HOORAHS AND WAZZUPS: THE NATIONWIDE SERIES AT PHOENIXBy Dave Grayson
Kyle Busch overcame some early race adversity to put on a stunning display of dominance in the NASCAR Nationwide Series’ Dollar General 200, presented by AmeriGas, at the Phoenix International Raceway. Then we watched Sam Hornish Jr overcame a seemingly terrible day to leave Phoenix with a share of the series’ points lead. We also observed another reason why taking a short cut at the Phoenix International Raceway is not necessarily a great idea.
HOORAH. Kyle Busch drove a high powered Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota to his first Nationwide Series win of the season and his 52nd career win. He led 142 of the scheduled 200 laps in the process. Of equal importance, Busch eradicated a 24 race win less streak by scoring his first Nationwide Series win since September of 2011.
WAZZUP. The second pit stall is now the first pit stall? The fastest qualifier receives the option of first pick on the pit stalls. Kyle Busch chose pit stall number one which is pretty much standard operating procedure. However, NASCAR issued a pre season mandate that reduced the Nationwide Series field from 43 to 40 cars. They also eliminated the use of the very first pit stall on pit road. A lap 39 caution flag brought Busch to pit road who apparently forgot about the rule change. He slid his Toyota through his pits, stall #2, and came to rest in the now defunct stall #1. That forced him to back the car up to his pit stall. Add to that situation a penalty for entering pit road too fast and Busch found himself restarting in 23d. By lap 89 he was back in the lead and on the way to the win. That’s how good this race car was.
HOORAH. The very happy race winner did a beautiful post race burnout that lasted the entire length of the front stretch. For you fans who are totally into racing stats, that burn out was 1,179 feet long on three degrees of banking.
HOORAH. After the race ESPN broadcaster Andy Petree’s comments best described Busch’s dominant performance by saying “the world’s back to normal, Kyle Busch wins a NASCAR Nationwide Series race.”
HOORAH. The making chicken salad out of chicken do do award goes to Sam Hornish Jr. He started his day in Phoenix as the series’ points leader. After being involved in two yellow flag incidents, it was getting pretty obvious that Hornish was not going to have any fun in the valley of the sun. Despite all of the frustrations, Hornish still managed to drive a battered race car to a seventh place finish and left Phoenix tied for first in the points standings. This is a sterling example of what can happen when a driver and his team refuses to bow down to adversity.
WAZZUP. The pre race anticipation from Hornish pretty much unraveled on lap four when he found himself caught up in a six car wreck on the frontstretch. After hitting the rear of the car in front of him, the transponder came off of Jamie Dick’s Chevrolet and became lodged in the front grill of Hornish’s Ford. It may be literally decades before we see a bizarre situation like that on the race track again. Hornish had to make an extra trip down pit road so NASCAR officials could retrieve the transponder. By the way. great call by NASCAR for giving Hornish one of his lost laps back because that extra trip down pit road had nothing to do with driver or team performance.
WAZZUP. On the back stretch of the Phoenix International Raceway is a driver option called the short cut. A driver, coming off of turn two, can steer his car well below the yellow line at the bottom of the back stretch, pass the car in front of him and then power slide back onto the main portion of the track while heading into turn three. That’s what happens when this maneuver works well. However, sometimes the driver finds himself having to deal with an awkward racing line going into turn three and the result is often contact with another car and a crash. That’s what happened on lap 52 of the race. Nelson Piquet Jr used the short cut to pass Joe Nemechek. The result was contact and Nemechek’s Toyota sustaining heavy damage after hitting the wall. We’ve seen this happen many times before at this track. This latest incident raises questions: is it time for NASCAR to eliminate the use of the short cut maneuver at Phoenix? Is it time to paint a double yellow line at the bottom of the back stretch and make it a penalty offense for crossing it?