Well race fans I’m back and we are getting ready for Phoenix and the Subway Fresh 500 Saturday night. Sorry for not being here over the last few weeks but I have been in the middle of a move and reconstructing of my home that was damaged during Hurricane Katrina. So now to a more interesting subject, NASCAR and how in the heck will the boys do this weekend?
Let’s start off looking at the standings and examine where everybody is and where they need to be. Jimmy Johnson driver of the number 48 Lowe’s Chevy is leading the points race as of now, but not far behind is Matt Kenseth driving the number 17 DeWalt Ford. He is closely followed by Kasey Kahne in the number 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge and the wily old veteran Mark Martin in his number 6 AAA Ford. Last years champ Tony Stewart is in fifth place in his number 20 Home Depot Chevy while fan favorite Dale Earnhardt, Jr. in his number 8 Budweiser Chevy is holding down sixth spot. Vegas standout Kyle Busch is working hard to hold on to seventh place with his Kellogg’s/Car Quest number 5 Chevy after dropping two places after Texas while teammate Jeff Gordon in his DuPont number 24 Chevy has also lost a spot back to eighth. Hard on their heels and closing fast after some good finishes is Kevin Harvick in his number 29 GM Goodwrench Chevy at number nine and rounding out the top ten is Casey Meers who has surprised many around the NASCAR fan boards of late with his number 42 Texaco/Havoline Dodge. Notable missing in action from the top ten are brother to Kyle Busch and former Cup Champion Kurt Busch and the Miller Life number 2 Dodge that has had a couple of bad finishes that has seen him move back into seventeenth position. Two of the Rousch team cars, Greg Biffle’s number 16 Subway/National Guard Ford is in twenty-third position and last years super rookie Carl Edwards number 99 Office Depot Ford is just ahead in twenty-second position. Both of these drivers were very much a factor in last year’s final chase for the cup. If I didn’t discuss your favorite driver it will be blamed on the dog for eating my homework.
This weekend is the beginning of a 14 week run of continuous point weekend races for NASCAR and the Nextel Cup. It will have one non-points all-star race in Charlotte before the World 600 and conclude this run in late July. So Phoenix is the start of the real racing season. The make or break of the season as many would say. Phoenix is a unusual track in that it has the features of the short tracks and also the features of the midsized mile and a quarter tracks make a handling setup all the more critical along with a strong torque engine package. There are no sweeping turns on this track as it more of the flat sliding style driver that prevails here. Over the years the short track specialists have always dominated here. Last years winners Kurt and Kyle Busch are good examples of the slashing style of drivers that loves this track. They are always on the wheel, always on the verge of spinning and that is the nature of the successful short tracker. A devil me care attitude that he is always faster and he can always prove it. Well Kyle has the pole and the momentum coming into the race with some good finishes and he has his new arch rival right on his back bumper in the third position Tony Stewart so it could start off in a high fashion or it might play out slowly to that last few hectic laps. If I had to bet I’d bet on the first. Kurt has posted some of the faster practice times over the week so he is looking good as well. Many of the chase hopefuls really need to start making their move and on tracks like Phoenix they can shine. Carl Edwards is very good on short tracks and Biffle has won at Phoenix so he is always a threat. Jeff Burton has won twice at Phoenix and he has a new spirit this year with Childress Racing and his number 31 Prilosec OTC Chevy and that plus his fervor to regain the winner’s circle makes him someone to watch.
So who will it win this Saturday night? Who will move into contention for the chase and who will begin to fall behind? Will the younger drivers prevail or will the old veterans steal their thunder? Well if you want answers to these questions you’ll just have to do as I’m going to do and watch the race tomorrow and see for yourself.
Fri 04/21/06, 8:43 pm EST