Fast Facts: With Daytona now in the rearview mirror, NASCAR heads to Phoenix

1 Comment

Like the news, the mail and the economy, NASCAR’s crack stat crew seems to never sleep.

Here we are, less than 48 hours after Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s big win in Sunday night’s rain-delayed Daytona 500, and NASCAR has already moved on and begun preparations for Sunday’s second Sprint Cup of the season at Phoenix International Raceway.

If you’re heading to the race, watch it on TV or plan to be there in spirit, there’s lots of facts about PIR and the race itself that you might find interesting:

* Construction was completed in January 1964. The facility consisted of a one-mile oval and a 2.5-mile road course.

* Alan Kulwicki won the first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Phoenix on Nov. 6, 1988. (To celebrate, Kulwicki performed his now-famous “Polish Victory Lap,” circling PIR backwards after taking the checkered flag.

* The first spring race was held on April 23, 2005 and also the first night race, which was won by Kurt Busch.

* The track underwent its first repave in 2011. The construction began in March and concluded in September of that year.

* The following changes were made during the construction period (March – Sept. 2011):

— Widened the frontstretch from 52 to 62 feet

— Reconfigured pit road with the installation of concrete pit stalls

— Pushed the dog-leg curve between Turn 2 and Turn 3 out 95 feet

— Tightened the turn radius of the dog-leg from 800 to 500 feet

— Implemented variable banking to ensure the immediate use of two racing grooves, including 10-11 degree banking between Turn 1 and Turn 2; 10-11 degree banking in the apex of the dog-leg; and 8-9 degree banking in Turn 4.

* There have been 35 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Phoenix International Raceway, one per season from 1988-2004 and two each season since.

* 186 drivers have competed in at least one NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Phoenix; 138 in more than one.

* Mark Martin leads series in starts at Phoenix with 34; followed by Jeff Gordon and Bobby Labonte with 30 each.

* Geoff Bodine won the first pole in 1988 at a speed of 123.203 mph (29.220 sec.).

* There have been 19 different Coors Light pole winners, led by Ryan Newman with four.

* Ryan Newman, Jeff Gordon and Carl Edwards are the only drivers to win consecutive poles. Newman won three straight (2002-04), while Gordon won the fall of 2006 and the spring of 2007. Edwards won the fall of 2010 and spring of 2011.

* Denny Hamlin (November, 2005) and AJ Allmendinger (April, 2010) won their first career Coors Light poles at Phoenix International Raceway.

* There have been 23 different NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race winners at Phoenix, eight have won more than once, led by Jimmie Johnson, with four – (’07 Chase race, ’08 spring race and Chase race, ’09 Chase race).

* The eight drivers who have won more than once at Phoenix: Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick lead the series in wins (four each), Davey Allison (two), Jeff Burton (two), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (two), Jeff Gordon (two) Carl Edwards (two) and Mark Martin (two).

* Of the eight drivers with multiple wins at Phoenix International Raceway, Mark Martin is the only driver to win in two different manufacturers: Ford (1993) and Chevrolet (2009).

* Four of the 35 (11.4 percent) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Phoenix have been won from the Coors Light pole: Jeff Gordon (spring 2007), Jimmie Johnson (fall 2008), Mark Martin (spring 2009) and Carl Edwards (fall 2010).

* Seven of the 35 (20 percent) NASCAR Sprint Cup races at Phoenix have been won from the front row: four from the pole and three from second-place.

* Of the 35 NASCAR Sprint Cup races at Phoenix, 17 (48.5 percent) have been won from a starting position inside the top 10.

* Jimmie Johnson leads the series in average finishes at Phoenix with a 6.3; he is the only active driver with an average finish inside the top 10.

* Ricky Rudd won the 1995 race from the 29th-place starting position, the furthest back a race winner has started.

* Matt Kenseth won the 2002 race from the 28th-place starting position, the furthest back an active race winner has started.

* 18 of the 35 (51.4 percent) NASCAR Sprint Cup races at Phoenix have been won from a starting position outside the top 10.

* 3 of the 35 (8.5 percent) NASCAR Sprint Cup races at Phoenix have been won from a starting position outside the top 20.

* Five drivers have won consecutive races at Phoenix: Davey Allison (1991,1992); Jeff Burton (2000, 2001); Dale Earnhardt Jr. (2003, 2004); Kevin Harvick (swept 2006); Jimmie Johnson is the only one of the five to win three consecutive races (fall 2007, swept 2008).

* Hendrick Motorsports leads the series in wins at Phoenix with nine, followed by Roush Fenway Racing with seven.

* Two perfect Driver Ratings of 150.0 have been recorded at Phoenix, Kurt Busch in April of 2005 and Kevin Harvick in November of 2006.

* Mark Martin leads the series in runner-up finishes at Phoenix with five; followed by Jimmie Johnson and Tony Stewart with three each.

* Jimmie Johnson leads the series in top-five finishes at Phoenix with 14.

* Alan Kulwicki (11/6/1988) and Bobby Hamilton (10/27/1996) are the only two drivers to post their first NASCAR Sprint Cup career win at Phoenix International Raceway.

* 21 of the 23 NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers who have won at Phoenix participated in at least two or more races before visiting Victory Lane. Alan Kulwicki (11/6/1988) and Tony Stewart (11/7/1999) are the only two drivers to win at Phoenix in their first appearance.

* Jeff Gordon competed at Phoenix International Raceway 16 times before winning (4/21/2007); the longest span of any the 23 winners.

* Six drivers have made 10 or more attempts before their first win at Phoenix: Jeff Gordon (16), Ryan Newman (15), Kasey Kahne (14), Denny Hamlin (13), Carl Edwards (12) and Rusty Wallace (11).

* Since the advent of electronic scoring the closest margin of victory in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Phoenix was the April 10, 2010 race won by Ryan Newman with a MOV of 0.13 seconds.

James Hinchcliffe on Andretti: ‘It’s certainly the place I want to be’

Leave a comment

Since before the start of the 2020 NTT IndyCar Series season, James Hinchcliffe tirelessly has worked to ensure the future would include a full-time return in 2021.

And with an opportunity to run the final three races this season with Andretti Autosport, there seems a surefire (albeit unlikely) path.

“If I go out and win all three,” Hinchcliffe joked with IndyCar on NBC announcer Leigh Diffey in an interview Friday (watch the video above), “it would be hard for them to say no, right?”

Regardless of whether he can go unbeaten at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course next weekend or the Oct. 25 season finale at St. Petersburg, Florida (where he earned his first career win in 2013), Hinchcliffe will have the chance to improve his stock with the team that he knows well and now has an opening among its five cars for 2021.

All three of Hinchcliffe’s starts this season — the June 6 season opener at Texas Motor Speedway, July 4 at the IMS road course and the Indianapolis 500 — were with Andretti, where he ran full time in IndyCar from 2012-14.

“Obviously, the plan from January 2020 was already working on ’21 and trying to be in a full-time program,” he said. “I’ve really enjoyed being reunited with Andretti Autosport, and everybody there has been so supportive. It’s been a very fun year for me on track. It’s been kind of a breath of fresh air in a lot of ways.

“It’s certainly the place I want to be moving forward. We’ve been working on that, working on those conversations. Genesys has been an incredible partner in my three races. We’ll be representing Gainbridge primarily, but Genesys will still have a position on our car in the last three.”

Gainbridge is the primary sponsor of the No. 26 Dallara-Honda that was vacated by Zach Veach, who left the team after it was determined he wouldn’t return in 2021. Hinchcliffe can empathize having lost his ride with Arrow McLaren SP after last season with a year left on his deal.

“You never want to earn a ride at the expense of somebody else in the sense that has happened here with Zach,” Hinchcliffe said. “I feel bad that he’s not able to see out the last three races of his season. I’ve got a lot of respect for him off track. He’s been a teammate this year, a colleague for years before that and honestly a friend for years before that. I’ve got a lot of time for him and his family. I understand a little bit of what it’s like in that position and what he’s going through.”

Hinchcliffe is ready to seize the moment, though, starting with the Oct. 2-3 doubleheader race weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He had been hoping to add the Harvest Indy Grand Prix to his schedule and had been working out for the possibility.

“Then last week I had given up hope (and) was resigned that wasn’t happening,” he said. “I told my trainer, ‘I think we’re done for this year.’ Three days later, this call comes. I’m glad we didn’t make that decision too early. I feel great physically.

“I look at it as a great opportunity to continue to show I’ve still got what it takes and should be there hopefully full time next year on the grid.”

Watch Hinchliffe’s video with Leigh Diffey above or by clicking here.