Friday, February 28, 2014

Keselowski wins Phoenix pole in first NASCAR 'knockout' qualifying format

Brad Keselowski win qualifying shootout at Phoenix
AVONDALE, Ariz. — Brad Keselowski won the first Sprint Cup group qualifying session, turning the fastest lap in the 12-driver final session Friday afternoon at Phoenix International Raceway.

Keselowski will be joined on the front row Sunday for The Profit 500 by his Penske Racing teammate Joey Logano.

“Qualifying has been one of those formats I have struggled with — it just hasn’t really suited my style in the past,” Keselowski said. “This qualifying format really does suit my style a lot better.

MORE: Lineup breakdown | Qualifying speeds | New aero rules present big challenge | Gordon dishes on taxi prank

“It gives me a chance to learn and apply, which to me was instrumental in our success today.”

It was the first time Cup drivers participated in the new format, which at short tracks such as the 1-mile PIR consists of a 30-minute session where all cars on the track that determines spots 13 to 43. The 12 drivers who posted the fastest one-lap speeds advanced to a final 10-minute session to determine spots 1 to 12.

“It’s a lot more nerve-wracking (than single-car qualifying),” Keselowski said. “There’s usually a pretty good rule of thumb that if it’s a lot more nerve-wracking for drivers, it’s a lot more fun for our fans and partners.”

Read More Here......Sporting News

Dale Earnhardt Jr. posts the fastest lap in first Phoenix practice session

Junior is 12-to-1 to win Sunday's race
Last week’s Daytona 500 winner, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., carried his momentum to Phoenix International Raceway Friday afternoon. Earnhardt (12/1), with a lap speed of 138.723 mph, posted the fastest lap during the first ‘The Profit on CNBC 500′ practice session. Junior has won at Phoenix twice over his career and had top-5 finishes in both races last season.

Joey Logano was second fastest with a lap speed of 138.344 mph., and was followed by Kyle Busch (138.238), Greg Biffle (137.910) and Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender, Austin Dillon (137.910). Dillon, who is using the same chassis Kevin Harvick used to win at Phoenix last November, can be found at 60-to-1 odds to win at the LVH Super Book in Las Vegas.

ROTY contender, Kyle Larson (137.799) put up the sixth fastest lap speed, Clint Bowyer (137.715) was seventh, followed by Martin Truex, Jr. (137.699), Paul Menard (137.699) and Aric Almirola (137.683) to round out the top-10. Larson had the fastest lap average among the four drivers that ran 10-consecutive laps.
Brad Keselowski ran the most laps of the 90-minute session with 44 followed by his teammate Logano (40). 
Four-time Phoenix winner -- and 5-to-1 favorite -- Jimmie Johnson had the 15th fastest lap and is using the same chassis he finished third with last November. Teammate Kasey Kahne, who finished second in that Phoenix race and is also using the same chassis this week, finished with the 12th fastest lap.

The teams will qualify later today at 6:40 pm (ET) to determine the starting lineup for Sunday’s race. The new knockout qualifying format should be entertaining.

On Saturday, the qualified field returns for two practice sessions, beginning with a morning session from 11:00 am – 11:55 am (ET) and then their “Happy Hour” (final) practice session from 2:00 pm – 2:50 pm (ET). However, there is a 70 percent chance of rain Saturday which could make Friday's session the only chance teams have to simulate race conditions. There were quite a few teams that took advantage of that opportunity, but again, only four drivers ran 10-consecutive laps. 

Phoenix Driver Chassis Selections: 2014 The Profit on CNBC 500

Dillon will be using the same Phoenix chassis Harvick used to win last fall
#2-Brad Keselowski: Primary Chassis: PRS-864 - New Chassis. Backup Chassis: PRS-853 - Last Raced: Texas 2013 (finished 3rd as #22 car).

#3-Austin Dillon: will pilot Chassis No. 430 in the Profit on CNBC 500 presented by Small Business Fueling America at Phoenix International Raceway. This is the same Chevrolet SS the Gil Martin-led team utilized at Phoenix International Raceway in November 2013, racing to Victory Lane.

#4-Kevin Harvick: will pilot Chassis No. 4-482 at Phoenix International Raceway in Sunday's The Profit on CNBC 500. Built new for 2014, Chassis 4-482 will see its first laps of competition this weekend.

#5-Kasey Kahne: Crew chief Kenny Francis has selected Hendrick Motorsports Chassis No. 5-815 for Sunday's race at Phoenix. Kahne drove this chassis three times toward the end of 2013. In September 2013, he raced this car to a 14th-place finish at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway. He qualified second with it at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, and most recently, Kahne drove this chassis to a second-place finish at Phoenix last November.

#10-Danica Patrick: Chassis No. 10-823 was used for the first time in September 2013 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, where Patrick started 21st and finished 27th. It was then used in November at Phoenix, where Patrick started 32nd and finished 33rd after a midrace accident not of her making caused her to finish 10 laps down.

#14-Tony Stewart: Chassis No. 14-840: This is a brand new racecar that has never turned a wheel on the racetrack. It has, however, visited the wind tunnel numerous times.

#15-Clint Bowyer: Chassis No. 798 serves as the primary chassis for Bowyer at Phoenix International Raceway. It is a new chassis. Chassis No. 795 serves as the back-up chassis. This chassis tested at Nashville and New Smyrna.

#16-Greg Biffle: Chassis RK-876 will make its debut this weekend at Phoenix. Backup Chassis: RK-863 Last ran Kansas. 

#17-Ricky Stenhouse Jr.: Chassis RK-877 is a brand new chassis for the #17 team. The team tested at Nashville with this chassis earlier this season. The backup Chassis RK-815 last raced at Dover, where Stenhouse finished 17th. The #17 team also raced this chassis at Fontana and Darlington.

#22-Joey Logano: Primary Chassis: PRS-866 - New chassis. Backup Chassis: PRS-858 - Last Raced: Kentucky 2013 (finished 4th)

#24-Jeff Gordon: The Gustafson-led No. 24 crew will unload Hendrick Motorsports Chassis No. 24-816 at Phoenix International Raceway on Friday. The car last was raced in the penultimate event of 2013 when Gordon qualified fifth and led 49 laps en route to a 14th-place finish at Phoenix. In the only other race for this chassis, Gordon won his 73rd career pole and paced the field for 49 laps before crossing the finish line eighth at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway in September 2013.

#27-Paul Menard: will pilot chassis No. 448 at Phoenix International Raceway (PIR). This No. 27 Chevrolet SS is new to the RCR stable and will be utilized by the team for the very first time this weekend.

#31-Ryan Newman: will drive chassis No. 441 in Sunday's 312-lap event at Phoenix International Speedway (PIR). It is brand new and will take to the track on Friday during the NSCS practice session.

#33-Brian Scott: will pilot chassis No. 418 in this weekend's NASCAR Sprint Cup series race at Phoenix International Raceway. This is the same chassis Scott utilized in his Cup series debut at Charlotte Motor Speedway last fall. This chassis has been raced six additional times with an 11th-place finish at Michigan International Speedway last June with Austin Dillon behind the wheel.

#41-Kurt Busch: will pilot Chassis No. 826 in Sunday's The Profit on CNBC 500k at Phoenix International Raceway, a former #39 Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing. Chassis No. 826 started 17th and finished 10th last November in the Advocare 500k at Phoenix.

#48-Jimmie Johnson: For the race in Phoenix, crew chief Chad Knaus has selected Hendrick Motorsports Chassis No. 48-832. Johnson raced this car at Phoenix last November, when he started from the pole position and finished third. The backup car is Hendrick Motorsports Chassis No. 48-806, which Johnson raced last season at New Hampshire.

#55-Brian Vickers: Primary: 799. Backup: 797. Neither chassis has raced.

#95-Michael McDowell: will pilot Chassis No. PRS-838 in The Profit on CNBC 500 Presented by Small Business Fueling America at Phoenix International Raceway. This is a new Ford Fusion to the Wally Rogers-led team, but it has previous history at Phoenix International Raceway. 

#99-Carl Edwards: Chassis RK-874 is a new chassis. Backup Chassis: RK-831

- compiled by

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Kurt Busch has a great Phoenix history of excellence at all levels

Kurt Busch is 12/1 to win at Phoenix
KANNAPOLIS, N.C., (Feb. 25, 2014) – Kurt Busch, the 2004 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion and driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), will be channeling his inner University of Arizona Wildcat as he attempts to “Bear Down” and conquer the new Sprint Cup knockout qualifying format. This will be Busch’s first challenge as the series heads to Phoenix International Raceway for the second race of the 2014 season.

Starting this weekend in Phoenix, NASCAR will move away from single-lap qualifying to a new knockout qualifying format. At tracks measuring less than 1.25 miles, qualifying for the Pole Award will consist of two rounds. The first qualifying elimination round will be 30 minutes in duration and include all cars. The 12 cars that post the fastest single lap time from the first qualifying round will advance to the second and final round. The remaining cars will be sorted based on their times posted in the first round in descending order. There will be a 10-minute break between the two rounds. Then the second and final qualifying round will be 10 minutes in duration and the fastest single lap time posted will determine the Pole Award winner through 12th position in descending order.

Under the previous single-car qualifying format, Busch had a history of strong performances at Phoenix. He qualified on the front row three times, the top-five six times and the top-10 in 13 of his 22 starts. Not only has Busch capitalized on his qualifying efforts but he also turned them into quality finishes. In the nine races Busch started in the top-five at Phoenix, he has one win, three top-five finishes and has never finished outside of the top-10.

In 2005, Busch qualified second to pole-winner Jeff Gordon in the first spring race and first night race ever held at Phoenix. He went on to lead 219 laps en route to his only win at the mile oval. The race marked the first time a driver recorded a perfect 150.0 driver rating at Phoenix. Busch’s SHR teammate Kevin Harvick is the only other driver to score a perfect 150.0 driver rating at Phoenix, having achieved it during the November 2006 race.

Busch appeared on the front row for the second time at Phoenix in November 2009, when he qualified second to Martin Truex Jr. He scored his second top-10 from the front row, leading 69 laps and finishing sixth.

His most recent front-row appearance at Phoenix came in February 2011, when he started second to pole-winner Carl Edwards. Busch led 31 laps and finished eighth.

Busch, a former College of Pharmacy degree candidate at the University of Arizona in nearby Tucson, is looking forward to returning to his school’s home state as he aspires to earn Haas Automation its first Sprint Cup victory in the series. Haas Automation has served as a primary sponsor in the Sprint Cup Series for 11 different drivers and 110 races since 2002. When Busch takes the green flag in Sunday’s The Profit on CNBC 500k, he will also be attempting to make his first visit to victory lane since his last Sprint Cup win in October 2011 at Dover (Del.) International Speedway.

Haas Automation, the largest CNC machine tool builder in the Western World, is owned by SHR founder and co-owner Gene Haas.

KURT BUSCH, Driver of the No. 41 HAAS Automation Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing:

What do you think will be the biggest key to the new qualifying format?

“Tire management will be key. A set of sticker tires versus scuffs can be three-tenths (of a second). Three-tenths on the stopwatch in normal qualifying is first to 25th. So it’ll be interesting to see how that is balanced out. You can’t cool the cars down during qualifying runs, so we’ll have to let the rough edges drag in the beginning of qualifying sessions to see what patterns develop. But, at places like Phoenix, the tires don’t drop off very quickly. Vegas, they’re OK, but Fontana, you’re going to get that one good lap and then you’re going to wish you had stickers on, and that’s when it’s going to be very difficult to control a car at qualifying speeds with old tires. So, at tracks that are abrasive on the tires, that’s when you’re going to see a big discrepancy in qualifying results.”

How would qualifying differ on a short track?
“Short tracks, the tire dropoff isn’t as great. At the mile‑and‑a‑halves, the tire dropoff is tremendous, so you’re going to have one shot at a fast lap. But you’ve now got older tires to post your lap in the top-12 once those final 12 are locked in, so that’ll be interesting to see how the good guys who are in that final 12 balance out qualifying.”

Do you think the new qualifying format is good for both the fans and the driver?
“It’ll be interesting how at some tracks the Goodyear tire will duplicate the lap time you run on stickers and scuffs. Then there are tracks like California Speedway, where you have a sticker run and then you go right back out on scuff tires and you’ll be six-tenths slower. It’ll be very interesting how it shakes out. I think you’re going to see large discrepancies at the big tracks and then smaller intervals of time at the short tracks, stickers versus scuffs. That was my number-one question to John Darby – do we get a fresh set of tires if we’re in that final 12. I think we should, but right now they’re trying to keep the costs down and keep excitement up. If we’re going out there in qualifying mode with older tires, that puts us more on edge and in more of a riskier situation for things to happen. Are we at risk? No, I can’t say that. We have safer cars in safer situations, but you’re at risk for spinning out and something to go wrong, and that’s what keeps it fun and exciting.”

Is the new qualifying similar to heat races?
“The way I’m viewing it, it’s very, very similar to Formula 1, and you have your knockout sessions where the faster groups transfer and then you get to that elite group. And, to me, you’ve just got to play it straightforward, whatever the game plan is going in, you keep it clear and crisp, and you’re not out there to play any monkey business with the other cars.”

What’s more important to you, speed or consistency?
“Well, I think consistency is how I go to bed at night happy. And that’s when there’s less friction within an organization, knowing that you have that consistency week-in and week-out. And then you just have to find that one little thing each week that will give you that speed to win.”

What was the hardest part about going to college and racing?
“The best story I have is, when I was leaving my dorm on a Friday after classes, my resident assistant is standing there with his arms folded a few times saying, ‘Where are you going?’ I said, ‘Well I’m headed to Phoenix this weekend,’ because I went to school in Tucson, or I said, ‘Hey I’m going to L.A. because the Southwest Tour is racing at Orange Show Speedway. He goes, ‘When are you going to give up on this racing thing and worry about your school work?’ He is a junior in college and he is trying to be a guidance and a mentor counselor and, literally, the books were on the back seat of my car as I was heading down the freeway chasing down my dream of racing cars. It’s hard to balance both. You have to stay involved in motorsports. You are always looking for that opportunity to break through. What ends up being sacrificed is the study time.”

Do you ever plan to go back and finish your college degree?
“Probably not. There are so many things that you learn in life afterward. The school of hard knocks happens out on the road and in life. I’m not the one for the books, in a sense. I mean, I got good grades in high school, but I felt like I learned more in life when I was outside of school.”

How many semesters did you complete?
“I did about five semesters total. Some at UNLV (University of Nevada, Las Vegas), some at the community college back in Vegas. Three semesters at University of Arizona.”

- True Speed Communication for Stewart-Haas Racing

Denny Hamlin 'confident we'll have a good car again this weekend' at Phoenix

Denny Hamlin is 7/1 to win Sunday at Phoenix 
Event: The Profit on CNBC 500
Date/Time: March 2 at 1:00 p.m. MT
2013 winner: Carl Edwards
2013 polesitter: Mark Martin
Distance: 312 laps/312 miles
Track Length: 1 mile
Banking: 9/11 degrees
Track Shape: Oval

Successful SpeedWeeks:
Denny Hamlin charged from sixth to second on the final lap of Sunday’s rain-delayed Daytona 500 to score his best-career finish in the “Great American Race” in the #11 FedEx Express Toyota behind eventual winner Dale Earnhardt Jr. Hamlin lined up sixth for a restart with three laps remaining, and used the momentum on the outside groove in the draft to push towards the front. Coming off Turn 2 on the final lap, Hamlin dove to the inside and reached the back bumper of Earnhardt Jr. entering Turn 3. Before he could make a move for the win, a wreck further back brought out the caution, securing a runner-up finish for the FedEx Racing Team. The race was delayed more than six hours due to rain after the initial 38 laps were run. When the race resumed under the lights, Hamlin and the team fought through radio communication issues, which prevented Hamlin from clearly hearing his spotter for the final three-quarters of the race. Hamlin started fourth and led three times for a total of 16 (of 200) laps on Sunday. He ran among the lead group throughout the event, and the runner-up finish capped an impressive SpeedWeeks for the #11 team, which included victories in the Sprint Unlimited and a Budweiser Duel qualifying race.

Phoenix Preview: The Series heads to Phoenix International Raceway (PIR) for Sunday’s 312-lap event at the recently-reconfigured one-mile desert oval. Hamlin is making his 18th career Cup Series start at PIR this weekend, a place where the #11 FedEx machine has recorded eight top-five finishes in 17 previous events. Hamlin was victorious in the spring race at Phoenix in 2012, in his second race with crew chief Darian Grubb. Hamlin recorded his first-career Sprint Cup Series pole position at Phoenix in November 2005, in just his sixth-career start. In the event one year ago, Hamlin started eighth and finished third.

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

Memphis Germantown Along for the Ride at Phoenix: The FedEx Office location in Memphis-Germantown is a leading store in the company’s President’s Club program and will be recognized with its “0512” store numbers on the b-post of the #11 FedEx Office Toyota this weekend in Phoenix.


How can you take the team’s success during SpeedWeeks to Phoenix and a more traditional race weekend?

“Our FedEx team obviously had a great start to the season with wins in the (Sprint) Unlimited and (Budweiser) Duel, and a second-place finish in the (Daytona) 500, but Phoenix will be a true gauge to see where our program is at. Daytona gives us a lift after running well, but it’s up to us to prove that our cars have the speed and handling needed to excel at a shorter track like Phoenix and as we get into the bulk of tracks on the schedule. I’m confident that we will have a good car again this weekend, and hopefully we can execute our plan to be there at the end competing for the win.”

- Weber Shandwick Worldwide for FedEx Racing

Brian Vickers treats Phoenix 'like the first race of the season'

CORNELIUS, N.C. — Friday marks the introduction of a radical new qualifying format in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series that’s sure to garner headlines throughout the week and peak fan and television viewer interest.

Under the new procedure, qualifying at Phoenix will be a race within a race, with a two-round, knockout-qualifying format on the mile oval. Drivers will race their way into the starting grid instead of the traditional single-car qualifying.

On Friday at Phoenix:
* The first qualifying elimination round includes the entire field and will be 30 minutes.
* The 12 fastest single-lap times from the first qualifying round will advance to the second and final round. 
Brian Vickers is 40/1 to win Sunday at Phoenix
* Those not advancing will start based on the order of their speeds in the first round.
* After a 10 minute break, the second and final qualifying round will be 10 minutes with the fastest single lap time determining positions first through 12th.
* Another round is added for oval tracks larger than 1.25 miles.

No.55 Aaron’s Dream Machine driver Brian Vickers embraces the new format and thinks the fans will be the ultimate winners. The Michael Waltrip Racing driver would like nothing better than to take the first pole under the new format. The 30-year-old Thomasville, N.C. native ran in the top ten throughout Sunday’s Daytona 500 until a late-race multicar accident ruined his chances for victory and left him with a 30th-place finish. Vickers got an early start out west leaving for Los Angeles Monday where he will film a new Aaron’s television commercial on Tuesday.

BRIAN VICKERS ON NEW QUALIFYING FORMAT: “I’m good with it. I think it’s going to create a little bit more excitement, for sure. It’s kind of that knockout style qualifying, but it’s not like we’re going to go out there and run six laps. You’re still going to go out there and you’re going to tape up and you’re going to go as hard and fast as you can for a lap. I think it’s going to be very similar for us, but I think it’s going to create more excitement for the fans. That’s a win-win in my book.”

VICKERS PHOENIX: “In some ways this is like the first race of the season. We only restrictor plate race at Daytona and Talladega, but the thought process of being successful at Phoenix is more like what we will experience for the whole year. Success at Phoenix will be about getting your car right in practice, getting a good qualifying spot and then putting together a good race program. It’s been a busy time with off-season testing, Daytona, filming for Aaron’s in Los Angeles this week, Phoenix this weekend and Las Vegas next week, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

· CHASSIS: Primary 799 Backup 797 – neither chassis has raced.
· BILLY SCOTT: The Daytona 500 marked the first race for No. 55 Aaron’s Dream Machine Crew Chief Billy Scott. The 36-year-old began racing motorcycles as a 5-year-old and stock cars when he turned 15. He worked in the truck series as a mechanic before he returned to college to obtain an engineering degree. After graduating in 2005 Scott worked at Robert Yates Racing and began as an engineer at MWR in 2008. He has served exclusively as the No. 55 team’s lead engineer the last two seasons.
· AARON’S: Aaron’s joined MWR in 2000 serving as a primary sponsor in Sprint Cup and Nationwide races. The Atlanta-based company has grown from 500 to 2,100 stores in that time. Aaron’s carries only the best brand names in furniture, electronics, appliances and computers. It’s really easy to get started owning at Aaron’s – you are pre-approved for up to $2,500 in merchandise without needing credit.
· FANTERN: MWR is offering fans a chance to become an official MWR Fantern. This person will get the opportunity to be an “intern” on race day with MWR; duties including helping the pit crews with set-up activities, attending driver appearances and getting full access to the pit and garage areas. Fans can write in a submission to or share a video on our social channels explaining why they should be the Fantern at the race of their choosing during the 2014 season.
· SOCIAL STOP: Make MWR’s “Social Stop” your second screen to follow all the racing and social media action when the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races this weekend. MWR’s “Social Stop” goes live race morning allowing fans to view information from Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube all on one page. Twitter feeds from MWR drivers, media members and NASCAR fans will populate the page. Visit or

- Michael Waltrip Racing

Kevin Harvick going for his fifth Phoenix win Sunday

Kevin Harvick is 8/1 to win at Phoenix this week
KANNAPOLIS, N.C. (Feb. 25, 2014) – If there are racetracks that Kevin Harvick expects to be the class of the field, there’s no doubt one of those is Phoenix International Raceway for the driver of the No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR).

It’s entirely fitting that the black-and-white paint scheme of Jimmy John’s adorns Harvick’s No. 4 Chevrolet this weekend at Phoenix. While the “Freaky Fast” livery is in place to promote the company’s dedication to high-speed execution and fast delivery of the freshest ingredients possible, when one considers Harvick’s record at the track, there couldn’t be a more fitting description for the driver of the No. 4 Chevy, nor a more appropriate racetrack to have that messaging displayed on the quarterpanels of his racecar.

After all, Phoenix has been the site of four of Harvick’s 23 career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series wins – a season sweep of the events in 2006, and the November races in 2012 and 2013. In his last seven starts at Phoenix, Harvick has four top-five finishes and has finished outside the top-10 just twice during that span of races.

Harvick’s success at Phoenix hasn’t been limited to the Sprint Cup Series. In fact, in April 2006, on the same weekend that Harvick claimed his first Sprint Cup win at Phoenix, he also won the NASCAR Nationwide Series race. And on November 8, 2002, Harvick scored his first-ever Camping World Truck Series victory to become the fifth driver to win at least one race in each of NASCAR’s three national series – Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Truck.

The Bakersfield, Calif., native would like nothing more than to score another win in Sunday’s The Profit on CNBC 500k to record his fifth Sprint Cup win at Phoenix, which would break a tie with Jimmie Johnson and make Harvick the winningest driver at the mile oval. It also would lock Harvick into the 2014 Chase for the Sprint Cup. With the new 16-driver Sprint Cup championship format, scoring a win will guarantee a driver and his team a berth into the Chase.

Under the new format, the top-15 drivers with the most wins over the first 26 races will earn a spot in the Chase. The 16th position will go to the points leader following the Sept. 6 Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway if that driver does not have a victory.

While Harvick and his No. 4 team aim to be leading the points at that time, they’d like to go ahead and score an early win in the regular season, and punch their ticket into the postseason.

KEVIN HARVICK, Driver of the No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing:

Your track record at Phoenix International Raceway really speaks for itself. Talk about racing at Phoenix.

“I’ve always liked racing on the flat tracks like Phoenix. It’s similar to the tracks that most of us grew up racing on. Phoenix is a very challenging racetrack. It has a very unique layout that is different at both ends. I feel like I’ve been racing at Phoenix my entire career, and I feel that what I’ve learned there has helped me be successful on the other flat tracks we race at. The racetrack continues to change as it ages, so you’re always tweaking to keep up with the changes every time we head out there.”

You’ve had a lot of success at Phoenix International Raceway. In your opinion, what’s the challenge related to the ‘new version’ of the track since the repave?
“You really have to have an understanding of the track. Every time we go back, I feel like we learn something different. The track is still racy enough where you can make up time if your car is good, but you need to stay focused on strategy. Like I said, the track has definitely changed since the repave a couple of years ago. The weather really helps wear the track. It’s incredibly hot in the summer and can get really cold in the winter, so there are some pretty extreme temperatures that have helped to age the asphalt. It’s been an interesting track to race on under both configurations, but I think it’s even more exciting now, and most of that comes from having the design right.”

Now that the first race with SHR is behind you, talk a little bit about how Budweiser Speedweeks went. How was the communication between yourself and your new crew chief Rodney Childers?
“I felt good about the communication and performance of the No. 4 team during Budweiser Speedweeks at Daytona. We were in position to win both the Sprint Unlimited and the Daytona 500, and that is all you can ask for at the end of the day. We’re starting the rest of the season this weekend at Phoenix, in a way. Rodney has always built fast short-track racecars and I’m really looking forward to building off what we’ve accomplished thus far.”

- True Speed Communication for Stewart-Haas Racing

The Profit on CNBC 500 Odds: Can Junior Win Two Straight?

Great value with Carl Edwards at 20/1 this week
LAS VEGAS- Last week, the LVH SuperBook didn’t have any drivers posted to win the Daytona 500 at single-digit odds. This week for the Phoenix race, they have six drivers at 8-to-1 or less. There is a big difference between the two tracks in size dimensions, but the real reason rests entirely with the teams and cars. At Daytona, at least 35 drivers had a chance of winning because restrictor-plates equalize the cars. But at Phoenix, the cream rises to the top and there may be only 14 drivers that have a legitimate chance of winning.

The driver at the top of the oddsboard to win Sunday’s “The Profit on CNBC 500”, Jimmie Johnson, is the perfect example of the major differences between setting odds for Daytona and Phoenix. He was going into Daytona having swept the season there in 2013, yet he was as high as 12-to-1. This week, he’s 5-to-1 on the basis of his past performances with four wins and an insane average finish of 6.9 in 21 career starts. He didn’t win there last season, but he did finish second and third in the two races.

With no serious changes to the Gen-6 car this year, it is expected most of the drivers who ran well in 2013 should follow through will similar performances this season. To get the most relevant data to help come up with a number for Phoenix, results from the flat tracks of New Hampshire and Richmond can be lumped into the mix. The three tracks aren’t similar in configuration, but the set-up requirements for six races on those three tracks are.

Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch come in with the second shortest odds to win, each at 7-to-1. Busch won at Phoenix during his 2005 rookie season while driving for Hendrick Motorsports. Despite not winning there since, Busch has posted a very respectable 13.5 average finish. If we lump in the other similar tracks, he was runner-up twice at New Hampshire last season.

Outside of Johnson, no driver has been more consistent at Phoenix than Denny Hamlin, and no driver comes into the race on more of a high. After closing out a miserable 2013 season with a win at Homestead, he rolled to wins in the Sprint Unlimited and Budweiser Duel during Daytona speed weeks, and then finished a career best second-place in Sunday’s Daytona 500. Needless to say, the guy is on a roll, and while success at Homestead and Daytona don’t necessarily translate to success at Phoenix, it’s his mindset that makes him such a strong candidate to win this week. It also doesn't hurt that in 17 career starts at Phoenix, Hamlin has a 10.9 average finish and took home the checkers in the spring of 2012.

Coming in at 8-to-1 odds is the trio of Matt Kenseth, Brad Keselowski and Kevin Harvick. Keselowski has finished 11th or better in his past four starts there. Kenseth won at Phoenix way back in 2002, and hasn’t had a top-5 finish there since 2007, but his association with JGR at least gives the notion that he should have a car capable of winning.

The interesting driver to keep tabs on this week is Kevin Harvick in his new Stewart-Haas No.4 Chevrolet. He won at Phoenix last year for the fourth time in his career and he also won at Richmond, but all that equipment he had success with is now property of Austin Dillon (60-to-1) sitting in the No. 3 Richard Childress Racing garage. The good news for Harvick is that SHR has been very good on these types of tracks over the past three seasons. But until seeing him practice Saturday, and knowing for sure that he’s fast, he’s a tough sell at 8-to-1.

Now that Dale Earnhardt Jr. (12-to-1) has finally won a race after only winning two in the past six years with HMS, will the victories come more frequently? Why not? He’s got 35 more cracks at it and should have one of the cars capable of winning on every track where they only turn left. At Phoenix, he‘s a two-time winner and had top-5 finishes in both 2013 races. Winning can be contagious.

The best value on the board might be Carl Edwards at 20-to-1. He’s a two-time winner at Phoenix, including last spring. His only two wins last season came on similar type of tracks, also winning at Richmond in the fall. He was ninth or better in five of the six races at Phoenix, Richmond and New Hampshire last season. He should be battling for a win, but we’ll know a lot more on Saturday when the drivers make their final practice in race trim, and we’ll have a report on who the looked the best in those sessions shortly after completion.

Read More Here....complete list of LVH odds

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Phoenix Storylines: 2014 The Profit on CNBC 500

Phoenix provides some of the best racing we'll see all season
NASCAR Storylines for Week of Feb. 24, 2014


That’s the sound of the first ticket possibly being stamped for the 2014 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.

The lucky recipient … none other than fan-favorite Dale Earnhardt Jr., who claimed his second Daytona 500 victory after managing to keep Denny Hamlin at bay during the final laps.

That louder-than-usual sound during qualifying, don’t fret. It’s just the sound of all 43 cars hitting the track at the same time, rather than individual qualifying runs of years past. The new knock-out qualifying format will be used for the first time in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Phoenix.

Those collective groans you might have heard Sunday night during the Daytona 500? They emanated from some of the star drivers who struggled during the race, including Martin Truex Jr., whose engine blew up early in the race, and Tony Stewart, who hoped for a better outing in his return to competition.

It’s way too early to sound the trumpets or for teams to sound the alarms, but the rest of the NASCAR Nationwide Series should take notice: Regan Smith is making a strong case as to why he should be the favorite to claim this year’s championship as evidenced by his victory in Saturday’s race.

Next on the docket, however, is Phoenix International Raceway – a track at which Smith’s average finishing position in NASCAR’s three national series is 24.6. In addition, Joe Gibbs Racing is on a hot streak and looking to extend their consecutive wins to four at the track.

When the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series resumes at Martinsville in late March, after more than a month off, expect Timothy Peters and his fellow competitors to be primed for some action-packed short-track racing.


Junior All But Punches Ticket To The Postseason

On Sunday night, when Dale Earnhardt Jr. crossed the finish line first in the 56th running of the Daytona 500 after more than a six-hour rain delay, fans everywhere celebrated. Backing up a promise he made earlier, Earnhardt joined Twitter and, more importantly, became the first driver to all but throw his name in for a spot in the reformatted Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Earnhardt held off Denny Hamlin as the field approached the checkers before a wreck ended the race under caution. The victory was Earnhardt’s second in the season opener and his 20th overall.

New Qualifying Format Ready For NSCS Debut
The revamped knock-out qualifying format will make its inaugural appearance in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series for Sunday’s race in Phoenix. As long as the weather permits, two of NASCAR’s national series will complete qualifying for the first time under the new format. Last week at Daytona, the NASCAR industry excitedly awaited the arrival of knock-out qualifying for the NASCAR Nationwide and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, but rain cut short NNS qualifying and completely cancelled the truck series session. Qualifying for the Daytona 500 did not change from years past.

Big Names Looking For Big Comebacks
Several drivers used to driving near the front of the field will be looking forward to Sunday’s race at Phoenix to get their season on track. Among the drivers in need of a solid performance at the one-mile track is Tony Stewart, who battled issues throughout the race and finished 35th in his return to competition after missing the final 15 weeks of 2013. Other drivers looking to rebound are Kasey Kahne (31st in the Daytona 500), Danica Patrick (40th), Clint Bowyer (42nd) and Martin Truex Jr. (43rd).

Rebound Time For Rookies
This year’s much ballyhooed seven Sunoco Rookie of the Year contenders were a hot topic during Speedweeks, and all of it was warranted. All seven hoped to impress in the season-opening Daytona 500, however, five of them succumbed to accidents that ended their nights prematurely. The highest-finishing rookie was Austin Dillon, who posted a respectable ninth-place finish after starting on the pole. Alex Bowman was the only other rookie still standing at race’s end, finishing two laps down in 23rd. Expect all seven to bounce back, beginning this weekend in Phoenix.

Returning To Their Roots
Several drivers and NASCAR’s new NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Managing Director Richard Buck should feel at home this weekend. When the series arrives in Phoenix for The Profit on CNBC 500 Presented by Small Business Fueling American at Phoenix International Raceway, the weekend will have a sort of a homecoming feel for Buck (Phoenix) and drivers Alex Bowman (Tucson), Michael McDowell (Glendale) and J.J. Yeley (Phoenix), who all come from the area. Additionally, Danica Patrick currently resides in Phoenix.


Phoenix Track Facts: 2014 The Profit on CNBC 500

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series 2014 Top 10 at Phoenix International Raceway
RankDriverRacesPolesWinsTop FivesTop 10sDNFsAverage FinishDriver Rating
1Dale Earnhardt Jr.230261031784
2Denny Hamlin171189010.998.2
3Brad Keselowski90023117.185.9
4Jeff Gordon30321020311.599.4
5Jimmie Johnson2124141706.3116.7
6Matt Kenseth231159317.486.1
7Ricky Stenhouse Jr.2000001472.9
8Greg Biffle200057113.991.6
9Austin Dillon000000--
10Casey Mears190000426.261.1
* – Based on last 18 races at Phoenix International Raceway (2005 – 2013).
Phoenix International Raceway:
Carl Edwards won last season; he's 20/1 to win this week
·        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 35 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Phoenix International Raceway, one per season from 1988-2004 and two each season since.
·        186 drivers have competed in at least one NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Phoenix; 138 in more than one.
·        Mark Martin leads series in starts at Phoenix with 34; followed by Jeff Gordon and Bobby Labonte with 30 each.
·        Geoffrey Bodine won the first pole in 1988 at a speed of 123.203 mph (29.220 sec.).
·        There have been 19 different Coors Light 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 (03/03/13 – 54 years, 1 month, 22 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 the spring of 2007. Edwards won the fall of 2010 and spring of 2011.
·        Denny Hamlin (November, 2005) and AJ Allmendinger (April, 2010) won their first career Coors Light poles at Phoenix International Raceway.
·        There have been 23 different NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race winners at Phoenix, eight have won more than once, led by Jimmie Johnson, with four – (’07 Chase race, ’08 spring race and Chase race, ’09 Chase race).
·        The eight drivers who have won more than once at Phoenix: Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick lead the series in wins(four each), Davey Allison (two), Jeff Burton (two), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (two), Jeff Gordon (two) Carl Edwards (two) and Mark Martin (two).
·        Of the eight 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).
·        Four of the 35 (11.4%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Phoenix have been won from the Coors Light pole:Jeff Gordon (spring 2007), Jimmie Johnson (fall 2008), Mark Martin (spring 2009) and Carl Edwards (fall 2010).
·        Seven of the 35 (20%) NASCAR Sprint Cup races at Phoenix have been won from the front row: four from the pole and three from second-place.
·        17 of the 35 (48.5%) NASCAR Sprint Cup races at Phoenix have been won from a starting position inside the top 10.
·        Jimmie Johnson leads the series in average finishes at Phoenix with a 6.3; he is the only active driver with an average finish inside the top 10.  
·        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.
·        18 of the 35 (51.4%) NASCAR Sprint Cup races at Phoenix have been won from a starting position outside the top 10.
·        3 of the 35 (8.5%) NASCAR Sprint Cup races at Phoenix have been won from a starting position outside the top 20.
·        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 seven.
·        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.
·        Youngest NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Phoenix International Raceway winner: Kyle Busch (11/13/2005 – 20 years, 6 months, 11 days).
·        Oldest NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Phoenix International Raceway winner: Mark Martin (4/18/2009 – 50 years, 3months, 9 days).
·        Mark Martin leads the series in runner-up finishes at Phoenix with five; followed by Jimmie Johnson and Tony Stewart with three each.
·        Jimmie Johnson leads the series in top-five finishes at Phoenix with 14.
·        Alan Kulwicki (11/6/1988) and Bobby Hamilton (10/27/1996) are the only two drivers to post their first NASCAR Sprint Cup career win at Phoenix International Raceway.
·        21 of the 23 NASCAR Sprint Cup 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 30.
·        Since the advent of electronic scoring the closest margin of victory in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Phoenix was the April 10, 2010 race won by Ryan Newman with a MOV of 0.13 seconds.
·        Two drivers have won at Phoenix and the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship in the same season: Jimmie Johnson (2007, 2008 sweep and 2009); Dale Earnhardt (1990).
·        Danica Patrick is the only female driver that has made a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start at Phoenix International Raceway.
Starting Position
Finishing Position
Danica Patrick
Danica Patrick
Danica Patrick
·        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. 99 – Carl Edwards (2010 and 2013) and Jeff Burton (2000, 2001)  
o   No. 29 – Kevin Harvick (2006 sweep, 2012 and 2013)
o   No. 5 - Mark Martin (2009), Kyle Busch (2005) and Terry Labonte (1994)
Phoenix International Raceway Data
Season Race #: 2 of 36 (3-2-14)
Track Size: 1-mile
Banking/Turn 1 & 2: 10-11 degrees
Banking/Turn 3 & 4: 8-9 degrees
Banking/Frontstretch: 3 degrees
Banking/Backstretch: 8-9 degrees
Frontstretch Length: 1,179 feet
Backstretch Length: 1,551 feet
Race Length: 312 laps / 500 Kilometers
Top 10 Driver Ratings at Phoenix
Jimmie Johnson....................... 116.7
Kevin Harvick........................... 101.3
Carl Edwards........................... 100.0
Jeff Gordon................................ 99.4
Tony Stewart.............................. 99.2
Denny Hamlin............................ 98.2
Kurt Busch................................. 98.0
Kyle Busch................................ 97.4
Greg Biffle................................. 91.6
Ryan Newman.......................... 87.1
Note: Driver Ratings compiled from 2005-2013 races (18 total) among active drivers at Phoenix International Raceway.
Qualifying/Race Data
2013 pole winner: Mark Martin, Toyota, 138.074 mph, 26.073 secs. 3-1-13
2013 race winner: Carl Edwards, Ford, 105.187 mph, (03:00:15), 3-3-13
Track qualifying record: Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 139.222 mph, 25.858 secs. 11-8-13
Track race record: Tony Stewart, Pontiac, 118.132 mph, (2:38:28), 11-7-99
NASCAR in Arizona
·        There have been 40 NASCAR Sprint Cup races among three tracks in Arizona.
Track Name
Phoenix International Raceway
Arizona State Fairgrounds
Tucson Rodeo Grounds
·        32 drivers in NASCAR national series history have their home state recorded as Arizona.
·        None of the drivers from Arizona have won a race in NASCAR’s three national series.