Quick Hits on Phoenix
After weeks of hearing about the new package, everyone was excited to finally see some racing where horsepower mattered. The finish might not have been exciting, as Kyle Busch ran away with it, but the journey to that finish was tremendous.
The last thing anyone would've thought of as a topic of conversation heading to Phoenix was a dustup between Daniel Suarez and Michael McDowell. That's all anyone was talking about after qualifying on Friday. Believing McDowell hurt his qualifying run, Suarez approached the driver of the 34 Ford to share his feelings. A lot more than feelings were shared as McDowell met the ground and Suarez had to be physically restrained. It was refreshing to see drivers show emotion face to face without tearing up race cars to prove a point.
Kevin Harvick was the favorite heading into the race based on his success there over the years. He ran in the top 10 all day but never really was a factor, eventually finishing 9th. Chase Elliott and Denny Hamlin were thought to both have a chance. Elliott had issues including a penalty for jumping the start. Hamlin dealt with handling issues but recovered to finish fifth.
It was refreshing to see Ryan Blaney leading for a long stretch. It looked for a while like the race was his to win. His handling went away at the same time Kyle Busch was tracking him down so a third straight Penske win was not to be. Busch took the win over teammate Martin Truex, Jr. by more than a second.
The reconfigured track at Phoenix is a hit. Where else can you see cars going through a turn four and five wide consistently? We saw it all day, especially after restarts as cars dove down onto the apron. Though the possibility of a superspeedway type "big one" was there, it never came to fruition and led to some very exciting viewing.
Jimmie Johnson fought hard all day after starting 15th. He was in and out of the top 10 throughout the afternoon, eventually earning a much needed top-10 with an 8th place finish. Ryan Newman had a strong run although seeing him finish 12th might not reflect it. He was another who was running near the front for a lot of the day.
Kurt Busch continued his hot start to 2019, earning his third straight top 10 finish in the 1 car. That's the first time that team has seen that happen since early in the 2017 season. With Kyle Larson coming in 6th, both Ganassi Chevys were in the top 10. Speaking of manufacturers, Toyota now has 2 wins on the season and Ford has the other 2. More specifically, Gibbs has 2 and Penske has 2.
One of the questions as the series moves to Fontana then, is when will Stewart-Haas and specifically Kevin Harvick find victory lane? Fontana's another track where the 4 driver has had success. After his spectacular 2018 run and his hot start last spring, how much should fans worry if he's not a factor this Sunday? Is it also time for Ganassi to get a win? This is a place where Larson has run well, winning this race in 2017.
As the first few pages of this still fresh season are being written, there are still plenty of questions left to answer. Let's see what we learn this weekend.