As NASCAR heads to Phoenix for the Subway Fresh Fit 500 and we get our first taste of real racing for the year, let us do our best to forget the draft, forget about aerodyanamics lessons, and lets forget about the 2 car push, and clear our heads and minds for what most of the seasons races are going to look like.Ã‚Â 1 Mile ovals and door to door racing.
Track records were made to be broken, and this weekend at Phoenix seems to be no exception.Ã‚Â Sprint Cup drivers out for practice this week have been shattering the track record with surprising regularity.Ã‚Â It was Busch who had established a track-record of 136.539 mph early during Friday’s first Cup practice session, but that mark was destined to fall 25 more timesÃ‚Â in Saturday’s qualifying.Ã‚Â 26 different drivers repeatedly broke the record in the fastest set of practices this track has ever seen for a NASCAR event.Ã‚Â Ã‚Â Ã‚Â But after all the dust settled it was Carl Edwards at the head of the field.
The last time Carl Edwards started from the pole in Phoenix he came away the winner.Ã‚Â Coming in to the race as the series points leader, Edwards was the fastest of 26 drivers with yesterdays qualifying run of 137.279 mph, who broke the track record in time trials for Sunday’s Subway Fresh Fit 500 and put himself in contention to repeat the same feat.Ã‚Â Saturday’s session used NASCAR’s new qualifying format for the first time, with the qualifying order based on slowest-to-fastest speeds from Friday’s practice sessions. The final three locked-in cars to qualify Saturday had outrun Edwards’ No. 99 Ford in practice.
“It was a little stressful,” Edwards said. “I had to watch Kyle Busch go, and I know how fast he was, and then Kurt (Busch – who was the last of the locked-in cars to qualify) was screaming fast on Friday, so he had me stressed out a little bit.
“It’s fortunate we were able to sit on the pole. I love this race track. I know all the drivers love this race track. It’s really fun to drive on, and starting up front is, hopefully, going to make the race a lot simpler.”
Kurt Busch will be starting second, also on the front row, thought it was a “Bummer” to have missed the pole but had more to say a post qualifying interview.
“We’re happy with our run,” Busch said. “I gave up a few thousandths of a second when the car wiggled a bit. Carl ran a great lap. This is a track-position race, and to start up front is a nice hurdle to get over.”
Kasey Kahne, who starts third in todays Subway Fresh Fit 500, has had a spotty record at Phoenix at best. In 13 starts, he has but one top-five finish and three top-10s.
“We put a lot of work into it, and the first lap I made on Friday, I knew I had a car,” Kahne said.
The new points system has given us a fresh look in the standings page.Ã‚Â While Hendrick’s Motorsport is usually dominant with all of his cars in the top 15, the shake up of an early crash during last weeks Daytona 500 left some big names at the rear of the points list, wondering how easy it will be to recover under the easier to understand system.
Jimmie Johnson, who for the past 5 seasons hasn’t had to worry about points much on his way to 5 consecutive championships, took some time to weigh in on the subject. From what he can tell, it appears to Johnson the new point system will damage those with bad runs more than the old system ever did.
“It looks like that way,” Johnson said. “The worse you finish, the bad days are going to be tougher to recover from, but luckily it’s still early in the season and we know that people are going to have bad days. And I was one of 15 or 16 in that wreck that had a bad day.”
Kyle Bush on the other hand, feels that it is all relative to the system of the past.
“Through the models that NASCAR said that they did and everything, it’s still relative,” Busch said. “I think it’s definitely easier to figure out where you need to be. If you’re 20 points behind a guy, that’s 20 spots besides leading a lap and leading the most laps and winning and stuff like that. You can close the gap up faster by being able to do those things. To me, right now in the season, points don’t mean anything.”
But for guys like A.J. Allmendinger, this could be the boost he’s been waiting for to get his career on track in the #43 Richard Petty Motorsports entry.
“You have to have a good start to the season,” Allmendinger said. “Last year, I felt like from mid-season on we were a solid, top-15 race team, but we started the season so bad — I think five out of the first 10 races we finished outside the top 25 and you just can’t do that. You’re not gonna make up points, especially the way the points are now, you can’t make that up and think you can make the Chase.”
Edwards has the target on his back now, and he said bad luck at Phoenix could erase everything his team accomplished at Daytona. He said with the new points, the key is quite clear.
“The thing is at the end of the year we’ll probably all have about the same number of bad days,” Edwards said. “If you have a real bad day, if you have an engine blow up early, that does make it tougher the way the points are spread. One point, two points, three points, that’s a pretty bad day, so you can’t have too many of those.”
The other major change in the points system is that Drivers are only allowed to collect championship points in one of the top 3 ofÃ‚Â the NASCAR series.
Kyle Busch scored his first 2 wins of the season in Friday night’s Camping World Truck Series race and again yesterday in the Nationwide series, feels like it will take a little bit of adjusting to when you see the standings.
“It’s kind of weird when you’re now with the Truck points and the Nationwide points, you see zero,” Busch said. “You’re like ‘What the hell? I just ran a race.’
“For the points, the way it is, it’s definitely going to take some time for everyone to get used to it. It’s going to be weird to see how we’re only separated by four points, or we’re tied, or we’re separated by two points … really how far apart or how close together that is, we all don’t know yet.”