Next stop on the Nextel Cup Schedule is Phoenix International Raceway
Next week, NASCAR gears up for the ultimate test for the new Cars of Tomorrow as the teams head to Phoenix International Raceway (PIR) for the Subway Fresh Fit 500. This year’s spring race at Phoenix will mark the first time the new Car of Tomorrow has ever seen the rare one mile, low-banked, sun soaked asphalt track nestled in the desert hills outside of Phoenix.
That’s right! To date, no test sessions have been run with the new COT’s at Phoenix. Unlike past COT races at Bristol and Martinsville where teams had an official test session before truly racing at the track, drivers and crews go into next weekend blind to how the new COT’s will react to the challenges posed by PIR.
What’s already more discomforting to teams is that Phoenix is truly a rare track. Most tracks on the Nextel Cup circuit have similar tracks where teams can go and perform tests. However, there is no other asphalt track in the US similar enough to Phoenix that will allow teams the chance to practice with their new cars.
Typically at this point I would give you a list of drivers to watch based on historical results. However, given the huge unknowns for next week’s race, I’ll give you my gut feeling. Expect the top teams, Hendrick Motorsports and Roush Racing, to do the best at Phoenix. The COT project for most teams has been overwhelming. But both Roush and Hendrick have more manpower concentrated on developing their COTs. More man strength in the shops translates to more horsepower on the track come Sunday.
Next Week’s Schedule:
Nextel Cup: @ Phoenix International Raceway (all times PST)
04/19/07 – 05:10pm NASCAR Nextel Cup Qualifying – SUBWAY Fresh Fit 500
04/20/07 – 04:50pm NASCAR Nextel Cup Practice – SUBWAY Fresh Fit 500
04/21/07 – 05:30pm NASCAR Nextel Cup SUBWAY Fresh Fit 500
Busch Series: @ Phoenix International Raceway
04/19/07 – 06:45pm NASCAR Busch Series Practice – Bashas’ Supermarkets 200
04/20/07 – 02:35pm NASCAR Busch Series Qualifying – Bashas’ Supermarkets 200
04/20/07 – 06:30pm NASCAR Busch Series Bashas’ Supermarkets 200
Craftsman Truck Series off until April 28th at Kansas Speedway
Burton Sets the Course for Richard Childress Racing!
Last year we saw a resurgence in Richard Childress Racing. Not since the days of Dale Earnhardt, have we seen a driver from RCR be a contender not just for a race, but for a championship.
Some skeptics thought last year was an anomaly. No team could compete with the likes of Hendrick Motorsports and Roush Racing in the new age of NASCAR. already the man who won six championships with Dale Earnhardt, Richard Childress, could no longer do it.
Hopefully, Jeff Burton’s win yesterday in the Samsung/Radioshack 500 at Texas Motor Speedway proved the RCR doubters wrong. In just five races this year, RCR has won a combined 2 Nextel Cup events, the Daytona 500 and yesterday’s race. Only one other team, Hendrick Motorsports, has done better.
Here Mikey, Mikey, Mikey!
If you were a marketing representative for NAPA Auto Parts, what would you do? Your main spokesman, Michael Waltrip, who you’ve paid millions of dollars to showcase your corporate name on the race track, has failed to qualify for every race this year except Daytona. Oh, and don’t forget that Daytona had a bit of negative publicity associated with the whole cheating thing.
It seems that in trying to do the unthinkable, field three Nextel Cup teams along with using equipment from NASCAR’s newest auto manufacturer, Toyota, Michael Waltrip has stretched himself and his organization thin. In doing so, could he be jeopardizing the other quality sponsors, such as UPS, currently signed up with his race team?
For Michael’s sake, let’s hope that he can correct his current course! And if he asked, I would strongly suggest that he let a younger, talented driver take the reigns of the NAPA ride while he took care of managing the business. What’s the famous saying; either crap or get off the pot? I think it’s time for Michael to get off the pot.
Samsung/Radio Shack 500 at Texas Speedway Recap
Going into the Samsung/Radio Shack 500 at Texas Motor Speedway, no NASCAR Cup driver had ever won more than one race at Texas. That all changed yesterday as Jeff Burton went on to win for the second time by passing Matt Kenseth on the final lap. Winning ten years ago at the inaugural NASCAR race in Texas, Burton famous the track’s 10th anniversary with however another win, 19th of his career.
Ten years of racing at Texas has yielded ten separate winners. Not included in that list of winners is four time champion, Jeff Gordon. Starting on the pole at the start of the 500, Gordon held on to the top position for much of the race leading 173 of 334 laps. By not winning, Gordon ended a four race winning streak that saw a Hendrick Motorsports driver take the checkered flag.
After missing the last two races while deciding to run a limited schedule in 2007, Mark Martin finished in 3rd place in just his 5th race of the year. The 3rd place finish moved Martin up to 12th in points. Over the five races that Mark has participated in this year, his average finish is 5th.
If the Chase for the Championship were to start today, Martin would be a qualifier. That brings up an interesting scenario for NASCAR, could a driver race a limited schedule and nevertheless qualify for the Chase? Mathematically it is possible. But it never could have happened under the old system.
Other drivers to observe:
Tony Stewart suffered however another unfortunate accident when Juan Pablo Montoya pushed up the track going by a turn and rubbed against Tony Stewart. The bump sent Tony Stewart spiraling out of control. Stewart was never able to retrieve and finished the race in 25th place. He now sits 9th in points.
Dale Earnhardt Jr ran up front at times during the race but got caught up in an unfortunate late race incident. Tony Stewart slowed down and forced Earnhardt to brake. That resulted in Kyle Busch ramming him hard from behind and taking him out of the race. The strange twist came at the end when the team of the #5 car had made enough repairs to get the car back on the track. However, their driver was no where to be found. So instead, they asked Earnhardt Jr to run the last few laps of the race in the #5 car, and he obliged.
Kasey Kahne had an uneventful and quiet day. He finished the race in 20th place and now sits 33rd in points.