NASCAR Cup Series News & Notes – Phoenix Raceway

Since the NASCAR Cup Series was last at Phoenix Raceway in January for the final stages of Next Gen car testing, the whole industry has leaned-in to make the start of the 2022 season a success.

NASCAR Cup Series

Next Race: Ruoff Mortgage 500

The Place: Phoenix Raceway

The Date: Sunday, March 13

The Time: 3:30 p.m. ET

The Purse: $7,039,168

TV: FOX, 3 p.m. ET

Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

Distance: 312 miles (312 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 60),

Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 185), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 312)

2021 Race Winner: Martin Truex Jr.


 

The first three races of the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season have produced three different race winners in as many races – Austin Cindric (Daytona), Kyle Larson (Auto Club) and Alex Bowman (Las Vegas) – and three different pole winners – Kyle Larson (Daytona), Austin Cindric (Auto Club) and Christopher Bell (Las Vegas).

The racing upfront has been intense. The first three races of the season have produced 25 different lap leaders – the most since 2013 (also with 25) – and an average of 30 lead changes per race – the most through the first three races since 2011 (41.0).

The 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season has produced 194 green flag passes for the lead; the third-most since the Loop Data statistic was initially tabulated in 2007 (last 16 seasons) behind 2014 (246) and 2010 (230).

Now, the series heads to Phoenix Raceway for the Next Gen car’s competitional debut on a 1-mile track for the Ruoff Mortgage 500 this Sunday, March 13 at 3:30 p.m. ET on FOX, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

Phoenix Raceway has hosted 51 NASCAR Cup Series races prior to this weekend producing 26 different pole winners and 27 different race winners.

Ryan Newman (2002, 2003, 2004, 2008) and Joe Gibbs Racing’s Kyle Busch (2006, 2012, 2016, 2019) lead the series in poles at Phoenix with four each. 11 of the 26 Phoenix Raceway pole winners are active this weekend.

Rank Active Pole Winners Poles Seasons
1 Kyle Busch 4 2019, 2016, 2012, 2006
2 Ryan Blaney 2 2019, 2017
3 Kevin Harvick 2 2018, 2015
4 Martin Truex Jr 2 2018, 2009
5 Denny Hamlin 2 2014, 2005
6 Kyle Larson 1 2021
7 Chase Elliott 1 2020
8 Joey Logano 1 2017
9 Alex Bowman 1 2016
10 Brad Keselowski 1 2014
11 AJ Allmendinger 1 2010

Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick leads the series in wins at Phoenix Raceway with nine victories (2006 sweep, 2012 Playoff race, 2013 Playoff race, 2014 sweep, 2015 Spring race, 2016 Spring race, 2018 Spring race) – the most by an active driver at single track. Eight of the 27 NASCAR Cup Series Phoenix Raceway winners are active this weekend.

Rank Active Drivers Wins Seasons
1 Kevin Harvick 9 2018, 2016, 2015, 2014 sweep, 2013, 2012, 2006 sweep
2 Kyle Busch 3 2019, 2018, 2005
3 Joey Logano 2 2020, 2016
4 Denny Hamlin 2 2019, 2012
5 Kyle Larson 1 2021
6 Martin Truex Jr 1 2021
7 Chase Elliott 1 2020
8 Kurt Busch 1 2005

All the action begins with practice on Saturday, March 12 from 1:30 – 2:05 p.m. ET followed by qualifying at 2:05 – 3:30 p.m. ET on FS1.

Hendrick Motorsports’ strategy and talent put the series on notice

With their NASCAR Cup Series leading 282nd victory and second consecutive win of the 2022 season (Auto Club, Las Vegas), Hendrick Motorsports has quickly put the competition in the garage on notice.

In a highly strategic move last weekend at Las Vegas following a late caution in the race, three of the Hendrick Motorsports cars took two tires on the final pit stop beating the field off pit road and then chose to lineup with two cars on the front row and one on the inside lane virtually ‘boxing-out’ the competition at the final restart heading into overtime. The outcome was racing mastery at the team level that worked to perfection and as a result, it was a battle amongst Hendrick teammates to decide the race.

In a door-to-door overtime contest Alex Bowman out drove Kyle Larson in the final laps and claimed his first win of the season and seventh of his career. With the Las Vegas victory, Bowman jumped 17 spots in the series driver standings up to eighth; just 33 points back from his teammate Kyle Larson in the standings lead and locked himself into the Playoffs for the fifth consecutive season.

Since the start of the 2021 season to now, Hendrick Motorsports has won 19 races – double that of the next highest organization during the same time frame (Joe Gibbs Racing, nine wins)

Plus, the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series champion, Kyle Larson, has returned to the top of the series driver standings following his win at Auto Club Speedway and runner-up finish last weekend at Las Vegas. Chase Elliott ranks seventh in the standings, followed by Bowman in eighth and William Byron is 21st.

Hendrick Motorsports now turns their attention to Phoenix Raceway where they lead the NASCAR Cup Series in wins with 12 victories; including the last two Championship races: Terry Labonte (1994), Kyle Busch (2005), Jeff Gordon (2007, 2011), Jimmie Johnson (2007, 2008 sweep, 2009), Mark Martin (2009), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (2015), Chase Elliott (2020), Kyle Larson (2021).

With a victory this weekend, Larson can become the seventh different driver to win consecutive Cup Series races at Phoenix Raceway; joining Davey Allison (1991,1992), Jeff Burton (2000, 2001), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (2003, 2004), Kevin Harvick (swept 2006, 2013 Playoff race, swept 2014 and 2015 spring race), Jimmie Johnson (fall race of 2007, swept 2008), and Kyle Busch (2018 Playoff race, 2019).

Dominators in the Valley of the Sun

Four former Phoenix Raceway multi-win drivers return to the Valley of the Sun looking for their first victory of the 2022 season, and the 1-mile track nestled in the Arizona desert just might be the kick start to the year they are looking for.

2014 NASCAR Cup Series champion and Stewart-Haas Racing driver Kevin Harvick returns to Phoenix Raceway as the series leader in wins at the track with nine victories. Now, the 46-year-old veteran has the opportunity to become just the sixth driver all-time to win 10 or more races at a single track in the NASCAR Cup Series with a win this weekend. NASCAR Hall of Famer Richard Petty holds the NASCAR Cup Series record for the most tracks with 10 or more wins with five.

Drivers with 10 or More NASCAR Cup Series Wins at a Single Track

Race Winners No. of Tracks Tracks With 10 or More Wins
Richard Petty 5 Martinsville (15), North Wilkesboro (15), Richmond (13), Rockingham (11) Daytona (10)
Darrell Waltrip 3 Bristol (12), Martinsville (11), North Wilkesboro (10)
Jimmie Johnson 1 Dover (11)
David Pearson 1 Darlington (10)
Dale Earnhardt 1 Talladega (10)

Harvick has not won in the NASCAR Cup Series since September 19, 2020 at Bristol Motor Speedway, a total of 46 races ago. Harvick has made 38 career starts at Phoenix posting two poles, nine wins, 18 top fives and 27 top 10s. His average finish at the track is 8.8. He finished sixth in the Phoenix Spring race last season.

Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 18 team and Kyle Busch overcame a mountain of issues last weekend working to get a back-up car ready for the race after spinning in practice. Then Busch put up a race-high Place Differential of +33 positions; racing his way up from the 37th starting position to finish fourth. Busch returns to Phoenix hoping to get his first win of the season. Busch has the second-most wins at the 1-mile track in the series among active drivers with three (2006, 2018, 2019). Busch’s last Cup win was on June 27, 2021 at Pocono Raceway – 20 races ago. In his last start at Phoenix (Nov.) he finished seventh.

Team Penske’s Joey Logano also has multiple wins at Phoenix Raceway in his NASCAR Cup Series career (2016, 2020) and is looking for his first win of this season. Logano’s last Cup win was at the Bristol Dirt track on March 29, 2021 – 32 races ago. Logano has made 26 series starts at Phoenix collecting one pole, two wins, seven top fives and 14 top 10s. His average finish at the track is 13.3. He finished runner-up to Martin Truex Jr. in the Phoenix Spring race last season.

Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin is not having the start to the season he was hoping for but can right the ship this weekend at Phoenix Raceway, a track he has won at multiple times (2012, 2019). Hamlin has finished 37th (Daytona), 15th (Auto Club) and 32nd (Las Vegas) and finds himself buried in the point standings heading into this weekend. Denny Hamlin’s last win was on September 26, 2021 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway – nine races ago. Hamlin has made 33 series starts at Phoenix putting up two poles, two wins, 16 top fives and 20 top 10s. His average finish at the track is 10.5. Hamlin finished third in the Phoenix Spring race last season.

TrackHouse Racing is making Ross Chastain’s dreams come true

Driver Ross Chastain has competed in the NASCAR Cup Series since 2017, and this season he finally feels like he is in cars that can win.

“Dream come true,” exclaimed Chastain following his performance at Las Vegas Motor Speedway last Sunday. “This is what all the work is for. This is why we train, done our whole lives and careers, once we realize we can race at this level is to have race cars like that. Couldn’t be more proud of Trackhouse. …”

Trackhouse Racing signed Chastain to drive the No. 1 Chevrolet for 2022 after purchasing the assets of the Chip Ganassi Racing organization, the very team the Florida native, Chastain, was at the time racing for. But it wasn’t until this past weekend at Las Vegas that Chastain has had a breakout performance in the series.

At Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Chastain led a race-high 83 laps in the Pennzoil 400. It was the most laps he has led in a single NASCAR Cup Series race. The 83 laps led performance also eclipses his entire career’s laps led total in the NASCAR Cup Series prior to the event (75 laps).

For the first time in his career, Chastain produced the best post-race Driver Rating in a NASCAR Cup Series event with a rating of 128.3. The next highest Driver Rating from the Las Vegas race was the event’s winner –  Alex Bowman’s 118.2. Chastain also ran upfront most of the day at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and produced a race-best Average Running Position of 3.82. The next highest Average Running Position from the event was William Byron’s 6.48.

But possibly what’s most impressive, is how Chastain was able to race his way to the front. He started 18th and finished third producing the third-most Place Differential in the Pennzoil 400 advancing +15 positions from where he started to where he finished the race – Kyle Busch (+33 positions) and Kurt Busch (+18) are the only two drivers to better Chastain in Place Differential in the event.

Chastain will hope to keep his early season success rolling this weekend at Phoenix Raceway. The 29-year-old has made seven starts at the 1-mile track posting an average finish of 23.1.

NASCAR Cup Series, Etc.

Sunoco Rookie Update – Team Penske’s Austin Cindric continues to lead the 2022 Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings following the third race of the season at Las Vegas Motor Speedway with 103 points, followed by Todd Gilliland (-59 points) and Harrison Burton (-69).

All three rookies will be making their NASCAR Cup Series career track debuts this weekend at Phoenix Raceway.

Bowman, McDowell are heading back home –  It’s been a busy week for the NASCAR Cup Series most recent winner and Arizona native Alex Bowman, following his big win last weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Now the series heads to his home track of Phoenix Raceway for the Ruoff Mortgage 500.

A total of 33 drivers in NASCAR national series history have their home state recorded as Arizona. Of the 33 Arizona drivers, only two drivers have won a NASCAR national series race.

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