Phoenix Rear-View Mirror
“It ain’t over ‘til it’s over,” said the late great baseball guru Yogi Berra. Boy would he have liked the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season.
For the fourth time in as many races what looked like a sure thing was anything but in Sunday’s Camping World 500 at Phoenix Raceway. Kyle Busch, one half of last week’s Vegas combatants with Joey Logano, appeared to be heading for his first win since last year’s Brickyard.
But not so fast.
A late-race caution, caused by you guessed it Logano’s blown tire, set up a green-white-checkered restart. Some drivers stayed out, Busch came in for tires and in the mad dash to the checkered flag it was Ryan Newman of all people coming out of nowhere to end his more than three-year doubt appropriately in the desert.
Unfortunately, the rest of the race was lacking anywhere near the kind of drama that punctuated the finish. While just as in last week’s Las Vegas west coast swing opener the stages provided intensity at points of the race where in the past they’d most likely be missing, the leader checking out in front pattern continued.
So far the new lower downforce aerodynamic package doesn’t appear to be making a huge impact on the competition but it is early in the game. The problem is the battalion of engineers each team employs will not doubt get back much of what was taken away aerodynamically sooner rather than later.
But overall there have been storylines to follow and dramatic finishes to discuss, not to mention four different winners to start the campaign.
Onward to Auto Club Speedway.
- Busch and Logano have been the focal point in recent days after their incident on and off the track last week at Las Vegas. So it was more than just a little ironic the two were involved with how Sunday’s race turned out. Busch looked like he was going to cruise to a win until none other than Logano blew a tire and crashed to bring out the caution. That set-up the pit strategy used by Newman and a few others to stay out rather than come in for fresh tires and ultimately cost Busch the win when he was mired back in the pack and couldn’t get back to the top spot before the checkered flag waved. Funny sport this NASCAR.
- It will be interesting to see how NASCAR rules in the case of Austin Dillon’s actions in Saturday’s XFINITY Series race. An angry Dillon pinched Cole Custer into the wall under caution after the two made contact during Saturday’s DC Solar 200. There was an erroneous report Dillon would not face any penalty from the sanctioning body, but the incident is under review and potential punishment may be forthcoming. It would be hard to understand how some kind of penalty isn’t administered in light of comments made by NASCAR officials in the aftermath of last week’s Kyle Busch-Joey Logano incident. While neither driver was punished for fighting, it was made clear using cars for retaliation on track would be looked upon differently. “That’s when we will react — if there’s an intentional something that happens on the racetrack, we’ll have to react,” said Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR vice president and chief racing development officer on Friday at Phoenix. Stay tuned.
- Carl Edwards once again had to reiterate his plans since stepping away from the sport in January. There were rumors swirling around Phoenix over the weekend that Edwards would be coming back sooner rather than later and perhaps in a full-time ride by 2018. But as he did a few weeks ago, Edwards again reinforced his position. “Like I said at the press conference, I had no racing plans then and do not now. There is no hidden agenda - those three reasons are it," Edwards told FOX Sports.
- Jack Roush was also clarifying his future in Phoenix. An azcentral sports story released on Friday quoted Roush was leaning towards retirement. "I'm 74. I can't do what I'm doing today for another 10 years, Roush said. “My window is, the longest I've been able to predict what I was going to do in life, has been five years. I'm probably down to a three-year window. I'm looking at how I can be useful." But in Phoenix, Roush refuted the story and rather said retirement is not an option. "I have no retirement plans whatever," Roush told Sirius XM NASCAR Radio. "The article came from an ill-advised stream of consciousness I had at the end of last season. People retire in order to go do things they're passionate about. I already have a job that allows me to be passionate beyond my imagination as a youngster."