Welcome, race fans to my version of the 35th race of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season and the 9th race in the Chase for the Sprint Cup. The Checker O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 takes place at the Phoenix International Raceway in Avondale, AZ. The race is 312 laps, for 500 kilometers. PIR is a one mile track called the “Jewel of the Desert”. It is also the penultimate race of the year.
Qualifying was on Friday, with Martin Truex, Jr. capturing the Coors Light Pole Award with a speed of 135.12. The great thing about it is that Kurt Busch starts second. This is the first time in NASCAR history that the #1 and #2 cars have started first and second. 71 is Bobby Labonte. He will be in that ride next year. 12 is Brad Keselowski in his new ride for 2010. 09 is David Gilliland, who is out of the 71 ride. 36 is Michael McDowell. 96 is Erik Darnell. Failing to qualify are 78 Regan Smith, 70 Kevin Conway (from the NASCAR Nationwide Series, who also raced in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series at Phoenix) and 02 Brandon Ash.
Three drivers were going for the trifecta at this track. Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Kevin Conway. Harvick won the Truck race, but Carl Edwards won the NNS race and Conway failed to qualify for the Sprint Cup race. Tyrese Gibson sang the National Anthem and Senator John McCain started the engines, as he was the Grand Marshall for the race. 14 Tony Stewart is the in-race reporter.
So, here we go. 2 Kurt Busch starts on the outside and leads the first lap. 07 Casey Mears locks up his breaks in front of 5 Mark Martin and gets into 14 Tony Stewart. 5 drives under 77 Sam Hornish, Jr. for seventh. 1 Truex, Jr. and 48 Jimmy Johnson battle for second, with 48 taking the spot. 5 gets by 24 Jeff Gordon for fifth. 2 starts lapping cars, and 48 catches him in traffic. 48 leads at the Line, but 2 stays ahead. 48 is persistent and takes the lead. 1 wiggles and 5 gets by for fourth. 24 gets by 1 for fifth.
16 Greg Biffle pits on lap 70 to start Green Flag Pitting. 77 gets into his pit stall sideways. 11 Denny Hamlin had a lug nut issue for a long pit stop. 39 Ryan Newman leads, then pits. 2 has a faster pit stop than 48 and leads after all the pitting. 48 takes the lead. 7 Robby Gordon and 20 Joey Logano aren’t making it easy for the leader to put them a lap down.
The first caution comes out on lap 116 for debris in turns one and two. 07 Casey Mears gets the free pass and is back on the lead lap. Everyone pits and 2 has a long stop, coming out fifth. The second caution comes out at the restart. 16 slowed down for 18 Kyle Busch spinning his tires and there is chain reaction crashing. Involved are 96 Darnell, 55 Michael Waltrip, who got the worst of it, 7, 19 Elliott Sadler, 12, 6 David Ragan, 09 and 34 John Andretti.
For the restart, 48 chooses the outside, as there is speedy-dry on the track on the bottom. 48 pulls away. 11 drives on the outside past 5 for second. 18 gets into 24. 24 bumps 18 and gets by. 9 Kasey Kahne and 42 Juan Pablo Montoya battle for position, with 42 getting by. 44 A. J. Allmendinger and 00 David Reutimann battle side by side with 44 finally getting by. 31 Jeff Burton and 39 battle, with 31 taking the spot. 42 and 18 battle for eighth, with 42 sneaking by. 31 gets by 00. 14 Tony Stewart is very inconsistent. He started eighth and is back to 22nd.
The third caution comes out on lap 163 for debris in turn one. I think 7 Robby Gordon gets the free pass. 48 comes out of the pits first and chooses the outside. 33 Clint Bowyer is second, 11 is third. 2 takes over second. 11 gets by 33 for third. 24 and 18 battle again.
The fourth caution comes out when 88 Dale Earnhardt, Jr. gets sideways and they all stack up behind him. He had an oil leak that got onto his tires. Those involved are 14, 12, 20, 83 Brian Vickers, 71, 39, 17 Matt Kenseth, 82 Scott Speed and 77. 07 slides by and 29 Kevin Harvick stops. 48 chooses the outside again. 31 shuts the door on 5. 24 gets by 1. 18, 42 and 1 battle for seventh. 88 goes to the garage to see what happened. 5 finally gets by 31. 42 gets by 18. 55 is back out in a modified car. 33 and 11 battle for third. 5 catches them and drives under 33. 11 and 5 get by 2. 47 Marcos Ambrose gets by 18. 31 gets by 2 for fourth.
29 Kevin Harvick starts Green Flag Pitting once again. 17 leads, then pits. When it’s all over, 48 is back in the lead. 18 and 00 battle for eleventh, with 00 getting by. 11 is catching 48 in traffic. 31 gets by 11 for second. 16 and 9 battle for fourteenth, with 16 getting by. 1 and 33 battle for fifth, with 1 taking the position. 47 and 00 battle for tenth, with 00 taking the spot.
And points leader, 48 Jimmy Johnson wins the Checker O’Reilley Auto Parts 500. If you’ll recall, the last race in Texas saw Jimmy loose a lot of points in the Chase by being taken out on the third lap. The points leader is back in contention. He leads Mark Martin by 108 points going into the final race at Homestead-Miami next weekend. Johnson is looking to be the first driver to win four Championships in a row.
Brought to you by Sheila Hawley
Tags: Checker O'Reilly Auto Parts 500, Coors Light Pole Award, NASCAR, NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, NASCAR Nationwide Series, NASCAR racing, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, NASCAR weekly review, Phoenix International Raceway, The Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup