CLINT BOWYER/No.15 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota was fastest during Happy Hour practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Phoenix International Racing. His best lap – Lap Three – was 26.694/134.862 mph.
Second through fifth were JEFF GORDON/No.24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, KURT BUSCH/No.78 Furniture Row Chevrolet, DALE EARNHARDT Jr/No.88 Hendrick Motorsport Chevrolet, and Chase Contender MATT KENSETH/No.20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota.
Sixth through ninth were JOEY LOGANO/No.22 Penske Racing Ford, KYLE BUSCH/No.18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, KEVIN HARVICK/No.29 Richard Childress Racing, and CARL EDWARDS/No.99 Roush Fenway Racing Ford.
Pole Sitter/Points Leader JIMMIE JOHNSON/No.48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet finished tenth. His methodical Crew Chief, CHAD KNAUS, worked and reworked various settings in and out of the garage.
There could be a reason that Harvick had the fastest 10-lap average of 133.709 mph – he ran the third most laps overall – 57.
The driver starting his thousandth NASCAR race – JEFF BURTON/No.31 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet, turned the most laps overall-70, and ended up in twenty-second place. Like Bowyer and many other fast drivers, Burton’s fastest lap was his third. He will start Sunday’s race in fifteenth position.
After Sunday’s AdvoCare 500 race, Burton’s sponsor, Cat Global Mining aka Caterpillar, will be giving away his driver’s suit.
In a Friday media conference, Burton played it close to the vest about his plans going forward. He joked that he and the other two veteran racers might go to Las Vegas and make a movie about three old guys. The veteran racers to whom Burton was referring – who may be cutting back on their racing – were MARK MARTIN, who has ‘retired’ multiple times, and BOBBY LABONTE.
Being a bit more serious, Burton said he decided this year “to step back a little bit and take myself out of the mental habit of being at the race track every single weekend, and look at things from a broader view. Kind of ‘hey what else is out there’ in the racing world so to speak. The last several months have been really interesting. I have been offered some things that were just crazy that I can’t talk about today, but there were some really interesting things that have come my way. I’m having meetings with people currently about doing stuff with them that are real exciting, but I don’t know. We will see. I will be involved in the sport. There is a place for me. I want to be here. I feel like I can contribute so I would be surprised if five years from now I wasn’t still involved in the sport.”
In the meantime, Burton’s young son, JEB BURTON, is in his second full season with the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. The twenty-one year old has had seven poles this season and his first victory in June at Texas Motor Speedway. His average finish is 11.700 and he’s led 289 laps.