Race: Subway Fresh Fit 500
Date: Sunday March 3, 2013
Track: Phoenix International Raceway
Time: 3pm ET
Well, that was a bust! While the 500 was an awesome race to watch, Stewart totally blew the shot he had at the win being involved in an early wreck totaling his car. Coming off a strong win from the Nationwide race on Saturday, it was certain that Stewart had a shot at the Daytona 500 win. Unfortunately, it just goes to show the unpredictability of the track. Dark horse contender, Danica Patrick, fared well, running a strong and solid race coming in 8th after slipping from the 3rd position on the last lap. That being said, I do believe that Patrick will have an enormous challenge coming to the 1-mile track of Phoenix this weekend.
It’s something about those blue walls that just makes Phoenix a pretty awesome race. Coming off the 500, it’s hard to beat the intensity, but Phoenix does a pretty awesome job every year. This track is a 1-mile oval with 8-11 degree variable banking through the turns. The frontstretch is 1,179 feet with the backstretch slightly smaller at 1,551 feet. Those figures are a far cry from the 3800 foot frontstretch of Daytona. Despite that fact, Phoenix races similar to a short track with the excitement.
I think that one of the challenges that loomed at Daytona will carry over to Phoenix. The issue we saw with these new Gen-6 cars is that because of their body lines and major differences, passing seemed to be tough. It may simply be a result of the draft and the conditions of a superspeedway, but I really think that the passing is going to continue to be a demon for the drivers. As they say, it’s one thing to catch ’em. It’s another to pass ’em. Another big consideration at Phoenix is fuel mileage. Although we didn’t see it at Daytona like we typically do, we are going to have to watch strategy based on the number of cautions. Because of the nature of this track, drivers seemed to be tempted to stay out and give fuel mileage a gamble. Having to pit isn’t necessarily a losing move here late in the race, but it can still be very detrimental to track position. This isn’t like the superspeedways where drivers can gain or lose 10+ positions in a single lap. Gaining positions take patience and more than 1 lap, so we will have to wait and see how strategy follows that philosophy.
When we consider our potential winners for this week, I hate to jump on the Jimmie Johnson bandwagon so soon this season, but he’s got the best record here for all active drivers. He has led the most laps, has the most wins and also has the best average finish at 6.7. Behind Johnson is actually Mark Martin. Although not a fulltime driver this year, Martin still holds a legacy at Phoenix with a whopping 32 starts. He’s got the next best average finish at just under 10th place. Although Martin has good stats here, I am going to have to run with Johnson for the win this weekend. I think that he will have a ton of momentum coming off his Daytona 500 win and also moving into one of his best tracks. Following Johnson, I think that teammate Jeff Gordon and also Gibbs driver Denny Hamlin are going to be 2 other drivers to watch. Here’s the rundown for your potential winners this weekend:
Pick to Win: Jimmie Johnson
Middle of the Road Pick: Clint Bowyer
Dark Horse Pick: Mark Martin
Clint Bowyer is one to keep your eyes on. He had a strong run going throughout every race he ran during speed weeks. He’s definitely coming into his own in terms of a competitor and is driving like he has something to prove every weekend. Look for Bowyer to run in the top 10 all day and perhaps to be inching to the front of the line.
Bowyer rounds out the top 10 in points as of Daytona. Here are the rest of the points standings after our inaugural 2013 race.
1. Jimmie Johnson
2. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
3. Mark Martin
4. Brad Keselowski
5. Ryan Newman
6. Greg Biffle
7. Danica Patrick
8. Michael McDowell
9. J.J. Yeley
10. Clint Bowyer
11. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
12. Aric Almirola
Now, don’t worry if you don’t see your driver in the top 12 as of right now. These points simply reflect the finish of the Daytona 500, which, in my opinion, is the most unpredictable race of the year. As terrible as it may be, I’d bet that we are going to see Patrick, McDowell, Yeley, Almirola, and Stenhouse knocked out of the top 12. That will most likely happen this weekend, but if not, it will be in the next few races.
The Subway Fresh Fit 500 is shaping up to be another awesome race. Stay tuned for this Sunday’s at Phoenix International Raceway!