Phoenix International Raceway will look different this weekend due to a “face lift” and some cosmetic changes.
The race track has not been repaved since 1993 and nearly 20 years of unbearable heat has taken its toll, so it was time for a fresh coat of asphalt. While they were at it, they decided to make a few changes.
Progressive banking has been used with a lot of success on several other tracks, including the 1.5-mile Homestead-Miami and Las Vegas Motor speedways, so those at PIR implemented that plan on their 1-mile oval — sort of. They took about 1 degree of banking out of the bottom groove in hope of pushing the drivers farther up the track into a second lane, but the maximum banking of 11 degrees still makes this one of the flattest tracks on the circuit. With the fresh asphalt and the grip it gives, drivers probably will be able to stick in the bottom lane until the pavement begins to weather; however, excitement is on the horizon.
In a recent open test, most drivers interviewed by the media believe that the Kobalt Tools 500k will be a one-groove affair; passing is going to be difficult at best. That puts the onus on the pit crew to get their driver out quickly as track position is going to be a critical component of success. So who are SportsRantz picks for the race?
One thing that is certain for sure….Momentum is very critical and one driver has all the momentum in his favor…and that driver being Tony “Smoke” Stewart. Did you really think that we wouldn’t put him as a favorite this weekend? Well, if you did then shame on you. Smoke thought that he could get into Carl “Back Flippin'” Edwards head after Martinsville and well, he may have but in the wrong sense. Smoke’s post-race interview may have fueled Edwards as well.
So, yes you guessed it! Carl “Back Flippin'” Edwards is our other favorite for this weekend’s race at Phoenix. Carl is looking to capitalize in the biggest way possible with him winning this race and Smoke having bad luck and finish near the back. Edwards won this race last year as part of a sweep of the top 10 at Phoenix in 2010. But that is a lot to wish for and Edwards better not be relying on just luck.
Ah, yes at this point in the Chase would we have ever thought that “Long Shot” Harvick would be just that..the long shot for the Championship. Harvick has stumbled a lot recently with getting wrapped up in someone else’s wreck and had a horrible day in Texas. Harvick has the fight within himself and we have seen this team rise again and again. He may be the long shot but do not count this team out just yet.
Well it wouldn’t be right if we just skipped over Jimmie “Six-Time” Johnson now would it? Yes, I know that a lot of people have him as a favorite well, not this time! Yes, Six-Time has a wonderful record here at Phoenix with only two of 16 results ending outside the top 10. Since the fall of 2006, he has never finished worse than fifth, which gives him more momentum than anyone else in the field. The track is slightly reconfigured, but Victory Lane still is in the same place alongside the media center and from fall 2007 through fall ’09, Johnson visited there in four of five races. But, he hasn’t been having his championship caliber runs here of late and that is why he’s a dark horse.
Kyle “Rowdy” Busch has made some seriously big waves in NASCAR over the last week and a half. After being parked, fined 50K, put on probation again, losing M&Ms sponsorship for the remainder of the year, and being kicked out of the NNS #18 I would seriously be keeping a watch on him. Why? Well, Rowdy is returned to his old ways and has a lot to prove to his fans, owner Joe Gibbs and the sponsors so expect him to turn up the heat.
Now, this segment would not be complete without talking about whom? Ah, trust me I didn’t forget about “Big Bad” Brad K. Brad went from being the wild card at the beginning of the Chase to being talked as a Title Contender and mind you, it will take a whole hell of a lot for Brad to win the title. No need to count the kid out though! Looking to make waves in Phoenix.
The points’ lead is liable to be just as tight or tighter when the series rolls out of Arizona, but there might be a new leader. We are all excited and pulls our belts down tight! Get ready to start those engines!