Next up, Auto Club Speeday for Sunday’s Auto Club 400, fifth race of the 2016 Sprint Cup Series and the last stop of a three-week tour of the western United States. Brad Keselowski was victorious in Las Vegas and Kevin Harvick won last weekend at Phoenix International Raceway. Sunday’s race will be contested on a wide, fast two-mile superspeedway – where Keselowski will be seeking his second straight victory. In winning last year’s race, the Team Penske driver gave Ford its first Fontana victory in the Sprint Cup Series since Matt Kenseth drove a Jack Roush-owned entry into the Winner’s Circle in 2009.
Jimmie Johnson leads all drivers with five wins at A-C-S and Rick Hendrick is Number-1 among team owners with nine victories … Kyle Busch continues to show early-season muscle in defense of his 2015 championship, posting four straight top-five finishes. He enters the weekend tied with Harvick for first place in the standings. They’re fourteen points ahead of third-place Johnson. Kurt Busch and Carl Edwards round out the top five. Edwards’ total of three top-five finishes through the first four races of the season is second only to Kyle Busch, who owns the Sprint Cup Series qualifying record at Auto Club Speedway. His quick lap of 188.245 miles per hour from 2005 still stands – eleven years later.
Kevin Harvick survived a full-contact side-by-side duel with Carl Edwards on the final lap Sunday at Phoenix International Raceway, claiming his first victory of the season in a photo finish. Harvick led the field on the day’s final restart and pulled away before a fast-closing Edwards reeled him in and tapped the rear bumper of Harvick’s Number-4 Chevrolet entering Turn-4 on the final lap. Edwards pulled alongside and leaned hard on Harvick as they exited the corner. Edwards and Harvick bumped again as they took the checkered flag with Harvick nosing ahead at the finish. The official margin of victory was a mere one one-hundredths of a second – identical to Denny Hamlin’s dramatic win over Martin Truex Junior in last month’s season-opening Daytona 500.
Harvick dominated the second half of Sunday’s race, leading all but eleven of the final 150 laps including the last seventy-nine trips around the one-mile desert oval. Hamlin finished third and pole sitter Kyle Busch was fourth after leading seventy-five laps. With Edwards’ runner-up showing, Joe Gibbs Racing grabbed three of the top four spots. Dale Earnhardt Junior completed the top five … In its third race, NASCAR’s new low-downforce rules package produced just seven lead changes among four drivers: Busch, Earnhardt, Edwards and Harvick.
Sunday’s race included five cautions for thirty laps … Kasey Kahne’s late-race accident in Turn-3 brought out the day’s final yellow flag which extended the race one lap past its scheduled distance.
Next stop Phoenix International Raceway for Sunday’s Good Sam 500, fourth race of the 2016 Sprint Cup Series and the second of three straight in the western United States. Brad Keselowski was victorious last weekend in Las Vegas and will arrive in Phoenix in search of his first Cup Series win on the one-mile oval. He has one victory there in the X-FINITY Series, in 2014.
Teams will get ninety minutes of practice Friday morning before qualifying late this afternoon. Ryan Newman holds the track record for poles with four including three straight from 2002 through 2004 … Kevin Harvick rolls into the weekend as a favorite to notch his first victory of the young season. The 2014 champion has won five of the last seven Cup Series races contested at P-I-R, including a streak of four straight that was halted by Dale Earnhardt Junior last fall. Harvick leads all drivers with seven wins in Phoenix, three more than his nearest challenger – Jimmie Johnson.Kyle
Kyle Busch has opened with a strong defense of his 2015 championship, posting three straight top-five finishes and leading the early-season standings by seven points over Harvick and Johnson – who are tied for second place.
Busch has one Cup Series win at Phoenix, in 2005. He’s won eight times in the X-FINITY Series and is entered this weekend to make his bid for a ninth victory.
Following Brad Keselowski’s victory on Sunday in Las Vegas, NASCAR’s early-season swing through the western United States continues as teams now head to Phoenix International Raceway. There’s another X-FINITY/Sprint Cup Series doubleheader on tap this coming weekend. There are thirty-eight drivers on the preliminary entry list for Sunday’s Good Sam 500, the fourth race of the 2016 Sprint Cup Series. Thirty-five of NASCAR’s thirty-six newly named “Charter” teams have drivers listed, with the driver of the Number-32 Go Fas Racing Ford to be announced. Non-Charter drivers entered at P-I-R are Ryan Blaney, Cole Whitt and Josh Wise.
There have been three different winners with three different manufacturers through the first three weeks of the campaign: Denny Hamlin in a Toyota at Daytona, Jimmie Johnson (Chevrolet) in Atlanta and Keselowski (Ford) at Vegas.
There are thirty-nine drivers on the X-FINITY Series entry list including early-season points leader Daniel Suarez.
Next stop Phoenix International Raceway for Sunday’s Quicken Loans Race for Heroes 500, the next-to-last race of the 2015 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup and the final stop in the three-week Eliminator Round. For the eight drivers remaining in the title hunt, there are just 312 “Miles-2-Miami.”
The twelfth edition of the post-season Chase will conclude November 22nd at Homestead-Miami Speedway, at which time only four drivers will remain in championship contention …With his victory November 1st at Martinsville Speedway, Jeff Gordon has assured himself of a spot in The Championship Four in South Florida. But at least two of the remaining berths will be filled based on the post-season point standings and right now, Martin Truex Junior and Carl Edwards are separated by just seven points in a fight for fourth place.
Five of the eight drivers remaining in the Eliminator Round of the Chase have won at least one Cup Series race in Phoenix: Gordon (in 2007 and 2011), Edwards (2010 and 2013), Kurt and Kyle Busch (both in 2005), and Kevin Harvick – who’s won the last four races on the one-mile desert oval and five of the last six dating back to the end of the 2012 season