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The Art of Racing 3-24
Tempers cool in Phoenix
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Last Sunday in Phoenix was a very hot day in the sun with temperatures into the 90s, but it did not bring out the fireworks many fans were hoping for. After all of the post-race buzz last week about the Busch vs. Logano pit fiasco, people were anxious to see what the sanctioning body would do from a fine standpoint. It was announced later in the week that no penalties would be assessed for drivers or members of the crews.
While letting drivers police themselves and get physical if they deem necessary, the same should not apply for the crews. With NASCAR saying everything was OK last week, they have opened the door for crew members to have a full-scale Royal Rumble on pit road. It sets a bad precedent, and NASCAR will probably regret that decision. After discussions with Busch and Logano, NASCAR decided not to fine anyone, but cautioned them about retaliation on the track. The two drivers raced side-by-side numerous times during the race, but raced cleanly.
Phoenix was another example of how this new aero package is greatly rewarding clean air. After races at Atlanta Motor Speedway and Las Vegas Motor Speedway, it appeared the top three cars had a distinct advantage over the rest of the field. Phoenix appeared to be even worse, where the leader was invincible with only one pass for the lead that occurred on-track and not on a restart.
Logano and Chase Elliott won the stages while Ryan Newman used pit strategy and luck to win the Camping World 500k race, his first victory in 127 races. Richard Childress Racing went 112 races since its last victory.
The 90-degree temperature took the blame for the many tire failures with the last one coming with just six laps to go. Most of the field pitted in anticipation of overtime, but Newman, Ricky Stenhouse and Truex Jr. stayed out on old tires. Kyle Larson was able to pass both Stenhouse and Truex, but could not get around Newman before the checkered flag flew.
With Newman’s win, it all but guarantees the veteran driver a berth in the playoffs, being the fourth different winner this season so far. Larson leads the point standings heading to his home race at Auto Club Speedway after finishing second for the third consecutive weekend.
As much as the new aero package has seemed to increase racing in the pack, the leaders seem to be back to the enormous aero advantage of 2015. If the decision makers don’t come up with a way to get air under these cars soon, we may see more and more races on the mile and a half tracks settled by late race no-tire strategies.