The Subway Fresh Fit 500 at Phoenix International Raceway is sure to be a good one. Drivers have been complaining of a slick race track that seems to be losing grip.
Forty-three drivers packed onto a recently repaved one-mile race track will make for some close quarters racing.
As is always the case in NASCAR, a whole host of drivers could win this Sunday at Phoenix, but there are five drivers who have shown over the years that they have what it takes to win a duel in the desert.
Jimmie Johnson has never finished outside of the top-15 at PIR in his career. “Five-time” has four wins, 11 top-five finishes and 14 top-10s in 17 starts.
Johnson struggled after they repaved the track before the race last fall, so he will be looking to rebound from a 14th place finish.
Johnson turned a fast lap in the second practice and then backed it up by qualifying fourth for Sunday’s race.
With an average finish of 5.35, Johnson is a virtual lock to finish top-10 and definitely a good bet to contend for the win.
“Rowdy,” “Wild Thing,” whatever you wanna call him, the boy is good here. His career average finish of 14.57 puts him 11th out of all active drivers. He has two top-fives and eight top-10s in 14 starts.
“Rowdy” will start 12th this Sunday, and he’ll be sniffing the front all afternoon. He has not been blistering fast this weekend, but as we all know, that doesn’t mean anything come race day with Kyle Busch behind the wheel.
With four Nationwide wins and one Cup victory at Phoenix, the younger Busch certainly knows the fast way around PIR.
Ryan Newman has an 18.58 average finish overall at PIR, 22nd out of all active drivers. But NASCAR is a momentum sport, and as of late, Newman certainly has had all the momentum in the desert.
Newman has been the best driver on the track at Phoenix over the last two years. Newman has finished in the top-five in the Sprint Cup’s last four visits to PIR, including a win in the 2010 Spring race.
The “Rocket Man” rolls off sixth this Sunday and will likely be a contender all day.
In 30 starts at PIR, Mark Martin has an average finish of 9.03, good for second on the active driver’s list.
Martin has finished 20th or better in every start at Phoenix but one. He finished 36th in his first start at PIR in 1988.
Martin will be starting from the pole in Sunday’s race. Only four drivers in the track’s history have won from the pole, and Martin is one of them. (Martin won from the pole in 2009 driving for Rick Hendrick.)
With two career victories at Phoenix, Martin will look to rebound from two mediocre finishes last year. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the number 55 car up near the front all day and potentially contending for the win at the checkered flag.
There, that should make my dad happy.
Tony Stewart has raced everything there is to race at PIR (USAC Silver Crown, Indy Car and NASCAR).
The defending Sprint Cup Series champion has an average finish of 11.30 at Phoenix with one win, eight top-fives and 11 top-10s.
Smoke has had a fast car all week, the fastest in the first practice. He qualified second behind Mark Martin.
Stewart drove to a third place finish at PIR last fall and used that finish to propel him to a win and the Cup championship the following week. A win this week would catapult Smoke back toward the top of the standings and another championship run.