Denny Hamlin had enough fuel to make it, Kevin Harvick did not. With 1 lap to go and as the white flag flew Kevin Harvick ran the tank dry, giving it everything he had trying to catch Hamlin, until he coasted into second place. This was the first win for the pairing of Hamlin and Darian Grubb, formerly of Stewart Haas Racing, and from their practice speeds no one thought they would be in contention. Darian Grubb worked the same magic he had at the end of the 2011 chase, and somehow managed to bring the car to life under Hamlin’s piloting.
“I don’t know where this came from,” Hamlin said. “We were solidly off in practice. We were off, but we kept getting it better and closer and closer to being competitive, but I had no idea that we were going to fire off like we did today.”
This marks the first win for Hamlin at Phoenix in 14 starts, after finishing 3rd here 4 times before and never marking a win, it takes one more track off his to do list.
Greg Biffle managed a 3rd place finish for the second race in a row. In this sport we all know that consistency makes all the difference, this is an excellent start for Biffle and his 2012 season. Biffle credits his success so far to his new crew chief Matt Puccia.
“I’ve got all new guys. I’ve got guys working really hard on the car … and a guy that’s really, really smart paying attention to all the fine details, and that’s Matt Puccia,” Biffle said. “The reason why we got two third-place finishes is because of his leadership and his decision-making on pit road on what to do to the car. He makes the decisions he wants, and that’s why we’re sitting here now.”
“We fought the car really bad at the beginning of this race,” Biffle said. “Matt never gave up on the car. He kept adjusting on it and I never thought it would get that good. I thought I was in trouble. I was ready to write that thing off for a 15th- or 20th-place finish.
“I am excited about how they got the car going.”
Jimmie Johnson started the race 23 points in the hole, 71 points behind the leader. A position that “Five Time” has not found himself in before, and not one he enjoyed in the least. Yesterdays 4th place finish was enough to pull him out of the deficit and put his points total back in the black. Leading the Hendrick team with the highest finish in phoenix, there was certainly a lot more optimism for the team after losing 8 cars in Daytona.
“We’ll take it,” Johnson said. “I’m not really satisfied. I really felt like we had a car to win the race with. Unfortunately things didn’t work out there. We had a little hiccup early in the race, but we still rebounded back and got a very strong finish.
“So I’m proud of the fight this team has and the race car we brought to the track, and I passed a lot of race cars on a track that’s tough to pass and still got back to fourth.”
Tony Stewart ran up in the front of the pack all day long, until with 61 laps to go and trying to save a little fuel, he shut the engine down and it failed to restart. None of the procedures to get the EFI system to reboot or to get the car to restart were working so he rolled it onto pit lane and the crew managed to get it to restart shortly after switching the battery box switch to position 2 . Falling 2 laps behind and back into 22nd place on the grid, Stewart moved from a challenger to an also ran. You can bet there will be a long discussion in the Stewart Hass shop this morning about how to prevent that issue from rearing it’s head again this season.
Next week it is on to Las Vegas and another place where there’s sure to be a ton of gambling, both on and off the track.