Driver Handicaps: Phoenix

    This weekend the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series heads back to Phoenix International Raceway for the Checker Auto Parts 500. To help you make your Dale Jr. Reality Cup Racing fantasy picks, RacingOne brings you our weekly detailed look at some of the field for the 312-lap event.

    Who's HOT at Phoenix International Raceway
  • Kevin Harvick, the winner of the April race, has the best average finish (2.3) on flat one-mile ovals (Phoenix and New Hampshire) in 2006.
  • Defending event winner Kyle Busch has posted two top-10 finishes in his three starts.
  • Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Burton are the only active multiple winners.
  • Mark Martin has eight top fives and 13 top 10s, the most of any driver.
  • Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon lead all drivers with respective average finishes of 8.7 and 8.9.

    Keep an Eye on at Phoenix International Raceway
  • Tony Stewart will be back in the same car that finished second at New Hampshire in September.
  • Greg Biffle has combined to lead 340 laps in the last two Phoenix races.
  • Kurt Busch has led 448 laps at PIR, but is still looking for his first lap led with Penske Racing at the track.
  • Clint Bowyer was the top finishing rookie in the spring at PIR, finishing fifth.
  • Bobby Labonte has four consecutive finishes of ninth or better at PIR.
  • Denny Hamlin won his first career pole in this event last year and performs well on flat race tracks.
  • Carl Edwards has a 5.7 average finish in his last three starts at Phoenix.

    April Phoenix Recap
    Kevin Harvick took advantage of several leaders' fuel problems late in the race to win the NEXTEL Cup Series Subway Fresh 500 at Phoenix International Raceway. Full Story

    Cut to The Chase
    Phoenix Int'l Raceway is Mark Martin and Jeff Burton's best "Chase" track by finishing average. For a complete rundown on how the "Chase" drivers stack up at PIR, visit RacingOne's "Cut to The Chase" section.

    Track Performers
    Kevin Harvick has the best average finish (2.3) on flat one-mile ovals (Phoenix and New Hampshire) in 2006. Tony Stewart has a pair of second-place finishes, but his finishing average slipped to 13.7 after a bump from the No. 12 of Ryan Newman sent his car into the wall and to a 37th-place finish in the July race at New Hampshire. Jeff Burton (7.8), Carl Edwards (8.0) and Mark Martin (8.7) round out the top five in average on one-mile flat tracks. Harvick has also led the most laps at 206. Greg Biffle, who led 151 laps in the spring at Phoenix, is second with 176 total laps led.

    Phoenix Rookie Report
    Denny Hamlin and Clint Bowyer are the only Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidates that have competed in two NEXTEL Cup races at Phoenix Int'l Raceway. Both have had success, with Hamlin winning his first career Cup pole last November and Bowyer finishing fifth in the April race. In fact, Bowyer's finish was the only top 10 at PIR among this year's rookie crop. Hamlin, who has the best average start (3.5) among all drivers, slipped back quickly from his sixth starting position in April because of a bad spark plug. Hamlin was able to go on to finish 34th, 23 laps down. Every rookie has made at least two Busch Series starts at PIR with Bowyer, Hamlin, Reed Sorenson, David Stremme, J.J. Yeley and Martin Truex Jr. each scoring at least one top-10 finish. Truex has the most top 10s with three, while Bowyer and Sorenson are tied for the best finish of second. Rookie Standings

    Qualifying Tidbits
    There have been 12 different Bud Pole winners in the past 14 races at Phoenix Int'l Raceway. Qualifying record holder Ryan Newman won three consecutive poles from 2002-2004. The last three races, respectively, have seen Jeff Gordon, Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch capture their first pole at the track. You would have to go back to 1998 to find the next pole winner by an active NEXTEL Cup driver, when Ken Schrader took the top spot in the No. 33 Skoal Bandit Chevrolet. Although no races have been won from the pole, seven have been won from inside the top 10. The last two races have been won from the 15th starting position. Ricky Rudd won the 1995 race from the furthest position in 29th. Past Pole Winners | Starting Positions of Phoenix Winners

    Phoenix International Raceway Loop Data Stat Leaders (2005-2006 season)
  • Greg Biffle is the fastest driver early in a run during the first 25 percent of a green flag run since a pit stop at 127.562 mph (Must have completed 75% of scheduled laps). Kurt Busch, Kevin Harvick, Matt Kenseth and Carl Edwards round out the top five.
  • Kurt Busch and Jimmie Johnson, respectively, hold average running positions of 6.5 and 7.4. Kevin Harvick, Greg Biffle, Martin Truex Jr. and Bobby Labonte are the only other drivers to hold an average place of less than 10.0.
  • Michael Waltrip is the fastest driver late in a run since a pit stop at 122.424 mph (Fastest speed during last 25 percent of standard green flag run. Must have completed 75% of scheduled laps). Carl Edwards (122.378), Bobby Labonte (122.378), Ryan Newman (122.260) and Tony Stewart (122.040) round out the top five.
  • Ryan Newman and Carl Edwards, respectively, have completed 103 and 83 quality passes (Passing a car running in the top 15 while under a green flag).
  • Greg Biffle has the best average Driver Rating at 123.3.

    Dale Jr. Reality Cup Tiebreakers

    Last Five Number of Lead Changes

    Last Five Number of Cautions Laps

    RacingOne Staff Picks

    Jeff Wackerlin: Tony Stewart
    Pete Pistone: Dale Earnhardt Jr.
    Jorge Mondaca: Bobby Labonte
    J.J. O'Malley: Kevin Harvick
    Shawn Akers: Kevin Harvick

    Non-Chase Driver Notes (In Order of Point Standings)

    11. Tony Stewart (Points: 4488): Stewart has finished fourth and second, respectively, in his last two starts at Phoenix Int'l Raceway. In April, Stewart posted his best qualifying effort in nine starts by starting third. Stewart's one victory at PIR came after leading 150 laps in his first start in 1999. His finishing average, of 10.3, is fourth among active drivers at the one-mile speedway. The Home Depot team will bring primary chassis No. 132 to the track this weekend. This is the same car that tested at The Milwaukee Mile prior to going out and finishing second at New Hampshire in September.

    12. Carl Edwards (Points Behind: -357): Edwards will make his fifth 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. Edwards has been improving his performances at PIR in the last three races, finishing seventh, sixth and fourth, respectively. His seventh-place finish in 2005 came after battling back from two laps down. In Edwards' first start he started 29th and finished 37th after a wreck took him out of contention. He will drive the same car (chassis: RK-358) that finished 18th at New Hampshire in September.

    13. Greg Biffle (Points Behind: -659): Greg Biffle dominated the spring race by leading 151 laps, only to come up short at the end when his Ford completely ran out of fuel two laps from the finish. The misfortune resulted in a 16th-place finish. Last year in this event, Biffle also dominated, leading 189 laps and posting his best finish at PIR in second. He posted his only DNF, and worst finish at PIR in the 2005 spring event after placing 41st. In Biffle's first two starts, in 2003 and 2004, he finished 15th and 13th, respectively. In 2004, he 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 six top-10 finishes in the Busch Series at PIR. He will be racing the same car (chassis RK-258) that raced at New Hampshire and Richmond in 2005.

    14. Casey Mears (Points Behind: -726): Mears posted his best finish at Phoenix Int'l Raceway in the spring when he came home 20th. His best shot at a solid finish came in 2004, but he 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. The Havoline team will bring the same car (chassis No. 616) to the track this weekend that finished sixth at Martinsville Speedway last month.

    15. Kurt Busch (Points Behind: -764): In April, Busch started seventh and finished 24th in his first start at Phoenix Int'l Raceway with Penske Racing. Before that, Busch finished in the top 10 in four consecutive events he competed in with Roush Racing at Phoenix Int'l Raceway. After a police altercation last fall, he was taken out of the car by Jack Roush in what was to be his seventh start at PIR. In the 2005 spring race, 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. This weekend Busch will be driving a brand new car (chassis PRS-107) at PIR.

    16. Brian Vickers (Points Behind: -812): Vickers captured his best finish (fifth), and only top 10 at Phoenix Int'l Raceway in the 2005 spring race. In that event, Vickers led laps (50) for the only time in five starts. Prior to qualifying 13th in this year's spring race, Vickers started sixth or better, including two outside poles in 2003 and 2004.

    18. Ryan Newman (Points Behind: -952): 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 the 2005 spring race 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. In this event last year, Newman started outside the top 10 for the first time since qualifying 25th in 2001. Newman's 2004 track qualifying lap of 135.854 mph still stands as the qualifying record. This year's spring race resulted in one of three DNFs for Newman at PIR after accidents took him out of contention. This weekend Newman will drive the same car (chassis No. PRS-55) that raced in both New Hampshire races this season.

    19. Bobby Labonte (Points Behind: -1043): Labonte is coming off four consecutive finishes of ninth or better at Phoenix Int'l Raceway. His eighth-place finish in the spring came in his first track start with Petty Enterprises. Labonte started on the pole once at PIR, in 1996, and has eight top 10s there.

    20. Scott Riggs (Points Behind: -1117): Riggs will make his fifth start at Phoenix Int'l Raceway this weekend. His best finish of 14th came in his first track start in 2004.

    22. Dale Jarrett (Points Behind: -1166): Jarrett is one of three drivers that have competed in all 20 events at Phoenix Int'l Raceway. He has one win (1997), two top-five and nine top-10 finishes. Jarrett has led laps in five races, most recently 1999, for a total of 175 overall.

    23. Jamie McMurray (Points Behind: -1184): McMurray has six 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. After finishing 14th in the spring, McMurray will make his second start with Roush Racing at PIR in the same car (chassis No. RK-322) that finished 20th in July at Pocono.

    24. Elliott Sadler (Points Behind: -1191): Sadler's best effort at Phoenix Int'l Raceway was a 10th-place finish in 2002. Last year, he finished 11th in both events, which are his only other finishes of 19th or better in eight overall starts. This weekend will mark Sadler's first track start with Evernham Motorsports. His best finish (sixth) since joining the team came at New Hampshire, which is a similar flat track like PIR.

    29. Joe Nemechek (Points Behind: -1463): Nemechek finished 10th in the 2005 spring race for his best finish at Phoenix Int'l Raceway. He has yet to lead a lap in 14 starts at PIR.

    30. Robby Gordon (Points Behind: -1485): Last November, Gordon scored his second top 10 at Phoenix Int'l Raceway with an eighth-place finish. Gordon has yet to lead a lap in seven starts at PIR.

    39. Jeremy Mayfield (Points Behind: -2841): Mayfield will attempt to make his first NEXTEL Cup start since Indianapolis driving the No. 09 Dodge for James Finch. Mayfield has competed in 13 races at Phoenix Int'l Raceway and has scored one top-five and one top-10 finish. His best finish, of second, came with Penske Racing in 2000 after starting 25th. That race also marked the only time Mayfield has led (46 laps) at PIR.

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