[media-credit name=”Simon Scoggins” align=”alignright” width=”238″][/media-credit]Denny Hamlin avenged his 2010 hiccup during the 2010 Chase for the Sprint Cup and used good pit strategy to win the Subway Fresh Fit 500 at the Phoenix International Raceway.
“If you would’ve asked me at the beginning of the day, I would’ve taken a top-15 finish.” Hamlin said in victory lane. “Just an amazing job by this FedEx Office team. Just kept working on it. Every time we worked on it, it got better. Can’t thank them enough.”
The race came down to fuel mileage as Hamlin had the 29 of Kevin Harvick breathing down his neck down the stretch, but the 29 was short on fuel by just one lap, but still managed to finish in Second.
“You cut the fuel mileage that close, you’re figuring it right. So I’m proud of all my guys. When they come to a place like this where we struggled so much, and then race for a win, is hopefully what sets the tone for the year.” Harvick said.
Greg Biffle, who was one of the favorites for the race today based off his performance during the first practice session struggled for the first half of the race before finally picking up the pace.
“The guys did a great job with the 3M Ford Fusion. I wish I wouldn’t have tried to save so much gas. I probably would have caught the 29, but you just never know how much gas you’ve got.” Biffle said.
Jimmie Johnson rebounded from last week’s disastrous Daytona 500 to finish in fourth position, but because of the penalty handed out by NASCAR at the beginning of the week, Johnson only has 18 points coming out of Phoenix.
“We were concerned because I rarely get good fuel mileage. We were definitely concerned and once we cleared the No. 2 (Brad Keselowski) we just kind of fell into a rhythm at that point and tried to make sure that we got home and made some points. Leaving Daytona in 42nd on the board wasn’t a good way to start the season. But I’m very proud of the effort. We had a very fast Kobalt Tools Chevrolet.” Johnson said.
Brad Keselowski, Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr., Jeff Gordon, Mark Martin, and Joey Logano rounded out the rest of the top-10.
Kasey Kahne ran into trouble during the very early stages of the race. Kahne got loose and hit the wall coming off turn 4 and didn’t finish better than 34th. It has not been a season to cheer about so far for Kahne and Hendrick Motorsports.
Another driver involved in the silly season was Clint Bowyer. He simply had no luck. The caution flew for him the first time for a cut tire which caused some damage to the right-front fender, but that wasn’t the end of the disaster. Bowyer cut another tire about nine laps later and hit the wall, but no caution was thrown. Bowyer finished in 30th.
Tony Stewart, who started on the outside of the front row, led early on in the race after passing Mark Martin, but fell victim to the new fueling system which was very similar to what Greg Biffle went through at Las Vegas almost a year ago. Stewart turned off his engine during the yellow, but the engine did not come back when he tried re-firing. Stewart ended up losing laps and wound up a disappointing 22nd.
“I just shut the car off like we did at Daytona and turned it back on and it never re-fired. That’s all I can tell you. I don’t know why it didn’t re-fire. I honestly don’t know. It’s not really my department. I just turned the switch back on and it never re-fired. I don’t know why that was; but it definitely cost us a good day.” Stewart said.
I personally witnessed the fate of Marcos Ambrose. Ambrose was inching his way into the top-5, but ran into a problem with his engine. He came down into Turn 1 and it sounded like the engine had farted. I tweeted “Ambrose is in trouble!”. He came around again and his car had begun to smoke and he pulled down off the track. It was sad to see because it looked like he was on his way to a great finish for a lower-funded Richard Petty Motorsports.
“We blew up. We are here trying to run for wins and run for championships and to trip over ourselves like that, it just isn’t going to get it done.” Ambrose said.
The only other incident of the day happened when A.J. Allmendinger got loose and made contact with Paul Menard on the front stretch. Menard was sent to the inside wall while Jamie McMurray, an innocent man with no where to go, suffered damage to the front-end. McMurray tried staying out and lead some laps before developing an engine problem and later went to the garage and was done for the day.
Hamlin, like many drivers, had made a two tire stop to acquire track position and eventually the lead. Harvick led the most laps today, but as stated above, ran out of fuel and finished second. Hamlin now has the point lead as we head into Las Vegas where last year Carl Edwards edged Tony Stewart for his only win of 2010 minus the Sprint All-Star Race. My pick for the race will be Carl Edwards. Last year, the event was plagued with a series of tire failures, including Jeff Gordon and David Gilliland.
What did you guys think of the race today? Let me know! Follow me on Twitter! http://www.twitter.com/SirRyanTheOHara
On the possibility of a championship: Absolutely. I think we can do it if we continue to run well, but you never know what’s going to happen. Next week we’re going to an entirely different race track and that is what makes the first half of the season difficult. We get a lot of tracks that all have different dimensions for about five weeks during the year. -Hamlin
|Unofficial Race Results|
|Subway Fresh Fit 500, Phoenix International Raceway|
|7||25||56||Martin Truex Jr.||Toyota||38|
|14||29||88||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||Chevrolet||30|
|38||33||26||Josh Wise *||Ford||6|