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NASCAR at Phoenix 2013: Carl Edwards finally wins again

After almost two full years without a win, Carl Edwards returned to the winner's circle at Phoenix on Sunday.

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25 Total Updates since February 28, 2013
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Monday morning NASCAR recap

Recapping the three key takeaways from Sunday's NASCAR race at Phoenix International Raceway.

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Johnson leads championship standings after Phoenix

Jimmie Johnson leads the Sprint Cup standings over Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Brad Keselowski by eight points following the race at Phoenix International Raceway.

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Dale Earnhardt Jr. 'disappointed' to finish fifth

Dale Earnhardt Jr. knew he shouldn't be frustrated with his fifth-place finish in Sunday's NASCAR race at Phoenix International Raceway, but he just couldn't help himself.

So even though he didn't want to, Earnhardt Jr. still lamented about a race that he felt he let get away.

"We feel like we could have finished better than fifth, maybe won the race," Earnhardt Jr. said. "Just didn't get the breaks on pit road. We kind of got boxed in and picked on beating the No. 99 (Carl Edwards) off pit road. I think we could have beat him off pit road, but somebody was pulling in their stall in front of us, and just had to lift and give the spot to the No. 99."

Because Sunday's race was mostly about track position, Earnhardt Jr. referred to that incident as the moment where the race was won or lost.

"I was a little disappointed because I think we could have won," Earnhardt Jr. said. "And you hate to give away them points. And I'd love to get to Victory Lane."

That doesn't mean that Earnhardt Jr. wasn't satisfied with how the day ended. His fifth-place result accompanied with a runner-up finish in the Daytona 500 has Earnhardt Jr. off to the best start he's had to a season since joining Hendrick Motorsports in 2008.

"We haven't been good here, Earnhardt Jr. said. "This is a good sign for us though that we've improved this much at Phoenix. Hopefully it's a sign for the rest of the season and that we're going to be all right."

Because of his early season success, Earnhardt Jr. heads into next week's race at Las Motor Speedway tied for second in the standings with Brad Keselowski and just eight points behind Jimmie Johnson.

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Keselowski: Clean air is more important than ever

Brad Keselowski finished fourth in Sunday's Sprint Cup Series race at Phoenix. But the inability of the new car to pass in traffic has the defending champion thinking track position is more important than ever before.

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Denny Hamlin credits pit crew for podium finish

Denny Hamlin is pleased with his third place finish at Phoenix but credits his pit crew for giving him good track position. Hamlin still believes his team has some work to do if they are going to compete for the Sprint Cup Championship.

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Carl Edwards wins Subway Fresh Fit 500

Carl Edwards breaks drought with win in Subway Fresh Fit 500 at Phoenix International Raceway.

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Danica wrecks in Phoenix

On Sunday, Danica Patrick was unable to finish the race in Phoenix. Her tire blew, leading to a wreck.

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Phoenix NASCAR viewer's guide

Here are some storylines, notes and drivers to watch for during the NASCAR race at Phoenix International Raceway:

Storylines

Toyotas are fast, but are they reliable?

A recurring theme throughout last season was the continued engine reliability issues that hovered over the Toyota-powered teams. And specifically, it was an issue that inflicted the cars of Joe Gibbs Racing, who frequently saw its three drivers head to the garage with an expired motor.

While it's a small sample size the problem seems to have carried over to 2013, with Matt Kenseth, Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. all being befuddled with engine-related issues in the Daytona 500. For Kenseth and Busch it was particularly painful as the pair was running in the top three when their Toyotas started billowing smoke.

The woes continued this weekend as Denny Hamlin had to go to a backup engine after his team discovered a broken valve spring. This negated Hamlin's eighth-place effort in qualifying and will require him to start at the rear of the field.

And Sunday morning "human error" during a change of valve springs led to Busch's No. 18 team electing to also switch motors. Like Hamlin, Busch will be forced to go to the back of the grid, forfeiting his fourth-place starting position.

Nevertheless, while the Toyota engines may be problematic, they are certainly not lacking for speed. In every practice session and again in qualifying, the top of the leaderboard has been dominated by Toyota drivers.

Whether the engines are durable enough to last a full race distance is open for debate.

What can Danica do for an encore?

Following a historic Daytona 500 where she started on the pole, led laps and was in contention late, Danica Patrick set the bar high for herself as she embarks upon her rookie Cup season.

Yet as good as Patrick performed at Daytona, it has been the opposite thus far at Phoenix.

Throughout practice the No. 10 car was near the bottom on the speed chart as Patrick struggled with a Chevrolet that alternated between loose and tight. And in qualifying she placed 40th out of 43 cars.

However, all is not lost for Patrick.

In the event here last fall, Patrick -- like she did on Friday -- turned in a subpar effort in qualifying and started 37th. But in the race she was able to drive her way into the top 15 and ended the afternoon with a then-career-high 17th-place finish.

There is no reason why Patrick can't again do the same thing Sunday.

Worth Noting
  • If Jimmie Johnson wins the Subway Fresh Fit 500 he will join Marvin Panch (1957), Bob Welborn (1959), David Pearson (1976), Jeff Gordon (1997) and Matt Kenseth (2009) as the only drivers to start the year by winning consecutive races.
  • Nine of the last 13 races at Phoenix have been won by a driver starting in the top 10. However, in three of the last four races here the eventual winner started 13th or worse.
  • Joining Busch and Hamlin at the rear of the field will be Kurt Busch, who wrecked in qualifying. Despite going to a backup car, Busch was still able to post the fourth-quickest lap in final practice.
Favorites

1) Mark Martin

Mark Martin is in the midst of a 106-race winless streak with his last Cup win dating back to September 2009. That streak has an excellent shot of coming to an end Sunday, as Martin will start from the pole and posted the fastest lap in the second and third rounds of practice. He also ran just seven laps in final practice to smartly conserve his delicate Toyota power plant.

2) Kevin Harvick

If someone is going to topple the Toyota contingent, recent history points in the direction of Kevin Harvick. It was Harvick who led the most laps in this race last year and then went to Victory Lane in November.

3) Kyle Busch

After leading 237 of a possible 319 laps here in November and having the fastest 10-lap average in final practice, Busch would have been the obvious favorite. But a pre-race engine change puts Saturday's Nationwide Series winner to the rear. And on a track where passing can be tricky, it's going to be challenging enough for Busch to just get into the top 10, let alone Victory Lane.

Sleeper

With a win, a second and two fifth-place finishes in his last five Phoenix starts, there is no better choice for a sleeper than Ryan Newman.

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Reliability issues plague Toyota teams

A lack of engine reliability is continuing to hamper Joe Gibbs Racing and the Toyota-powered teams, as Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin each were forced to change engines prior to Sunday’s NASCAR race.

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Nascar Subway Fresh Fit 500 TV info & preview

Mark Martin sits on the pole for Sunday afternoon's race at the one-mile Phoenix International Speedway.

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Cup drivers should start in back of NNS races

Kyle Busch dominated the Nationwide Series race at Phoenix on Saturday, but some of the best racing occurred after he was trapped in the back of the field. As a result, NASCAR should consider starting all Cup regulars in the back of each race.

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Busch dominates at Phoenix for 52nd Nationwide win

Kyle Busch was dominant en route to winning the Nationwide Series race at Phoenix International Speedway.

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NASCAR updates Daytona crash investigation

NASCAR has updated its investigation into the Daytona Nationwide Series crash that injured 28 spectators.

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Travis Pastrana on drafting at Daytona: 'Holy cow'

For extreme sports star Travis Pastrana, running in the draft at Daytona was an eye-opening moment.

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2013 NASCAR Weather Forecast for Phoenix

The NASCAR Weatherman, Meteorologist Brian Neudorff, looks at this weekend's weather forecast at Phoenix International Raceway

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Mark Martin speeds to pole over Hendrick duo

Mark Martin bested Kasey Kahne and Jimmie Johnson to win the pole for Sunday's NASCAR race at Phoenix International Raceway.

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Danica Patrick keeping expectations 'realistic'

As the Sprint Cup Series heads to Phoenix, Danica Patrick isn’t expecting another weekend like the one she had at Daytona.

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SUBWAY Fresh Fit 500 qualifying begins Friday

Denny Hamlin is going for his second-consecutive victory at this event.

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NASCAR Phoenix 2013 weekend schedule

Denny Hamlin will aim to win the Subway Fresh Fit 500 for the second year in a row.

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2013 NASCAR Weather Forecast for Phoenix

The NASCAR Weatherman, Meteorologist Brian Neudorff, looks at this weekend's weather forecast at Phoenix International Raceway

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