Last night, the Phoenix International Raceway saw three different drivers dominate the night. Each led over 100 laps, had their cars set up for under the lights, and each looked to be heading to victory lane.
In the end, all came up empty handed. Instead, a pit call and a great restart provided the winning moment.
That being said, allow me to go into my race reactions from the Subway Fresh Fit 600.
Right away, what an effort by Denny Hamlin to withstand all the pain inside that race car. He went so far as to tell crew chief Mike Ford to not ask him about getting out of the car. Hamlin wanted to go the entire distance, even with Casey Mears on the pit box.
Had it not been for the battery issue late in the race, Hamlin would have finished a lot better. But, he had to settle for 30th. However, the key is that Hamlin went the entire distance.
Whether he can do it at Texas may be hard to tell. But an incredible effort from a driver in pain.
Let's now go to the three drivers who dominated the night Juan Montoya, Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch. Each led over 100 laps in the 375-lap event. Each had a legitimate chance to win.
Late in the going, I was betting that it was going to be either Johnson or Busch going to victory lane. Each had the right setup for the track conditions under the lights, and each team made incredible pit stops when it mattered the most.
When Busch took the lead with less than 100 laps left, he was not wavering from that point. Had that last caution not come out with three laps remaining, I know the M&M's Toyota would be doing a burnout.
But, when the field came to pit road that last time, that all went out the window. If the entire field comes down pit road for a green-white-checkered finish, teams will go with two tires. It's the nature of the sport because that late in the race, track position becomes more important than handling.
Busch went from first to eighth in a matter of seconds. At that point, he needed to muscle his way to the front. But, on this night it wasn't going to happen.
The final call by the No. 39 team was awesome, even though they found themselves in the tough spot on the restart. The inside line was the bad spot on restarts, and with Jeff Gordon winning the race off pit road, he put Ryan Newman in that spot.
Unfortunately for Gordon, it became another case of could have, would have, should have, but didn't. Newman made his car stick through turns 1 and 2, getting the lead heading to the dog leg.
Another restart cost Gordon the victory, and incredible driving brought Newman back to victory lane.
This wasn't the finish anyone expected, but it was a good feeling seeing Newman take a checkered flag. After his fallout with Penske, he has been phenomenal with Tony Stewart's team. He just didn't get that victory that he was hoping for last season for his boss and teammate.
We can't say that anymore. Instead, just like Darrell Waltrip said as the checkered flag flew, we can say, "Hello Newman!"
What can happen next? When NASCAR heads to the Lone Star State, everyone better cowboy up. Because it will certainly be a shootout.
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