The reconfiguration project at Phoenix International Raceway included a repave and several modifications to enhance the quality of racing in time for the 2011 Chase race. The front straightaway was widened, and the famed dogleg reconfigured, to allow side-by-side racing. While the corners remained shallow like the old setup, variable banking was installed to further open things up. For many drivers, the biggest adjustment has been the elevation change caused by the new banking coming into the unique dogleg and through Turn 3.
Practice sessions: Friday, Feb. 28 at 3:00 p.m. EST. Saturday, March 1 at 12:00 p.m. EST, 3:00 p.m. EST
Qualifying: Friday, Feb. 28 at 7:40 p.m. EST
Race: Sunday, March 2 at 4:00 p.m. EST
Location: Avondale, Ariz.
Length: 1.0 mile
Turns 1 & 2: 10-11 degrees
Turns 3 & 4: 8-9 degrees
Frontstretch: 3 degrees
Backstretch: 8-9 degrees
Joey Logano | No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Ford | Team Penske
Since Phoenix underwent the repave and alternations, Logano has recorded an average running position of at least 16th in all five races. He placed 11th or better on three occasions but has left quite a bit on the table. Logano ran well in the fall of 2012 but was collected in a late wreck. Last March, the No. 22 team had a possible top-10 run spoiled when they ran out of fuel with five laps remaining. Logano rebounded for the Chase, however, qualifying third and finishing ninth after leading 33 laps.
Kurt Busch | No. 41 Hass Automation Chevrolet | Stewart-Haas Racing
This week will mark the fourth different team Busch has raced for in six Phoenix starts. He had a chance to win the 2011 Chase race with Penske but ran out of the fuel. The following year, Busch placed 15th with Phoenix Racing and eighth with Furniture Row Racing. Last March, he was in position for a top-10 but lost the handle of the car after a late pit stop and would suffer damage brushing the wall. Busch would return in the Chase to place fifth. Since loop data was introduced in 2005, Busch ranks fourth among all drivers in average running position.
Ryan Newman | No. 31 Quicken Loans Chevrolet | Richard Childress Racing
Old surface or new surface, Newman continues to find success in the desert. Newman scored five top-five finishes at Phoenix in six starts from 2010-12, highlighted by a victory and runner-up performance in 2010. Last year, Newman crashed in the March race but finished 10th in the fall after pacing 31 laps.
A.J. Allmendinger | No. 47 Clorox Fraganzia Chevrolet | JTG Daugherty Racing
Allmendinger has competed at Phoenix a total of nine times in his career since 2008 and owns a respectable 15.7 average finish. He has qualified on the first row on three occasions and placed inside the top 10 for both 2011 races. Allmendinger did not have a ride for last year's Chase event at Phoenix but piloted an underfunded No. 51 car to an 11th-place finish in March. PIR is on a short list of places to consider using the 'Dinger in deeper formats.
Matt Kenseth | No. 20 Home Depot/Husky Toyota | Joe Gibbs Racing
Kenseth was just seven points out of first heading into last year's Phoenix Chase race. In order to stay in the championship hunt, with two races left, the No. 20 team needed something big for one of Kenseth's worst tracks. Unfortunately, they placed 23rd with a bad car and a bad pit stop late in the race to go down 27 points heading into the season finale. While Kenseth placed seventh in this race a year ago, it was his first top-10 at Phoenix since 2010.
Clint Bowyer | No. 15 5-hour Energy Toyota | Michael Waltrip Racing
Bowyer has managed only a pair of top-10s at PIR over the last seven races, placing 20th or worse in all the other starts. Among the tracks where Bowyer has made more than eight starts, his career average finish of 17.1 at Phoenix is his second-worst effort. Last week's blown engine certainly doesn't help Bowyer's case for PIR.