ISM Raceway, Phoenix AZ, Sunday, March 10, 2019
The early season western swing of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series makes its stop in Phoenix this weekend. The reconfigured ISM speedway hosts the TicketGuardian 500, 312 laps around the 1-mile speedway or 500 kilometers. Stages are 75/75/162 laps for today’s race.
Some interesting occurrences brought a little excitement to the early weekend. Denny Hamlin(11), The Daytona 500 Champion, played some golf this week and scored a hole-in-one. According to Hamlin, it was the 2nd time he has aced a hole during a round of golf. His first, a scalded 9-iron, hit the pin so hard it popped up in the air and fell in the hole. This one, more legitimate. A 7-iron on the 178-yard hole was a high arching draw that hit 4 feet short of the pin and rolled into the cup. Yes, Denny treated the clubhouse to drinks as is the custom.
Qualifying usually does not create the type of emotion that overflows into fisticuffs. However, when Michael McDowell(34) cut off Daniel Suarez(41) ruining a fast lap, Suarez took offense. At the conclusion of Round 1, Suarez marched into McDowell’s pit and a confrontation ensued.
Interestingly McDowell and Suarez rode together during pre-race ceremonies. Daniel described it as awkward.
Ryan Blaney(12), in his Ford Mustang, sits on the pole after posting the fastest lap at 141.287 mph. Chase Elliott(9) starts next to Blaney on the front row.
Chase Elliott, starting outside of Ryan Blaney, beat Blaney to the start/finish line. On the start of the race, you can’t do that. The pole winner must cross the line first. Elliott was flagged for jumping the start and had to serve a drive-through penalty down pit road. Elliott returned to the track almost a lap down.
Michigan’s Erik Jones(20) brought out the first caution of the day. A problem with Jones right rear suspension cut down the tire and he spun clipping the wall in Turn 2. The yellow flag allowed Elliott to avoid losing a lap.
Blaney had led the first portion of the race in Stage 1. Hamlin took the top spot coming out of pit road 1st after the caution period pit stops. Kyle Busch(18) out second restarted next to Hamlin.
Hamlin led for 4 laps before being passed by Kyle Busch. Brad Keselowski(2) cut a tire and brought out the caution again on Lap 63. With the Stage ending on Lap 75, some teams pitted, some stayed out. This jumbled the running order and created a sprint to the green and white checkered flag. Ryan Blaney took the Stage win.
Stage 1 Results
* Ford Mustang Drivers
With pit stops late in Stage 1, not everyone came to pit road with the caution at the end of the stage. Driver’s went five wide on the restart scrambling for position. When the field sorted out Kyle Busch led. Clint Bowyer(14) ran 2nd, Kevin Harvick(4) 3rd, Martin Truex Jr.(19) 4th, and Hamlin 5th.
Kyle Busch led the entire green flag segment of Stage 2. Alex Bowman(88) hit the wall with 3 laps to go in the Stage, freezing the filed for the finish.
Stage 2 Results
|19||Martin Turex Jr.||7|
* Ford Mustang Drivers
On the restart for the final stage drivers again scramble 3, 4, and 5 wide for position. Something broke on McDowell’s car and he hit the wall on Lap 158 bringing out the caution. McDowell later reported his throttle stuck wide open and he had to shut it down to avoid a more serious accident.
Kyle Busch is able to fire off on the restarts and move away in clean air. As the scrum behind him settles down after a couple of laps Bowyer maintained 2nd place. Truex held the 3rd spot, with Jimmie Johnson(48) in 4th, and Joey Logano(22) in 5th.
Bowman hit the wall again on Lap 193. This time the damage sends his car to the garage. With 119 laps to go everyone is outside the window to make it on 1 pit stop. Still, the field comes to pit road for tires and fuel. Some drivers opt to take just 2 tires in an effort to gain track position. Jimmie Johnson was one of those driver’s and he exited the pits in 1st.
Johnson could not hold the lead as Kyle Busch moved quickly back to the front. Bowyer ran 3rd, Harvick in 4th, and Truex in the 5th position.
Chase Elliott worked his way back to 8th position after his opening lap gaffe. He spun on Lap 218 after complaining to his crew that he felt he had a loose wheel. The caution displayed again.
Everyone pitted again with 92 laps to go. The fuel window at Phoenix is 78-85 laps. With a few caution laps, someone is likely to try and stretch the fuel to the finish. Some drivers opted for fuel only during the stop, scrambling the front of the field.
At the restart, they line up with Daniel Hemric(8) in the lead. Austin Dillon(3) in 2nd, Harvick in 3rd. Aric Almirola(10) in 4th, and Blaney in 5th. Kyle Busch restarted in 8th.
Before completing a lap Ryan Preece(47) got tapped during a 3 wide scramble. He spun on the backstretch and brought out the caution again. Fuel saving mode occupies the drivers as they try and eke out extra laps.
The lineup for the restart forms up. Almirola leads Hemric, Kurt Busch moved into 3rd. With Dillon 4th and Kyle Busch 5th.
Preece crashed his car again on the restart lap. Bringing out the caution again. Some drivers opted to stop for gas and tires as the fuel window to the end of the race is now open.
This time the top five are Almirola, Dillon, Blaney and the Busch brothers, Kyle and Kurt. The race restarted with 74 laps to go. With 61 to go Blaney passed Almirola and Kyle Busch closed the top three down to 6 car lengths.
With 56 laps to go Kyle Busch passed Almirola for 2nd. But, Blaney had built a second and a half lead.
With 18 to go Kyle Busch pulled up to the bumper of Blaney. They drove side by side for 2 laps until Busch passed Blaney and moved to the front.
Kyle Busch won the Xfinity race yesterday, scoring his 198th victory across NASCAR’s top three series. Since passing Blaney he built the lead to over two seconds and held on for the win. Truex passed Blaney for 2nd as the laps wound down.
Team Penske winning three weeks in a row and qualifying all their drivers for the playoffs fell a few laps short. Kyle Busch is the second Joe Gibbs Racing driver to qualify for the playoffs after Hamlin won at Daytona.
Results of the TicketGuardian 500
|2||19||Martin Truex Jr.||1.259||312|
|13||17||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||20.415||312|
|6||Martin Truex Jr.||133||0|
|10||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.*||123||0|
|Playoff Cut Line|
*Ford Mustang Drivers