie Johnson (four), Kevin Harvick (three), Davey Allison (two), Jeff Burton (two), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (two), Jeff Gordon (two) and Mark Martin (two).
·         Of the seven drivers with multiple wins at Phoenix International Raceway, Mark Martin is the only driver to win in two different manufacturers: Ford (1993) and Chevrolet (2009).
·         The race has been won from the pole four times: Jeff Gordon (spring 2007), Jimmie Johnson (fall 2008), Mark Martin (spring 2009) and Carl Edwards (fall 2010).
·         The race has been won from a top-10 starting position in 17 of 33 events.
·         Denny Hamlin (November, 2005) and AJ Allmendinger (April, 2010) won their first career pole at Phoenix International Raceway.
·         Ricky Rudd won the 1995 race from the 29th-place starting position, the furthest back a race winner has started.
·         Matt Kenseth won the 2002 race from the 28th-place starting position, the furthest back an active race winner has started.
·         Mark Martin has 21 top-10 finishes, more than any other driver. Martin (9.0 average finish) is one of two active drivers who average a top-10 finish. Jimmie Johnson (6.6) is the other.
·         Two perfect Driver Ratings of 150.0 have been recorded at Phoenix, Kurt Busch in April of 2005 and Kevin Harvick in November of 2006.
·         Five drivers have won consecutive races at Phoenix: Davey Allison (1991,1992); Jeff Burton (2000, 2001); Dale Earnhardt Jr. (2003, 2004); Kevin Harvick (swept 2006); Jimmie Johnson is the only one of the five to win three consecutive races (fall 2007, swept 2008).
·         Hendrick Motorsports leads the series in wins at Phoenix with nine, followed by Roush Fenway Racing with six.
·         Youngest NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Texas Motor Speedway winner: Phoenix International Raceway winner: Kyle Busch (11/13/2005 – 20 years, 6 months, 11 days).
·         Oldest NSCS Phoenix International Raceway winner: Mark Martin (04/18/2009 – 50 years, 3 months, 9 days).
·         Mark Martin leads the series in runner-up finishes at Phoenix with five; followed by Tony Stewart with three.
·         Mark Martin and Jimmie Johnson lead the series in top-five finishes at Phoenix with 12 each.
·         Alan Kulwicki (11/6/1988) and Bobby Hamilton (10/27/1996) are the only two drivers to post their first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career win at Phoenix International Raceway.
·         21 of the 23 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers who have won at Phoenix participated in at least two or more races before visiting Victory Lane. Alan Kulwicki (11/6/1988) and Tony Stewart (11/7/1999) are the only two drivers to win at Phoenix in their first appearance.
·         Jeff Gordon competed at Phoenix International Raceway 16 times before winning (4/21/2007); the longest span of any the 23 winners.
·         Six drivers have made 10 or more attempts before their first win at Phoenix: Jeff Gordon (16), Ryan Newman (15), Kasey Kahne (14), Denny Hamlin (13), Carl Edwards (12) and Rusty Wallace (11).
·         Bobby Labonte leads the series (active drivers) with the most NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts at Phoenix without visiting Victory Lane with 28.
·         Since the advent of electronic scoring the closest margin of victory in the NASCAR Sprint Cup at Phoenix was the (4/10/2010) race won by Ryan Newman with a MOV of 0.13 seconds.
·         Seven of the 33 NASCAR Sprint Cup races at Phoenix have been won from the front row.
·         Five drivers have won the first two races of the season in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series; the first two times did not include the Daytona 500: Lee Petty (Daytona Beach Course, Tri-City Speedway; 1954), Marvin Panch (Willow Springs Speedway, Concord Speedway; 1956), David Pearson (Riverside, Daytona; 1976), Jeff Gordon (Daytona, Rockingham; 1997) and Matt Kenseth (Daytona, Auto Club).
·         Three reigning NASCAR Sprint Cup champions have gone on to win at Phoenix the following season; Jimmie Johnson is the only one to do it multiple times: Jimmie Johnson (2007, 2008 sweep and 2009); Kurt Busch (2005) and Bill Elliott (1989).
·         Two drivers have won at Phoenix and the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship in the same season: Jimmie Johnson (2007, 2008 sweep and 2009); Dale Earnhardt (1990).
·         Danica Patrick is the only female driver to have made a NASCAR Sprint Cup start at Phoenix International Raceway. She did so last season (11/11/12) starting 37th and finishing 17th.
·         Car numbers that have produced three or more Phoenix wins:
Car Number – Drivers – (Years)
o    No. 48  - Jimmie Johnson (2007, 2008 sweep and 2009)
o    No. 29 – Kevin Harvick (2006 sweep and 2012)
o    No. 5 - Mark Martin (2009), Kyle Busch (2005) and Terry Labonte (1994)
o    No. 99 – Carl Edwards (2010) and Jeff Burton (2000, 2001)
NASCAR in Arizona
·         There have been 38 NASCAR Sprint Cup races in Arizona.
Track Name
Phoenix International Raceway
Arizona State Fairgrounds
Tucson Rodeo Grounds
·         31 drivers in NASCAR national series history have their home state recorded as Arizona.
·         There have been no race winners from Arizona in NASCAR’s three national series.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Clint Bowyer Awesome at Flat Tracks

CORNELIUS, N.C. — No. 15 5-hour ENERGY Toyota driver Clint Bowyer gets his first chance to drive NASCAR’s new Gen-6 Toyota on a mile oval this weekend at Phoenix International Raceway. Bowyer said racing the new car on the flat Phoenix track will be far different than racing on Daytona’s high banks where he finished 11th in Sunday’s Daytona 500.

After Phoenix the Sprint Cup Series will race at the 1.5-mile Las Vegas track, the half-mile track at Bristol and the 2-mile high speed oval at Auto Club Speedway in California. All provide unique challenges to the drivers and teams seeking advantages with the new car.


ON PHOENIX: “Now the racing really begins. In the next couple weeks you are really going to see who the strong teams are that are going to be competing for a championship all season long. Daytona is its own deal – its own type of racing. Now as we move on to Phoenix and Vegas you are going to see who has figured out this new car and who still has some work to do. That’s the beauty of the start of the NASCAR schedule – we visit virtually every type of racetrack in the first six weeks – Superspeedways, short tracks, 1.5 and two-mile tracks – it’s all there. I’m excited to see where we are compared to the other teams. I think we’re in a pretty good spot.

“Last season we left Daytona in the exact same position as we did this year – with an 11th place finish. Then we got to Phoenix and we cut down two tires in the first 30 laps and that put us behind for the rest of the afternoon and put us in a little bit of a whole to start the year. If we can have a solid race in Phoenix I think we’ll be in a great position to start the season.”

· Phoenix: Bowyer will make his 15th career NSCS Daytona start on Feb. 24, 2013. In 14 previous Daytona starts, he has two top-five and six top-10 finishes. He started a career-best third in July 2011. Bowyer has an average starting position of 20th and finish of 16th.
· Chassis Chatter: Primary chassis No. 733 raced at both Pocono races in 2013—finishing sixth in June and eighth in August. It also started second and finished ninth at Dover in the fall. The backup chassis (No. 727) raced last season at Fontana, Darlington and both Michigan races.
· Commercial Success: During the off-season Bowyer filmed new commercials for 5-hour ENERGY, PEAK and several different NASCAR commercials featuring the Gen 6 2013 Toyota Camry and its new fantasy games.
· INSIDER PROGRAM: Michael Waltrip Racing launched its Insider Program last week that offers all race fans sponsor discounts, specials on merchandise, exclusive pictures and video content plus fan giveaways throughout the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup season. Fans can access the MWR Insider Program through the CardStar application available on most smartphones. MWR will work on behalf of the fans to expand the offerings beyond just its current sponsor line-up, aggregating industry-wide deals and discounts. Fans can text MWR to 42828 get card for FREE. Offers include 20% off Subway Fresh Fit 500 tickets, free headset with rental of a FanVision unit ($19.99 value) and 25% off Toyota Racing merchandise at

-- Michael Waltrip Racing

LVH Super Book Odds to Win Subway Fresh Fit 500 at Phoenix

Chad Knaus helped Johnson stay ahead of curve when COT debuted (Getty)
By Micah Roberts
The Linemakers on Sporting News

Now we really get to see how NASCAR’s new Gen-6 cars perform.

In Sunday's Daytona 500, we saw a traffic jam and not a lot of passing. It should be a much different story this week at Phoenix.

The LVH SuperBook has installed Denny Hamlin as the 5-to-1 favorite to win the Subway Fresh Fit 500, followed by Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch at 6-to-1. Hamlin won the Phoenix race last spring and finished runner-up in the fall. Johnson has a 6.7 average finish at Phoenix over his career, and at one point had 10 straight top-five finishes on the track, including four wins.

Read More Here....Subway Fresh Fit 500 Odds

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Phoenix Preview: Hendrick Drivers Should Have an Edge

By Micah Roberts

Johnson is the favorite to win this week at Phoenix (Getty)
Now that we have the Daytona 500 out of the way we can get to seeing what this new Gen-6 car can do on tracks with no restrictions.

NASCAR, in its attempt to erase the type of restrictor-plate racing we’ve seen over the last few years may have gone too far with the version of racing produced over the last two weeks of Daytona speed weeks.

I never like to call any race boring, but Sunday’s race wasn’t exactly the most thrilling product NASCAR has given its fans.

No one could pass on Sunday, but all that changes at the 1-mile flat track at Phoenix this week, a sharp contrast from Daytona’s 2.5-mile beast.

All indications are that the Gen-6 car will be racier than ever in the 32 races other than Daytona or Talladega. In order for drivers to be successful at Phoenix, it takes the perfect mix of driver skill, horsepower and a perfectly balanced car to handle the flat turns.

Over the years, a few drivers have found an edge for themselves that make them tough to beat at Phoenix. The driver at the top of the list could be looking at winning the first two races of the season.

Jimmie Johnson, who probably did the least amount of anything during Daytona speed weeks, made it count most when it mattered in the Daytona 500. That’s what champions do.

At Phoenix, no one has been better than Johnson who has compiled a 6.7 average finish over his career. He had his worst career finish at Phoenix last fall – 32nd, but has won four times. At one juncture he went 10 straight races at Phoenix with a top-5 finish.

Johnson winning the Daytona 500 might have a few drivers saying, “Here we go again.” When the COT – the 5th Generation car – was introduced in 2007, Hendrick Motorsports drivers dominated.

Between Johnson, Jeff Gordon and then-Hendrick-driver Kyle Busch, they piled up all the wins. They had the advantage in the new car due to extensive testing all the other teams took almost a year to catch up to. Johnson would win the second of five straight NASCAR Cup Championships, in part because of the head start his team had with the new car.

Now we get to see if the massive Hendrick piggy bank can reproduce the same type of success with the Gen-6 car. Daytona is already in the bag, but that really isn’t the true test. That will be known this week at Phoenix and the following week in Las Vegas.

The 32 races away from Daytona and Talladega will be the true measure of who has the edge and who will be hoisting the championship trophy at the end of the season. Chances are Johnson will be that guy again.

The LVH Super Book dropped him to 7-to-2 following his Daytona win, a track he had struggled at since last winning there in 2006. The thinking is if Johnson can tackle his toughest tracks with success like he did Sunday, the Hendrick advantage in the Gen-6 car might propel him to his sixth title.

If you had to pick one team that might be able to go toe-to-toe with the Hendrick spending budget in testing, it might be the Joe Gibbs cars. Things started slow with the COT for Roush Racing and Richard Childress Racing, but the Gibbs crew adapted well when the COT ran the full season in 2008. It was Kyle Busch’s best season to date with eight wins.

Denny Hamlin has always been good at Phoenix, and the flat tracks like it at New Hampshire and Richmond. Hamlin won the spring Phoenix race last season and finished runner-up in the fall. Ironically, it was Kevin Harvick who won in the fall and finished runner-up in the spring. Hamlin has a 10.3 average finish at Phoenix over his career.

Other drivers we should expect to run well also come from the Hendrick stables. Kasey Kahne won in the fall of 2011 and ran well last season. Gordon is a two time winner at Phoenix – both coming in the COT and Dale Earnhardt Jr., is a two time winner himself – winning back-to-back years in 2003-04.

Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle would look to be the top Roush candidates. Edwards wrecked five cars at Daytona between January testing, practice and race competition.

Biffle has finished runner-up twice at Phoenix and last season finished seventh or better in both races.

Danica Fever

Danica Patrick’s eighth-place finish at Daytona may give reason to believe she is ready for the big leagues, but the reality is she didn’t have to do anything at the 500.

She just went along for the ride and stayed out of trouble, never having to make a move, and basically played follow the leader. We have seen her have some success in plate races, but Phoenix will be different.

Patrick is going to have to race, make decisions and battle, and I’m not so sure she’s ready for that yet. One thing going for her is she does have a great car. The Stewart-Haas team is a spin-off of Hendrick Motorsports and should have some of their advantages.

Shame on Caesars

Prior to the Daytona 500, I visited several sports books to grab odds sheets and find the best value. I found the LVH and William Hill odds to be the ones with the fairest and lowest theoretic hold percentage – both in the low 30 percentile. Almost every book had a driver or two that offered good value.

However, one book stood out that truly embarrassed me as a Las Vegan and even more as a former bookmaker. Caesars Palace, a once great sports book run by some of the sharpest bookies ever in Las Vegas, offered Daytona 500 odds that approached the most sickening hold ever seen on any type of index odds.

That’s what happens when odds of 9-1 or less are placed on 12 drivers. It’s really none of my business how a book wants to be perceived or how they want to run their business, but I can’t keep quiet about it simply because I don’t like how they treated our guests at their chain of properties. Guests to my city deserve better.

Their odds basically said they didn’t want any action from people who know the difference, which is fine, but to take bets from unsuspecting guests at their ridiculous prices doesn’t seem right. Their customers who chose to stay at one of their properties deserve a better betting experience instead of essentially being called a rube by the property.

The Daytona 500 is a small portion of action, but their kicking the public in the groin with a smile doesn’t stop there. They also have the worst World Series, Super Bowl, College Basketball and NBA Championship futures in Nevada.

Their best service to the guests might be to eliminate all their type of odds offered that can’t get below a 50 percent theoretical hold. Or better yet, they can just call Cantor or William Hill and say their guests deserve better, come take over.

Top-5 Finish Prediction......

Hamlin Phoenix Success to Continue

Hamlin is using the same chassis he used to win in 2012 (Getty)
Event: Subway Fresh Fit 500
Date/Time: March 3/1 p.m. MT
2012 winner: Denny Hamlin
2012 polesitter: Mark Martin
Distance: 312 laps/312 miles
Track Length: 1 mile
Banking: 9/11 degrees
Track Shape: Oval


Daytona 500 Recap: Denny Hamlin led three times for 33 laps and was third for the final restart in Sunday’s 55th running of the Daytona 500, but the inside line never gained momentum in the final five-lap shootout to the checkered flag and the #11 FedEx Express Toyota Camry crossed the finish line in 14th-place. Hamlin restarted on the inside line following the race’s final caution period, but the preferred outside groove proved too much to overcome, as Jimmie Johnson held off Dale Earnhardt Jr. for the victory. Mark Martin finished third, followed by Brad Keselowski and Ryan Newman. The FedEx team started 35th on the famed 2.5-mile high-banked Florida oval, and Hamlin was content to bide his time in the early going near the back of the big draft pack. He gained a few spots after the first two-tire pit stop, and picked off a few more as he narrowly missed a multi-car incident that took out many contenders on Lap 34. Hamlin then linked up with Joe Gibbs teammates Matt Kenseth and Kyle Busch, as well as fellow Toyota drivers in the lead pack, and eventually had a six-car breakaway at the front. Hamlin took the lead for the first time on Lap 77 after quick work by the FedEx crew got him out in front of Kenseth, who had led 34 of the previous 40 laps. The #11 machine ran second through the race’s midpoint as Hamlin positioned himself for the finish. Three caution periods bunched the field in the final quarter of the race, but each time, the FedEx Toyota was forced to start on the inside line, which was never able to sustain momentum or allow Hamlin to mount a charge for the win.

Phoenix Preview: The Series heads to Phoenix International Raceway for Sunday’s 312-lap event on the one-mile desert oval where Hamlin is the defending race winner. In that race, Hamlin took the lead on a restart with 58 laps remaining Sunday at Phoenix International Raceway and never looked back, guiding the #11 FedEx Office Toyota Camry to victory lane. Hamlin masterfully circled the one-mile desert oval while conserving fuel for the final 84 laps, and had enough gas to be the first to see the checkered flag, ahead of Kevin Harvick, Greg Biffle, Johnson and Keselowski. Hamlin has eight top-10 finishes in 15 career PIR starts, and has started in the top-five four different times. Hamlin captured the pole in his first-ever Cup start at Phoenix in November 2005. In the most recent trip to PIR last November, Hamlin started third, ran among the leaders throughout the event and finished runner-up to Harvick after leading 46 laps. In total, Hamlin has led 399 laps at PIR and has an average finish of 10.3, third-best among active drivers.

Great Plains Team Along for the Ride in Phoenix: The FedEx Ground Great Plains district will be recognized for outstanding service quality with its district code “GPLS” on the b-post of the #11 FedEx Ground Toyota this weekend at Phoenix International Raceway. The Great Plains district, based out of the St. Paul hub, includes all of Minnesota and the Dakotas, and northern areas of Wisconsin and Iowa.

FedEx Office – Closest to Phoenix International Raceway: 1619 N. Dysart Rd., Ste 102, Avondale, AZ 85392, (623) 536-8077

HAMLIN CONVERSATION – Phoenix International Raceway:

Does the FedEx team have what it takes to defend the race win from one year ago at Phoenix?

“Absolutely. Last year, we had such a great car at Phoenix, and really, it was the first race where Darian (Grubb) and I had to communicate to make changes to make it better. Obviously, with Daytona such a prestigious race of its own, I look at Phoenix as the start of the points season. You’re going to see what cars are good and what teams have done a good job in the off-season. The new car will also mix that up, but I think our FedEx Camry is going to be strong. We have led a lot of laps at that track, and I’m comfortable with the new configuration. I’m hoping to defend that win from a year ago.”

-- Weber Shandwick Worldwide for FedEx Racing

Kevin Harvick looking for fourth Phoenix Conquer

Old Photo: Harvick has had lots of success at Phoenix (Getty)
Kevin Harvick
No. 29 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS

This Week’s Jimmy John’s Chevrolet at Phoenix International Raceway … Kevin Harvick will pilot chassis No. 383 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable in the Phoenix 500. This is the same Chevrolet the Bakersfield, Calif., native drove to Victory Lane at Phoenix International Raceway last November.

Freaky Good at Phoenix … Sunday’s 312-lap event will mark Harvick’s 21st start at the one-mile tri-oval. Since 2001, the RCR veteran driver has collected three victories (both events in 2006 and November 2011), six top-five and 10 top-10 finishes. Harvick holds a 19th-place average starting position, coupled with a 12.8 average finishing position and has led 420 laps.

Growing Freaky Fast ...Jimmy John’s, known for fresh, quality products and freaky fast service, opened an additional 231 stores in 2012 and was recognized by the Nation’s restaurant News as the second Fastest Growing Chain in the U.S. The gourmet sandwich shop has several locations near the Avondale, Ariz.,-based track, including one less than three miles away, located at 10110 W. McDowell Rd. Visit to view the full Jimmy John’s menu, find your nearest location and order online, or download the Jimmy John’s mobile application for additional Freaky Fast service.

2012 Race Rewind … Although Harvick led the most laps in the Sprint Cup Series event at PIR last March and mounted a charge in the closing circuits to take the victory, his No. 29 Chevrolet ran out of fuel coming to the white flag, leaving him to settle for the runner-up finish.


You’ve won races on both the old and new Phoenix International Raceway. What do you like about the new configuration that is different since the repave?
“They did a great job of taking all aspects of what to do to the race track to try and make it better. First off, they took in the fan’s sight, so they can see the whole race track. Second, they made a unique back straightaway to go through. The racing has been really good. The track has done a great job in preparing the race track, with rubber on the race track and keeping the track clean. Washing it off when it needs to be washed off and doing the things they need to do to prepare the race track to be right.”

You’re going back to Phoenix International Raceway after winning last November. Are you heading into this race weekend with more confidence than usual?

“I’ve been on both sides. Sometimes you go back after winning a race and you run terrible, other times you go back and run well. This year we have a new car and a lot of new things to deal with, you to have an open mind on how to approach the weekend. Obviously, running the NASCAR Nationwide Series race will help by providing a little extra track time, but Phoenix (International Raceway) was a good track for us last year. We finished first and second in the two races last season, so we’re going back expecting that we’ll run just as well.”

-- Richard Childress Racing

Monday, February 25, 2013

Johnson Wins Second Daytona 500

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla.—The contenders to win Sunday’s Daytona 500 were many, and they came and went.

Kevin Harvick, Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon, Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth were all prerace favorites. Three of them (Harvick, Gordon and Kenseth) had won NASCAR’s biggest before and the other two always have cars and the talent to win.

But one by one, for various reasons, they each fell by the wayside on Sunday.

Then there were new, more surprising contenders to emerge. Greg Biffle, who had finished second twice during Speedweeks. Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski, who rumbled to the front with a beaten and battered car. Denny Hamlin, who was still in the mix despite losing his teammates (Kenseth and Busch) and drafting partners. And 54-year-old Mark Martin, who swooped into the picture almost in time to steal his first Daytona 500 trophy.

Even trailblazer Danica Patrick, who shocked and thrilled the Daytona crowd by starting on the pole and staying at the front, had a chance to win on the very last lap.

Read More Here....

Friday, February 22, 2013

Daytona 500 Prop Betting: Focus on The Gibbs Cars

Kenseth in the focal point among Gibbs drivers
By Micah Roberts
The Linemakers on Sporting News

LAS VEGAS -- The best strategy when betting Daytona 500 props is to go about your business the same way you would for Super Bowl props.

For the Super Bowl, the best way to roll successfully is by having a lean on the game and good reasons why. Your prop bet strategy should stem from your lean.

For the Ravens to be successful, chances were that Joe Flacco would have to perform well, and the offshoot of that thought was that his receiving corps would be beneficiaries of good statistical days. The sports books offered plenty propositions that allowed bettors to follow that plan and bet accordingly.

The same methodology applies to betting Daytona 500 props.

The first thing to do is identify who is likely to have the best car. In this case, I like the Joe Gibbs cars of Matt Kenseth, Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch and will look to wager on them in a few props including matchups, manufacturer to win, winning car number and over-under finish positions. The Gibbs cars have stood out since the Daytona preseason test session in January and nothing has changed since to make me think otherwise.

Between the new Gen-6 car and the volatile nature of Daytona, I wouldn’t advise betting the normal unit play. Stay cautious, just like the drivers will be on Sunday. The logic and thinking that go into finding a driver to win, which is usually based on past performances and practices, don’t hold up as well at Daytona as they might for races at, say, Phoenix or Las Vegas. All it takes is for one driver to slip up and take 15 other innocent drivers with him or her.

Read More Here....

Drivers Play it Safe in Friday's Daytona 500 Practices

Ryan Newman one of 22 drivers to run in Friday's late practice session
Sporting News

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — With most drivers hoping not to wreck their cars, they did little drafting during Sprint Cup practice Friday at Daytona International Speedway.

Though they still have much to learn about passing and drafting with the new Sprint Cup car, most drivers either made single-car runs or ran in small packs on Friday in preparation for Sunday’s Daytona 500.

In an uneventful two hours of practice, 31 of the 43 drivers made at least a few laps around the 2.5-mile oval.

Kevin Harvick, who won his second race of Speedweeks on Thursday, was among the 12 drivers who sat out practice Friday and must run at least one lap in practice on Saturday per NASCAR rules. Others who sat out Friday sessions include: Clint Bowyer, Joey Logano, Paul Menard, Austin Dillon, Juan Pablo Montoya and Mark Martin.

Only 14 drivers participated in the first session Friday with Aric Almirola posting the fastest speed at 196.941 mph. The second session featured 22 drivers — including only five who ran in the first practice — and was led by Tony Stewart at 197.131 mph.

Read More Here.....

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Kyle Busch Wins Caution-Free Second Budweiser Duel

Busch paid out at 9/2 odds in the sports books (Getty)
Sporting News

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla.—Jeff Gordon had the dominant car in the second Budweiser Duel on Thursday, but he was fast in all the wrong places.

Gordon hit pit road with the lead on Lap 41, but was nabbed for speeding on pit road, opening the door for Kyle Busch to speed away with the win.

Busch, meanwhile, had a smooth stop and took fuel only to come off pit road with the lead after the series of green-flag stops.

He held the lead after the pit stops and never relinquished it, finishing ahead of Kasey Kahne, Austin Dillon, Clint Bowyer and Matt Kenseth.

Rounding out the top 10 were Mark Martin, Paul Menard, Jeff Burton, Jamie McMurray and David Ragan.

Davey Blaney and Josh Wise finished 15th and 16th, respectively, to earn spots in the Daytona 500.

Read More Here......

Budweiser Duel Race No. 2 Results

Havick Wins Budweiser Duel Race No. 1

Harvick wins first Duel Race, pays 9/2 at the books (Getty)
Sporting News

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Kevin Harvick served notice last Saturday that he was a big threat to win the Daytona 500.

It was no fluke.

After winning the first Budweiser Duel on Thursday, Harvick is for real and a serious contender to win a Daytona 500.

Harvick, who won the 2007 Daytona 500, charged to the front of the field midway through the 60-lap qualifying race and took control. He led the final 19 laps (23 in all) for his first win in a Daytona qualifying race—a victory that comes on the heels of his win Saturday in the Sprint Unlimited.

Michael Waltrip and Scott Speed finished 14th and 15th, respectively, in the first of two qualifying races to earn starting spots in the Daytona 500.

Read More Here....

Bud Duel Race No. 1 Results

2013 Daytona 500 Driver Chassis Selections

Brad Keselowski: and the #2 Miller Lite Ford Fusion team will race chassis 654 in the Daytona 500 a brand new chassis for 2013. The backup chassis is 652 a brand new chassis for 2013.

Kasey Kahne: Crew chief Kenny Francis and the #5 team will unload brand new Hendrick Motorsports Chassis No. 5-768 for the first time in the Feb. 24 Daytona 500.

Danica Patrick will pilot chassis No. 10-758, a brand new chassis for the #10 Chevrolet Stewart-Haas Racing team.

Tony Stewart: Chassis No. 14-762 is a brand-new racecar that has never turned a wheel on the racetrack, but it has been wind-tunnel tested numerous times.

Greg Biffle: and the Matt Puccia led #16 3M Ford Fusion team will bring Primary Chassis RK-781 to Daytona which hit the track for the first time a year ago in the Daytona 500 and earned a third-place finish. Robbie Reiser has nicknamed RK-781 "Jake" after Puccia's pet cat.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.: Chassis RK-830 is a brand new chassis for the Rookie of the Year contender. After the Daytona test in January, the #17 team went to work to build a brand new car.

Joey Logano: and the #22 Pennzoil/Shell Ford team will race chassis 653 in the Daytona 500, a brand new chassis for 2013. The backup chassis is 648 a brand new chassis for 2013.

Paul Menard will pilot chassis No. 409 for both the Budweiser Duel and Daytona 500. This #27 PEAK/Menards Chevrolet SS is a new addition to the Richard Childress Racing stable this season. Menard has 11 starts at Daytona International Speedway. His best start of first came in July 2008 and his best finish of sixth came in last year's Daytona 500. The Wisconsin native has completed 1,933 of 1,948 laps attempted at the 2.5-mile superspeedway, leading 37 of them.

Kevin Harvick: will pilot Chassis No.407 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable in both the Budweiser Duel and Daytona 500. New to the fleet, this Budweiser Chevrolet SS will run its first competitive laps at the 2.5-mile superspeedway during Budweiser Speedweeks.

Jeff Burton will race chassis No. 296 in the second Budweiser Duel and Daytona 500. This Caterpillar chassis was utilized last season in the Daytona 500 by Burton and saw action at multiple restrictor-plate events during the 2010 and 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series seasons with driver Clint Bowyer. Burton's has 38 starts at Daytona International Speedway with one win (July 2000), nine top-five and 11 top-10 finishes. Burton also scored the pole position for the 2006 Daytona 500 and has led 145 laps at the historic 2.5-mile superspeedway. Pon CAT, Ring Power CAT and Toromont CAT will be featured on the deck lid of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet this weekend in the Daytona 500.

Ryan Newman: Chassis No. 39-664, which has two previous starts in restrictor-plate races, both coming during the 2011 season. Its first start came at Daytona in July 2011. Newman had a strong racecar, evidenced by his leading four times for a race-high 25 laps. But, in the end, he was relegated to a 23rd-place finish thanks to being shuffled out of the lead on the race's final restart and being collected in a last-lap accident. After extensive body work, the chassis returned to action at Talladega in October. Once again, his racecar was strong, but he was the victim of the two-car draft just before the race's halfway point. Newman was spun, which caused major front-end damage. The severe spin in the grass tore off Newman's front-bumper assembly and left him with a heavily damaged racecar and a 38th-place finish. Last season, Chassis No. 39-664 served as a backup car at Daytona and Talladega. Since then, the car's body has been updated for 2013, and it was wind-tunnel tested in January in preparation for the Daytona 500.

Jimmie Johnson: Chassis No. 771 serves as the primary for Johnson in the Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway, a brand new chassis. Chassis No. 618 serves as the backup and finished 14th in last years Sprint Unlimited event and 4th in the 2011 event..

Mark Martin: will drive MWR chassis 753 in the Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.: For the Feb. 24 Daytona 500, crew chief Steve Letarte has selected Chassis No. 88-773. This is a new chassis that has not been raced and will feature the blue National Guard scheme.

Carl Edwards the #99 Fastenal team will be using RK-835 for the Daytona 500. The car debuted this year as the primary for last weekend's Sprint Unlimited, when a wreck in practice forced the team to roll out a backup car and send 835 back to RFR for repairs. The #99 Fastenal Ford Fusion will continue its back to back sponsorship in Daytona where suppliers Milwaukee, GearWrench, Weiler and Rubbermaid will debut on the hood, TV panel, deck lid and B-post.

- compiled by

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Waltrip and Kahne Fastest in Wednesday's Daytona 500 Practice Sessions

Kasey Kahne was fastest among 27 drivers in practice 4 (Getty)
Sporting News

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Ryan Newman found out just how unstable the 2013 Sprint Cup cars are at Daytona International Speedway on Wednesday as he spun in the first Daytona 500 practice.

Newman spun right in front of Mark Martin and Carl Edwards, with all three cars sustaining enough damage to possibly keep them from practicing the rest of the day. They should be able to repair the damage prior to Thursday’s 150-mile qualifying races.

For Martin, it marked his third wreck in a week as he was collected in accidents triggered by Matt Kenseth in practice last week and by Tony Stewart in the Sprint Unlimited.

“I’ve been in three practice sessions and in all three of them, one of the top drivers in the sport wrecked right in front of me,” Martin said.

“I can’t believe it. I’m not comfortable practicing anymore because we keep wadding them up and there’s not really any reason for it. If they wrecking right in front of you, it’s hard to miss them.”

Read More here.....

Wednesday Daytona 500 Practice 3

Wednesday Daytona 500 Practice 4

2013 Daytona 500 Betting Preview: Gibbs Cars Should Be Strong

Danica Patrick has been bet on quite often in Las Vegas (Getty)
By Micah Roberts

The last thing I wanted to do was have Danica Patrick be the lead story of this years Daytona 500 preview, but it’s just too unique of a story to ignore. After weighing out all the storylines for this years event, the top story is a rookie Sprint Cup driver who has never had much success in any NASACAR series. But after becoming the first woman to ever win a Cup series pole position, and do it for the Super Bowl of NASCAR, the intrigue of her story is the main headline.

Of course Patrick has a few attributes that make her a little more attractive than any other that might have won the pole. She’s got the TMZ type of media buzz already following her which far outweighs any type of coverage any NASCAR or sports media could ever conjure up. She’s brought the eyes of hundreds of thousands of new fans to a sport they may not have otherwise thought of watching. It also helps sell her news because she’s very easy on the eyes.

There’s also the angle of Patrick dating fellow rookie driver Ricky Stenhouse Jr., the type of romance never seen before in NASCAR, but the type that Hollywood tabloids have been dishing out since movie producers figured out films sold better when the headlining actors were seen in the public together.

As sensational as all that the may be, none of that was the main consideration for leading with Patrick here. Her tie into being the main Daytona 500 story in Las Vegas is that she has been the most bet driver, male or female, good-looking or hideous, single or linked.

Las Vegas bettors have got Danica Patrick fever, and the betting trend that has seen her drop from as high as 125-to-1 odds down to as low as 16-to-1 odds at William Hill, started long before she won the Daytona 500 pole position on Sunday.

Read More Here.........Top 5 Finish Selections for Daytona 500 & Bud Duels

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

LVH Super Book Posts Wide Assortment of Daytona 500 Props

Kevin Harvick and Tony Sewart are featured in several props (Getty)

LAS VEGAS -- The LVH SuperBook on Monday posted several driver matchups and propositions for the Daytona 500, including an OVER-UNDER total on cautions (9.5), winning car number (1-23 is the -135 favorite) or which manufacturer will win the race (Chevy is a favored +105 in a three-way prop).

Of course, the LVH has a few Danica Patrick props to fit the demand. She’s even-money against her boyfriend, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (-120) in a driver vs. driver matchup, and the OVER-UNDER on her Daytona 500 finish position is 22.5.

It’s not quite the level of intrigue of Super Bowl props, but Daytona 500 props find their special way into the hearts of several fans, whether they're Las Vegas locals or visitors.

Read More Here.......Full List of Daytona Props