In impressive fashion, Hendrick Motorsports displayed their 1.5-mile package prowess by dominating the NASCAR Cup Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway finishing 1-2-3 with drivers William Byron, Kyle Larson and Alex Bowman, respectively. The Hendrick contingent managed to lead a combined 241 of the 271 laps completed (88.9%), with Byron scarfing up the lion’s share with 176 laps led out front.
With the big win, Byron is now the third different driver to secure his spot in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs and also the NASCAR All-Star Race, which will be held at the newly renovated North Wilkesboro Speedway on May 21. Byron joins DAYTONA 500 winner Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Auto Club Speedway winner Kyle Busch on the series postseason list. The Las Vegas win also jumped Byron up 16 spots in the point standings, he is now ranked 13th.
The victory at Las Vegas was the fifth for William Byron’s NASCAR Cup Series career, and the first at the 1.5-mile track located just outside Sin City. Byron will look to keep the momentum going this weekend at Phoenix Raceway, the track that will play host to the Championship Race later this season. Byron has made 10 career starts at Phoenix, posting five top-five finishes. His average finish at the 1-mile track is 13.0.
NASCAR Cup Series
Next Race: United Rentals Work United 500
The Date: Sunday, March 12
The Time: 3:30 p.m. ET
The Purse: $7,453,660
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)
Trackhouse Racing looks strong early, both teams in series points top five
Through three races of the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season, Trackhouse Racing drivers Ross Chastain and Daniel Suárez have been putting up some impressive performances and as a result both are ranked inside the top five in the NASCAR Cup Series driver points standings for the second consecutive week – the first season the organization has had both drivers ranked within the top five in points.
Following Las Vegas, Ross Chastain leads the NASCAR Cup Series points standings by a mere three points over second place Alex Bowman and 21 points up on third place Kevin Harvick. Chastain’s teammate Daniel Suárez is currently ranked fourth in the series standings, only 25 points back from Chastain in the series lead. Suárez is the one of only two drivers to score top-10 finishes in all three races this season – Alex Bowman is the only other driver to accomplish the feat.
Looking ahead to Phoenix, expect the Trackhouse Racing success to continue. In this race last season at Phoenix, Chastain finished runner-up to race winner Chase Briscoe and Suárez finished in the top-10 (ninth).
Chastain has made nine series starts at Phoenix Raceway posting two top-five finishes. His average finish at the 1-mile track is an 18.5.
Suárez has made 12 series starts at Phoenix, and the Monterrey, Mexico native has put up three top-10 finishes.
Chase Elliott sidelined with broken leg, Josh Berry to pilot the No. 9 at Phoenix
Blazoned across nearly all of the motorsports’ media outlet websites this last week was the news of Hendrick Motorsports driver Chase Elliott being sidelined after breaking his left tibia in a snowboarding accident. As a result, JR Motorsports’ driver Josh Berry was tapped to pilot the No. 9 Chevrolet at Las Vegas, and after crew chief Alan Gustafson and the No. 9 crew worked feverishly to set the car up for Sunday. Berry finished 29th in his series debut. Now, with Chase Elliott’s length of absence looking to be nearly six weeks, Berry will have another shot at jumping behind the wheel of the No. 9 this weekend at Phoenix Raceway and all oval events Elliott might miss. IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car star Jordan Taylor will drive the No. 9 at Circuit of The Americas.
“We’re focused on getting Chase back to 100%, so we’ll take however much time is necessary and make sure he has the best resources available,” said Rick Hendrick, owner of Hendrick Motorsports. “Josh was impressive this weekend under difficult circumstances, and we look forward to having him drive the oval tracks until Chase is able to return. Jordan is a world-class road racer and has recently been working with our Garage 56 team preparing for the 24 Hours of Le Mans. He’ll be able to step in and do a great job at COTA.”
This will be Berry’s NASCAR Cup Series track debut at Phoenix Raceway, but the 32-year-old from Hendersonville, Tennessee has made three NASCAR Xfinity Series starts at the 1-mile track posting one top-five finish.
Phoenix Raceway: A beacon of competition in the desert
After three great races to start the season producing three different winners – Rick Stenhouse Jr. (Daytona), Kyle Busch (Auto Club) and William Byron (Las Vegas), the NASCAR Cup Series heads to Phoenix Raceway for the United Rentals Work United 500 this Sunday, March 12 at 3:30 p.m. ET on FOX, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.
Phoenix Raceway has hosted 53 NASCAR Cup Series races prior to this weekend producing 26 different pole winners and 28 different race winners.
Ryan Newman (2002, 2003, 2004, 2008) and Richard Childress Racing’s Kyle Busch (2006, 2012, 2016, 2019) lead the Cup Series in poles at Phoenix Raceway with four each. Eleven of the 26 Phoenix Raceway pole winners are active this weekend.
|Active Phoenix Pole Winners||Poles||Seasons|
|Kyle Busch||4||2019, 2016, 2012, 2006|
|Ryan Blaney||3||2022, 2019, 2017|
|Joey Logano||2||2022, 2017|
|Kevin Harvick||2||2018, 2015|
|Martin Truex Jr||2||2018, 2009|
|Denny Hamlin||2||2014, 2005|
Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick leads the NASCAR Cup 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 28 NASCAR Cup Series Phoenix Raceway winners are active this weekend.
|Active Phoenix Race Winners||Wins||Seasons|
|Kevin Harvick||9||2018, 2016, 2015, 2014 sweep, 2013, 2012, 2006 sweep|
|Kyle Busch||3||2019, 2018, 2005|
|Joey Logano||3||2022, 2020, 2016|
|Denny Hamlin||2||2019, 2012|
|Martin Truex Jr||1||2021|
Team Penske’s Joey Logano is the most recent winner at Phoenix Raceway, grabbing his third career win (2016, 2020, 2022) at the 1-mile track back in November. Stewart-Haas Racing’s Chase Briscoe is the defending winner of the spring Phoenix race. With his win last season, Briscoe became just the third different driver to score their first career Cup Series victory at Phoenix Raceway; joining NASCAR Hall of Famer Alan Kulwicki (November 6, 1988) and Bobby Hamilton (October 29, 1996).
All the on-track action begins with practice on Friday, March 10 from 6:30 p.m. ET followed by Busch Light Pole Qualifying on Saturday, March 11 at 2 p.m. ET. Both events will be televised on FS1.
NASCAR introduces new package for short tracks and road courses
NASCAR has announced updates to the components of the NASCAR Cup Series car for races held at road courses and short tracks (excluding Bristol and Dover). The Road Course and Selected Short Track Package will consist of the following:
- 2” Spoiler
- Remove Engine Panel Strakes
- Remove Center and Inner Diffuser Strakes. Only the Outer Diffuser Strakes will remain installed. Spacers will be installed between the diffuser flap and diffuser due to removing the inner diffuser strakes.
- Remove Diffuser Fences and Replace with Baseline Fences.
- Splitter stuffers will remain unchanged from the current components.
The rules are in place at the following tracks: Charlotte Roval, Chicago Street Course, Circuit of The Americas, Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course, Martinsville, New Hampshire, North Wilkesboro, Phoenix, Richmond, Sonoma and Watkins Glen.
So that teams and drivers can have additional track time to adjust to these new components, NASCAR has made Phoenix Raceway an ‘extended practice’ weekend. A 50-minute practice has been added, scheduled for Friday from 4:35 p.m. to 5:25 p.m. local time.
“We saw incredible racing throughout the 2022 season, especially at the intermediate racetracks. Our goal is to have the best racing possible everywhere we race, so during the offseason, we went to work on adjustments to strengthen the racing on short tracks and road courses. Adjustments will be made to the car that will create a significant reduction in downforce and based on driver feedback and what we saw from the January test in Phoenix, we’re excited to see the results of these efforts.”
Harvick has two more chances to reach 10 wins at Phoenix Raceway
Statistically, Phoenix Raceway is Stewart-Haas Racing driver Kevin Harvick’s best track, and after announcing that his retirement will be at the end of the season, he has just two chances left to become the sixth different driver in NASCAR Cup Series history to win 10 or more races at a single track.
The 2014 NASCAR Cup Series champion, Kevin Harvick, returns to Phoenix Raceway as the series leader in wins at the 1-mile track with nine victories (2006 sweep, 2012 Playoff race, 2013 Playoff race, 2014 sweep, 2015 Spring race, 2016 Spring race, 2018 Spring race). Now, the 47-year-old veteran has the opportunity join an elite list of drivers with 10 or more wins at a single track – Richard Petty, Darrell Waltrip, Jimmie Johnson, David Pearson and Dale Earnhardt. NASCAR Hall of Famer Richard Petty holds the NASCAR Cup Series record for the most tracks with 10 or more wins at five different tracks – Martinsville, North Wilkesboro, Richmond, Rockingham and Daytona.
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’s last win in the NASCAR Cup Series was at Richmond Raceway (8/14/22), a total of 15 races ago. His last win at Phoenix Raceway came in the spring race of 2018. In total, Harvick has made 40 career series starts at Phoenix posting two poles, nine wins, 19 top fives and 29 top 10s. His average finish at the track is 8.650 – best among active drivers. He finished sixth in the Phoenix Spring race last season.
Chase Briscoe looks to rebound from start of 2023 with solid run at Phoenix
Stewart-Haas Racing’s Chase Briscoe is looking to rebound from a slow start to his 2023 NASCAR Cup Series where he hasn’t finished higher than 20th in his first three starts. Now, the Mitchell, Indiana native returns to Phoenix Raceway, where he scored his first career Cup victory, looking to defend his last season win.
Briscoe is currently mired in the lower half of the point standings, in 32nd place with just 28 points this season. In his first three starts this season, he has put up a 35th at Daytona, a 20th at Auto Club and a 28th last weekend at Las Vegas.
Briscoe has made four series starts at Phoenix posting one win and two top fives.
NASCAR Cup Series, Etc.
Sunoco Rookie Class Update – Joe Gibbs Racing’s Ty Gibbs continues to lead the 2023 Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings following the third race of the season at Las Vegas Motor Speedway with 53 points, up 18 points over Legacy Motor Club’s Noah Gragson with 35.
Both rookies will be making their NASCAR Cup Series career track debuts this weekend at Phoenix Raceway. But they both should run well this weekend, as both have wins at the track in the NASCAR Xfinity Series last season.
Las Vegas gave some drivers the jump start they needed to get their 2023 season going – This past weekend at Las Vegas, seven of the top-10 finishers in the Pennzoil 400 scored their best finish of the 2023 season; including William Byron (first), Kyle Larson (second), Alex Bowman (third), Bubba Wallace (fourth), Austin Cindric (sixth), Martin Truex Jr. (seventh), Justin Haley (eighth).
Bowman, McDowell are heading back home – The NASCAR fans from Arizona will have two drivers from their home state to root for this weekend at Phoenix Raceway in the United Rentals United Work 500 (March 12 at 3:30 p.m. ET on FOX, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
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 – Alex Bowman (eight wins) and Michael McDowell (two wins). Most notably, McDowell won the 2021 DAYTONA 500.
Todd Gilliland to drive No. 15 for Rick Ware Racing / Zane Smith in Front Row Motorsport’s No. 38 – This weekend, fans will find Front Row Motorsport’s driver Todd Gilliland piloting the No. 15 Ford for Rick Ware Racing and in his stead in the FRM No. 38 Ford will be rising star and 2022 NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series champion Zane Smith.
Gilliland is ranked 27th in the NASCAR Cup Series driver standings following Las Vegas. The 22-year-old driver has posted a best finish of 17th this season at Auto Club Speedway. Looking to this weekend, he has made two series starts at Phoenix posting a best finish of 19th at the 1-mile track.
Zane Smith, who currently runs fulltime in the NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series, will be making his second series start of the season this weekend at Phoenix. In his season debut at Daytona, the 23-year-old finished an impressive 13th in the Great American Race. This weekend will be Smith’s Cup Series track debut at Phoenix Raceway.
Lyn St. James Named Honorary Pace Car Driver at Phoenix Raceway – A racing legend and trailblazer will lead the NASCAR Cup Series field to green Sunday at Phoenix Raceway as Lyn St. James is the Honorary Pace Car Driver for Sunday’s United Rentals Work United 500.
“Lyn St. James’ work on and off the track continues to pave the way for women in racing,” said Phoenix Raceway President Latasha Causey. “To say her leadership, legacy and advocacy is inspiring is an understatement. We’re honored she’ll lead the field Sunday as she carries the banner forward for women in our sport.”
St. James has competed in fifteen IndyCar races, including seven Indianapolis 500s. She is the second of nine women who have raced in the Indianapolis 500 and was the first woman to win Indy 500 Rookie of the Year. She has competed, has victories, and set speed records on racetracks around the globe, including the Rolex 24 at Daytona, 12 Hours of Sebring, and 24 Hours of LeMans. St. James is a Past President of the Women’s Sports Foundation, Women in the Winners Circle founder, an honoree at the 2021 Amelia Island Concours, and recipient of the Spirit of Ford Award. Automotive News selected Lyn as one of the top 100 Women in the Automotive Industry and Sports Illustrated for Women as one of the Top 100 Athletes of the 20th century. She also serves on the ACCUS board, is the North American Regional Representative on the FIA Women in Motorsports Commission and serves on the appeals panels for NASCAR and IndyCar. She is also the co-founder of the not-for-profit Women In Motorsports North America and an inductee of the prestigious Automotive Hall of Fame in 2022.
“This is truly an honor to serve as the Honorary Pace Car Driver at Phoenix Raceway,” St. James said. “I’m hoping my presence and my story will continue to inspire future generations of women who seek more opportunities in racing.”
Get ready for the ‘Go Bowling! PBA NASCAR Invitational at Phoenix Raceway’- The inaugural Go Bowling! PBA NASCAR Invitational will bring the worlds of bowling and auto racing together in a bowling competition at Phoenix Raceway, and will air March 12 at noon ET on FOX Sports’ FS1. The telecast will air prior to the 2023 NASCAR United Rentals Work United 500 on FOX.
Go Bowling!, a proud sponsor of Phoenix Raceway and the PBA, is partnering with QubicaAMF to construct a custom pair of lanes inside The Barn on the grounds of Phoenix Raceway. Fans and guests are invited to attend the event free of charge, which will be taped March 10, and have the chance to bowl on the lanes once competition concludes.
“We are thrilled to extend our relationship with NASCAR with the addition of the made-for-TV event in Phoenix,” said Kevin Krauss, President, Bowling Proprietors’ Association of America (BPAA). “It will demonstrate the fun of bowling to everyone tuned in and also to everyone following their favorite drivers, bowlers and celebrities on social media.”
The Go Bowling! PBA NASCAR Invitational at Phoenix Raceway will feature four professional bowlers—PBA Tour players Kyle Troup and Jesper Svensson and PWBA Tour stars Daria Pajak and Verity Crawley—teaming with four NASCAR drivers and celebrities, including NASCAR’s Aric Almirola and Ryan Preece in doubles competition. In addition to the doubles tournament, the event will feature a special shootout in which celebrities will compete against each other in fast-paced bowling competition.
Kimi Räikkönen returns to NASCAR with Trackhouse’s PROJECT91 at COTA – Trackhouse Entertainment Group announced that 2007 Formula One World Champion Kimi Räikkönen will return to the NASCAR Cup Series on March 26 at the Circuit of The Americas (COTA) in Austin, Texas to race PROJECT91’s Chevrolet.
The race will mark Räikkönen’s second NASCAR Cup Series race after debuting with PROJECT91 at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International on Aug. 21 last year.
“I had a fantastic time in NASCAR,” said Räikkönen. “There was a lot to learn in a very short amount of time, but everyone was very helpful, the competition was a big challenge. This time I get to race on a track I am familiar with so there won’t be as steep of a learning curve. I want to have fun, but also do as well as we can.”
Unlike the Watkins Glen track, Räikkönen is familiar with COTA, racing on the road course eight times during his Formula One career. One of Räikkönen’s 21 Formula One victories, and most recent, came at COTA on Oct. 21, 2018.
Chevrolet off to a fast start winning first three races of 2023 – The first three races of the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season has only seen one manufacturer in Victory Lane – Chevrolet.
In the Modern Era (1972-2023), a manufacturer has only swept a season’s first three races five times and Chevrolet drivers are responsible for four of them – Chevrolet (1995, 2001, 2010, 2023) and Ford (1992).
This season, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. won the Daytona 500, Kyle Busch won at Auto Club Speedway and William Byron won last weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
A manufacturer has only swept the first four races of a NASCAR Cup Series season in the Modern Era three times – Chevrolet (1995, 2001) and Ford (1992).
The record for the most consecutive wins by a manufacturer to start at NASCAR Cup Series season in the Modern Era is nine straight victories by Ford in the 1992 season. The most consecutive victories to start a Cup Series season by Chevrolet was seven straight wins in the 1995 season – second-most in the Modern Era.
NASCAR Next Gen showcasing its performance – Through the first three races of the season, the NASCAR Cup Series Next Gen car has been showcasing its performance and the stats are backing up all the great action on the track.
The 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season has produced 261 Green Flag Passes for the Lead in the first three points-paying races of the year (Daytona 204 GFPL, Fontana 35 GFPL, Las Vegas 22 GFPL) – the series-most through the first three races of a season since the Loop Data statistic was initially tabulated in 2007 (last 17 seasons).
In a year-over-year comparison, the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season with 261 Green Flag Passes for the Lead, has produced an increase of 34.5% over the 2022 season’s first three races with 194 Green Flag Passes for the Lead.
The 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season has produced 18,698 Total Green Flag Passes in the first three points-paying races of the year (Daytona 11,538 GFP, Fontana 3,512 GFP and Las Vegas 3,648 GFP) – the second-most through the first three races of a season since the Loop Data statistic was initially tabulated in 2007 (last 17 seasons); behind only the 2015 season with 19,240 Total Green Flag Passes.