NASCAR makes its second stop of its yearly West Coast Swing at the Phoenix International Raceway.
The weekend started off strong for three drivers in particular – Joey Logano, Chase Elliott, and Kyle Larson. While all three drivers are still searching for their first win of the season, PIR has always been an equalizer for drivers to shine in a possible uncommon area for them. There is no track on the circuit like Phoenix. While the track has undergone some changes over the past few years, PIR has always showcased some fantastic finishes, great racing, and surprise events.
The No.22 Shell/Pennzoil Ford led the field to the green flag and the 312 lap event commenced.
Logano set the pace early in the Camping World 500 – claiming the Stage 1 win, and precious bonus points towards NASCAR’s playoffs. Teammate Brad Keselowski, who was coming off a pole position and a 4th place finish at Vegas, found himself set back early with pit road problems with a rear tire gun. The Stage was highlighted by fantastic three-wide and sometime four-wide racing around PIR, especially in the “dog-leg” section of the track on the backstretch. Stage 1 only featured one caution with Reed Sorenson and Corey LaJoie making contact. 2017 Daytona 500 winner Kurt Busch would find himself pitting unscheduled for a battery issue for the second straight week. Busch would be held one lap for speeding on exit.
When the race resumed, another driver who showed strong performance during practice would reveal himself as a contender – Chase Elliott. At lap 85, Elliott would take Logano and Larson three-wide entering turn 1 to take the lead away from Logano. Larson and Elliott, two young talents in the sport, would exchange the lead six times during Stage Two, which would result in Chase Elliott claiming the Stage victory. As for Logano, he would be caught speeding when entering the pits on lap 118.
As the final stage commenced, Elliott would set the pace for the next 44 laps. Lap 192, the first big name would have tire troubles. Matt Kenseth, who was adorning the infamous Tide colors once again, blew a tire exiting turn four and had a violent hit against the front stretch wall. Kenseth would walk away okay, but his No. 20 TidePods Camry was destroyed. Kyle Busch would take the lead at 194 during pit stops from Kenseth’s tire. Kyle Busch would gain the lead after the caution and hold the lead until lap 306. Pole Sitter Logano would blow a tire entering turn one, bringing out a caution.
In comes Ryan Newman, who was looking to end Richard Childress Racing’s 112 winless drought. Luke Lambert, Crew Chief for Newman, made the call to stay out on old tires in hopes of a short run. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. would also stay out, looking to bring Roush Fenway Racing back to victory lane. In hot pursuit was Kyle Larson, who finished second in both stages.
On the restart, Larson would look to dive under Newman entering turn one, but Stenhouse had his Fusion just beneath him, resulting in contact. Larson would save the car, but Newman was getting away. While Larson tried his hardest, Newman would park his #31 Chevrolet in Victory Lane. The No. 31 car has visited victory lane since the 2011 Budweiser Duels at Daytona. Newman would park it also for the first time since the 2013 Brickyard 400. Larson would finish second, but the day belong to the Rocket Man.