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Last Updated Monday, Nov 22, 2010 2:23 am, EST

Race Capsule

Phoenix International Raceway
  • What:

    Race 35 of 36 on Sprint Cup circuit

  • Where:

    Phoenix International Raceway, Avondale, AZ

  • When:

    November 14, 2010 3:15 pm EST

  • Laps:

    312

  • Track Length:

    1. miles

  • Race Length:

    312.00 miles

  • Purse:

    $4,998,285

Drivers to Watch

AJ Allmendinger Allmendinger won the pole for the spring race at Phoenix, and he finished 15th after leading 17 laps. He is still looking for his first top-10 finish at the one-mile speedway. "It's hard to believe we're down to two races left in this season," said Allmendinger. "2010 has been an interesting year. We've had some pretty high highs and some pretty low lows."
Kurt Busch Busch has three top-six finishes in the last four races at Phoenix. His lone win at the track came on April 23, 2005, when he led a whopping 219 laps. "Our one-mile flat-track program has been one of the biggest highlights for our Miller Lite Dodge team over the last couple of seasons," said Busch. "We're hoping to really rise to the occasion there this weekend and earn us another trip to Victory Lane."
Greg Biffle Biffle continued his climb in the standings to ninth place -- an improvement of two positions -- and is 372 out of the lead. Biffle has never won at Phoenix and has only three top-five and four top-10 finishes in 13 starts there. He was 14th last November and 22nd in April. Before that, he was fifth in April 2009. "I really can't wait to go to Phoenix this weekend," Biffle said. "I love that track and I love going out west. We've run well there, but we don't have a win there yet in the Cup car. In order to run well at Phoenix, you really have to work on getting your car to handle well at both ends, which can be difficult because they are very different. I would say the only other track that is so different at both ends is Darlington. If we can get that figured out, we should have a really good race in Phoenix. We didn't quite have the setup where it needed to be for the race there in the spring, but I think we've learned a few things since then."
Jamie McMurray McMurray has only one top-10 finish in 14 starts at Phoenix. "We haven't run that well at Phoenix in recent years, but JPM (teammate Juan Pablo Montoya) ran real well there in the spring so we feel we will run much better this time around," said McMurray. Montoya finished fifth in April, leading 104 laps.
David Reutimann Reutimann has two top-10 finishes in six starts at Phoenix. "We really thought we had a chance to contend for the win last week," said Reutimann. "We hope to be able to be able to close the deal this time around." Reutimann has three top-10 finishes in the last five Cup races.
Kyle Busch Busch dropped two positions in the standings to seventh and is 339 out of the lead. Busch won this race in 2005 for his lone win and only top-five at Phoenix. He has seven top-10 finishes in 11 starts. He was 12th in this race last year and eighth in April. "You've got to have a good car, but you've got to have good brakes, you've got to have a good turning car and you've got to have a good car that can accelerate off of turn 2 and go fast down the backstretch," Busch said. "There's a lot involved at Phoenix, but being a day race and being hot and slick it makes it that much more interesting. I like Phoenix. Phoenix is fun. I've run well there in the Trucks, I've won there. I've won there in the Nationwide as well as in the Cup Series, so it's a place that I like going to and have had good results at. We ran really well there in the spring. We probably had a really good shot at winning the race, and then there toward the end we had pit strategy not go our way."
Joey Logano Logano finished 10th in the spring race for his first top-10 finish at Phoenix in three starts, and he's been on a roll lately. "My last finishes we were seventh, sixth, fifth, fourth, so that's pretty cool," said Logano. "We're going to run out of time -- we need to skip a couple spots to get to first by the end of the season."
Martin Truex Jr. Truex won the pole for the fall race at Phoenix last year and finished fifth for his fourth top-10 in nine starts there. "We've had some real good runs at Phoenix, including last fall when we won the pole and ran up front all day," said Truex. "We have high hopes for this weekend because of that run."
David Ragan Ragan has only one top-10 finish in seven starts at Phoenix. "After a strong run, the next week always looks good and we had a good strong run at Texas," said Ragan. "Phoenix is a difficult track (because) both ends are different, so we'll have to focus hard on our setup."
Clint Bowyer Bowyer has battled his way back into the top 10, an advancement of two positions in one race, and is 397 points behind Denny Hamlin. He is attempting to win for the first time at Phoenix, where he has two top-five and four top-10 finishes in 10 starts. He has finished in the top 10 in his last two starts there.
Matt Kenseth Kenseth improved a whopping three points positions to fifth in the standings but is 325 out of the lead. Kenseth drove to victory in this race in 2002 -- that's his only win at Phoenix, and his overall record is five top-five finishes and seven top-10s in 16 starts. He was 18th last November and sixth in April. The latter was his first top-10 finish at Phoenix in his last five starts. "Phoenix is a track that I really enjoy racing at," Kenseth said. "There are a lot of challenges when we race there, and we need to make sure that our Ford handles well in all of the track's different corners in race trim. Qualifying is really important at Phoenix because it is difficult to pass, so track position is always a focus for our team when we arrive on Friday. If we can get our car to handle well, get good track position, and have fast pit stops, I think we can get another good finish for our No. 17 team this weekend."
Denny Hamlin Hamlin led a major shakeup in the Chase by taking over the points lead with just two races remaining. The driver who has led the points after Chase race No. 8 has never lost the championship since this format was adopted in 2004. By moving up one position, Hamlin takes a 33-point lead over Jimmie Johnson into Sunday's race at Phoenix International Raceway, where he has never won and has five top-five finishes and one other top-10 in 10 starts. He was third in this race last year and 30th in April after he had knee surgery. The latter finish broke a streak of four straight top-10s with three top-fives in that span. "You know, for me, I'm going to race Phoenix as if I'm 33 (points) behind, to be honest with you," Hamlin said. "There's no comfortable margin going into Homestead because anything can happen. So for me, Phoenix being an up-and-down race track for me, I've got to really be focused on practice day to get what I need to give Mike (Ford, his crew chief) the information that I need and just 100 percent stay focused is all I can do. But like I say, I'm not going to be conservative having the lead. I'm going to want to stretch that out before we get to Homestead. So that's pretty much my mindset."
Ryan Newman Newman won the spring race at Phoenix. "We were good all night, but we weren't as strong as a couple of cars so we decided to gamble on fuel and it paid off for us as we were able to get around the 24 car (Jeff Gordon) on the last restart (with two laps to go)," said Newman. "We feel we can challenge for another win this weekend."
Paul Menard Menard has not fared well at Phoenix -- he has not finished better than 21st in seven starts at the track. "From a driver's standpoint, one of the problems you run into on race day in Phoenix is that the sun starts to set and it's really hard to see going into turn 1," he said.
Tony Stewart Stewart fell one spot in the standings to eighth and is 363 out of the lead. Stewart drove to victory at Phoenix during his rookie season in 1999 but hasn't won there since. He has seven top-five and nine top-10 finishes in 17 starts. He was 25th last November and 23rd in April but was second in April 2009. "I know we're not in contention, so it's fun for me to watch, too, and watch to see who's got a chance to win this thing," Stewart said of the championship. "It's three great guys and three great teams and organizations right now that still have a really good shot. It's anybody's ballgame right now."
Jimmie Johnson Johnson dropped out of the top spot and trails Denny Hamlin by 33 points heading to Phoenix. This is the first time in five years that Johnson had not been the points leader heading into the ninth Chase race of the season. But Phoenix is one of his better tracks -- he has four wins, nine top-five finishes and 12 top-10s there in 14 starts. He won three races in a row at Phoenix from November 2007 through both races in 2008. He also won this race last year. He has a streak of 10 straight top-10 finishes there that includes eight finishes in the top five. "Every year has been different," Johnson said of the championship pressure. "I would say in '06 and '07 I used golf to really distract my mind from the racing stuff and just get out and unwind from the weekend and kill some time and things like that. Training has been a really good outlet for me through '08 and '09. This year the training is still very much a part of my work week, but I've found a lot of great experiences and time, and a distraction in a very positive way has been my daughter. To spend time at home, to figure out how to make bottles, how to feed and just all the things to go along with being a parent has been an amazing distraction for me. At the end of the day, you have to make sure you go to the race track recharged and refocused and really nothing present on your mind. The way this year has gone, I've showed up at the track in a great place mentally, refreshed and ready to go. I'm very fortunate that my daughter sleeps through the night, and I hope that continues through the Chase especially. That's the goal for any athlete is to show up to your race or your game with a clear mind and ready to go."
Jeff Gordon Gordon dropped two more points positions to sixth and is 331 behind Denny Hamlin. Gordon has just one win at Phoenix, in April 2007, and has nine top-five and 17 top-10 finishes in 23 starts. He was ninth in this race last year and 17th in April but has just two top-10 finishes in his last five Phoenix starts.
Kasey Kahne Kahne has only three top-10 finishes in 12 starts at Phoenix. "We really didn't run that well at Phoenix in the 9 car," said Kahne. "So it will be interesting to see how we do in the Red Bull car. We have run pretty well every place we've been so far in the 83 car."
Mark Martin Martin has finished first, fourth and fourth in the last three races at Phoenix. "Phoenix has been a good track for me since we first started racing there," said Martin. "I've had a lot of success at that track. It reminds me of the tracks that I grew up racing on. I got my first win with Hendrick there last year."
Kevin Harvick Harvick remains third in the standings but lost 21 points and trails the leader by 59 heading to Phoenix, where he swept both races in 2006. His overall record there is not good, however -- he has only three top-five and six top-10 finishes in 15 starts. He was 24th in this race last year and 13th in April and has finished out of the top 12 in his last three Phoenix starts. "I think it's just going to come down to whoever makes the biggest mistake," Harvick said of the championship. "It may not even be a visible mistake; it may just be a mistake where you have a 15th-place day and that's just not going to be good enough. So I don't know that it's going to be a visible mistake like an accident or something big; honestly, it's one lap at a time. For us, as you saw last week, it's every situation requires something different."
Brad Keselowski Keselowski finished 16th in the spring race at Phoenix for his best finish in two Sprint Cup starts at the track. "Phoenix is a very tricky race track," said Keselowski. "It is important, as a driver, to be really smooth with your wheel inputs and the way you work with the throttle and brake."
Dale Earnhardt Jr. Earnhardt has two wins and seven top-10 finishes in 16 starts at Phoenix. "Turns three and four have been the toughest part for me lately at Phoenix," said Earnhardt. "Both ends can be challenging, but three and four is just a longer corner, and they are just so different from each other."
Juan Pablo Montoya Montoya finished a career-best fifth in the spring race at Phoenix after leading 104 laps. "We had a real good run there in the spring," said Montoya. "So we feel really good about this weekend. We are all looking forward to bouncing back after Texas."
Jeff Burton Burton has two wins and 12 top-10 finishes in 22 starts at Phoenix, including a second in the fall race of 2009. Burton said it is important to him and his team to finish in the top 10 in the final point standings. "It's going to be hard to do it (move up two spots)," said Burton, who is 74 points out of the top 10. "There are good teams in front of us."