Winners and Losers from NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Phoenix
The Daytona 500 may be the most prestigious race on the Sprint Cup schedule, but it's the second race of the season where the field really begins to settle in. For the past four years, that event has taken place at Phoenix International Raceway, host to Sunday's Subway Fresh Fit 500k.
After Ken Schrader found himself in the wall with three laps to go—the last of many drivers to blow their right front tire and see their race end—Carl Edwards, Jimmie Johnson and Brad Keselowski lined up for a green-white-checkered finish under questionable levels of remaining fuel. Edwards, who had been leading before the yellow, got a great jump on the restart and took the victory.
But that doesn't mean that Edwards was the only winner on Sunday. In fact, many of the race's top finishers made something out of nothing, while plenty of other organizations will list Phoenix as one of their most forgettable weekends of the year.
Here's a breakdown of who succeeded and who struggled.
Winner: Carl Edwards
The longest winless streak of Edwards' career, 70 races, was snapped at Phoenix in November 2010.
Edwards entered Sunday's race on another 70-race winless drought, made his way into the lead late and weathered a green-white-checkered finish to score his first Sprint Cup win with crew chief Jimmy Fennig—making his five wrecked race cars in Daytona a distant memory.
Loser: Stewart-Haas Racing
After Ryan Newman (fifth) and Danica Patrick (eighth) took home strong finishes in the Daytona 500, both drivers fell out at Phoenix after major accidents. In all three cases (Newman had two instances), the right front tire blew to cause the accident.
Patrick's wreck was most spectacular, as David Ragan's car slammed into her, shearing off the left side of the No. 10 car. Patrick was classified 39th and Newman ranked 40th.
Winner: Jimmie Johnson
Johnson entered Sunday's race looking to become the first driver to win the first two races of the Sprint Cup season since Matt Kenseth did it in 2009.
Qualifying third, Johnson held off the hard-charging pair of Brad Keselowski and Denny Hamlin to secure a second-place finish and keep a hold on the points lead. He leads Keselowski and Dale Earnhardt Jr. by eight points each.
Loser: Kyle Busch
Busch had all the momentum heading into Sunday after qualifying fourth and winning Saturday's Nationwide race. Then an engine change forced by human error sent him to the back of the pack at the start—multiple on-track issues kept him off of the lead lap and out of contention for much of the race.
When all was said and done, Busch went home a disappointing 23rd. He's now 33rd in points.
Winner: Denny Hamlin
Unlike Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin proved relatively unhindered by the engine change that sent him to the rear of the field for Sunday's start. Hamlin managed to score a third-place finish, better than the eighth-place position he qualified in, although his daring last-lap move on Jimmie Johnson and Brad Keselowski went for naught as Johnson regained second place.
Loser: Mark Martin
Going into Sunday, there was plenty of talk that the second-oldest pole-sitter in NASCAR history could become its oldest winner at Phoenix, but it wasn't to be.
Though he led early, Martin had to pit under green for a loose wheel early in the race, briefly losing a lap, and despite eventually regaining the top spot, he didn't lead past lap 126. Eventually, Martin would come home classified 21st, after the green-white-checkered finish forced him to the pit for extra fuel.
Winner: Dale Earnhardt Jr.
It seems like the new Gen Six car is right in Earnhardt Jr.'s wheelhouse. After scoring a second-place finish in the Daytona 500, he headed into Phoenix looking for another strong result; despite starting 21st, Earnhardt Jr. made it to the front of the field on lap 192, leading the next 47 laps on the way to a fifth-place finish. He's now second in the standings, only eight points behind teammate Jimmie Johnson.
Loser: Kasey Kahne
Once again, it appears that Kahne is bound for a slow start to a Sprint Cup season with Hendrick Motorsports.
After an early accident cut short his Daytona 500, Kahne looked to rebound with the second starting spot in Phoenix. But he failed to lead a lap and came home a disappointing 19th, meaning he will enter next weekend's race at Las Vegas 31st in points—the same place he was at this time last year.
Winner: A.J. Allmendinger
Things are looking up for Allmendinger, whose career path was knocked off trajectory after his failed drug test last July. But in his Sprint Cup season debut, he brought home the Phoenix Racing car in 11th place, a week after Regan Smith took the No. 51 to seventh place in the Daytona 500.
It's just the start of a busy season for Allmendinger, who will rejoin former employer Penske Racing for three IndyCar events, including the Indianapolis 500.
Loser: Front Row Motorsports
Front Row isn't known as one of the sport's top teams, but even a low-budget squad can't be happy with the first two weeks of its season. After all three of its cars were involved in the same accident in the Daytona 500, drivers Josh Wise, David Gilliland and David Ragan came home 35th, 37th and 38th, respectively.
For the second week in a row, both Gilliland and Ragan were involved in accidents; with five out of six cars suffering damage in the first two races for the Gen Six car, that can't help the bottom line.
For more from Christopher Leone, follow @christopherlion on Twitter.
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