Sunday, November 13, 2011

Rating the Kobalt Tools 500: 3 Stars ***

Kasey Kahne jumped in and stole the end of the duel in the desert Sunday at Phoenix International Raceway. The race gets a 3 Star Rating overall, but my gosh Carl Edwards and Tony Stewart are putting on a show for the championship.

Edwards and Stewart were certainly the highlight of a race where only four or five guys had a legitimate chance to win, and Kahne was the last one to the party.

Kahne didn’t show up at the front until the second half of the race, but he found himself in front of Edwards by a wide margin after his final pit stop.

Any win is a big win, but Kahne had just two races left to get a win for his Red Bull Racing team, which will fold at the end of the season along with his teammate Brian Vickers’ #83 team.

Kahne said it was fun to win on a new track, as well as break his 81-race losing streak.

“We’ve been right there every weekend, so it feels really good to finally knock one off,” he said. “I’m really excited; it’s been a while. It feels like my first win again it’s been so long.”

Edwards said Kahne’s aggressive driving-style and relationship with crew chief Kenny Francis has helped him succeed in the variety of situations he has dealt with as far as which team he is running for and questions about their stability.

“Those guys are going to be tough for a long time if they can find a groove and if they can stick with one team and have people rally around them,” Edwards said.

Phoenix was the drought-busting track this year. Jeff Gordon also ended a 76-race streak with his win in February.

Besides Edwards and Stewart, A.J. Allmendinger and Matt Kenseth contended early in the race but both fought adversity. Allmendinger had bad pit stops throughout the day and was able to recover to sixth, but Brian Vickers made sure Kenseth’s day ended early when he ran Kenseth straight up into the Turn 3 wall.

That incident will surely bring about comparisons to the Kyle Busch – Ron Hornaday incident a week earlier at Texas, but that is a topic for another day.

The race played out generally as expected despite all of the concerns about the quality of the racing leading up to this weekend. A Bodine brother and Robby Gordon are still wrecking, and it is still incredibly difficult to pass the leader.

Kenseth led the first 36 laps until Stewart made an incredibly gutsy move on the outside to take the lead as he and Kenseth split Geoff Bodine on the frontstretch.

Stewart then put a hurting on the field for the majority of the race. Both Edwards and Kenseth could get close to taking the lead, but neither could get ultimately get around Stewart.

Edwards and Stewart also had a great battle about two-thirds of the way through the race, but Edwards could not get around the #14 car until a late pit stop relegated Stewart to fourth.

The one concern about the quality of racing leading up to the race that came true was the inability to make a pass for the lead. That might be more of a problem with the cars than the track, however. Even though it usually took several laps for a driver to complete a pass farther back in the pack, it was possible.

Overall, the racing groove was plenty wide for hard racing, especially in the first race on a new surface. Stewart actually took the lead after starting in the high lane on several restarts.

As for the larger picture, Edwards and Stewart both had good runs and are still locked in a fantastic championship battle heading into the final race at Homestead. Edwards still leads Stewart by three points. Basically, the driver who finishes better in next week’s race will be the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion.

This is going to be a fun one.

For more photos from the weekend, check out the Monday Morning Crew Chief Facebook page.


  1. Love the race report! Man I was pissed Vickers didn't get parked for blatantly taking out Kenseth. Will admit Smoke and Carl are putting on a show toe to toe! Too bad I dont like either! LOL

  2. I really enjoyed your week of reporting from Phoenix. Good job!

    Phoenix was already one of the few unique tracks in the Cup series... now it is the Fenway Park of nascar.

  3. I am the sports editor for Before It's News and we are looking to add quality sports news to our site. We would love it if Monday Morning Crew Chief would contribute. There is no extra work for you. We will simply take the full feed from your RSS feed and re-post it to our site, along with a link back to your website. You are more than welcome to also link your FB and Twitter accounts and post any message to our readers before or after your post.

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  4. klvalus - I too am shocked NASCAR didn't see any retaliation in that incident. But, only one more race and Vickers will probably be out of a Cup ride.

    Gene - Thanks, it was a fantastic weekend. Overall the track raced as well as anyone could hope, especially after the rain Sunday morning. Maybe the progressive banking made more of a difference than anything. How else to explain Stewart's moves on the outside restarts, other than he is amazing right now.

  5. Krystal - That would be great! I'm more than willing to be a part of that deal.

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