Rating the Race – Phoenix, where you can flip a house, flip a coin, or just flip the race winner

by Ron Thornton On Mon, Mar. 04, 2013

Photo Credit: Simon Scoggins

Why I watched — Well, it sure was not to see qualifying, where 43 were entered for 43 slots. Maybe I watched to see which of the three non-points drivers would quit first and what reason they might give to not appear as a strictly field filling start and park. Behind us were the high banks of Daytona, and I wondered if the racing in Phoenix might be just as visually stimulating. I wondered how Danica might do, how Jimmie and Junior and Mark might fare after doing so well in the season opener. Would Carl Edwards rebound out of his slump, or if Tony Stewart and Kevin Harvick might actually run at least half of the race. There were many reasons to watch, but I wondered if I would be happy with the results. The fact I gave the Nationwide event a 7 out of 10 had me hopeful.

The race — The fact Mark Martin claimed the pole was also good news. His 21st place finish not so much. Tires proved to provide us with unexpected moments, claiming Scott Riggs twenty laps in as he bounced into the fence after a blow out to end his day, the first to go out.

Ryan Newman blew his twice, the second time killing his car before we hit the midpoint. The driver still had his bounce, bouncing out of the car, across the track, and off into the infield. It appears he was done with automotive transportation for one day. Team mate Danica Patrick rode around outside the Top 25, blew her tire, and took a hard hit off the wall while getting hit even harder when David Ragan sheared off much of her driver’s side. As for Tony and Kevin, Smoke was 8th, Happy finished 13th.

Different pit strategy and changes between sunshine and shadow kept us guessing who would be where at the end. A late caution brought us a green, white, checker finish, with Carl Edwards running off to take the flag. Behind him, Jimmie Johnson and Denny Hamlin went fender to fender as Johnson was the runner-up. Brad Keselowski and Dale Earnhardt Jr rounded out the Top Five.

Oh, Mike Bliss parked first among our predetermined suspects, finishing 42nd. Brake problems was the official reason given, as the team collected over $50,000 for running just over 10% of the race. Joe Nemechek ran over 98% of the laps, wound up 31st, and earned almost $73,000. That was a very pleasant and very welcome surprise. You have to respect that.

Rating the race (8.5/10) — The final outcome was left in doubt until the final couple of laps, fate and right front tires provided some unexpected moments, a strong announcing staff, great scenery, and the first Edwards’ Cup back flip in 70 races made this a pleasure to watch. The fact Subway sponsored both his car and the race itself, and it all wrapped up in time for supper was just a bonus. As for myself, I went with soup.

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