How the race was won
Story of the race
This race was fueled by a wild finish. Sometimes undeserving teams can steal a win or a top-five based on fuel mileage, but that wasn't the case Saturday.
Also, the long runs and strung-out fields. Resetting the field every 20 laps or so might add excitement, but watching the teams have to work their way forward on their own is far more interesting.
Give 'em credit
Sure, Biffle was trying to conserve fuel, but Harvick's charge to the lead was pretty impressive. Nice Phoenix sweep for Harvick.
Harvick wasn't the only Childress driver to put on a show, as rookie Clint Bowyer finished fifth and Phoenix master Jeff Burton crossed ninth. It's not crazy to argue that Childress now can again be mentioned in same breath at the Hendricks, Roushes and Gibbs of NASCAR.
Bobby Labonte. Some drivers benefited from others encountering fuel problems, but Labonte was solid all race long. Too soon to expect a win from the No. 43? Maybe, maybe not.
And nice run by Tony Raines.
What were they thinking?
Some readers have wondered why we keep harping on Fox missing restarts. We do it because it keeps happening. Saturday night was brutal. Nobody likes caution laps, but might it actually be a good idea for NASCAR to keep the field under yellow for an extra lap to allow TV to come back from commercial? It's not always fan-friendly to cater to television's needs, but maybe in this case … More on this issue later.
The 20 team seemed ripe for this category after the prerace tire mishap, but Stewart came back, led the race and finished second anyway. Hard to fault that effort. In the process, Stewart continued his streak of having led every race, this time making his way there from all the way in the back. Not too shabby.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. He took responsibility for the wreck that did significant damage to his No. 8. After that, the car was junk. Junior's ride, at times, was among the best on track. He missed a big opportunity for a top-five, fuel permitting, on Saturday.
Better luck next time
Those bit by fuel woes – especially Greg Biffle, who just can't catch a break.
Robby Gordon, who suffered from a [INSERT LATEST MALADY TO PLAGUE NO. 7 TEAM HERE] Saturday night.
Mark Martin. His crew cost him several finishing positions, his fuel tank cost him more. He and/or Biffle certainly could have won that race.
Michael Waltrip. Can he rebound this weekend? Sure – assuming he qualifies.
Also, is it too early to say Ryan Newman is in trouble?
Kyle Busch for losing his lead by speeding on pit road. Also could be considered for previous category, but he already had that covered.
By the way ...
Those of us at the track were lucky enough to be able to keep up with the action while Fox was in commercial (the first green flag lead change of the race happened during a commercial break). The number of restarts and green flag laps missed convinced me that NASCAR could start a pay-per-view service. The races still could air on the networks, but for some additional per-race or per-season fee, fans could watch some feed of the race when the networks go to commercial. The networks perhaps would be able to get NASCAR for slightly cheaper, as their ad revenue would drop a bit, but it'd be a great service for fans. The many potential roadblocks for a plan like this could be overcome – heck, the networks could sell more of those in-race O.A.D. (Obnoxious Advertising Disorder) ads to make up for revenue lost to a PPV plan. Either way, NASCAR and its fans would come out winners.
Subway sponsors a race, and some in the media center lament that they also didn't cater. And no, Jared Fogle was not here, nor was that other guy they had in those commercials for a while. Remember, the fireman, I think? He actually was a grand marshal or honorary starter of a race several years ago. Viva Subway.
At least the unofficial tally of full green flag pit cycles jumped up to three for the season Saturday night at PIR – and there might have been a fourth if the race was 20 laps longer. Green flag cycles too often are the missing ingredient in a good race.
Grading the race
Some drivers commented prerace on how difficult passing can be at PIR. That didn't seem to be the case Saturday. No, it's not side-by-side like Atlanta or Homestead, but a solid show for a one-mile flat track. Phoenix is one of the more interesting circuits on the schedule (though there's nothing wrong with calling a race the "300" rather than relying on kilometers just to get that "500" in the title). The field did get strung out, though we'll take that if the alternative is a caution fest. Nothing wrong with a couple of long green flag runs, and the wild finish when fuel mileage came into play created plenty of drama. Also, at just over three hours, this race was just the right length. Grade: B+
From the source
Kevin Harvick: "All I know is that since Richard has been gone [Childress, team owner, on safari in Africa] we are undefeated. I don't know what that means," he laughed.
- Greg Biffle