Phoenix Raceway, Avondale, AZ — March 14, 2021
The InstaCart 500 from Phoenix Raceway today is the 5th race of the 2021 NASCAR Cup season. To date, there have been four different winners in the first four events of the year. Expect that trend to continue.
Chase Elliott(9) won here in the fall to clinch his 1st Cup Series Championship, He will start from the back of the pack today after his crew made unapproved adjustments to his race car. Kevin Harvick(4) seems to run well here consistently but has been on a bit of a downer to start the season. The Busch brothers seem to love racing in the desert and are starting to come on strong. The last two race winners, Kyle Larson(5) at Vegas and William Byron(24) at Homestead, will also start from the rear of the field today after failing pre-race inspection twice. Cody Ware(51), Quin Houff(00), and Garrett Smithley(53) will join them at the tail end of the line-up.
Brad Keselowski(2) starts on the pole for today’s race, which consists of 312 laps around the 1-mile Phoenix raceway. Stages are 75/115/122 laps. Joey Logano(22) is the defending race champion. The track is the site of the classic 2012 Jeff Gordon / Clint Bowyer confrontation on the track that spilled over into the pits and garage after the race.
The two will be together in the Fox broadcast booth today for the call of the race. Their partner, Mike Joy, may be called on to intervene in what has been a friendly but competitive rivalry as the two former drivers try to provide the most interesting comments of the on-track action.
Keselowski led the first two laps before Denny Hamlin(11) moved to the front and took off.
Hamlin held the lead until the competition caution waved on Lap 31. All the leaders pitted under the caution for fresh tires, fuel, and adjustments. Keselowski was 1st off of pit road, followed by Christopher Bell(20), Ryan Blaney(12), Harvick, and Hamlin.
This time Keselowski held the lead for 10 laps until he was passed by his teammate Blaney. On Lap 45, Ross Chastain(42) checked up slightly coming off Turn 2 and Alex Bowman(48) ran into the back of Chastain’s car spinning out the #48. The leaders all stayed out to keep their track position, those drivers further back unhappy with their cars came to pit road for work.
Blaney held on to the top spot for the Stage win as Team Penske Ford Mustangs finished 1-2-3 with Logano in 2nd and Keselowski 3rd.
Stage 1 Results
*Ford Mustang Drivers
After Stage-ending pit stops, Logano was first off pit road followed by Blaney, Hamlin, Elliott, and Keselowski. On Lap 88, Ware and Anthony Alfredo(38) got together and wrecked in Turn 2 bringing out the 4th caution of the day. The leaders stayed on the track, Logano and Blaney began stretching the lead again when the race went back to green.
Logano had built a three-second lead on Blaney when Larson moved up to take over the 2nd spot at the midway point of the Stage. Green flag pit stops began with 50 laps to go in Stage 2. Kyle Larson was too fast entering the pits and had to return to pit road for a drive-thru penalty causing the #5 car to go a lap down. Kyle Busch incurred the same penalty for an uncontrolled tire on his stop. He went two laps down serving his penalty.
When all stops were complete the Top 5 were Logano, Martin Truex Jr.(19), Blaney, Keselowski, and Hamlin.
Logano dominated the Stage, taking the win and the maximum bonus points.
Stage 2 Results
|2||19||Martin Truex Jr.||9|
*Ford Mustang Drivers
The Final Stage
After pit stops Logano still led, Hamlin, Truex, Blaney, and Keselowski form the lead pack for the restart. Truex pushed Logano on the restart and got the #22 car sideways at the drop of the green. Somehow Logano saved his car from spinning and drove off retaining the lead.
With 88 laps to go, Truex passed Logano for the lead and immediately began to pull away. The only other car on the track making moves is Larson, who recovered from his speeding penalty on pit road to return to the Top 5.
Green flag pit stops began with 65 laps to go. Logano and Larson were the 1st of the lead group to pit. The four tires Logano received from his crew were critical as the handle on the car had gone away completely. After cycling through pit stops Truex was back out front with Larson in 2nd. Hamlin, Logano, and Keselowski completed the Top 5.
With 50 laps to go Tyler Reddick(8) got into the outside wall and cut down a tire bringing out the caution flag again. Everyone except Bubba Wallace(23) took the opportunity to pit for fresh Goodyear tires and enough fuel to make sure they were safe even if the race went to overtime.
Logano will line up next to Wallace for the restart with Keselowski, Truex, Larson, and Hamlin in tow. Keselowski and Logano swallowed up Wallace on the drop of the green. Truex and Larson followed quickly.
With 39 laps to go Logano was back out front, he had Keselowski to help block as Joey was looking to put as much distance as possible on Truex and Larson. Truex passed Keselowski with 31 laps to go, just as Kyle Busch(18) spun out across the start/finish line bringing out another caution.
Again everyone pitted for fresh tires. The lineup heading to the restart was Logano, Truex, Hamlin, Keselowski, Larson. Truex outraced Logano as the field stacked up four-wide behind them.
Today the old guard prevailed as Truex took the checkered flag for the win. Logano, Hamlin Keselowski, and Elliott followed across the line. It was Truex’s 1st victory at Phoenix and the 5th different winner in the Cup Series this year.
Playoff Points Standings
|1||Martin Truex Jr.||180||In-Win|
|16||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||113*||+3|
|Playoff Cut Line|
*Ford Mustang Drivers
Results of the InstaCart 500 from Phoenix Raceway
|1||19||Martin Truex Jr.||—||312|
|12||47||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||10.213||312|