Kasey Kahne & Kenny Francis
Kasey Kahne & Kenny Francis

Artist Bill Patterson painting the winner's car
Artist Bill Patterson painting the winner's car

KASEY KAHN/No.4 Red Bull Toyota won the 24th Annual Kobalt Tools 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup race Sunday afternoon at Phoenix International Raceway. This was his first victory in more than two years – possibly not his favorite stat. He won the September Atlanta Motor Speedway race in 2009. Kahne now has 12 Cup wins.

Kahne thanked all the fans for coming out to the track. “It was really, really cool. The track was slippery early, but as the tires built heat and got rubber on the track, the Goodyear tires came in pretty good. It ended up being a great race. I’m really excited.”

The Red Bull team for whom Kahne currently races is disbanding at the end of the season. Red Bull is pulling out of NASCAR, and no known potential buyer for the team has been mentioned. Kahne is going to Hendrick Motorsport next season, replacing MARK MARTIN/No.5 Go Daddy.com Chevrolet – who has other plans as his career winds down.

Carl Edwards & Tony Stewart
Carl Edwards & Tony Stewart

No matter who was leading, the focus seemed to be on points leader CARL EDWARDS/No.99 Aflac Ford, and Chaser, TONY STEWART/No.14 Mobil 1/Office Depot Chevrolet. They finished second and third, respectively, with Kahne’s Margin of Victory 0.802 seconds.

Each of the two Chase Championship Contenders led laps: Edwards – twice for 27 laps; and Stewart – five time for 160 laps, to earn the extra bonus point for leading the most laps.

Unofficially the points standing show Edwards on top by three points ahead of Stewart, 2359 to 2356 – same as they were coming into PIR. It’s the tightest battle going into the finale. The only way Edwards can win the Chase is to win the HMS race, no matter where Stewart finishes. Stewart has the best tie breakers – better finishes. He could tie Edwards and win via tie breakers, giving him his third NASCAR Cup Championship.

All other drivers are officially eliminated from championship contention.

JACK ROUSH, owner of Edwards’ car, is leading the Owner Points, by three points over MARGARET HAAS, owner of Stewart’s car.

Carl Edwards & Tony Stewart
Carl Edwards & Tony Stewart

They’re each looking forward to the Homestead season’s finale on the one and a half speedway. Edwards said “It’s a good track for passing. Stewart said he “doesn’t care what the others (41 Cup drivers) do, just don’t do it around us.” Smoke teased the media, saying they were the drama networks, making much more out of the scenario than the two of them were feeling.

Both drivers said they seem to do better with the competition of each other. Edwards said “It will mean more to us if we beat Tony Stewart, because he performs so well it makes us perform better.” Stewart said “It’s been a fun battle.”

Stewart had the best average time on pit road – 41.908 seconds, followed by Edwards with 41.962 seconds.

Fourth and fifth were JEFF BURTON/No.31 Caterpillar Global Mining Chevrolet and RYAN NEWMAN/No.39 U.S.Army Veterans Day Chevrolet, who improved the most places – 25; and also, along with crew chief TONY GIBSON, the Moog Chassis Parts Problem Solver of the Race.

Sixth was A.J. ALLMENDINGER/No.43 Best Buy Ford. He started second, and cycled up and down the top ten most of the race, scrapping away every time he was washed backwards. His crew chief, GREG ERWIN, won the DIRECTV Crew Chief of the Race award.

Seventh through tenth were DAVID REUTIMANN/No.00 TUMS Toyota; MARCOS AMBROSE/No.9 DeWalt Ford, Petty teammate of Allmendinger-started third and ran high and in the top ten much of the race; PAUL MENARD/No.27 Peak/Menards Chevrolet; and CLINT BOWYER/No.33 USO/Cheerios/Hamburger Helper Chevrolet.

Pole Sitter MATT KENSETH/No.17 Crown Royal Ford was running well, leading 49 laps before being bumped by BRIAN VICKERS/No.83 Red Bull Toyota. Kenseth hit the dog leg outside wall. The TV broadcasters suggest that this could be Martinsville payback. Kenseth pits and is done, credited with P34/238 laps.

Kenseth was convinced it was “Retaliation for retaliation. It was so premeditated it just surprises me that they (NASCAR) didn’t do anything. I am disappointed, but I expected it. We aren’t racing street stocks at a quarter mile track, so they need to figure out how to get the drivers to settle their difference in a different way and talk about it or figure it out or do something instead of using your car as a battering ram somewhere this fast.” Kenseth said he wasn’t tempted to carry it on. “No, not at all. I don’t stoop to that level.” He doesn’t plan to do anything, or talk with Vickers. “We go race at Homestead.”

The sun shone brightly, the grandstands were awash in color, and many of the fans were sporting the gear of their favorite driver/team/sponsor. The estimated attendance was 85,000

There were plenty of (real) cautions plus one scheduled Competition Caution due to the rain-washed green track.
The Safety Car led eight times for 30 laps.

Twelve drivers were on the lead lap, of the 33 drivers still running at the checkered flag.

There were 14 lead changes among seven drivers.

KYLE BUSCH/No.18 Interstate Batteries Toyota suffered not one but two “catastrophic engine failures” this weekend. It’s terrible.”

Busch said the track was slick – you’re on tip-toes all the time. It’s tough, very tough, but some of us make it look easy, but it might be because ae’re all considered the best in the business.”.

No.18 Interstate Batteries
No.18 Interstate Batteries
No.18 Pit Cart
No.18 Pit Cart

KYLE BUSCH/No.18 Interstate Batteries Toyota’s engine broke on Lap 189 and pitted. It was on Thursday night that MARS, the parent company for M&M’s and primary sponsor for Busch’s car, asked for its name to be removed from the car for the remaining two races. Team Owner JOE GIBBS said that M&M’s would be back next year.

The last minute change necessitated some quick change artistry. The team and crew all had Interstate uniforms and livery Friday and the car was quickly redone graphically.

However, there was only so much that the team could do on such short notice, so much of the equipment still sported the M&M’s logo.

At 5:30pm local time, NASCAR announced all cars had cleared technical inspections. The two cars going to the R&D Center in North Carolina are No.48 Kobalt Tools/Lowes Chevrolet (JIMMY JOHNSON) and No.4 Red Bull Racing Toyota (Kahne.) Additionally three cars will have engines going to R&D – No.48, No.4 and No.99 (Edwards.)