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DATE News (chronologically)
04/18/09
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NASCAR Notebook from Phoenix
NASCAR's Sprint Cup teams will be making their first of two visits to the Phoenix International Raceway, PIR, this Saturday night. Here's the breakdown for the Subway Fresh Fit 500:

The race will be aired by Fox Sports beginning at 8 pm eastern Saturday night. The Speed Channel will re air the race on April 21st at 12 pm eastern.

There are 48 entries for the race with 12 of them on the "go or go home list" due to their status on NASCAR's top 35 owner's points rankings.

The defending race champion is Jimmie Johnson who has won the last three Sprint Cup races at PIR in a row. That trio of victories also places him on top of the speedway's all time win list.

The track qualifying record is held by Ryan "The Rocket Man" Newman, 135.854 MPH, set in November of 2004.

PIR opened in 1964 featuring a one mile oval with an interlocking 2.5 mile road course.

The late Alan Kulwicki won the first NASCAR Sprint Cup race at PIR in November 1988. By the way this was the race where Kulwicki introduced us to the now famous "Polish Victory Lap."  Since that time there has 25 Cup races featuring 19 different winners.

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THE VEGAS REPORT

To no real surprise the World Sports Exchange-WSE has Jimmie Johnson on top of their charts at 4 to 1 odds. With three consecutive wins at PIR that's an easy assumption to make. The ultra strong bond between this driver and his crew chief, Chad Knaus, could easily turn up a fourth win in a row. By the way Johnson is the last driver to win four consecutive races at the same track. He accomplished that feat during the 2004-2005 seasons at the Lowes Motor Speedway.

Series points leader Jeff Gordon, the other Hendrick Motorsports super star, heads to the valley of the sun rated at 6 to 1. That's also easy to understand. The rejuvenated four time NASCAR champion is hotter than the Phoenix skyline right now and that drive for five is definitely alive. Making things even better is the fact that his recent performance at Texas has eradicated the distraction of having to explain that 47 race win less streak to the media.

In other WSE rankings this week Denny Hamlin and Carl Edwards are rated at 8 to 1. Kurt Busch and Mark Martin are listed at 12 to 1 while the trio of Matt Kenseth, Greg Biffle and Tony Stewart are 14 to 1. Richard Childress Racing's Clint Bowyer and Kevin Harvick are ranked at 18 to 1 this week.

But there are two other sets of WSE numbers that seem to be a little puzzling. It's hard to agree with Kyle Busch's 13 to 2 rating. After all it's Kyle and his probability for winning a NASCAR race is always healthy. The other puzzle is Dale Earnhardt Jr's 20 to 1 numbers. The relationship between Earnhardt and his cousin/crew chief Tony Eury Jr has been documented to death. However in recent weeks there have been some reported meetings with team owner Rick Hendrick in an effort to get that relationship on a more positive track. Also bear in mind that PIR has traditionally been a good track for Earnhardt. The same thing applies to the next two tracks on the schedule: Talladega and Richmond. A potential turn around for the #88 team could come within two weeks and might even start Saturday night at PIR.

Again we need to remind that these numbers are for entertainment purposes only and NASCAR does not condone placing wagers on their events. Then again I've never heard of anyone telling a bookie "please keep your money, I was doing this for the fun of it."

THE PROS AND CONS OF SATURDAY NIGHT RACING.

The Subway Fresh Fit 500 is the first Saturday night race on the NASCAR Sprint Cup schedule. There are a few pros and cons to this policy. On the positive side the Fox Television Network is going to be a big winner. This is especially true when you look at television listings for any given Saturday night. A NASCAR race is going to top the Nielson TV ratings when you consider the competition is an endless barrage of reality shows and old movies we've already seen.

The other positive aspect will be the weather. It's more than a little warm in Phoenix this time of the year and the fans will enjoy the Saturday evening weather. It's also likely that cooler track temperatures will lead to some red hot racing at PIR.

The downside of a Saturday night Sprint Cup race is the harsh impact it will likely have on the local tracks many, of which, are NASCAR sanctioned. National industry figures states that the local track owners and promoters loses an average of 600 seats when a NASCAR broadcast is on Saturday night.
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