It was sunny, breezy and down right cold Friday at Phoenix International Raceway for the first of three days for the NASCAR race weekend. The clouds are white and fluffy, but dire weather forecasts are being heard. The local prognosticators mention the S word, as in snow. For sure at this point rain is a possibility for both Saturday and Sunday, and the temperatures will drop.
GREG PURSLEY/No.26 Ford won his second Phoenix NASCAR K&N Pro Series West 3 Amigos Organic Blanco 100 at PIR race Thursday night, after starting second. Pole sitter BRENNAN NEWBERRY/No.39 Chevrolet had a time of 26.962/128.746 mph. However he went out early one during one of the accidents, to finish thirty-third, 36 laps down.
The race ran 100 laps, punctuated with lots of cautions and one red flag. There were ten lead changes among five drivers. The last run to the checkered, which was less than 15 laps, was exciting with leaders swapping positions.
Twice champion of the NASCAR Canadian Tires stock car series, ANDREW RANGER/No.35 started fourth and finished seventh, having been shuffled back from the lead in the waning laps.
There were three other Canadians in the field, including the 2010 Canadian NASCAR champion, CARL HAAR.
Action sports star and Rookie, TRAVIS PASTRANA/No.99, qualified tenth in his first-ever NASCAR race, and ran as high as seventh, before finishing twenty-fifth, three laps down, after being hit by another car. Pastrana suffered a flat tire and body damage, necessitating a pit stop for a quick fix-up.
Newberry went out early, finishing thirty-third and 36 laps down.
Twenty-four drivers finished on the lead lap.
After their race, the West Series had to literally pack ’em up and move ’em out. They had to leave Friday night, as they were occupying the Cup garage area.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series haulers came in at 5 am Friday and by 9 am they were all set up and running their cars through Scrutineering. The NASCAR Nationwide Series and Camping World Truck Series had moved in Thursday.
This year the schedule has changed so that the Sprint Cup Series qualifies on Saturday instead of Friday, a move not necessarily universally accepted.
The Sprint Cup Series has 45 entries for the 43-car field, including last weekend’s surprise Daytona 500 winner – TREVOR BAYNE/No. 21 Ford and one of five drivers ineligible for Driver Points in this series. Eight drivers must qualify on time to make the race (Go or Go Home Guys). BRIAN KESELOWSKI/No.2, older brother of ‘Bad Brad’ – BRAD KESELOWSKI/No.2 Dodge, won’t have much competition for Rookie of the Year, being the only declared Rookie for the season.
Nationwide Series has only 40 drivers entered for its 43-car field, and of those, six are ineligible for points (read that Cup drivers). This year NASCAR has mandated that a driver must declare which of the three top tier series he/she will run for points. Ten NNS drivers are Go or Go Home. Four are Rookies – JENNIFER JO COBB/No.79 Ford; TIMMY HILL/No.15 Ford; BLAKE KOCH/No.81 Dodge; and RYAN TRUEX/No.99 Toyota. And yes, he’s the younger brother of Cup driver, MARTIN TRUEX, Jr/No.56 Toyota.
NNS has two female drivers, Cobb, and DANICA PATRICK/No.7 Chevrolet.
Having the most over-subscribed and most diverse field this weekend is the Camping World Truck Series with 41 entries for the 36-truck field. It has one female driver, JOHANNA LONG/No.20 Toyota.
There are two Truck drivers not running for points, both Cup drivers. There are 15 drivers who have to qualify on time including past champions RON HORNADAY/No.33 Chevrolet and MIKE SKINNER/No.45 Toyota, veteran Truck driver, RICK CRAWFORD/No.73 Chevrolet; and Pursley.
Nine Rookies in the Truck Series include JEFFREY EARNHARDT/No.1 Chevrolet – grandson of Dale Sr, nephew of Dale Jr, and son of KERRY EARNHARDT, and two drivers from Brazil – MIGUEL PALUDO/No.7 Toyota; and NELSON PIQUET, Jr./No. 8 Chevrolet – former Formula One driver and son of Formula One Champion, NELSON PIQUET.
Not a Rookie with a variety of NASCAR rides and running a full Truck Series this year, former Formula One driver, MAX PAPIS/No.9 Toyota aka ‘Mad Max’, hails from Italy. But his Brazilian ties are his wife TATIANA, who is the daughter on Formula One Champion, EMERSON FITTIPALDI.
Friday schedule calls for Trucks first, final and only practice first thing in the morning, then qualifying and a 150-lap race at 6 pm local time.
NNS has two Friday practice sessions, as does the Cup Series. Both series hope to qualify Saturday before the anticipated rain.