September and the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup™ is far off into the distance – 25 races to be exact. But this week’s stop at Phoenix International Raceway marks the first time teams will see a 2013 Chase track.
The most recent Phoenix race was crucial to last year’s championship. Brad Keselowski slipped through a final lap accident to grab sixth while Jimmie Johnson earlier had pounded the wall en route to a 32nd-place finish.
Sunday’s Subway Fresh Fit 500 won’t guarantee any driver this year’s title. But a victory could be pivotal. All but one Phoenix spring winner – Ryan Newman in 2010 – have qualified for the Chase.
Newman, who failed to qualify for last year’s postseason, is off to a good start finishing fifth in the Daytona 500. His four Coors Light Poles lead all drivers at Phoenix. Newman remains one pole short of the magic 50 milestone that only eight NASCAR Sprint Cup competitors have reached.
Between 2003 and 2009, three drivers – Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kevin Harvick – won eight of 12 Phoenix races. Eight different drivers have graced Victory Lane since the opening race of the 2009 season.