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Phoenix: Two to Go!

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O.k. I made a mistake. Its mine and I own it. Last week when I said that Jeff Burton (31) was the only two-time winner at Texas I kind of forgot that Carl Edwards (99) won the spring race there making him a two-time winner as well and now after this past weekend Carl is the only three-time winner there. My apologies to those Carl Edwards fans out there – you are out there right? Because no one told me I was wrong in the first place.

Speaking of Edwards, he absolutely dominated that race last weekend and won by getting outlandish fuel mileage out of his Ford Focus. He went about 103 miles on a single tank of gas - that is almost unheard of. Even Edwards’ own teammate, Greg Biffle (16), was in disbelief after the race about the gas mileage that Edwards got.

Edwards was on a mission, and it paid off for him as he was able to significantly cut into Jimmie Johnson’s (48) point lead over him and with just two races left in The Chase Edwards is putting himself in position to give Johnson a run for his money.

Two weeks ago I wrote about the Chase not being over as anything can happen at any time to anyone, including to Jimmie Johnson and last weeks race was a good indication of that. With a bad call about the car’s set-up before the start of the race Jimmie and his Crew Chief Chad Knaus found themselves behind the 8-ball in a hurry and they were never really able to fully recover but they were still good enough in the end to be able to squeak out a 15th place finish.

This week at Phoenix International Raceway in the Checker Auto Parts 500 Edwards is going to try and catch-up to Johnson a little bit more. Personally, I don’t think he’ll get any closer here, unless Johnson gets caught up in someone else’s mess. Johnson’s Crew Chief, Chad Knaus, isn’t going to make the same mistake twice. Besides Johnson has an average finish of 6th at this track while Edwards’ average finish is 16th.

Phoenix is a 1.0 mile oval with a unique dog-leg in the back stretch. The corners are also different there where turns 1 and 2 have 11 degrees of banking while turns 3 and 4 have 9 degrees. The way the track is configured allows drivers to carry a little more speed into the first and second corners, but if the car isn’t set-up well and pushes coming off of turn two it will be into the wall in a hurry because of the dog-leg.

Turns 3 and 4 are a little more sweeping, but if the driver can’t through the those corners well by running close to the bottom fo the track he’ll loose a ton of speed and allow the cars behind to catch up to him going into turn 1 at the end of the straight-away.

The drivers to watch out for at this track are anyone in the Chase, especially Johnson (48), Edwards (99), Biffle (16), J. Burton (31) and Jeff Gordon (24). Gordon runs well at Phoenix and he is still winless this year. I have a feeling that Jeff might think of this as his last chance to score a win this season in order to gain some momentum for next year.

The person I’m going to be watching this weekend is Mark Martin who will be making his last start in the No. 8 DEI car this weekend. Mark is no slouch at Phoenix and in 22 races he has 1 win, 8 top 5’s and 14 top 10’s with an average finish of 9th. If the DEI team can get it together Mark just might be a factor near the end of the race.

Finally, if you are looking for something a little bit different than the usual Speed TV coverage you should check out Arizona Star’s Jaynelle Ramon’s blog as she will be at the track all weekend updating her site with great behind-the-scenes stories pictures and videos.