The early season West coast swing ends this weekend as NASCAR heads to Phoenix for the first time this year.
The three-race West coast trip finishes off this weekend in the NASCAR Cup Series with a trip to Phoenix. This will be the first trip to the track since last year’s season finale, which saw Joey Logano grab his second Cup Series championship. This time around is just a tad less stressful, with everyone still in the mix and the majority of the field looking for their first win of the season.
Last week we saw Hendrick Motorsports domination. The team swept the top three spots on Sunday, with William Byron leading Kyle Larson and Alex Bowman to the flag in that order. The trio led a combined 241 of 267 possible laps and were really only fighting amongst themselves for victory. Josh Berry, Hendrick’s fourth driver, didn’t fare so well, as he battled a throttle issue and came home 29th. It was Berry’s first Cup Series race in over two years, as he replaced the injured Chase Elliott. Luckily for Berry, he gets another shot at Phoenix this weekend to prove his worth, and he’ll command the No. 9 at every oval race until Elliott returns.
Phoenix presents another exciting challenge this weekend. It’s the first 1-mile track of the year and may provide us with yet another winner this season with Phoenix masters Kevin Harvick and Joey Logano still seeking their first trip to victory lane this season. Let’s see who’s up for the challenge this weekend in the desert.
The 200th winner in the history of the NASCAR Cup Series.@ChaseBriscoe_14 | @StewartHaasRcng pic.twitter.com/7naINtvPvc
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) March 8, 2023
Phoenix Raceway is a 1-mile “Dogleg Oval” in Phoenix, Arizona that has hosted NASCAR Cup Series races since 1988. The track doesn’t have a typical tri-oval shape like many on the NASCAR schedule, but instead a “dogleg” that makes for a more angled kink on the front stretch and allows for some fun racing. It has hosted a fall race every year since joining the calendar, with an annual spring race added in 2005, giving the track two races per year. Since 2020, the fall race has been made the season finale and the championship race for the NASCAR season.
Kevin Harvick is the master of Phoenix, holding the NASCAR records for most wins (9), top 5s (19), top 10s (29), and starts (40) at the track. While he is the most dominant driver overall on the track, the last winner was Joey Logano, who won on the track to claim his second championship in last season’s finale.
The track is quite flat, having variable banking from three to 11 degrees at different points. What will certainly catch your eye is the aforementioned “dogleg.” This kink comes right after the start/finish line and juts to the left a bit more aggressively than you’d see at normal tri-ovals. What makes it especially unique is that drivers are allowed to run below the yellow line as close to the wall as they dare, meaning that sometimes four or five cars will fan out and take different lines through the turn, which makes for some exciting racing.
Sunday’s race will be 312 laps and cover 312 miles. Don’t worry, if you’re confused by the race’s name: United Rentals Work United 500, that 500 indicates 500 kilometers, not miles (500 rolls off the tongue a bit easier than 312). Stage 1 will cover the first 60 laps, while Stage 2 contains the next 125 laps. Stage 3 will consist of the final 127 laps of the race.
Let’s take a look at the top 10 in the standings as NASCAR heads to Phoenix
- Ross Chastain, Trackhouse Racing – 129 points
- Alex Bowman, Hendrick Motorsports – 126 points
- Kevin Harvick, Stewart-Haas Racing – 108 points
- Daniel Suarez, Trackhouse Racing – 104 points
- Martin Truex Jr. – Joe Gibbs Racing – 102 points
- Denny Hamlin – Joe Gibbs Racing – 99 points
- Christopher Bell – Joe Gibbs Racing – 94 points
- Kyle Busch – Richard Childress Racing – 92 points
- Joey Logano – Team Penske – 92 points
- Chris Buescher – RFK Racing – 90 points
Joey Logano is this weekend’s favorite, but I’m taking another former champion to rise to the occasion this weekend. Kevin Harvick has dominated Phoenix in his career racking up nine wins at the circuit, and I think he makes it double digits this weekend. He’s off to a solid start in his final season and I think he keeps it going this weekend in the desert.
- Kevin Harvick – Stewart-Haas Racing
- Ryan Blaney – Team Penske
- Kyle Larson – Hendrick Motorsports
- Joey Logano – Team Penske
- Martin Truex Jr. – Joe Gibbs Racing
How To Watch: NASCAR at Phoenix (All Times EST)
- Qualifying: Saturday, March 11 – 2:05 p.m. – FS1
- United Rentals Work United 500: Sunday, March 12 – 3:30 p.m. – FOX (Green flag at 3:45 p.m.)