I mentioned last week that NASCAR’s decision to use Group Qualifying was a recipe for disaster and this week it caused more excitement than the race itself.
Round one is 10 minutes long but all the cars waited on pit road until only two minutes remained in the session before entering the track. With so many cars on the track, only those in the lead could get a clean run for time. Most of the cars impeded others from getting a good time.
Such was the case between Michael McDowell and Daniel Suarez. Suarez did not like McDowell preventing him from getting a good qualifying time and showed his displeasure both on the cool-down lap and in the pits.
It reminded me of MMA when the shoving started, and then when Suarez threw punches and body slammed McDowell before crews broke it up. This speaks for itself as to how ridiculous this insistence on group qualifying has become.
The race in Phoenix was quite tame compared to qualifying. Kyle Busch again showed why he is the most exciting and talented driver today. Busch completed a sweep of the weekend as he won Saturday’s Xfinity race before winning Sunday’s Ticket Guardian 500.
The race started with NASCAR penalizing Chase Elliott for a start violation, giving the lead to pole-sitter Ryan Blaney. During a caution, Denny Hamlin only took two tires, giving him a short-lived lead as Busch passed him. Busch held the lead until another caution occurred with only 11 laps remaining in Stage 1. Busch pitted for fuel and tires, giving the lead and the Stage 1 victory to Blaney.
Stage 2 was all Busch. The first 74 laps of the final stage saw five yellow flags, mostly for tire failures. The last restart occurred on lap 238 of the 312-lap race and the drivers had to conserve fuel in order to make it to the end if it stayed green. A hard-charging Busch finally passed Blaney for the lead and held on to gain the victory. Martin Truex Jr., finished second, followed by Blaney, Aric Almirola, and Hamlin.
Four races in 2019 with four different winners is something we haven’t seen in recent years. Two winners are in the Penske fold, Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano, while Hamlin and Kyle Busch are under Joe Gibb’s reign.
This was Busch’s 52nd Cup Series victory, and with 94 Xfinity wins and 53 Truck Series wins, his total NASCAR Series wins is at 199. This, along with other factors will surely put Busch in the NASCAR Hall Of Fame, but keep in mind, Richard Petty has 200 wins, all in the Cup Series.