Sunday, February 27, 2011

Rating the Subway Fresh Fit 500: 4 Stars ****

The second week of the season got off to a rough-and-tumble start as the drivers got after it early before settling in for a two-driver duel in the desert. The first edition of the new date in Phoenix gets a 4 Star Rating.

Jeff Gordon finally broke his 66-race winless streak with a bump-and-run as he shoved Kyle Busch out of the way as they barreled down into Turn 1 after the final restart with nine to go. Gordon restarted in third, but he had been gaining on Busch during the previous run and likely would’ve caught him had the race stayed green.

Either way, Gordon and Busch were the stars of this show. After Carl Edwards was involved in one of the many early dust-ups, Gordon, Busch, Tony Stewart and Jimmie Johnson were left to battle for the cactus trophy. Stewart and Johnson both hung around the top five throughout much of the race, but Gordon and Busch were able to distance the field on each run.
So far the 2011 season has been the season of the big wreck early in the race. After a 17-car pileup on lap 29 of the Daytona 500, Phoenix followed with a double-digit wreck of its own. On lap 67, 13 cars plowed into each other on the backstretch as if they were caught in a bad ice storm on the highway.

Everybody seemed to be excited to get the season started because the start of the races have been a hornet’s nest early at both Daytona and Phoenix, which is surprising because there are only a few new drivers in the series this season. Trevor Bayne had a rough weekend, but he hasn’t been the cause of any of the major wrecks so far, and, even after this week, he is already better than at least a third of the competition.

Finally, NASCAR has a winner that actually received the winner's share of points. All five winners in the first five races of NASCAR's top three series had winners that received a big, fat zero in the points column until Gordon broke through Sunday. The win also pushed him up 21 spots in the standings to fifth and puts him in his normal position where he will contend for the rest of the season.

This was also the final race on the current pavement at Phoenix International Raceway, as it will be repaved and banking will be added in the turns by the time the series returns in November. While many don't want to see the old pavement torn apart, track workers said the repave is a need, not a want.

Next week is Vegas, baby, which happens to be another track that tends to produce a few pretty hard wrecks, especially as cars come off of Turn 4. Gordon and Busch also excel at that track so we could be in for a quick rematch early in the season. It’s extremely early, but Gordon and Busch could be the two who will battle it out for the championship come Homestead. That would be exciting, but there is plenty of racing to enjoy before then.

Have a great week, everybody. More photos and video will be posted throughout the week as they come in both here and on the Monday Morning Crew Chief Facebook page.


  1. jmayer,

    Although it was cool on the desert, the weather gods were kind on the rain front. Yeah, they had a green track after the night long rains, but it looked like a good day of racing (Gene grumbled that it was 30 degrees warmer at Rockingham where they used to race second, but he's a local to that track... It's the old dog/new tricks syndrome! LOL).

    I'm curious... Was it a full house? Did the fans show up?

    Late in the race it looked like a gathering of eagles at the top for the win. It was just what people want to see, edge of your seat racing!

    Hope you had a good time!

  2. I agree with the four stars this week, JM. Going back to last year, we now have had over 12 good races in a row!

  3. Agree with 4 stars too! The boys are a little rusty I think - havent seen such big wrecks at PHX in recent memory.

    Heading to Vegas with the Busch Bros up front - sounds like a good set up to me!

  4. Dwindy1 - It was a cool day, but thankfully the rain came through overnight. There was a good crowd, not every single seat was filled, but I would say the stands were at 95% capacity.

    Gene - How about that! Its about time the attendance numbers and TV ratings go up if the racing is this good. Glad the momentum from the end of last year has carried into this season, as well. Hope it continues.

    klvalus - That must be it. I can't think of much that has changed that would get everyone so feisty, but its a good start to what will hopefully be a great year.