NASCAR Power Rankings: 10 Lessons Learned from the Subway Fresh Fit 500
In the final race at Phoenix International Raceway before the one-mile tri-oval is repaved prior to NASCAR's three national touring series' return in November, Jeff Gordon ended his 67-race Sprint Cup winless drought by winning the Subway Fresh Fit 500 Sunday.
To do it, however, "Super G" had to avoid an unlikely version of the Big One early and a surging Kyle Busch late.
Viewers at home were reminded that Subway sponsored this race numerous times and Bayne-mania took a break this week.
So what did we learn from the 312-lap event?
Here are 10 lessons to take away from the second race on the Sprint Cup slate.
1. The Subway Fresh Fit 500 Is Brought to You by Subway
The restaurant known as the home of the famous $5 footlong made sure its presence was felt throughout Fox's telecast on Sunday.
Subway sponsored the race summary, the keys to the race, the aerial coverage and the post-race show.
Additionally, Subway spokesman Carl Edwards was mentioned much more than usual by the Fox crew, with numerous shots of the Roush Fenway Racing team working on the No. 99 Ford in the garage area (It may have helped that he entered the race as the Sprint Cup points leader).
When Edwards returned to the track after repairs, Mike Joy claimed the driver had enough time "to eat one of those Sweet Onion Teriyaki subs."
These days, NASCAR is a sport that lives and dies on commercialization. Subway's display was a little much.
2. Trevor Bayne's Third Sprint Cup Start Wasn't as Shocking as His Second
One week after pulling off the greatest upset in NASCAR history, Trevor Bayne struggled throughout his weekend at Phoenix International Raceway.
Bayne crashed the No, 21 Ford during practice on Friday, as a braking failure doomed Wood Brothers Racing's primary car.
On Saturday, the 20-year-old's day ended early after a wreck in the Nationwide Series race ruined a top 10 run.
And on Sunday Bayne wrecked on Lap 49. The car was beyond repair and the No. 21 Ford finished 40th.
The old saying "from penthouse to outhouse" holds a lot of weight in this situation; however, it needs to be remembered that Bayne is still learning to compete on the Sprint Cup level.
3. Big One Can Occur at Phoenix
In what could rank as the most bizarre pileup seen in quite some time on the Sprint Cup circuit, 13 cars were involved in a crash on Lap 67.
The incident started when contact between Matt Kenseth and Brian Vickers forced the No. 83 Toyota to become loose and spin out in front of a large portion of the 43-car field.
Jamie McMurray, Clint Bowyer, Jeff Burton, David Reutimann and Dale Earnhardt Jr. were among those affected.
4. Phoenix Ends Lengthy Winless Streaks
While Jeff Gordon's win snapped a 66-race winless streak, it is far from the longest winless streak to come to an end at the one-mile oval in the desert.
In April 2009, Mark Martin ended a 97-race string by claiming a victory at PIR.
One year later, Ryan Newman broke a 77-race winless slide with a win and Carl Edwards won for the first time in 70 starts last November.
5. Some Big Names Need To Run Well at Las Vegas
Much like it is every season, the Sprint Cup points standings are quite jumbled after two races.
There are plenty of names on top of the leaderboard that will progressively sink in the standings by the time summer arrives, and there are names on the bottom that will eventually rise towards the top.
Under the new points system, however, such a feat will be a bit harder to accomplish.
Names like Jamie McMurray (26th), Greg Biffle (29th), Joey Logano (30th), Jeff Burton (32nd) and Brian Vickers (33rd) cannot afford to have another poor performance in the next three races.
Starting at Martinsville in April, the 35 teams locked into the race will be based on this season's owners standings, rather than the 2010 standings that decide the field in the first five races.
6. Kyle Busch Is Great, but You Already Knew That
Kyle Busch had a weekend most drivers dream of.
After leading 107-of-150 laps in the Camping World Truck Series race on Friday, he led all 200 laps of the Nationwide Series race on Saturday—the first driver to do so since Dale Earnhardt Jr. paced the field for all 100 laps of a race at Daytona in July 2003.
On Sunday, Busch led until Gordon passed him on Lap 304, relegating him to a second-place finish.
7. Kurt Busch Is Also Great
After finishing eighth at Phoenix, Kurt Busch used the merits of his fifth-place finish at Daytona to take second place in the Sprint Cup standings.
Just three points ahead of him is his younger brother Kyle.
As the season goes on, a battle for the France trophy between the two siblings from Las Vegas could be a fun storyline to watch out for.
8. Andy Lally Is Your 2011 Sprint Cup Rookie of the Year
After Brian Keselowski failed to qualify on Saturday, it all but locked up the 2011 Rookie of the Year award for Grand-Am vet Andy Lally.
It seems a bit bold or foolish or make this claim already, but consider that Lally and TRG Motorsports have sponsorship for the next four races.
Keselowski's family-based crew seems unlikely to run next week in Las Vegas.
9. Jeff Gordon Moved Up in the Record Books
With his win on Sunday, the man formerly known as the Rainbow Warrior tied Cale Yarborough for fifth all time with 83 Sprint Cup victories.
It's only a matter of time before Gordon surpasses him.
10. Denny Hamlin and the No. 11 Crew Learned from Their Mistakes
While Hamlin led nine laps at Phoenix, Joe Gibbs Racing and the No. 11 Toyota crew had to have been satisfied with their performance.
Even though the team finished 11th, there were no penalties or miscalculations on pit road unlike last November's event in which crew chief Mike Ford dealt with flawed fuel mileage, causing Hamlin to head down pit road and effectively lose a race in which he led 190-of-312 laps.
Instead of going all out for the win, Hamlin and the No. 11 Toyota had the type of day that wins championships.
Thoughts? Comment below.
Ryan Papaserge is a junior journalism/mass communication student at St. Bonaventure University and a Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report.