NASCAR at Phoenix 2015 Qualifying Results: Race Order, Final Times and Reaction

Daniel Kramer@dkramer_Featured ColumnistNovember 14, 2015

AVONDALE, AZ - NOVEMBER 13:  (L-R) Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe's Patriotic Chevrolet, and Miss Coors Light Amanda Mertz pose with the pole award after qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Quicken Loans Race for Heroes 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on November 13, 2015 in Avondale, Arizona.  (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
Chris Trotman/Getty Images


The NASCAR season is down to just two remaining races, with the final event of the Eliminator Round set to take place Sunday at Phoenix.

Non-Chase driver Jimmie Johnson won last week at Texas and will go for back-to-back victories after taking the pole Friday. It’ll be the 34th time in Johnson’s 12 seasons that he’ll start first and the third time he’ll do so at Phoenix, according to Racing-Reference.info.

Chase driver Jeff Gordon topped the leaderboard after the first round but fell to sixth in the second stage and wound up in 11th in the final. Fellow Chase driver Kurt Busch lost the lead from Round 2 and will start second. Four Chase drivers will start among the top 10 at the Quicken Loans Race for Heroes 500.

Here is a look at the top 25 from Friday's qualifying:

Quicken Loans Race for Heroes 500: Qualifying Results
RankDriverTop Speed (mph)
1Jimmie Johnson143.148
2Kurt Busch*142.880
3Dale Earnhardt Jr.142.580
4Carl Edwards*142.501
5Martin Truex Jr.*142.292
6Kyle Larson142.287
7Erik Jones142.219
8Kevin Harvick*142.068
9Kasey Kahne142.062
10Kyle Busch*141.833
11Jeff Gordon*141.409
12Jamie McMurray141.409
13Denny Hamlin141.665
14Joey Logano*141.649
15Paul Menard141.393
16Austin Dillon141.343
17Aric Almirola141.282
18Brad Keselowski141.271
19Ricky Stenhouse Jr.140.944
20Greg Biffle140.691
21Danica Patrick140.378
22Ryan Newman140.280
23AJ Allmendinger140.252
24Casey Mears139.735
25Justin Allgaier139.492
*Chase driver; NASCAR.com

After Johnson won last weekend at Texas, there are still three remaining spots for the one-race Championship Round at Homestead-Miami. Gordon is the only driver already in, having won at Martinsville, the first race of the current round.

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Harvick is the favorite Sunday, with five victories in his last six races at Phoenix, including four straight. He could join Hall of Famers Richard Petty and Darrell Waltrip as the only drivers to win five in a row at the one-mile oval, according to Tom Jensen of Fox Sports.

By doing so, Harvick would qualify for the Championship Round, where he could become just the fourth driver in the last 25 years to win back-to-back titles, according to Racing-Reference.info. Only Dale Earnhardt (1990-91), Gordon (1997-98) and Johnson (2006-2010) have accomplished such a feat during that span.

Joey Logano, who has won a series-high six races, is hoping to salvage his season after dropping to last in the standings among the eight remaining drivers. The rapid descent came after he was wrecked by Matt Kenseth at Martinsville as payback for a skirmish at Kansas earlier in the Chase that dashed Kenseth’s title hopes.

Logano swept the Contender Round with three straight wins at Charlotte, Kansas and Talladega, but Kenseth’s retaliation came after the points were reset for the Eliminator Round, leaving Logano’s hopes in doubt.

Under the old Chase format, in which standings were reset just once for the final 10 races, Logano would be in second, just 17 points behind Harvick, according to Jayski. Yet Logano still believes the new format is beneficial for the sport despite his misfortune, per Jeff Gluck of USA Today:

To advance, Logano must win at a track where he’s never visited Victory Lane. He’s tallied four straight top-10 finishes at Phoenix, but he hasn't finished higher than third in 13 tries since breaking into the Sprint Cup Series in 2009.

Ricky Craven of ESPN.com drew distinct parallels to Kevin Harvick’s late Chase troubles last year and suggested Logano's current state may merely be a setback:

Joey Logano is today where Kevin Harvick was a year ago. At the time, many questioned if Harvick was mentally tough enough to put the negative in the rearview mirror and channel all his attention toward executing a near perfect Phoenix. He was, and this race served as a catalyst to earning his first championship. Joey is capable of the same.

Should a non-Chase driver win again this week, the three remaining spots will be determined by points. Here is a look at the current standings:

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Standings
RankDriverPoints
1Jeff Gordon*4,082
2Kyle Busch4,080
3Kevin Harvick4,079
4Martin Truex Jr.4,076
5Carl Edwards4,069
6Brad Keselowski4,057
7Kurt Busch4,048
8Joey Logano4,013
*Qualified for Championship Round; NASCAR.com

Phoenix isn’t the most exciting of tracks, given its average speeds, low banks and limited action—the past two races featured just eight lead changes. But NASCAR maintains there won’t be many, if any, alterations to the schedule through 2020, meaning this penultimate race will continue being a pivotal factor in determining a champion.