DIVERSITY AND FULL FIELDS

It’s sunny and crisp Friday at Phoenix International Raceway. Perfect fall weather for NASCAR racing. As the day progresses it will warm up nicely. During NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice at noon, the garage asphalt was 92 degrees with ambient in the high sixties, but felt warmer.

There are lots of cars in each of the four NASCAR Series. The Sprint Cup Series has 46 cars and there are 49 entries for Nationwide Series. Each series will start 43 cars. Sprint Cup has no Rookies but 17 drivers who have to qualify on time. The NNS has four Rookies with 19 drivers having to qualify in the top 36 to make the field. NNS also has a lot of cross-over drivers – 15 from Cup, mostly ‘regulars’ and two from the Camping World Truck Series.

The Truck series has 36 trucks for a 36 truck field, with three Rookies and 11 cars who have to qualify based on time. Three of its four cross-over drivers are regulars in the Cup Series, and the other is running – at least for awhile – in the K&N series.

The K&N Pro Series West had 44 entries for the 40-car field. Two have already withdrawn due to bad car damage after hitting the wall in separate incidents.

The fields are becoming more diverse, having nothing to do with the NASCAR Diversity program.

JPM

JPM just before first practice. Photo by Lynne Huntting

The Sprint Cup Series has two foreign drivers: MARCOS AMBROSE/No.47 Toyota from Australia, who had raced and won V8 Supercar championships; and Colombian JUAN PABLO MONTOYA/No.42 Chevrolet, who came from CART/IRL and won the 2000 Indianapolis 500. His most recent series prior to coming to NASCAR was Formula One.

Another ex-Formula One driver is SCOTT SPEED/No.82 Toyota. His background is open wheel racing.

Other open wheel road racers moving to NASCAR: A.J. ALLMENDINGER/No.43 Ford, who was taking no prisoners in

Michael McDowell's car

Michael McDowell's car just before practice. Photo by Lynne Huntting

CART before he abruptly moved to NASCAR; and MICHAEL McDOWELL/No.46 Chevrolet was the 2004 Star Mazda champion and then moved to ARCA and up the NASCAR ladder. This weekend he’s also running in the NNS race.

Terry Labonte's car

Terry Labonte's car ready for practice. Photo by Lynne Huntting

There are two sets of siblings in the Cup race: Two-time Winston Cup Champion TERRY LABONTE/No.81 Dodge and 2000 Winston Cup champion, BOBBY LABONTE/No.09 Chevrolet. NNS has a set of brothers, Cup regular MARTIN TRUEX, Jr/No.00 Toyota and little brother RYAN/No.99 Toyota.

The K&N Series has three Canadian drivers and two are brothers, DARYL HARR/No.2 Chevrolet and CARL HARR/No.71 Chevrolet.

The other Canadian is ANDREW RANGER, who hails from Montreal. He’s also an emigre from open wheel racing, have run in the Toyota Atlantic series and won Rookie of the year. He then ran CART and became the youngest CART podium finisher with a second in Monterrey Mexico. Ranger now runs stock cars, having won in K&N Pro East. He also was successful in the Canadian stock car series, and also runs the K&N Pro Series West.. He qualified nineteenth for the Saturday K&N race.

The K&N female driver, TONI MARIE McCray/No.90 Chevrolet, will start thirty-fourth.

Running his third K&N race this season is PATRICK LONG/No.9 Ford. He was a bit tired before qualifying – mega jet lagged actually. The (only American) Porsche factory driver had just flown in from Zhuhai, China where he competed in the 1000 km International Le Mans Cup race and finished first in class. Long had gone straight to China from Germany, where he had tested the new Porsche hybrid at the Nurburgring. Long had flown directly to Germany from Australia where he ran two V8 Supercar races on the streets of Surfers Paradise. From China Long came straight to Arizona. From here he spends a week with Porsche at the LA Auto Show. Then more races including a 25-hour endurance race at Thunderhill Raceway Park in Northern California.

Long has run three K&N races this year and won the Portland round. He qualified twelfth for the PIR race, in a field of 44. Long also won an ARCA race last year. He feels it’s good for him to try and race as much as he can in a variety of cars. That’s what he does – races.

Four women are racing in three series. While there still is no female Cup driver currently or on the horizon, NNS has one, Trucks have two, and K&N has one.

The K&N Pro Series has the day off Friday. NNS had two practice sessions: JUSTIN ALLGAIER/No.12 Dodge was fastest in the first session out of 49 drivers, and COLE WHITT/ No.84 Toyota went almost two seconds faster in the second session, which had 45 drivers. Playing with numbers, DANICA PATRICK/No.7 Chevrolet was P31 in the first practice and P13 in the second.

Carl Edwards' car

Carl Edwards' car prior to being first in practice. Photo by Lynne Huntting

Sprint Cup Series had one practice prior to its Qualifying session. CARL EDWARDS/No.99 Ford was fastest, with REGAN SMITH/No.78 Chevrolet; TONY STEWART/No.14 Chevrolet; KYLE BUSCH/No.18 Toyota; and new Nationwide Series champion, BRAD KESELOWSKI/No.12 Dodge rounding out the top five.

The Camping World Truck Series also qualified Friday afternoon. It’s Lucas Oil 150 Race starts at 6 pm local time.

Rookie AUSTIN DILLON/No.3 Chevrolet has the Truck pole position, followed by MATT CRAFTON/No.88 Chevrolet, Cup regular CLINT BOWYER/No.2 Chevrolet, another Cup regular, KYLE BUSCH/No.18; and JOHNNY SAUTER/No.13 Chevrolet.

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