Idriver Handicaps:/I Phoenix

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Who's HOT at Phoenix
  • Kurt Busch is coming off his first win and fourth consecutive top 10.
  • Dale Jr. has a 2.8 average finish, including two wins, in the last four races.
  • Jeff Gordon has the best average finish (6.2) in the last five races.
  • Mark Martin's 9.0 average finish is the best among all drivers that have competed in all 18 events.

    Who's NOT
  • Joe Nemechek, who scored his first top 10 in April, has never led in 17 races.
  • Jeremy Mayfield has the worst finishing average among the chase contenders.
  • Elliott Sadler has one top-10 finish in seven starts.
  • Jamie McMurray, who has yet to score a top 10, has finished 24th or worse in three of his four starts.
  • The usual suspects: Kyle Petty, Bobby Hamilton Jr. and Robby Gordon.

    Who Else to Watch
  • Jeff Burton has the best average finish (5.5) among all drivers that have entered every event since 1998.
  • Kyle Busch finished eighth in his first start.
  • Rusty Wallace has led the most laps with 868 and finished seventh in this event last year.
  • Jimmie Johnson, who tested the No. 25 car at PIR - just ask Greg Biffle - has finished sixth or better in two of his four starts.
  • Ryan Newman will race the same car that won at New Hampshire.
  • Brian Vickers finished fifth in April and has two outside poles.

    1. Tony Stewart
    Points: 6255
    Avg. Start: 14.9
    Avg. Finish: 12.4

    Stewart won in his first start at Phoenix Int'l Raceway in 1999, his second of 24 career wins. In April Stewart posted his worst finish of 33rd in his seventh start at PIR. In the past three races, Stewart has started sixth, which are his best starts at the 1-mile oval. The Home Depot team will bring primary chassis No. 63 to the track this weekend. This car will make its sixth start of the season and 10th overall. This is the same car Stewart led 232 laps with en route to his victory at New Hampshire in July. Stewart was ranked 11th in the standings the last time the series visited Phoenix.

    2. Jimmie Johnson
    Points: 6217
    Avg. Start: 16.3
    Avg. Finish: 9.5

    Johnson will make his fifth start at Phoenix Int'l Raceway. His best finish there came in 2003 after he started third and finished second after leading 84 laps. His New Hampshire car (chassis No. 48264) is making a comeback at Phoenix.

    3. Carl Edwards
    Points: 6178
    Avg. Start: 20.0
    Avg. Finish: 22.0

    Edwards will make his third NEXTEL Cup start at Phoenix Int'l Raceway, the site of his first pavement race. In 2001, Edwards raced a USAC Silver Crown car in the Copper World Classic. Last year he started 29th and finished 37th after a wreck took him out of contention. He followed that up by coming from two laps down to post his first top 10 with a seventh-place finish in April.

    4. Greg Biffle
    Points: 6133
    Avg. Start: 17.0
    Avg. Finish: 23.0

    Biffle posted his first DNF, and worst finish, at Phoenix Int'l Raceway in April after placing 41st. In his first two starts, in 2003 and 2004, he finished 15th and 13th, respectively. In 2004, Biffle was running in the top-10 until he got caught on a pit cycle that put him on old tires at the end of the race. Biffle does have one pole, two wins and five top-10 finishes in the Busch Series at PIR.

    5. Mark Martin
    Points: 6132
    Avg. Start: 10.1
    Avg. Finish: 9.1

    Martin's finishing average is the best among all drivers that have competed in all 18 races at Phoenix Int'l Raceway. Along with his only victory in 1993, Martin has collected six finishes of second or better and 13 top 10s. Martin will run the fourth and final throw-back paint scheme that will resemble his 1981 car, on chassis No. RK-48. This is the same chassis Kurt Busch drove to Victory Lane at Richmond in September.

    6. Matt Kenseth
    Points: 6120
    Avg. Start: 24.7
    Avg. Finish: 21.8

    Kenseth has captured one win and three top-10 finishes in six races at Phoenix Int'l Raceway. He matched his worst finish of 42nd in April, his third DNF at the track. Kenseth, who has led 59 laps at PIR, will drive the same car (chassis No. 23) that won at Richmond in Phoenix in 2002, and finished second and third, repectively, at Richmond and Loudon this season.

    7. Ryan Newman
    Points: 6081
    Avg. Start: 7.5
    Avg. Finish: 19.7

    Newman made his first NEXTEL Cup start at Phoenix Int'l Raceway in 2000. He got off to a rough start at PIR posting two DNFs finishing 41st and 40th, respectively, in his first two races. His 14th-place finish in April ended a streak of back-to-back top-three finishes, including a runner-up in 2004 when he led 59 of his career total 114 laps led at PIR. Newman is currently the track qualifying record holder at 135.854 mph, which was set last season, and has won three of the last four poles there. Newman will drive the same car (chassis: PRS-55) that won at New Hampshire in September.

    8. Kurt Busch
    Points: 5974
    Avg. Start: 22.5
    Avg. Finish: 12.0

    Busch has finished in the top 10 in the last four of his six career starts at Phoenix Int'l Raceway. In the spring Busch scored his first win at PIR after leading 219 laps from the second starting position. It was also the fourth consecutive race Busch led at the track boosting his total to 448. Busch will drive chassis No. 52 this weekend, the same car that won at Phoenix in April, but this time with an IRWIN VISE-GRIP GrooveLock paint scheme.

    9. Rusty Wallace
    Points: 5940
    Avg. Start: 7.1
    Avg. Finish: 16.9

    Wallace has the best starting average among all drivers that have raced in every event at Phoenix Int'l Raceway. In 18 races, Wallace has collected three poles (1990, 1992 and 2000), one win, seven top fives and eight top 10s. Wallace led 196 of his series leading 868 laps led at the 1-mile oval in his 1998 victory. He will drive the same car (chassis PRS-070) that he captured his last win with at Martinsville in 2004.

    10. Jeremy Mayfield
    Points: 5848
    Avg. Start: 21.1
    Avg. Finish: 26.4

    Mayfield has competed in 11 races at Phoenix Int'l Raceway and has scored one top-five and one top-10 finish. His best finish of second came in 2000 after starting 25th. In 2000, Mayfield led his only race at PIR for a total of 46 laps.

    11. Jamie McMurray
    Points: 3912
    Avg. Start: 19.5
    Avg. Finish: 25.3

    McMurray has four starts at Phoenix Int'l Raceway, but has yet to post a top 10. His best finish of 12th came in his rookie season in 2003. McMurray will make his second start in chassis No. 506, which is the same car that finished seventh at Martinsville last month.

    12. Jeff Gordon
    Points: 3861
    Avg. Start: 9.7
    Avg. Finish: 9.3

    Phoenix Int'l Raceway is one of four tracks where Gordon hasn't visited Victory Lane. Gordon ended a streak of seven consecutive top 10 finishes in the spring after he placed 12th. Last year he led 100 of his total 165 laps at PIR in the event en route to a third-place finish. In total he has five top fives and 10 top 10s with a best finish of third in 2002 and 2004.

    13. Elliott Sadler
    Points: 3860
    Avg. Start: 26.1
    Avg. Finish: 24.1

    Sadler's best effort at Phoenix Int'l Raceway was a 10th-place finish in 2002. In April, he finished 11th, which is his only other finish of 19th or better in seven overall starts. Sadler led his first laps (16) at PIR last year in this event.

    14. Kevin Harvick
    Points: 3831
    Avg. Start: 18.0
    Avg. Finish: 18.2

    After finishes of 17th or worse in his first three starts at PIR, Harvick scored his best finish of fourth last season. He will race his Bristol winning chassis in the Checker Auto Parts 500, which is the same car that finished 19th in the spring after running out of gas on the final lap while running fifth. Harvick is a two-time winner in the Truck Series at Phoenix, winning back-to-back events in 2002 and 2003.

    15. Joe Nemechek
    Points: 3745
    Avg. Start: 20.0
    Avg. Finish: 22.8

    Nemechek is coming off his two best finishes, first inside the top 15, at Phoenix Int'l Raceway in 12 starts. His 10th-place finish in April is his best to date.

    16. Brian Vickers
    Points: 3728
    Avg. Start: 3.0
    Avg. Finish: 12.0

    Vickers captured his best finish (fifth), and first top 10, in his third start at PIR in April. In his first two starts he started from outside pole in both, and finished 13th and 18th, respectively.

    17. Dale Jarrett
    Points: 3710
    Avg. Start: 21.2
    Avg. Finish: 17.0

    Jarrett is one of five drivers that have competed in all 18 races at Phoenix Int'l Raceway. He has one win (1997), two top-five and eight top-10 finishes. Jarrett has led laps in five races, most recently 1999, for a total of 175 overall. He will race the car (chassis No. 56) that has raced twice in 2005, finishing a best 18th at New Hampshire in September.

    18. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
    Points: 3631
    Avg. Start: 15.2
    Avg. Finish: 12.5

    Earnhardt Jr. has finished fifth or better, including two wins, in his last five starts at Phoenix Int'l Raceway. His two wins came in this event, in 2003 and 2004, after starting 11th and 14th, respectively. With only six starts, he is one of three drivers to post multiple victories on the desert track. Junior, who has led 310 laps at PIR from 2002-2004, will return in the same car (chassis No. 10) that he won both races at PIR with. Michael Waltrip posted a runner-up finish with this car in the spring.

    19. Jeff Burton
    Points: 3597
    Avg. Start: 22.3
    Avg. Finish: 11.5

    Burton has run in 12 Phoenix events, with two victories (2000 and 2001), five top-fives and six top 10s. His third-place run in the spring was his best effort since his last victory. Burton has led a total of 215 laps and holds the best finishing average (5.5) of all drivers that have entered all races since 1998 at PIR. The Cingular team will bring chassis No. 153 to the track this weekend. This car has finished in the top 10 in both of its starts (Martinsville, New Hampshire) in 2005.

    20. Kyle Busch
    Points: 3528
    Avg. Start: 27.0
    Avg. Finish: 8.0

    In April, Busch started 27th and finished eighth in his first start at Phoenix Int'l Raceway.

    21. Ricky Rudd
    Points: 3512
    Avg. Start: 16.9
    Avg. Finish: 19.3

    Rudd has captured one win (1995), three top fives and five top 10s in 18 starts at Phoenix Int'l Raceway. His last top 10 (third) came in this event in 2001.

    22. Kasey Kahne
    Points: 3414
    Avg. Start: 9.0
    Avg. Finish: 11.0

    Phoenix Int'l Raceway is home to Kahne's first career Cup Series start last fall. He started that race fourth and finished with his only top-five there, fifth. The team will bring chassis No. 61, which won from the pole at Richmond in the spring and finished eighth there in the fall.

    23. Casey Mears
    Points: 3380
    Avg. Start: 16.0
    Avg. Finish: 38.3

    Mears appeared to be on his way to a solid finish last November at Phoenix Int'l Raceway, but had a tire go down with six laps to go while running in the third position. The cut tire sent Mears into the wall and relegated him to 34th-place, his best finish in three starts at the 1-mile oval. The Target team will bring the same car (chassis No. 306) to the track this week that finished seventh at Las Vegas.

    24. Michael Waltrip
    Points: 3312
    Avg. Start: 27.1
    Avg. Finish: 21.6

    Waltrip posted his best finish of second at Phoenix Int'l Raceway this spring in his 17th start there. It was his fourth top 10 at the 1-mile track. The team is bringing chassis No. 21 to the track, which was last raced to a 15th-place finish at New Hampshire.

    25. Bobby Labonte
    Points: 3272
    Avg. Start: 18.0
    Avg. Finish: 17.4

    After running a solid race this spring at Phoenix Int'l Raceway starting fourth and finishing sixth, Labonte will make his 14th start at the track this weekend. He has started on the pole once there, in 1996, and has six top 10s there. His team will bring chassis No. 84 as the primary car. This car was raced at Phoenix in the spring and has been raced at 10 other events since 2003. Labonte will make his last Busch Series start of the season at Phoenix.

    34. Scott Riggs
    Points: 2867
    Avg. Start: 13.5
    Avg. Finish: 16.0

    Riggs will make his third start at Phoenix Int'l Raceway this weekend. His best finish of 14th there came in this event last year after starting 11th.

    RacingOne Staff Picks:

    Pete Pistone: Greg Biffle
    Rick Benjamin: Carl Edwards
    Ron Lemasters: Tony Stewart
    Jeff Wackerlin: Dale Earnhardt Jr.

    Wins:
    Jeff (Greg Biffle-California, Kevin Harvick-Bristol, Jeff Gordon-Martinsville, Tony Stewart-Daytona, Ryan Newman-New Hampshire)
    Rick (Jeff Gordon-Talladega, Greg Biffle-Michigan, Kurt Busch-Richmond)
    Ron (Tony Stewart-Infineon, Tony Stewart-Indianapolis, Tony Stewart-Watkins Glen)
    Pete (Jimmie Johnson-Lowe's, Jeff Gordon-Martinsville)

    Checker Auto Parts 500
    Phoenix Int'l Raceway

    TV: NBC, 3:00 p.m. (ET).
    Radio: MRN/XM Satellite.
    Race length: 312 Laps, 500 kilometers.

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