The NASCAR Nationwide Series takes on Phoenix International Raceway tomorrow afternoon. The season started last week in Daytona, but it really starts tomorrow. There are only three races at Daytona and Talladega, so running well there won't tell you how your season may go. But Phoenix will.
Phoenix is a one-mile, flat, unique race track. It's always been unique, but since undergoing a repave last year the racetrack is even more unique. The dogleg on the backstretch was moved back from its original location and banking was also added. Drivers have described the new dogleg as a "rollercoaster" because you come out of turn two, go up the banking, down into the dogleg, back up the banking, and then down the banking into turn three. Another new feature on the backstretch is the lack of grass. There used to be grass on the apron, but that grass has been removed and replaced with a paved run-off area. Now, drivers can make passes through the dogleg on the actual racing surface or on the run-off area.
This is the second race for the Nationwide Series drivers since the repave and reconfiguration. The first race ended Elliott Sadler's championship hopes. He was making a pass on the run-off area through the dogleg, and he got spun when he came back onto the track before the entrance to turn three. That run-off area should definitely be a factor tomorrow afternoon.
Sam Hornish Jr. won his first Nationwide Series race here last November and is looking to repeat that performance tomorrow. He was tenth fastest in the first practice session Friday afternoon.
2011 Daytona 500 champion Trevor Bayne was fastest in the first practice session and is looking for his second career Nationwide Series win.
Defending series champion Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was fourth quickest on speed charts after practice one and right behind him was the driver he beat out for the 2011 championship, Elliott Sadler.
Of course, Danica Patrick is also in the race tomorrow as she will be in every race this season. Patrick was twenty-third quickest in the first practice session.
Last week's winner, James Buescher was sixteenth quickest in the first practice session, but he hit the wall hard in turn three and is forced to go to a backup car.
Scott Speed will attempt to make his first start of the season tomorrow. He failed to qualify in Daytona, but finished the first practice session today seventh quickest.
There will be six Sprint Cup Series drivers in tomorrow's race: Kasey Kahne, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, Joey Logano, Denny Hamlin, and Brad Keselowski.