Many of the comments from the drivers over the races at Phoenix International Raceway (PIR) on the weekend was how bumpy the track was, and how difficult it was to drive. The turns at PIR make the cars tight through the corner, and the cars tend to get loose coming off the corner, and these conditions caused some tire wear. All of this combined to make for some great racing. Some of the best racing we tend to see is when the cars are hard to drive due to the track conditions and tire wear. There always seems to be beating and banging and inevitably some wrecks due to these conditions. Unfortunately these conditions have lead to many of the drivers who were predicted to be contenders this year way back in the points. It is doubtful that anyone would predict that Jeff Burton, Joey Logano, Greg Biffle, Jamie McMurray, Matt Kenseth, Kevin Harvick and Clint Bowyer would all be 20th on back in points two races into the season. Unlike last year when finishing dead last was worth seventeen percent of 1st place points, this year dead last is worth two percent of 1st place, and therefore gaining in the standings is going to be much harder to do. Count on it taking a few races before guys like McMurray, Biffle, Logano and Burton can fight there way up to the top 15 in points. It should be interesting to see the type of racing that we are going to see in the fall when we return to PIR during the chase as PIR had the bulldozers on the track within hours of the conclusion of the race preparing for a repave and reconfiguration of the track.
That's right, PIR will have a new surface and configuration when NASCAR returns in the fall during the chase. It really is too bad, I think that the track probably would have withstood a few more years with the current pavement and lead to some very exciting racing. The track promoters are saying however, that the new configuration will lead to a lot of side by side racing right away as they are instituting progressive banking at the track. This means that the outer lane of the track will be banked about one degree steeper than the inside lane which will allow the car on the outside a little better grip through the corners, meaning the car on the outside should be as fast as the car on the inside taking the shorter way around the track. The configuration of the track will also change as they will push the 'dog leg' up the track about 100' which will shorten the radius of the dogleg. In the past drivers have been able to make a late entrance to the dogleg turn which allows them to have a straight shot into turn 3 from the centre of the dog leg. By moving the dogleg back the track it will force the drivers to turn more going down the back stretch of the track and is supposed to make the track more difficult to drive. It will be interesting to see what type of tire compound Goodyear brings to PIR in the fall, hopefully it will be one that gives up easily. We'll know more once Goodyear conducts a tire test there in the fall. I hope that we don't see a tire similar to what we saw on the new pavement at Daytona this year. The tire at Daytona was so durable that handling at the track wasn't an issue and teams hardly had to change tires all weekend long. The common refrain was that the tires had so much grip it was incredible. It seems to me that the less grip a tire has, the harder the cars are to drive and the more exciting the racing is. So here's hoping that the repave and reconfiguration works out and that Goodyear brings a tire that gives up throughout a run and that the 2nd last race of the season is just as exciting as the 2nd race was.
This weekend NASCAR goes to Las Vegas, home of the Brothers Busch. Kyle has a great record at Las Vegas, so look for him to have another dominating weekend. Kurt's record is a little more spotty, though he has been running well this year, and he tends to have some decent success on the intermediate tracks. When picking your fantasy teams this weekend, the usual suspects on the intermediate tracks are the guys to pick, but don't forget about some of the new guys. This year so far has been full of surprises, I look for a couple of guys to have top ten runs that maybe nobody has been looking at so far. Good luck and viva Las Vegas!