- Last Updated on Wednesday, 07 March 2012 19:04
- Published on Wednesday, 07 March 2012 19:04
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With the annual extravaganza that has become the Daytona 500 behind us, NASCAR got on with the regular racing season last Sunday at Phoenix International Raceway. Veteran Mark Martin showed the youngsters that he still has a bit left in the tank by capturing the 52nd pole of his career, turning a lap of 136.81 mph.
In the second race with 2011 Sprint Cup Champion crew chief Darian Grubb on his pit box, Chesterfield Virginia native Denny Hamlin held off Kevin Harvick in a 53-lap green flag run to secure the win in the 312 lap race. Fuel mileage was a critical factor as most of the leaders came to the pits to refuel for what turned out to be their final stops when NASCAR
brought out the yellow flag after Ryan Newman’s hard contact with the turn four wall on lap 254. Most of the cars were right on the edge of being able to make it to the end of the race.
There were no further caution flags. Hamlin led Harvick by less than a full second for the final 53 laps. It was great racing with Harvick able to close the gap to less than a half second on a couple of occasions. Harvick was never able to get close enough to make an attempt to make the pass. On the final lap. Harvick ran out of gas and Hamlin was able to cruise the final couple of hundred yards to the checkered flag. Greg Biffle finished third, followed by Jimmie Johnson, Brad Keselowski, Kyle Busch, and Martin Truex Jr. Jeff Gordon, pole sitter Mark Martin, and Joey Logano rounded out the top 10.
For Denny Hamlin the win Sunday was his 18th career win in 225 Cup race starts. Coming on the heels of his fourth place finish at Daytona, the win gives Hamlin the early lead in the point standings. It was Hamlin’s first win in 14 starts at Phoenix. Greg Biffle is in second place, followed by Kevin Harvick in third. Daytona 500 winner Matt Kenseth is in 4th place after a 13th place finish at Phoenix .
Hamlin’s win was the 94th cup victory for Joe Gibbs Racing. It was a good day for JGR as all three of their drivers finished in the top 10. Harvick’s second place finish followed up his seventh place finish in the Daytona.
The changeover to the new electronic fuel injection systems is proving to be a work in progress as several teams had problems with the systems on Sunday.
Late in the race defending Cup champion Tony Stewart fell multiple laps behind the field when he turned off his ignition going down the back stretch in an effort to save fuel. When he turned the ignition back, on the engine would not fire. A tow truck had to push Stewart’s car to the pits, where the crew was eventually able to get the engine refired. Stewart went on to finish in 22nd place, two laps down.
The engine on Denny Hamlin’s car died shortly after he crossed the finish line. It initially appeared he had also run out of fuel. However, Hamlin was able to get his engine re-fired and completed the traditional race winners’ burn outs.
There was one announcement that seemed a bit odd that this past week, Roger Penske, the owner of Penske Racing, announced that Penske would be switching from Dodges to Fords in 2013. It seems logical enough that they have just resigned their key personnel to multi-year contracts and their major sponsors have recently resigned multi-year contracts. The last piece of the puzzle would seem logical to be a multi-year commitment from a vehicle manufacturer. It just felt it a bit strange that they made the announcement they would be leaving Chrysler at the end of the year when the season is just beginning.
Next up this Sunday is the Kobalt Tools 400 from Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Carl Edwards is the defending race winner.