What a difference a day made at Phoenix International Raceway after the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series rolled into the garage late Thursday afternoon. In quick order, all the teams were setup and busy at work. By the time the Cup garage closed at 7pm, the teams were ready to go first thing Friday morning and the wonderful smell from the infield Pinon wood RV camp fires permeated the air. All was good.
Friday morning it was all hustle-bustle getting through Tech. The No.88 Chevrolet of last weekend’s Daytona 500 winner, DALE EARNHARDT Jr, could hardly be seen for the swarm of photogs surrounding it.
Meanwhile, in the Media Center and behind some of the haulers, selected drivers were being shuffled in and out for media availabilities, Q&A. photo ops and all. NASCAR polls the media at the prior race as to whom they would like to have, plus developing story lines – such as the prank Pepsi Max commercial done by JEFF GORDON/No.24 Chevrolet. NASCAR compiles, notifies and publishes the Media Center Interview List on Monday prior to the race weekend. The hauler chats are set-up by the teams, which can cause for some conflicting interviews.
Friday’s weather is mild and cloudy with a desultory breeze. The clouds were slated to be cleared by 1pm, with sunny afternoon and a high of 81 degrees F. We’ll see. The TV talking heads keep talking about the rain possibilities and what will happen to Qualifying if that happens.
The ninety-minute Sprint Cup practice session went relatively uneventful. The top driver changed from time to time, but at the end, DALE EARNHARDT Jr/No.88 Chevrolet jumped up to the top from P27 where he had been. His lap of 1:38.010 is a tenth of a second faster than the track record. His car was in the garage for quite a while, almost invisible from the mobbing media. As soon as the session ended, literally the sun shone.
Previous top drivers included Rookie PARKER KLINGERMAN/No.30 Toyota and GREG BIFFLE/No.16 Ford.
At the end of the session, second through tenth were JOEY LOGANO/No.20 Ford, KYLE BUSCH/NO.18 Toyota, Biffle, Rookie AUSTIN DILLON/No.3 Chevrolet, Rookie KYLE LARSON/No.42 Chevrolet, CLINT BOWYER/No.15 Toyota, MARTIN TRUEX JR/No.78 Chevrolet, PAUL MENARD/No.27 Chevrolet, and ARIC ALMIROLA/No.43 Ford.
Qualifying begins at 4:40pm local time, three hours after the end of practice.