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When the Cup cars take to the track this afternoon at Phoenix, one thing is relatively sure… it is supposed to be a short race. The Subway Fresh Fit 500 is only scheduled to run 312 laps and hopefully it won’t turn into the endurance race Daytona did. Judging from how the Nationwide race went, I’d say the chances are very good those laps will pass quickly for the Cup teams that want to run up front and have a chance to take the checkered flag ahead of the rest.
Once again, Mark Martin proved he’s not too old to run with the young guns as he took the pole position for his new team with Michael Waltrip Racing. He just did squeak out the pole over Tony Stewart and Stewart will start outside of him on the front row. It seems no matter how many times people want to count Martin out, he always raises his game up a notch and this weekend appears to be no different.
From this fan’s view, it looks like today’s race is going to be another exciting one to add to the many others we have witnessed lately as NASCAR fans. With the way the track has been reconfigured and repaved, it is no longer a slam dunk for any one of the drivers. Even though this is the second time for the teams to visit the reconfigured track in the last six months, the character of the track is still changing and still going to be a challenge.
According to the weather people, today’s race is going to be a hot one and that means the track will be a bit slippery. That won’t bother some but it could be bad news for others. The temperature will be at least 20 degrees above what they practiced at and that should make it interesting for the crew chiefs. They will have two challenges ahead of them. First, they need to make the right decisions for starting the race and second, they have less than 312 laps to make changes to give their driver an advantage over the rest. Believe me, that just isn’t much time if the set up is off just a bit, especially at PIR.
From my view, the ones that already have a slight advantage are starting nearer to the front. The ones further back have to move forward quickly if they expect to have much of a chance at winning. The hotter, slicker track expected for today could make passing difficult and it remains to be seen how the drivers handle the restarts and the grey area just outside the racing groove which has been treacherous at best.
That in itself could spell trouble for the Hendrick teams of Jeff Gordon and Dale Jr. The two of them qualified 29th and 30th. Personally, I was a bit surprised that they qualified so far back. They will have their work cut out for themselves from the drop of the green.
The two of them won’t be alone as they try to move up through the pack as Carl Edwards, Martin Truex Jr, Matt Kenseth and Brad Keselowski are in mid-pack, also starting at 24th, 25th, 26th and 28th respectively. To this fan, that says there are at least six drivers that are going to have to press hard to make up the distance through traffic and a tight racing groove. They will have to be patient while still trying to catch those starting up front as fast as they can.
In my opinion, the pit stops are going to be critical for all and some of those starting in the back will need to make up as many spots as possible in the pits as they can. That won’t allow much room for error for the pit crews and the pressure will be on them every time the teams hit pit road.
With this years addition of EFI, it remains to be seen whether or not this will become a fuel mileage race as it usually does. This fan thinks this will be more of a test of just how much fuel injection could change the strategy for fuel consumption. I, for one will be interested in seeing how that pans out throughout the afternoon.
The top ten starting spots are full of strong cars and anyone of them could end up in Victory Lane this afternoon. In fact, I would have to say the top sixteen, in particular, are very strong. That will make it even harder for those other names I mentioned to move in to contention as the race progresses and, because of that, I’m expecting to see several cautions just because patience will wear a bit thin for those faster cars that had trouble on their qualifying laps. Depending on how those fall will tell just how much of a fuel mileage race this will be and how close the racing will be throughout the 312 laps.
This is just my opinion, but I’m thinking the ones starting up front are going to move away from the rest as quickly as they can. That is… unless they totally missed the race setup…
See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© March 4, 2012 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman and Nascarfansview.com
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