Friday, November 14, 2014

Phoenix Rewind and Homestead Preview

Homestead Miami Speedway (photo:

It's finally time to crown the champions at the final race of the season in south Florida!  But first I want to discuss last weekend at Phoenix.   The weekend began with the the 150 lap Camping World Truck Series race on Friday Night.  The race was scheduled to start at 8:30 Eastern Time; however, due to a power outage in the immediate area of the track the race ended up being delayed for over an hour.

John Wes Townley's Truck after lap 1 crash Phoenix 2014
(photo: - Original CIA Stock Photography)

Once the race finally started, it didn't take long before we had the first caution of the night.  On the initial start the field bunched up and the trucks of German Quiroga and John Wes Townley found themselves out of the race.   The race went green again at lap 19 with tons of oil dry on the track from the clean up of the first wreck, and once again it wasn't long until the second caution was waved at lap 20 due to the truck of Ben Rhodes spinning around.   The race went green again on lap 26 with the leader still being Eric Jones.

As you can tell the theme of this race was cautions.  So once again it wasn't long before the next caution was out.  Lap 28 saw the next caution with Spencer Gallagher, Jeb Burton, and Timothy Peters colliding.   Also during this caution many drivers were reporting oil in turns 1 and 2.    The field was shown the green flag again on lap 34 with the leader still being Jones.

One thing I would like to point out if you watched any of the races from Phoenix, you saw cars going below the yellow line at the bottom of the track.  Unlike at Daytona and Talladega, you are allowed to drive below the yellow line if you wish.   Often you will see drivers place their left side tires below the line at a track like Phoenix since the difference between the banking and the actual race track.  By placing the left side tires below the yellow line it will help to loosen up a tight car.

Eric Jones leads at Phoenix
(photo: original: Matt Sullivan/Getty Images North America)
The next caution was on lap 40 when Joey Coulter had a flat left rear tire sending him into the wall and the field was red flagged on lap 43 so the 21 truck could be loaded on a wrecker.  Also under this caution, the 54 of "Bubba" Wallace pitted and changed four tires.  The tires that came off of the 54 were worn down to the cords and the fuel can was confiscated by NASCAR following the stop.  The green flag was waved again on lap 46 with the leader being Eric Jones.

I should also note that the pit window for the trucks at Phoenix is an estimated 80 laps, but with all the early caution laps the pit window was estimated to be between 85-90 laps.  So the first green flag pit stop was at lap 83 with the 31 of Ben Kennedy coming down pit road for a scheduled stop.  The number 20 of Gaulding ended up having to come down pit road twice under the green flag due to a missing lug nut.   Since the 54 pitted on lap 41 he was on a different pit strategy along with the 32 and the 99.   The next caution fell on lap 99 after a 53 lap green flag run when Newberry spins.  Under this caution the 54, 32 pit leaving Eric Jones as the leader once again.  The restart occurred on lap 110 and like the beginning of the race it wasn't long before the next caution was out.  On lap 112 the caution fell for the 99 of Brian Silas spinning with a flat right front.

Eric Jones again lead the field to green with 32 laps to go followed by Crafton, Nemechek, Rhodes, Custer, and Blaney.  The final caution fell with 24 laps to go when the lights went out.   The red flag was immediately displayed and all trucks were led down pit road.   The race was eventually called complete and Eric Jones was declared the winner.

Saturday afternoon the Nationwide Series took the green flag at 4:00 Eastern time for the DAV 200 Honoring America's Veterans.  Going into this race, JR Motorsports driver Chase Elliott had the opportunity to make history and clench the Nationwide championship.   Kyle Busch started from the pole with Brad Keselowski starting second.   The first caution fell on lap 37 and all the leaders took the opportunity to come down pit road; Busch and Keselowski took right side tires and fuel leaving Busch with the race lead again for the restart on lap 46.

By lap 54, Busch and Keselowski had pulled out to a large lead while the second place contender in the championship, Regan Smith, reported he was beginning to have steering problems.   Just before the caution on lap 83 Keselowski had been gaining on Busch; however, the caution fell for Landon Cassill hitting the outside wall with a tire problem.  This was the second time during the race that a tire problem had presented itself 40 laps into a run.  Once again the leaders stopped under this caution flag and there was a variety of strategies.  Busch and Chase Elliott took two left side tires and fuel while Elliott Sadler and Keselowski took for tires and fuel, and finally Regan Smith stayed on the track.  The restart was on lap 91 and just seven laps later Busch took the lead.
Keselowski takes the checkers at Phoenix

Caution three fell when the 55 and 43 tangled on lap 110.  Again the leaders took the opportunity to stop where Busch, Keselowski, and Regan Smith took 2 right side tires.  Kyle Busch was the first off pit road and led the field to the green flag on lap 118.  A caution for debris with 35 laps to go slowed the field again allowing the leaders to pit again.  Brad Keselowski took the lead by staying out and led the field to the green flag with 29 laps remaining; however, just 5 laps later he would be passed by Kyle Busch.  Just when it looked like Busch would take an easy win, the yellow flag flew one last time for Alex Bowman forcing a green-white-checkered finish.

Keselowski powered his way past Busch on the last lap to score the victory even after Busch led 187 laps.  Elliott Sadler, Ty Dillon, and Chase Elliott rounded out the top 5.  By finishing 5th in the race, Chase Elliott clenched the Nationwide Championship at just 18 years old.

Chase Elliott with father Bill after clenching Nationwide Championship
(photo: original: Todd Warshaw, Getty Images)
Sunday afternoon saw the next round of eliminations of the Chase.  Denny Hamlin led the field to the green for the Quicken Loans 500 with Brad Keselowski second.  It was a crazy race that was full of points shuffling.   As for Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin, they really had to finish 11th or better to lock themselves in and Ryan Newman had to finish 9th or better to lock in.

Both Hamlin and Logano found themselves a lap down at one point during the race, and with this they were not in a position to advance into the Championship round.  But the race was dominated by Kevin Harvick who led 264 of the 312 laps.  By winning the race he moved himself into the Championship round of the Chase.  

The most dramatic moment of the race occurred in the final lap of the race when Ryan Newman found himself tied with Jeff Gordon, and Matt Kenseth for the last spot in the Championship round.  Gordon held the tiebreaker and would end up with the spot if Newman couldn't find a way to get the one point, so on the last turn he drove in deep and ended up moving Kyle Larson out of the way to take the position and the point he needed.  Jeff Gordon finished second in the race and found himself outside the Championship round.  

Kevin Harvick wins the Quicken Loans 500
(photo: original:Joe Camporeale/USA Today)

That brings us to this weekend at Homestead Miami Speedway.  It is the final race of the long season and the champions will be crowned for each of the top three series in NASCAR.   The Camping World Truck Series will have their champion crowned tonight after their race which will begin at 8:00 Eastern on Fox Sports 1.   As for contenders for the Camping World Truck Series championship, Matt Crafton leads Ryan Blaney by 25 points as he looks to score the championship for the second year in a row.  Earlier today Kyle Larson scored the pole for the Ford EcoBoost 200 which will begin at 8.   Another thing to note is that Ben Kennedy and Tyler Reddick are in a points battle to win the title of Rookie of the Year and they are separated by only 3 points.  

As I mentioned previously, Chase Elliott has already clenched the Nationwide Series championship, but he will be officially crowned the champion after the Ford EcoBoost 300 on Saturday.   The Nationwide race will start at 4:30 Eastern, and the series will hold their qualifying session Saturday at 1 on Fox Sports 1.  

As for the Sprint Cup Series, the points have been reset and Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano, and Ryan Newman will race for the championship on Sunday.  In my opinion, the Chase couldn't have played out any better.  The way everything has worked out we will have a first time champion crowned Sunday.  The way it will work out, the highest finisher of the four will be the champion so expect a good battle on Sunday.  The Ford EcoBoost 400 will begin at 3 Eastern on ESPN.  
Homestead Miami Speedway
The full TV schedule is below for Ford Championship Weekend at Homestead Miami Speedway: 

Friday, November 14 
11:30 a.m., NASCAR Nationwide Series Practice, FOX Sports 1
12:30 p.m., NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Practice, FOX Sports 1
2 p.m., NASCAR Live, FOX Sports 1
2:30 p.m., NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Keystone Light Pole Qualifying, FOX Sports 1
4 p.m., NASCAR Nationwide Series Final Practice, FOX Sports 1
6 p.m., NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coors Light Pole Qualifying, ESPN2
7:30 p.m., NCWTS SetUp, FOX Sports 1
8 p.m., NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Race at Homestead-Miami, FOX Sports 1

Saturday, November 15
Noon, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Practice, FOX Sports 1
1 p.m., NASCAR Nationwide Series Coors Light Pole Qualifying, FOX Sports 1
2:30 p.m., NASCAR Live, FOX Sports 1
3 p.m., NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Final Practice, FOX Sports 2
4 p.m., NASCAR Nationwide Series Countdown, ESPN2
4:30 p.m., NASCAR Nationwide Series Race at Homestead-Miami, ESPN2

Sunday, November 16
Noon, NASCAR RaceDay, FOX Sports 1
1 p.m., NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Countdown, ESPN
3 p.m., NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Race at Homestead-Miami, ESPN
7:30 p.m., NASCAR Victory Lane, FOX Sports 1

Racing websites for more information:  - News  - News  - Lots of information by the author of The Physics of NASCAR

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