FYI WIRZ: NASCAR’s season now two races going to Phoenix
NASCAR RACE PREVIEW By Dwight Drum
Web work by Larsen & Drum Images by Drum
The racing will be intense for NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers during the Quicken Loans Race for Heroes 500 at Phoenix International Raceway in Phoenix, Arizona on November 15. A chance for the NSCS championship narrows to just three drivers who perform the best at the challenging one-mile dogleg oval with 11-degree banking this Sunday at 2:30 p.m. ET.
Drivers are fully aware of what’s at stake. Seven eligible Chase drivers will be racing for the win. Only four drivers will have a championship chance in Homestead, Florida.
Eight top NSCS drivers shared their thoughts with fans as they prepare for Phoenix. Four have a chance to win the NSCS championship and four do not. First, words from drivers who can race for the big NSCS championship prize.
Jeff Gordon is the only driver with a recent win and a guaranteed shot at championship at HMS.
“We tested at Phoenix and I thought it went well,” he said. “Martin Truex Jr. was extremely fast at the test. (Kevin) Harvick wasn’t there, but I think we all expect him to be fast this weekend.
“I’m glad we’re not in a ‘must-win’ situation. We’re going to battle hard, though, and hopefully carry some momentum into Miami.”
Kyle Busch has come a long way this season from injury to Chase chance.
“Being in this position, it’s obviously good, but I’ve been in a really good position before and had stuff happen and been knocked out,” he said. “We just need to go out in Phoenix and have a good, solid day. I’m looking forward to getting out there and hope we’ve got a really good piece in order to carry everybody on this JGR team to Chase contention going to Homestead.”
Martin Truex Jr. may not be a favored to win, but he has performed well all season.
“We might be considered as the underdog team, but for us, we know we have what it takes to go all the way,” he said. “At the beginning of the year your goal is to get to Homestead as one of the four drivers battling for the championship. We have put ourselves in a position of having the opportunity to accomplish that goal. But to get to Homestead, we first have to get through Phoenix.
"You're just happy to be in a situation to put it all on the line. You can go out there and perform to the highest of your ability against the best in the world.”
Carl Edwards is one of four drivers under the bubble. He’d prefer a win at PIR.
“We are on the outside looking in,” he said. “But it is such a close race from second to fifth that we really feel like if we go and we perform the way we have been, we can get a win and lock ourselves in for Homestead. We have a lot of confidence and we are faster and faster as the season goes on. We just have to go give it our best, hope that things go our way.”
Drivers without a chance of advancing still have a chance to win in Phoenix. Four top NSCS competitors who won’t be able to earn a championship, shared their thoughts.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. fans wished he weren’t eliminated, but the new Chase is difficult. Earnhardt described PIR.
“The shape of the track is unlike anything else,” he said. “Nothing's like Phoenix. Nothing has the dogleg on the back straightaway and the banking and all that stuff with variable banking. The turns are all so different from each other, so it's a fun challenge for the crew chiefs and the teams to try to set a car up to get around all those different corners and different styles of banking.”
Jimmie Johnson brings winning momentum to PIR.
“Phoenix is going to be an exciting race that is for sure,” he said. “I can see a killer race playing out. I’m so happy to be where we are at right now. I’m so honored and have been so fortunate with great cars, a great sponsor, great teammates and look forward.”
Clint Bowyer will one day take over Tony Stewart’s seat. For now he described his next task this weekend.
“Trying to manage rear grip is the key and probably the most challenging thing about that track,” he said. “You will be racing along and your car is stuck like glue, then in an instant the rear end wants to jump out and you’re really in trouble because without much banking in the track, there is no give in it. You either have grip or you feel like you are racing on ice. Trying to manage that rear grip level and keeping your tires underneath you is hard to do there, so that’s what we will be working on all weekend.”Aric Almirola made the Chase last year and was close this year. Almirola explained much.
"We've lost some of our consistency lately and are really working hard to get that back this weekend at Phoenix,” he said. “Other than getting a win before the season ends, our goal is to finish the best we can in points.
“The track is so unique. The dogleg in the back puts on interesting restarts. It's gotten really tough to pass, so we usually see exciting restarts there. A good finish this weekend would be just what we need to head into the final race of the year."
Fans without tickets can view the live broadcast on NBC. Radio coverage can be heard on Sirius XM Channel 90 and MRN.
FYI WIRZ is the select presentation of topics by Dwight Drum at Racetake.com. Unless otherwise noted, information and all quotes were obtained firsthand or from official release materials provided by sanction and team representatives.
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