NASCAR moves from the glitz and glitter of Las Vegas to the cactus-filled landscape of Arizona. ISM Raceway, formally known as Phoenix International Raceway, plays host to the Monster Energy Series’ fourth race of the season. Here’s a few thoughts on what to expect on Sunday in the desert.
NASCAR – Phoenix Race Preview
The Fords are freaky fast
Yeah, I know that last weeks winner, Kevin Harvick failed post-race inspection and essentially had most of the benefits of the victory taken away by NASCAR. But you’d be hard pressed to find anyone in the NASCAR garage that thinks those infractions mattered much to the cars performance. That’s bad news for the other competitors.
While the Chevrolets are still trying to figure out their new car and the Toyota‘s hard at work to recapture last years dominance, its the Fords of Penske and Stewart Haas that are showing the most speed. A safe pick this weekend might once again be from the Ford camp.
Jimmie Johnson struggles
OK, who among us at the beginning of the season had Jimmie Johnson sitting 29th in the Monster Energy Cup standings after 4 races? Not seeing any hands, I’ll move on. Perhaps we saw signs last week that he and his Hendrick Motor Sports team have righted the ship.
After failing pre-race inspection three times, Johnson had major handling issues to start the race in Las Vegas. Quickly falling a lap behind, Johnson and his team worked and worked on the car, eventually gaining a 12th place finish. While a Johnson 12th place finish might not be worthy of a celebration, the fact that the team dramatically improved his car might be good news for Johnson’s fans. Phoenix will tell us if they have indeed returned to form.
The first short track of the season
One mile tracks are not often talked about as “short” but in today’s era of 1.5 milers I think they qualify. Add the fact of the low banking at Phoenix International Raceway, er I mean ISM Raceway, it really has the look and the feel of a short track with one exception. It’s much wider than a typical shortie.
Today, NASCAR has too many tracks that race similar. Drivers will often tell us that that’s not the case at all but for us fans it sure as heck looks like it. ISM Raceway will never be accused of that. NASCAR needs more uniqueness in its venues and ISM Raceway fits that mold perfectly. Flat, fast and wide.
As the rest of NASCAR deals with a decline in revenue, ISM has invested $178 million in its facility upgrade. Some of those upgrades will be available this weekend. New escalators, a ticketed hospitality area and a new sports bar and grill will make their debuts this weekend. But there is a lot more to come.
After the IndyCar race in April the track and its grandstands will be reconfigured. The current start/finish line will be moved to the area which is commonly referred to as the dog leg. This should lead to some exciting finishes. At least that’s the hope.
After less than edge of your seat racing the last two weeks, here’s hoping the flat one miler will give us plenty to talk about come Monday.
Thanks for reading. Listen to WTBQ Radio on Monday and Friday mornings as I join Frank, Taylor and the Morning Show gang to discuss the current happenings in NASCAR. 1110AM, 93.5FM or online at WTBQ.com. Follow me on twitter @Jimlaplante
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