Lead Draft Friday: Oops ... Make That Saturday


O.k. I'm going to take full blame for this mix-up.  You see for some reason I thought that this Saturday was the 18th of April so I wrote my usual column for The Hamilton Spectator and sent it in to the editor to be published.

No big deal right?

Except I then realized it was not really going to be the 18th this weekend, it was going to be the 11th and there was no race this weekend.  I then contacted my editior to tell him to put a hold on the article until next week, which he agreed to.

No problem right?

No not at all, except for the fact that Friday was a holiday and newspapers work on a skeleton staff on holidays and because of some mis-communication my article ended up in this past yesterday's paper instead of next Friday's.


I didn't even know it was in the paper yesterday until today.

Anyway, since its out there already I may as well put it up for you to read (if you haven't already).  Here is the link to the article at thespec.com.

We've got a Saturday night race tonight with the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series going to Phoenix International Raceway for the Subway Fresh Fit 500.

After last week's race in Texas, I'm sure some teams are looking to rebound at Phoenix.

A.J. Allmendinger's (44) streak of good finishes came to an end last week when his ignition box stopped working properly and he had to spend about six laps in the garage area replacing it.

But it hasn't been all bad news for A.J. this week as Richard Petty Motorsports was able to secure him a sponsor until the beginning of September. A.J. and his team only had sponsorship until the end of May so this gives them new life. I do believe that if A.J. makes it into the Chase, he'll definitely have a sponsor for the last 10 races.

Another driver with sponsorship problems is Aric Almirola, who drives for the newly formed Earnhardt Ganassi Racing in their No. 8 Chevy. Almirola has had sponsor issues since the beginning of the season and Earnhardt Ganassi has parked his car indefinitely until a sponsor can be found for at least eight to 10 races. Hunting for sponsors on a per-race basis has been tough on their racing organization and distracting to their other two cars, driven by Martin Truex Jr. (1) and Juan Montoya (42).

Speaking of those two, scenedaily.com reported that Truex has been using the old Dale Earnhardt Inc. chassis since the Daytona 500, while Montoya has been using a newer Ganassi Racing chassis. The teams have now compared notes and both will be using the same chassis for the first time today at Phoenix. While the article doesn't say which one they'll be using, I assume it will be the updated Ganassi chassis because Montoya is currently 13th in points and Truex is 24th.

It wasn't all bad news for teams at Texas last week. Jeff Gordon ended two streaks with his win: not winning a race in almost 50 races and never winning at Texas. I'm not even that big of a Gordon fan but I have to admit, I found myself cheering for him so he could get those streaks over and done with.

If you aren't going to be home tonight, make sure you set your DVR because I have a feeling this race might be a pretty good one.

Phoenix is an interesting track from both a driver and fan perspective. It is essentially a flat track with little banking in the unique, non-matching corners. Turns 1 and 2 make a fairly short sharp turn, while Turns 3 and 4 combine to make a larger, more sweeping turn.

And when you add these unequal turns to the unique dog leg in the back stretch, you've got yourself a very distinct track that is different than the rest on the NASCAR Sprint Cup circuit.

Look for teams to run a set-up similar to a short track at this one-mile oval, especially the brakes. Some teams have tried to run with smaller brake rotors here in the past to save on the car's weight but they have not been too successful. With the amount of hard braking drivers do every lap, the brakes have just got too hot and worn out.

Drivers to look out for at this track are Gordon (24) and Jimmie Johnson (48). It seems that I've been saying that every race so far this year, but when your team is that good, your team is that good.

Other drivers that should run well at Phoenix include Dale Earnhardt Jr. (88), Kevin Harvick (29), Jeff Burton (31), and the Busch brothers Kurt (2) and Kyle (18).

For whatever reason, the one team that seems to struggle at Phoenix is the Roush Fenway organization. But I would expect Carl Edwards (99) to at least run in the top 10 all day and maybe even contend for the win if things go better for him in the pits this week compared to last week, when he lost a lot of track position due to lug nuts falling off his wheel during a pit stop late in the race.

Dark horses at this track include Denny Hamlin (11) and Tony Stewart (14), but my "Where did he come from?" pick this week would be Mark Martin (5).

For more NASCAR info, race day open threads, and anything else that you can shake a dip-stick at, drop on by to 4ever3blog.com.



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