Posted on: March 4, 2012 7:49 pm
Edited on: March 4, 2012 8:05 pm
 

Video: Newman wrecks after contact with Edwards

By Pete Pistone

Ryan Newman rallied back from a pit road penalty to get back into contention Sunday at Phoenix only to have contact with Carl Edwards send him into the wall.

The wreck didn't knock Newman out of the race, but the damage was bad enough to cost him a couple of laps and he wound up 21st. Edwards ran out of fuel on the final lap and finished 17th.





RYAN NEWMAN

"I’m 99 percent sure Carl Edwards didn’t do that on purpose, but I trusted him. Now he can’t trust me because there is a lot to be had and lost, we lost a lot today.  I don’t know how much he lost, but that’s not the point. I don’t consider that a deliberate move by any means.  We know plenty of times in this sport, what comes around goes around."


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Posted on: March 4, 2012 7:35 pm
Edited on: March 4, 2012 7:43 pm
 

Speed Read: Phoenix

By Pete Pistone

SUBWAY FRESH FIT 500 RESULTS

After the madness of Daytona it was good to have a return to “normalcy” for the second Sprint Cup Series race of the season.

Whatever that means.

The two weeks spent in Daytona and this year’s unprecedented extra day due to the 500’s first rainout in history took its toll on teams and drivers. While everyone understands the magnitude of opening the year with the biggest race of the season, there’s an audible sigh of relief throughout the garage area when the nuts and bolts of the schedule kicks in the following week.

Now that Phoenix has been positioned as the Daytona follow-up, the one mile oval has filled the spot admirably.

Even in its brand new incarnation after last year’s massive reconfiguration, Phoenix has retained its reputation as an entertaining track that creates more of a short track vibe than other tracks its size in New Hampshire and Dover.

It’s the perfect contrast to the restrictor plate racing and aerodynamic display of Daytona’s superspeedway.

NASCAR had to have been pleased with the full grandstands for Sunday’s Subway Fresh Fit 500, the second straight sellout for the track after last November’s success. A bigger question will be answered in a day or two when television ratings are released in the wake of the 36 million who viewed into at least some portion of Monday’s rain-delayed Daytona 500.

Just a small percentage of those viewers sneaking a peek at Sunday’s Phoenix race would bump the ratings and based on what they saw in race number two, that could persuade them to join in again for next Sunday’s Las Vegas race.

The late race drama of Denny Hamlin trying to fend off a hard-charging Kevin Hamlin, who had to give up the challenge when he ran out of fuel wasn’t the side-by-side run to the checkered flag finish most fans hoped for on Sunday. But overall it was still a decent way to begin the grind of the year after the Daytona season-opening hype.
 

RISERS

Greg Biffle – Two races and two third place finishes for Biffle as he starts the year off on a solid note. Came out of nowhere late in the race on Sunday and appears to have found some of that good luck the team had disappear last season.

Jimmie Johnson – Whether or not the controversy of the week’s penalties and appeals served as motivation or not doesn’t matter. The fact is Johnson was a strong contender on Sunday and put the off track issues as well as last week’s Daytona disaster far behind.

Joey Logano – The pressure to perform in his final contract year with Joe Gibbs Racing hasn’t seemed to bother Logano. He followed up a solid Daytona 500 win with a Top 10 in Phoenix. To his credit Logano seems very relaxed these days and his relationship with new crew chief Jason Ratcliff is off to a very positive start.
 

FALLERS

Kasey Kahne – Last November’s Phoenix winner was a pre-race favorite to follow that up with another trip to victory lane, which would have been his first for Hendrick Motorsports. But those hopes quickly went out of the window when he slapped the wall early and severely damaged his Chevrolet. After his Daytona disappointment, 2012 has not gone anywhere near what Kahne had planned.

A.J. Allmendinger – Another guy who has gotten off to a bad start with his new team, Allmendinger was swept up in a multi-car accident on the frontstretch with Paul Menard and Jamie McMurray also involved. After his less than successful Speedweeks debut, Allmendinger is suddenly under pressure to perform in week number three of the season.

Tony Stewart – Kenny Wallace was the first victim of an EFI problem at Daytona but Stewart’s issues Sunday will get a whole lot more attention. The defending champ found out the hard way shutting down the engine to save fuel doesn’t work as well with the new system when he could not get his power plant to re-fire late in the race.



RADIO WAVES

(Choice comments and communications from drivers and crew chiefs)

"What fender is rubbing?! I ain't hit nobody!" – Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Boys, we are making this way, way harder than it needs to be. Like way f----- harder." – Crew Chief Steve Letarte

"You can't fix stupid." – Jeff Gordon’s spotter on Juan Pablo Montoya

"I think we need to run it out here and hope for a caution." – Martin Truex Jr.

“We can here and ran 30th last year & didn’t even contend. I'm so proud of everyone on this team!" – Second place finisher Kevin Harvick
 

RACE RATING

On a scale of one to five "Pistone Pistons" I'll give Sunday’s Subway Fresh Fit 500 a three. The race got off to a bit of a slow start but gained some momentum as it rolled on and in addition to some good hard racing a dose or two of drama didn’t hurt any. Denny Hamlin gets the monkey off his back and Darian Grubb shows he is indeed a championship-caliber crew chief. Kevin Harvick’s late run to turn in another “Closer” performance comes up just short and Tony Stewart shows the word that Electronic Fuel Injection has indeed changed the Sprint Cup Series landscape. An entertaining afternoon in the desert to get keep the season headed in the right direction.

DOWN THE ROAD

The west coast swing continues for NASCAR with next Sunday’s Kobalt Tools 500 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The first race on a 1.5-mile track should give an indication of which teams have their intermediate track programs in order, a an important element of the Sprint Cup campaign since a bulk of the schedule is made up of similar-sized speedways. The weekend will also include the unveiling of the new 2013 Dodge Charger in an event that has been planned for some time. We’ll see the car but it will be some time before drivers or a team will be known.

 
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Posted on: March 4, 2012 4:54 pm
 

Video: Allmendinger, Menard, McMurray crash

Posted by Pete Pistone

A three car melee in the first half of Sunday's Subway Fresh Fit 500 at Phoenix International Raceway involved A.J. Allmendinger, Paul Menard and Jamie McMurray:


 
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Posted on: March 4, 2012 4:32 pm
Edited on: March 4, 2012 4:34 pm
 

Video: Early trouble for Bowyer, Kahne at Phoenix

Posted by Brian De Los Santos

Clint Bowyer and Kasey Kahne found trouble early during the Subway Fresh Fit 500 at Phoenix. Bowyer blew a tire not once, but twice, while Kahne got loose and smacked the wall. The damage was severe enough that Kahne had to take his car to the garage for repairs.

It's the second straight race Kahne has run into trouble as he wound up 29th in Daytona. Bowyer was coming off an 11th-place finish.




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Posted on: March 4, 2012 1:14 pm
Edited on: March 4, 2012 1:35 pm
 

Phoenix pre-race chatter

By Pete Pistone

The countdown is on to Sunday afternoon's second Sprint Cup Series race of the season at Phoenix International Raceway and the Subway Fresh Fit 500:
Posted on: March 3, 2012 4:05 pm
 

Mark Martin races to Phoenix pole

By Pete Pistone

SUBWAY FRESH FIT 500 STARTING LINEUP

Veteran Mark Martin was the fastest of the field Saturday afternoon and won the pole for the Subway Fresh Fit 500 at Phoenix International Raceway.

The 53-year-old Martin toured the one-mile desert oval with a lap of 136.814 mph to score the 52nd pole of his Sprint Cup pole and second at Phoenix.

The pole-winning run came in only Martin's second start for Michael Waltrip Racing.

Tony Stewart, Regan Smith, Jimmie Johnson and Juan Pablo Montoya rounded out the fast five.

Ryan Newman, Greg Biffle, Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano and Kasey Kahne were the top ten.

Sunday's Subway Fresh Fit 500 will take the green flag at 3:14 p.m. ET.


 
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Posted on: March 3, 2012 2:43 pm
Edited on: March 3, 2012 4:03 pm
 

Elliott Sadler to drive MWR car in five races

By Pete Pistone

Elliott Sadler made his return to the Sprint Cup Series in the Daytona 500 when he piloted a Richard Childress Racing entry.

That outing didn't last long as Sadler was involved in a lap two multi-car accident.

But last year's Nationwide Series second place finisher will get more time in NASCAR's top division this year with a five race deal to drive Michael Waltrip Racing's No. 55 Toyota.

Sadler will make his debut in the ride at Bristol later this month and will also drive in the August Bristol event, both Martinsville races and the July 15 race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

“This is an awesome opportunity,” said Sadler. “We’ve been talking about this for a while, but wanted to get through Daytona before we announced it to everyone. If I had to pick a place on the circuit to start then Bristol would be my first choice. I’ve had a lot of good memories at Bristol. Martinsville is in my home state of Virginia and I’ve always enjoyed racing at Loudon. I can’t thank Michael and everyone at MWR enough for giving me this opportunity.” 

Waltrip, who will also run four races in the ride that Mark Martin is set for 25 races, explained how Sadler came to drive the No. 55.

“Elliott has the experience and attitude we were looking for,” said Waltrip. “We’ll pair him with Crew Chief Rodney Childers who builds really fast cars. We believe Elliott will do a great job.”

 
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Posted on: March 3, 2012 11:14 am
Edited on: March 3, 2012 11:23 am
 

Race Preview: Phoenix

By Pete Pistone

  Tony Stewart, Driver Of The #14 Office Depot/ Mobil 1 Chevrolet, Drives
(Stewart had a great deal of success on the old Phoenix layout and finished third last fall at "new" PIR - Getty)

The cliché every year after Daytona is that the real season now begins at (insert track here).

Richmond, then Rockingham, then Fontana and now Phoenix have all hosted the second race of the Sprint Cup calendar. With Speedweeks in the rear view mirror the meat and potatoes of the campaign does begin with the post-Daytona weekend.

“With all the plate racing and craziness associated with Daytona Speed Weeks behind us now, it’s like the real season kicks in at Phoenix," said A.J. Allmendinger.

Phoenix provides a more typical race weekend feel than the two weeks spent in Daytona and the multitude of practice sessions and preliminary races.

“It’ll be good to get this team into more of a regular rhythm this weekend,” said Tony Stewart’s crew chief Steve Addington. “Phoenix is going to give us a better idea of how we can work together as a team under more normal conditions I guess is the best way to say it.”

Addington’s driver has a long history at Phoenix. Stewart’s accomplishments at the one-mile oval include both a stock car career as well as numerous open wheel outings.

But like every other driver in Sunday’s Subway Fresh Fit 500 field, he only has one start on the “new” PIR, which came last November after the track’s massive reconfiguration.

“It’s not the old Phoenix that we used to have obviously,” Stewart said after Friday’s first practice session.  “I am still partial to that.  Every time they made a change I liked it less and less.  There are a lot of things that had to be done and had to be updated and they did a really good job of that.  With the surface they did an awesome job paving it.  It is not changed much from when we were here last fall.”

Stewart finished third in last November’s outing trailing Carl Edwards and race winner Kasey Kahne across the finish line.

Kahne will shoot for back-to-back victories on Sunday but will do so with his new team at Hendrick Motorsports.

“We had a great car here last November,” said Kahne, who won behind the wheel of a Red Bull Racing Toyota. “Getting that win was a huge boost for our team last year. I think the track was probably the best I can remember [for] a brand-new race surface.”
 
Phoenix International Raceway 

Track Size: One mile

Race Length: 312 laps/500 kilometers 

Banking/1-2: 11 degrees 

Banking/3-4: 8-9 degrees 

Banking/Frontstretch: 3 degrees 

Banking/Backstretch: 9 degrees

Frontstretch: 1,179 feet 

Backstretch: 1,551 feet

Qualifying/Race Data 

2011 pole winner: Carl Edwards (137.279 mph, 26.244 seconds) 

2011 race winner: Jeff Gordon (102.961 mph, 2-27-11) 

Qualifying record: Carl Edwards (137.279 mph, 26.244 secs., 2-26-11) 

Race record: Tony Stewart (118.132 mph, 11-7-99)

Race Facts 

There have been 31 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Phoenix International Raceway, one per season from 1988-2004 and two each season since 2005.

Geoffrey Bodine won the first pole in 1988.        

There have been 19 different pole winners, led by Ryan Newman with four.        

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 22 different race winners, led by Jimmie Johnson, with four.        

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 16 of 31 events.      

Denny Hamlin (November, 2005) and AJ Allmendinger (April, 2010) won their first career poles 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 12 top-five 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 (5.3) is the other.        

Jeff Gordon has the lowest average start amongst active drivers with a 10.4; followed by AJ Allmendinger (10.5) and Carl Edwards (10.8).       

Two perfect Driver Ratings of 150.0 have been recorded at Phoenix. Kurt Busch did it with his win in April of 2005, and Kevin Harvick did it 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).        

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 (04/18/2009 – 50 years, 3 months, 9 days)

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).
 
Who’s Hot at Phoenix 

Kasey Kahne – He won the only Sprint Cup Series race held on the new configuration at Phoenix last year, which came in impressive fashion as it was the second to last outing for Kahne with the financially troubled Red Bull Racing team. Crew chief Kenny Francis should have a leg up in the set-up department over his competitors on Sunday.

Tony Stewart – Stewart was a beast on the old Phoenix layout where he had experience in everything from stock cars to Indy Cars to sprint cars. He adapted pretty well to the new PIR last November when he was in the hunt for the victory before settling for a third place finish.

Carl Edwards – Edwards battled tooth and nail with Stewart last fall at Phoenix as the duo waged their furious championship battle.
 He had a runner-up finish and carries the race’s title sponsor as the No. 99’s primary colors this weekend for a little extra incentive.

Who’s Not 

Jimmie Johnson – The five-time champion owned the “old” Phoenix at one point winning four times in five races. But the new layout proved to be perplexing to Johnson last November when he finished fourteenth. Now throw in the controversy of Chad Knaus’ potential penalty and his disappointing Daytona finish and either Johnson has more motivation or another set of challenges to overcome.

Matt Kenseth – The Daytona 500 winner hasn’t done very well at Phoenix during his career – old or new PIR.  He was involved in the Brian Vickers payback controversy last November so looks to use his Daytona momentum as a catalyst for a good run on Sunday.

Brad Keselowski – A 25.6 average Phoenix finish for the Penske Racing driver who with his short track background you’d think would be a little better in the Valley of the Sun. Will be interesting to see how the team handles the lame duck Dodge status the rest of the season.

Notebook 

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 last year. The construction began in March and concluded in September of 2011.    

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 dogleg curve between Turn 2 and Turn 3 out 95 feet

o    Tightened the turn radius of the dogleg from 800 to 500 feet

  • 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 36 NASCAR Sprint Cup races in Arizona.

30 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.

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com