Iracingone Rewind:/I Phoenix

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RACE STATS

Time of Race: 3 hours, 2 minutes, 16 seconds
Average Speed: 102.707 mph
Margin of Victory: 2.315 Seconds
Caution Flags 9 for 43:Laps 13-16 (#11 spun turn 2); 67-70 (Debris); 133-145 (Debris turn 2 [Red-142-6:29]); 167-169 (#17 accident turn 3); 174-175 (#45 accident turn 4); 191-194 (Debris frontstretch); 207-210 (20,2,21,07,49 accident turn 4); 222-224 (#41 accident turn 1); 239-244 (#22,49,77 accident frontstretch).
Lead Changes 16 among 9 drivers: J. Gordon (Pole); K. Busch 1-67; S. Riggs 68; K. Busch 69-133; S. Wimmer 134; K. Busch 135-145; G. Biffle 146-147; K. Busch 148-166; K. Schrader 167-170; K. Busch 171-178; B. Vickers 179-207; M. Waltrip 208-222; J. Gordon 223-226; K. Busch 227-239; B. Vickers 240-260; M. Waltrip 261-268; K. Busch 269-312.

INSIDE LINE
Kurt Busch turned in a dominating performance and led a career-high 219 laps on his way to his first win of the 2005 season. It was the defending NEXTEL Cup champion’s 12th career series win and the fourth of the year’s first eight races for car owner Jack Roush.

KEYS TO VICTORY LANE
Busch took the lead on lap 269 and stayed in front the rest of the way despite a late charge from Michael Waltrip, who drove into the wall twice in a furious effort to try and run down the No. 97 Irwin Ford.

HIGHWAY TO HELL
Busch’s Roush Racing teammate Greg Biffle looked like the latest driver to have a chance at sweeping both the Busch race as well as the NEXTEL Cup Series race in one weekend, after his win in Saturday night’s Basha’s Supermarkets 200. Looking for his second straight Cup win, Biffle led early in the race but disaster struck when he ran into the rear of Mike Bliss on pit road during a caution period, ironically brought out by teammate Matt Kenseth’s crash in turn one. The damage on Biffle’s car included a broken radiator which sidelined the No. 16 Ford, giving Biffle a 41st place finish.

ZERO TO HERO
Michael Waltrip’s resurgence continued at Phoenix with his third Top 10 finish of the year. After starting 28th, Waltrip moved his way through the field and put on a furious charge over the last ten laps in an effort to run down Busch, which came up short yet was good enough for a runner-up finish.

HERO TO ZERO
Rusty Wallace qualified 9th and was a pre-race favorite to win another race at Phoenix, one of his favorite tracks on the schedule. But Wallace got caught in a multi-car pile-up which started when Jimmie Johnson got into the rear of Tony Stewart, spinning the Home Depot Chevy into the third turn wall and starting a chain reaction, five-car pile-up in its wake.

ROOKIE OF THE RACE
Kyle Busch ran in front with Hendrick Motorsports teammate Brian Vickers in mid-race and was able to score a top-five finish with an fifth-place run. Travis Kvapil finished 40th after being involved in a lap 239 accident with Scott Wimmer and Ken Schrader.

PIT STOPS
  • Michael Waltrip (second) posted his fourth top-10 finish in 17 races at Phoenix International Raceway. It was his first top-five finish since he finished fourth at Infineon Raceway last June. It is his best finish at Phoenix. Waltrip has scored three top-10 finishes in eight races this season. He climbed from 24th to 18th in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup point standings.
    • Jeff Burton (third) posted his sixth top-10 finish in 11 races at Phoenix International Raceway. Burton scored his best finish since he finished second at Daytona in July 2003 and his first top-10 finish in 2005.
    • Dale Earnhardt Jr. (fourth) scored his fourth straight top-five finish in six races at Phoenix International Raceway. This is his fourth top-10 finish in 2005. He climbed from 15th to 12th in the point standings. He ranked 27th after Las Vegas, five races ago.
    • Brian Vickers (fifth) his first top-10 finish in three races at Phoenix International Raceway and his career best finish in 49 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup races.
    • Bobby Labonte (sixth) scored his sixth top-10 finish in 13 races at Phoenix. Labonte scored his first top-10 finish in 2005.
    • Kyle Busch (eighth) was the highest finishing Raybestos Rookie-of-the-Year contender for the fifth time in 2005. It was the second top-10 finish of his 14-race career.
    • Johnny Sauter (ninth) posted his first top-10 finish in 24 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup races.
    • Jimmie Johnson (15th) ended a 13-race top-10 streak that began at Charlotte last fall. He remained first in the point standings with a 173-point lead over second-place Kurt Busch, the largest point lead of the 2005 season.
    • Mark Martin (16th) has been running at the finish in 30 consecutive races, the longest current streak.
    • Tony Stewart (33rd) dropped from 11th to 14th in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup standings, his lowest points position since he was 14th after Pocono in July 2003.
    • Nine of the top-10 positions in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup point standings changed at Phoenix.
    • Looking ahead to the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup, only 18 drivers remain within 400 points of current point leader Jimmie Johnson.
    • The NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Leader Bonus will be worth $60,000 at Talladega Superspeedway.

    LUG NUTS
  • Tony Stewart continues to be snake bit, with a broken grill slowing him down in the early going before getting “help” from Jimmie Johnson and finding the wall, unfortunately ending the night for several others behind him. The two obviously made contact but it’s a “He Said, He Said” situation with both claiming the other at fault.
  • A tip of the cap to Jeff Burton, who scored his best career finish with Richard Childress Racing with a third place run. One of the sport’s good guys, it’s good to see Burton back running competitively.
  • Ditto for Bobby Labonte, who turned in a sixth place finish to end the reign of terror the former champion has endured in the first eight races of the season. Too bad Tony Stewart’s misery continued.
  • The other Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, Jason Leffler, continued his awful return to the Cup series. The No. 11 brought out the night’s first caution and was involved in several other mishaps during the night, coming home 29th. But again, there is no truth to the rumors that JGR is considering making a change. Right, and Michael Waltrip won’t rattle off his sponsors every time the camera is turned on.
  • An SRO crowd was in Phoenix for the track’s first spring race and inaugural night event. Expansion is on the horizon with PIR fast-becoming a major presence on the circuit. Now if we can just get some better Cup racing.

    GARAGE TALK
    "The last three or four weeks I've raced with him, when I get to him he's mad that I'm going by. He starts flipping me off and chopping me and running me all over the place."

    Jimmie Johnson on Tony Stewart

    "I don't know what he was doing," Stewart said of Johnson. "He was running guys up and down the racetrack. He about ran Junior into the wall and I about ran into Junior because of that.
    And then he finally put me backwards."

    Tony Stewart on Jimmie Johnson

    RACING ONE RATING
    On our scale of one to ten Cacti (or is is Cactuses?)...we'll give the Subway Fresh 500 a five. Phoenix is a great track, looks great at night and a terrific market for NASCAR. The first half of the race seemed like everyone was walking on egg shells and not willing to try anything side-by-side. It didn’t help that Kurt Busch had such a strong car to make the race a bit of a snoozer. That will be the complete opposite next week as we hang on to our hats, helmets and HANS Devices heading to Talladega Superspeedway.
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