On this website; rates start at $30/month; reach thousands of brand-loyal customers.|
Call 902.444.0703 for info.
Establish your online identity; starting at $295.|
Call 902.444.0703 for info.
Sunday, November 9
Phoenix Int'l Raceway
Johnson on Brink of Third Title After Phoenix Win
By Reid Spencer, Sporting News NASCAR Wire Service
AVONDALE, Ariz. (Nov. 9, 2008) -- Polesitter Jimmie Johnson played his own version of “Catch Me If You Can” Sunday -- and nobody could -- in the Checker O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 and in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
Though it took a green-white-checkered-flag finish to decide the race, the outcome was hardly in doubt, as Johnson dominated the race, leading 217 of 313 laps. Kurt Busch finished second, .295 seconds behind the two-time defending Cup champion.
With the victory, his seventh of the season, his third straight at Phoenix and the 40th of his career, Johnson widened his lead in the Chase to 141 points over fourth-place finisher Carl Edwards. If Johnson finishes 36th or better in next Sunday’s season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, he will join a club that currently has only Cale Yarborough as a member: drivers to win three straight Cup titles.
After a lackluster final practice session Saturday, Johnson and his crew chief, Chad Knaus, traded phones calls and messages on their laptop computers, trying to improve the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet.
|Crew chief Chad Knaus wishes Jimmie Johnson good luck before the start of the Checker O'Reilly Auto Parts 500.
“Those guys (the crew) were working for every little thing they could find to make this car better, and they made it the dominant car,” said Johnson, whose win also clinched Chevrolet’s 32nd manufacturers’ championship.
Of the 12 drivers who started the Chase, only Edwards has an outside chance to catch Johnson.
“I’m excited,” Johnson said. “I wish we could have left here and all we have to do is start (at Homestead), but Carl put up a great fight. They’ve been a strong, championship-caliber team all year. But as long as something doesn’t go crazy for us down in Homestead, we’re going to tie Cale -- and I can’t wait to start celebrating.”
Edwards knows his title hopes depend on major disaster for Johnson’s team.
“He (Johnson) did a great job,” said Edwards, who finished one position behind Roush Fenway Racing teammate Jamie McMurray. “It’s still possible, just not probable. We’ll just have to go there and hope that something happens. You saw it with the 24 today.” (Johnson’s teammate Jeff Gordon blew his engine Sunday and finished 41st.)
Denny Hamlin finished fifth, followed by Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, Jeff Burton and David Ragan.
For the first 273 laps, the race looked more like a coronation than a competition. Johnson easily put distance between his No. 48 Chevrolet and whatever car happened to be running second. After a restart on Lap 267, following a caution for debris in Turn 3, Johnson pulled away steadily from Kurt Busch until a massive crash in Turn 3 stopped the action on Lap 273.
The wreck left the No. 38 Ford of David Gilliland on top of the roof and hood of Scott Speed’s No. 84 Toyota, and NASCAR red-flagged the race for more than 17 minutes while the safety crew winched the cars apart. Gilliland and Speed were examined in the infield care center and released.
By then, Johnson already had locked up a five-point bonus for most laps led, as Edwards continued his slow, methodical climb from his 15th-place starting position, a run that must have seemed like a swim through molasses for the driver of the No. 99 Ford.
A succession of excellent pit stops, coupled with positions gained on the racetrack, left Edwards in the fourth position for a restart on Lap 267, but he was unable to gain another spot. Though there were four more cautions and four more restarts in the final 40 laps, Johnson, who led the final 95 laps, finished the event without a serious challenge.
Complete Race Results click here
Post-Race Driver Point Standings click here
Race Recap click here
The Race: Checker O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 presented by Pennzoil
Race Time: 4:45 p.m. (AT)
The Track: 1-mile oval
The Distance: 500 km/312 laps
TV: ABC, 4 p.m. (AT)
Radio: MRN, SIRIUS Satellite Radio
2007 Winner: Jimmie Johnson
2007 Polesitter: Carl Edwards
Pre-Race Schedule - local track time: Friday— Practice, 12-1:30 p.m.; Qualifying, 3:45 p.m. Saturday—Practice, 11:30 a.m.-12:15 p.m. and 12:50-1:50 p.m. (All Times Local — MT)
Year-To-Date Race Results & Driver Point Standings click here
Broadcast Times - AT*
Practice: Friday Nov 7 at 3 p.m. (ESPN2)
Qualifying: Friday Nov 7 at 6:30 p.m. (ESPN2 & Sirius Satellite Radio)
Final Practice: Saturday Nov 8 at 4 p.m. (ESPN2)
RaceDay: Sunday Nov 9 at 2 p.m. (SPEED)
Countdown: Sunday Nov 9 at 4 p.m. (ABC & TSN)
Race: Sunday Nov 9 at 4:45 p.m. (ABC, TSN & Sirius Satellite Radio)
*AT is one hour ahead of ET, i.e. if it's 2 p.m./AT - it's 1 p.m./ET...
Practice - Qualifying Notes - Starting Lineup
Jimmie Johnson won the Coors Light Pole Award for the Checker O'Reilly Auto Parts 500 presented by
Pennzoil with a lap of 26.721 seconds, 134.725 mph.
Complete Starting Lineup click here
- This is his 19th pole in 254 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races.
- This is his sixth pole and 27th top-10 start in 2008.
- This is his first pole in 11 races at Phoenix International Raceway.
- Jamie McMurray (second) posted his seventh top-10 start of 2008 and his fourth in 11 races at Phoenix
- Kurt Busch (third) posted his seventh top-10 start at Phoenix International Raceway. It is his 10th in 35
races this season.
- Regan Smith (21st) was the highest qualifying rookie.
- Drivers that failed to qualify include: Joe Nemechek.
Press Pass Post-Qualifying Interview With Jimmie Johnson click here
Saturday Final Practice Speed Chart click here
- Edwards Building Momentum Down Chase Stretch...Despite being nearly 200 points behind standings leader Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet) with four races left, Carl Edwards (No. 99 Office Depot Ford) never gave up hope of winning his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship. He spent his time at the track telling anybody who would listen that the battle would come down to the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Now, two races later, Edwards has done his best to back up his word. He won the last two races in rather convincing fashion and has cut Johnson’s lead in half with two races remaining.
The deficit is now 106 points heading into Phoenix International Raceway. Edwards sat on the pole for this race last year and led the first 87 laps before engine trouble knocked him out of the race. Johnson won the race to all but lock up his second championship.
Edwards’ back-to-back wins increased his season total to eight, tying him with Kyle Busch (No. 18 Pedigree Toyota) for the series lead. Johnson is second with six victories.
- Johnson Still Man To Beat...Carl Edwards may have momentum on his side, but Jimmie Johnson still holds a statistical edge in the championship matchup.
Johnson holds a sizeable points lead over Edwards, 106, and has seemingly mastered Phoenix’s one-mile track. Johnson has won the last two races at Phoenix and has finished outside the top 10 only twice in 10 attempts.
Edwards also has produced solid results at Phoenix, with three top fives and five top 10s in eight starts.
Johnson has an outside chance at clinching the title this weekend. He needs to gain 90 points on Edwards and 52 on Greg Biffle (No. 16 3M/Red Cross Ford) to clinch.
If Johnson finishes seventh or better in the next two races, he will clinch the title, no matter what another driver does.
- Gordon Looking For Win To Extend Streak...It is never easy for a competitor to go a full season without winning a race. It’s even harder when that competitor is a four-time champion who hasn’t gone winless since 1993. That is exactly the predicament Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet) is facing with two races left on the 2008 schedule.
Gordon currently holds the longest active season winning streak, winning at least one race (Gordon has actually won at least two) each of the past 14 years. His best chance to extend his streak comes this weekend at Phoenix, a track at which Gordon has the third-highest pre-race Driver Rating. He finished 13th there earlier this year, but has 15 top-10 finishes in 19 career starts, including a win in April 2007.
Gordon’s chances for victory at the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway aren’t as bright. Although Gordon has finished in the top 10 in seven of his nine Homestead races, the Miami track is one of two currently on the NASCAR Sprint Cup schedule at which Gordon has yet to win.
'If we don't win this season and then we don't win next season, I'm going to be very disappointed,” Gordon said. “And no matter what, I'm going to be disappointed. I'm looking long term instead of just short term and I've had an amazing career and won a lot of races. One winless season isn't going to be the end of it for us. We're here for the long term."
Although Gordon’s chances of extending his winning streak aren’t stellar, he is on the verge of two significant milestones. Gordon is currently 78 laps shy of passing Rusty Wallace for seventh on the all-time lap leaders list. In addition, Gordon needs 106 laps led to reach 20,000 in his illustrious career.
- Martin Hopes To Finish Job At Phoenix...Mark Martin (No. 8 U.S. Army Chevrolet) knows his team let one get away. The 49-year-old driver had one of the dominant cars at Phoenix International Raceway in April, leading 68 laps in what looked to be his first victory since October 2005. In the end, fuel strategy worked against Martin as crew chief Tony Gibson called him in for a splash of gas with 10 laps to go, relegating him to a fifth-place finish.
The finish has irked Martin enough that he changed his schedule to include another shot at PIR Victory Lane.
“We had a really, really fast car in the spring race at Phoenix and we are really looking forward to going back there this weekend,” Martin said. “We definitely had a car that could have won that race, and I know that Tony (Gibson) and the guys on the team feel like we have some unfinished business to take care of. Our goal is to go out with that win we have been looking for and hopefully we can finish the deal and put together a type of story-book ending in our last race this weekend.”
Martin traditionally runs well at Phoenix, with one win, nine top fives and 15 top 10s in 23 starts. After Sunday’s race, Martin will prepare for his full-time return to the series in 2009.
“I’ve really enjoyed the part-time schedule, but as soon as Phoenix is over, it will be time to shift gears back into full-time mode and going back to chasing that title one more time,” Martin said.
- Manufacturers’ Battle Comes Down To Wire...Only three points separate the top three manufacturers in one of the closest battles the sport has seen. After Toyota jumped out to an early lead behind Kyle Busch’s dominance, Chevrolet and Ford have come roaring back thanks to Jimmie Johnson and Carl Edwards.
Chevrolet has won the past five championships and 31 overall.
“We’ve certainly witnessed some outstanding competition on the race track this season and that’s reflected in the extremely tight battle we have going on for the Manufacturers’ Championship," said NASCAR Vice President of Competition Robin Pemberton. "The manufacturers have done a great job across the board in support of their race teams, and their commitment to excellence and to the sport has never been more evident. It’s one of the closest and most competitive races I can recall us ever having and it’s going to be exciting to watch how things unfold over these final two races.”
- Hornish Has Edge In Rookie Battle...Sam Hornish Jr. (No. 77 Mobil 1 Dodge) entered his first NASCAR Sprint Cup season with modest expectations, knowing the transition from open-wheel cars to stock cars would not be an easy one. Hornish set attainable goals for himself, including a top-20 finish in the standings and the Raybestos Rookie of the Year Award.
“Winning the rookie of the year award would be great just because the fact that you have only one opportunity to do it.,” Hornish said. “As long as you’re driving, you can come back and win a championship but you can’t win rookie of the year 10 years down the road. Regardless of what happens, I want to continue to learn and put ourselves in good position next year.”
Hornish has done just that. Although he is currently 35th in the standings, Hornish has positioned himself at the top of the rookie standings. He has been the Raybestos Rookie of the Race 11 times, including each of the last four races. After trailing Regan Smith (No. 01 DEI/The Principal Financial Group Chevrolet) for much of the season, Hornish passed him for the top rookie spot after Atlanta.
“It’s a tough battle because everytime I feel like I ought to be doing really good, I look in my rear view mirror and Regan’s there,” Hornish said.
- Bowyer, Webb Team Up In Phoenix...Clint Bowyer (No. 07 Jack Daniel’s Chevrolet) is teaming up with Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Brandon Webb to host a charity event at Phoenix International Raceway to benefit critically ill children.
Fans will have the opportunity to spend Thursday evening with the two athletes at PIR’s Octane Lounge. All proceeds from the event will be split between Victory Junction Gang Camp Kansas and Webb’s K Foundation.
IMPORTANT: All information, schedules and/or scheduled events is/are subject to change without notice. Please
check with the source to confirm.
© Copyright - CheckersToWreckers.com - All Rights Reserved.
Best viewed with Internet Explorer - 800x600 resolution.