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Last Updated Monday, Nov 17, 2008 2:37 am, EST

Checker O'Reilly Auto Parts 500

Status: Final Phoenix International Raceway

Race Capsule

Phoenix International Raceway
  • What:

    Race 35 of 36 on Sprint Cup circuit

  • Where:

    Phoenix International Raceway, Avondale, AZ

  • When:

    November 9, 2008 4:00 pm EST

  • Laps:

    312

  • Track Length:

    1. miles

  • Race Length:

    312.00 miles

  • Purse:

    $5,096,896

Drivers to Watch

Jimmie Johnson Chase Points: 6,366 (1st) Two-time reigning series champion has a 106-point lead atop the standings after running 15th at Texas; barely missed out on third straight win after being passed by Greg Biffle in the closing laps at New Hampshire, settling for second; followed with fifth at Dover and a win at Kansas to take over first place in the Chase; played it safe at Talladega and finished ninth, then ran sixth at Lowe's and won at Martinsville; entered the Chase with momentum after winning the past two races at California and Richmond; also has wins at Phoenix and the Brickyard; in 34 starts has 14 top fives and 25 top 10s to go along with four poles and just a single DNF; battled teammate Jeff Gordon for the top spot in the Chase early last season, then took off by winning four straight races over the second half of the Chase; in 2006 he came back from ninth early in the Chase to win the championship with six top 10s, which included a win at Martinsville and four second-place finishes; finished fifth in the 2005 standings and second in 2004, eight points behind Kurt Busch; won this race last year.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. Chase Points: 5,937 (11th) The circuit's most popular driver started the Chase by running fifth at New Hampshire; fell to 24th at Dover and 13th at Kansas; was collected in the big one at Talladega and wound up 28th; is now 11th after running 20th at Atlanta; has been more consistent than spectacular with nine top fives and 14 top 10s, posting just a single DNF and claiming one pole; snapped a 76-race winless stretch by winning first Michigan race on fumes; in 11 remaining races before the Chase had an average finish of 16 and just two top 10s; was involved in a late-race incident with Kyle Busch at Richmond while racing for the win and wound up 15th; was the top finishing Hendrick car at the Daytona 500 with a ninth-place showing; made the move from his father's Dale Earnhardt Inc., where he won 17 Cup events, to Hendrick Motorsports; got off to a good start with his new team by winning the Bud Shootout; finished last in this race last season.
Jeff Gordon Chase Points: 6,111 (5th) Ran second at Texas to move up to sixth in the standings; has yet to win this season but has 12 top-fives and 18 top 10s; has five DNFs this season after posting just one last year; opened the 2008 season with a disappointing 39th in the Daytona 500; only a dominant finish by teammate Jimmie Johnson kept him from capturing a fifth championship last season; finished with 10 top-10 finishes in the final 11 races - the other finish in that span was an 11th at Dover; totaled a remarkable 30 top-10 finishes and 21 top fives in 36 races last year; had six checkered flags last season and 81 career, just two shy of tying Cale Yarborough for fifth place all-time; ran 10th in this race last year.
Denny Hamlin Chase Points: 5,935 (12th) Spent a night in the hospital after hard crash at Talladega which relegated him to a 39th-place finish; finished 17th at Texas to fall to 12th in the standings; won once this season at Martinsville in March; through 34 starts has 11 top fives and 17 top 10s along with one pole at the first Richmond race; has only three DNFs on the year; has been in the top-12 in the standings since win at first Martinsville race; struggled to a 12th-place finish in the Chase last season with only three top-10s; in 2006 became the first - and thus far - only rookie to make the Chase, going on to finish third in the standings; posted seven top-10s in the 10 races that make up the Chase; ran 16th in this race last season.
Kyle Busch Chase Points: 5,938 (10th) Championship hopes evaporated after engine troubles at Kansas relegated him to a 28th-place finish; blew an engine at Dover and finished 43rd to fall to last place in the Chase; began the Chase with a broken sway bar at New Hampshire that dropped him to a 34th-place finish; first season at Joe Gibbs Racing has seen him win eight races and post 16 top fives and 19 top 10s; had held on to the top spot for 17 consecutive weeks; win at Watkins Glen gave him a sweep of the road courses following victory at Sonoma in June; prior to win at the Glen had "slumped" with a 15th at the Brickyard and 36th at Pocono; also ran dead last at the first Pocono race; has wins at Atlanta, Talladega, Darlington, Dover and the second Daytona race; runner-up finish at Richmond was marred by a late-race incident with Dale Earnhardt Jr.; had the dominant car and led the most laps at the Daytona 500; ran eighth in this race last season.
Carl Edwards Chase Points: 6,260 (2nd) Remains second in the standings after consecutive wins at Atlanta and Texas but still sits 106 points behind Jimmie Johnson; dropped from the top spot in the Chase after running second at Kansas; opened the Chase with thirds at New Hampshire and Dover; caused the big one at Talladega and finished 29th, then dropped to fourth in the standings after 33rd-place finish at Lowe's; has 17 top fives and 25 top 10s; finished second to Johnson at the Brickyard and has five runner-ups this season; was also second to Kyle Busch at Darlington, Dover and the second Daytona race; was docked 100 points and fell from the top spot in the standings after being penalized after his win at Las Vegas; victory at Texas was his 15th career Cup win; qualified for the Chase last year and won at Dover, but failed post-race inspection and was docked 25 points; penalty dropped him from third to sixth in the standings and he never recovered, eventually winding up ninth; won the 2007 NASCAR Busch Series championship and is in contention to win the title again this year; ran 42nd here last year.
Kevin Harvick Chase Points: 6,087 (7th) Had finished in the top-10 in nine straight races until running 20th at Talladega; finished seventh at Texas and is seventh in the standings; started the Chase by finishing 10th at New Hampshire, sixth at Dover and sixth at Kansas; posted six top fives and 16 top 10s this season; has no poles and no DNFs on the year; entered the top-12 in the standings after Pocono in the beginning of August; last year finished 10th in the Chase with four top-10 finishes; in 2006 finished fourth in the Chase with six top-10 finishes including wins at New Hampshire and Phoenix; took an early lead in the 2006 Chase after winning at New Hampshire from the pole, but a 32nd-place finish at Dover knocked him out of the top spot; ran sixth in this race last year.
Jeff Burton Chase Points: 6,154 (4th) Won at Lowe's to jump up to second in the standings, 69 points behind Jimmie Johnson, but ran 17th at Martinsville and 18th at Atlanta to fall back to fourth; remains there after placing 13th at Texas; opened the Chase by running fourth at New Hampshire, ninth at Dover, seventh at Kansas and fourth at Talladega; one of the circuit's most consistent drivers struggled entering the Chase; ran in the top 15 through the first 17 races, but had an average finish of 20th over last nine starts before the Chase - including just two top 10s which came at the Brickyard and Richmond; won first Bristol race for other victory of the season; has no poles this season and a pair of DNFs; finished eighth in last season's standings, one year after placing seventh; finished in the top 10 in half of the races last season, including nine top fives; best overall finish was third in the 2000 standings; ran ninth in this race last season.
Clint Bowyer Chase Points: 6,099 (6th) Finished 12th at Richmond to lock up final Chase berth, then ran 12th at New Hampshire, eighth at Dover and 12th at Kansas; sits sixth in the standings after running fourth at Texas; pulled off a shocking victory in the Chase opener last season from the pole en route to finishing a surprising third in the standings on the strength of five top-10 finishes over the Chase; has one win on the year, coming at the first Richmond race in May; in 34 starts this season has six top fives and 15 top 10s; has not earned a pole, but also has no DNFs on the year; is running double duty this season and currently tops the Nationwide Series standings by 91 points; finished 11th in this race last year.
Tony Stewart Chase Points: 5,962 (9th) Snapped a 42-race winless streak by winning at Talladega; followed that up by running 11th at Lowe's and 26th at Martinsville; dropped to ninth in the standings after finishing 16th at Texas; has 10 top fives and 15 top 10s, along with no poles and three DNFs on the year; finished fifth at Chicago in first race since announcing he will leave JGR at the end of the season to drive for his own Stewart-Haas Racing team next season; finished second to teammate Kyle Busch at Atlanta, but was vocal about the poor Goodyear tire quality; suffered a hard crash at Las Vegas, injured his ankle and finished last; had another disappointment in the Daytona 500, finishing third despite having the lead with one lap to go; also clashed with his team after finishing second to Jimmie Johnson at Richmond; finished sixth in the Chase last season, one year after not qualifying; won the 2005 championship for his second career title; finished fourth in this race last year.
Greg Biffle Chase Points: 6,223 (3rd) Snapped 33-race winless skid by winning at New Hampshire to start the Chase, then won again at Dover; winning streak ended with a third at Kansas, then was wrecked by teammate Carl Edwards at Talladega and finished 24th; remains third in the standings, 143 points behind Jimmie Johnson after finishing fifth at Texas; through first 34 starts has 12 top fives and 17 top 10s; claimed two poles this season at Darlington and Dover; also has a pair of DNFs on the year, at Darlington and the second Daytona race; has been in the top-12 in the standings since the season-opening Daytona 500, where he finished 10th; finished second in the 2005 series standings, earning six victories; he is the only driver to win Nationwide and Craftsman Truck series titles; did not qualify for the Chase last season and wound up 14th in the standings; finished second in this race last season.
Matt Kenseth Chase Points: 5,973 (8th) Does not have a win this season but finished fifth at Kansas after a second at Dover; was collected in the big one at Talladega and finished 26th, then placed 41st at Lowe's; ran seventh at Martinsville and fourth at Atlanta; started the Chase by running 40th at New Hampshire; has nine top fives and 19 top 10s with no poles and one DNF on the year; last season had a late-Chase surge with a win at the season-ending race at Homestead, following a third at Phoenix and second at Texas; finished fourth in the final standings; won the series championship in 2003 despite capturing only one checkered flag, prompting NASCAR to change to its current Chase format; is running this season without long-time crew chief Robbie Reiser, who has been replaced atop the box by Chip Bolin; ran third in this race last year.