FYI WIRZ: Top 5 in NASCAR with Edwards, Johnson, Earnhardt Jr. Talk Race 2
The 500-meter Subway Fresh Fit 500 on the one-mile, 11- degree track at Phoenix International Raceway in Avondale, Arizona is 2013 season history. Carl Edwards broke a 70-race drought to win the event, while Jimmie Johnson, Denny Hamlin, Brad Keselowski and Dale Earnhardt Jr. achieved top-five finishes to maintain lofty positions in the 2013 point standings.
The recently repaved tri-oval at PIR provided fans with an exciting roar from eager drivers ready to race-test the Gen-6 cars on a much shorter track than Daytona.
It’s way too early to call any team trend momentum, but a good start in a long season is a plus that resonates with performers at the top.
Likewise, beginning a season with a"DNF" or poor finishes puts a team in a hole, thus creating a struggling feeling that no team wants.
After race two, Danica Patrick dropped from the top with a race-ending crash. Ryan Newman slipped down as well, thanks to equipment failure.
Chase for the Sprint Cup championship is the ultimate goal, but these five contenders were happy to do well in race two of 36.
Carl Edwards (No. 99 Ford) (Finished First)
Carl Edwards shared his relief and triumph simultaneously.
“Thank you and thank you to the fans, too. It’s so cool to see the grandstands packed here at this racetrack. I thought for the last few laps it was gonna be easy and then they had that caution. It was an awesome restart. Brad Keselowski pushed me and that meant a lot.
“It’s just so cool to win this race. I can’t tell you how cool this is. I love Phoenix. This is a blast. I love it. I’m glad to be here.
“The pit crew is unreal. Every time we came on pit road we would pass a bunch of people and that’s what won this race. Track position was key.”
Jimmie Johnson (No 48 Chevrolet) (Finished Second)
Jimmie Johnson and the No. 48 team began the season with precision and have the top spot going into Las Vegas.
"Racing-wise, it was tough to pass all day long,” Johnson said. “Track position and strategy on pit road really seemed to be the big deal. It was pretty much a perfect day. Very good start to the season. Leading the points. Up here running well on downforce tracks and superspeedway tracks. Life is good.
“To open like this with great qualifying efforts, great speed in the race car and great pit stops. Across the board, I’m very proud of this Lowe’s team.”
Denny Hamlin (No. 11 Toyota) (Finished Third)
Denny Hamlin and team seem to find ways to put the No. 11 near the top throughout many seasons.
“We overachieved a ton today,” Hamlin said. “We really just had good pit strategy. The pit crew picked up spots here and there, and you end up on the right lane here or there on each restart and you find yourself in the top 10 and then in the top five at the end. A lot of it we got our car better and were at least able to somewhat run with the leaders.
“I think we didn't run as good as I hoped, but we finished better than I imagined after about halfway through today's race.”
Brad Keselowski (No. 2 Ford) (Finished Fourth)
The reigning Sprint Cup champion continues to excel after his Penske Racing team switched from Dodge to Ford this year.
“It’s early in the season, but I feel like there’s a lot of passion, and that’s a good thing.” Keselowski said. “We had a really great Miller Lite Ford today. I thought we had the car to win, but I could just never get that track position towards the end that we needed. If you could get to the lead, it looked like you had it covered, but it just wasn’t meant to be.
“I think these cars probably drive easier than any race car I’ve ever driven in my life by themselves, and probably the hardest to drive of any race car I’ve ever driven in traffic. I think we can get that a little bit better and probably make them a little more difficult to drive by yourself, but a little easier to drive in traffic.”
Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No.88 Chevrolet) (Finished Fifth)
Dale Earnhardt Jr. remains the fan favorite and retains the second position in the points to start his season right.
"Well, I hate to be frustrated at Phoenix, but I think we are,” Earnhardt said. “We had a real good car. We feel like we could have finished better than fifth, maybe won the race. Just didn't get the breaks on pit road. We kind of got boxed in. That was the race in my opinion, and we almost had it won right there. Real good race car. Tough in traffic; tough to get to people. But, we made our car good enough to actually make some passes and gain on some guys."
The next passes and gains will be on the 1.5-mile 14-degree racetrack at Las Vegas Motor Speedway this Sunday at 3 p.m. ET.
FYI WIRZ is the select presentation of topics by Dwight Drum at Racetake.com. Unless otherwise noted, information and all quotes were obtained from personal interviews or official release materials provided by sanction and team representatives.
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