Kobalt Tools 500: Track Held Up Better Than Expected in Phoenix

Eric SmithCorrespondent IIINovember 14, 2011

AVONDALE, AZ - NOVEMBER 13:  Carl Edwards, driver of the #99 Aflac Ford, and Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet, lead the field during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Kobalt Tools 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on November 13, 2011 in Avondale, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Many drivers were wary of the track conditions entering this weekend's Kobalt Tools 500 in Phoenix. The track officials decided to repave the one-mile oval and change the layout coming off of Turn 1 a bit.

With the new paving, drivers were wary of the track being a one-groove racetrack and cause for a lot of single-file racing. Drivers were complaining of this on Friday, saying that they were afraid to use an outside groove due to slickness and not enough rubber being put down.

Mother nature threw a curveball to the drivers and teams the night before the race and race morning.

It's rare to encounter rain in the desert, but that's exactly what happened when unexpected showers came through and made it look like the race would be delayed.

I caught up with Joey Logano on pit-road after driver introductions and he told me "the track is going to be a lot different with the rain that happened last night, and it will be extremely interesting in the first few laps with all the rubber being washed off." He went on to say, "It's going to be difficult to pass, but I will have to be patient enough to pass them when I can and I hope my crew will make the right adjustments."

In the post race news conference, Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards both said how happy they were with former Nationwide Series regulars to come out and put rubber on the track in the testing they did prior to the race weekend.

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Stewart said, "It was easier as the race went on to pass and the outside and used that to his advantage."

There were 14 lead changes in the race and the track looked much better in my eyes as the race went on, especially on restarts.

Many drivers whose teams worked hard on the cars throughout the day showed that it was easier to pass if you had the car to work in the higher groove.

Not all drivers thought the track got better, though.

I caught up with Kyle Busch in the garage following his engine failure in the race, and he said, "The track was slick all day, but we're considered the best in the business and make it look easier than what it is."

Eric Smith is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained first-hand.

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