NASCAR Phoenix postscript
There were many teams who had a good run in the valley of the sun, but there was only one team who had the best run in the valley of the sun. With that thought in mind, let’s begin with:
THUMBS-UP to Denny Hamlin for an outstanding Phoenix performance that returned him to victory lane. Hamlin led 61 laps of the race, including the final 58 circuits, for his first win of the season, his 18th career win and the 94th win for Joe Gibbs Racing. Hamlin also left Phoenix as the new Sprint Cup points leader with a six point advantage over Greg Biffle who finished third in the race.
THUMBS-UP for this win providing a strong sense of redemption for Hamlin. In November of 2010, a fuel mileage miscue cost him a win at Phoenix and ultimately the loss of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Chase for the Championship that year.
THUMBS-UP for winning crew chief Darian Grubb who also displayed an outstanding Phoenix performance. As we all know, Grubb spent the 2011 season with Tony Stewart and Stewart-Haas Racing. Last October, when it appeared that the team's chances of making the Chase line up were shaky at best, Grubb was informed that he would not be returning in 2012. Grubb didn't let a lame duck situation deter him for doing his job. The team made the Chase line up, won five of the ten races on the Chase schedule and capped the season off as the champions. Now here's Grubb back in victory lane, with his new driver and team, with the 2012 season only being two races old.
THUMBS-UP to Kevin Harvick who put on a hard charge in the final laps of the race in an attempt to steal the win. Unfortunately, Harvick coasted across the finish line with a car out of fuel, but he was still able to hang on to the runner up spot and a good points day.
THUMBS-UP to Greg Biffle for another strong run. He now has back to back top five finishes that has him ranked second in the points standings only six markers from the top. I realize it's way too early to talk championships, but this Roush Fenway Racing team seems to be rejuvenated, following a disappointing 2011 season, and they have already become one of the premiere teams to watch.
THUMBS-UP to the comeback kid. That would be, of course, Jimmie Johnson and his #48 team who once again proved that, despite the circumstances, you never count them out. The potential for distraction for this team was evident. Between a lap two crash at Daytona and severe penalties from a failed tech inspection, that are still pending under appeal, this team arrived at Phoenix in a severe points hole. They countered that situation with a dominant car and a fourth place finish that moved them from 44th to 38th in the standings. That finish was in despite of the fact they had to overcome issues involving loose lug nuts on the right rear tire. Never make the mistake of counting this team out. Adversity only seems to make them stronger.
THUMBS-UP to Mark Martin who set the fast time in qualifying, 136.81 MPH, to earn his 52nd career pole which places him eighth on the all time list. Martin, in his Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota, also had a strong run at Phoenix and scored a ninth place finish. It's very likely that, the day after the race, Martin returned to his famed physical fitness routine accompanied by hip hop music. Old guys rule!
Unfortunately, there were some teams who didn't have fun in the valley of the sun while racing at Phoenix.
WHAT'S-UP with the other half of Stewart Haas Racing also having surprise problems at Phoenix? On lap 257 the cars driven by Ryan Newman and Carl Edwards made contact in turn three. Newman hit the wall hard and had to go to pit road for repairs. Adding insult to injury was the fact that Newman crashed his primary car during a pre race practice session. He wound up finishing the race in 21st position, two laps down. Edwards had minor damage and went on to finish 17th. Afterwards, Newman said he didn't feel like the contact was intentional but also indicated "what goes around comes around."
WHAT'S-UP with Marcos Ambrose's unbelievable bad luck at Phoenix? With 18 laps remaining, the engine in his Richard Petty Motorsports Ford blew up cancelling out a potential third place finish. Instead every one's favorite "Aussie" had to settle for a very disappointing 32nd place finish.
WHAT'S-UP with Kasey Kahne's hard luck at Phoenix? Early in the race his Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet developed rear end problems which found him bouncing off of the wall. After a lengthy time in the garage for repairs, Kahne returned to the track. He finished the race in 34th, 38 laps down. His luck wasn't any better during the NASCAR Nationwide Series where he scraped the wall and finished 18th, two laps down.
THUMBS-UP to Elliot Sadler for his return to victory lane after winning the Bashas' Supermarkets 200 NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Phoenix. THUMBS-UP to Luke Lambert who scored his first NASCAR national series win as a crew chief in only his second start. THUMBS-UP to team owner Richard Childress whose three teams finished in the top five.
Before I even get started, I already understand that I'm standing on a very slippery slope by saying WHAT'S-UP with all of those nationally televised Danica Patrick updates during the Phoenix Nationwide Series race? Patrick's day at Phoenix was far less than stellar and not even close to what she was hoping for. She was passed by the leaders within the first 30 laps of the race and finished 21st, three laps down.
In some final thoughts, THUMBS-UP to NASCAR for increasing safety for drivers of jet dryers. In the wake of that massive fire, during the Daytona 500, those who pilot jet dryers at NASCAR events will now be issued helmets and fire suits. Additionally, a back up pace car will follow the jet dryers with their safety lights flashing.
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