Weather is on everyone’s mind big time at Phoenix International Raceway for the Spring NASCAR races. Friday was sunny but turned cold and windy.
Saturday’s weather forecast has changed a bit. Teams arriving at the track somewhat later than last year’s schedule still found the track to be 48 degrees F, completely overcast and windy. It’s possible Saturday’s predicted big rain storm won’t hit until evening. Along with that is the forecast of dust.
While dodging the bullet for Saturday’s qualifying for NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and Nationwide Series and 7th Annual Basha’s Supermarket 200 race, it would mean a green race track Sunday for the 7th Annual Subway Fresh Fit 500.
Unlike many road racing series, NASCAR does not have a morning warm-up before an afternoon race.
For all intents and purposes, the PIR Sprint Cup race was sold out before the weekend began. There are a few single tickets available, but they are hard to sell to gregarious NASCAR fans.
Last weekend’s Daytona 500 was the number one sporting event of the weekend. The estimated track attendance was 182,000, up +4% from 175,000 last year.
Fox TV coverage was up all around, with an avg. of 15.6 million viewers (+17%). It earned a 8.7 rating, up 13 percent from the 2010 rating of 7.7.
Last Sunday’s NBA All-Star Game had a 6.0 rating on TNT.
Saturday’s PIR NASCAR schedule is different than in year’s past. The first on-track session, NNS qualifying, wasn’t until noon.The Cup garage didn’t even open until 9:30 am. Plenty of time for all the crews to sleep in.
It was an eerie feeling to be in the Media Center or at the track mid-morning and hear no car noise.
Much has been made of the kid, TREVOR BAYNE, who won last weekend’s Daytona 500. He was all of 20 years and one day when he won his second-ever Sprint Cup race in the No.21 Woods Brothers Ford with retro graphics.
This weekend there is another, younger driver who is running in the Nationwide Series for the first time this year. He didn’t turn 18 until after the Daytona Speedweeks races. This weekend he’ll be racing No.15 Rick Ware Racing Ford. He’s declared for Rookie status,
While Hill wasn’t that fast in his two NNS practice sessions (thirty-first of 40 drivers in the first and thirty-second of 35 in the second), he did turn consistent laps. He was one of five NNS drivers who ran best ten consecutive lap averages in the first practice session, and one of seven in the second practice.
Newly wed KYLE BUSCH is on a roll. He got married New Year’s Eve, He’s the only NASCAR driver running all three top-tier races this weekend. Rowdy, one of his PG-rated nicknames, won Friday night’s Camping World Truck Series 7th Annual Lucas Oil 150 race, after starting second in No.18. On Lap 4- Busch took the lead from Pole Sitter and fellow Cup driver, CLINT BOWYER/No. 2 Chevrolet, and led all the rest of the way to the checkered flag on Lap 150.
Busch was second in the first NNS practice and second in the final session, where he also was the top driver in the seven who had the best ten consecutive lap averages.
In the Sprint Cup practices, Busch was fifth in the first session and tops in the second, and tops in the first session for best ten-lap averages.
The first U.S. President to ever attend a NASCAR race, RONALD REAGAN, will be honored Sunday. It is the Centennial year of his birthday and he was know to be a great fan of the sport. Prior to the start of Sunday’s Cup race there will be a video tribute. For those who are unable to attend the race, the video is available at www.youtube.com/reaganfoundation.
In wandering through the garages it struck me that it is getting harder, at least for me, to recognize a car as belonging to a specific driver without seeing the number. Part of it is not being able to recognize one marque from another without seeing the car badge. And gone are the years when a driver had the same single primary sponsor for the entire season. Now there are multiple sponsors at different races.
All this leads to widely and sometimes wildly covered cars with all kinds of graphics. Some are eye catching when viewed alone.
All photos by Lynne Huntting