This weekend the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series is back in action at the Phoenix International Raceway. The eighth race of the 2009 season, things are beginning to heat up around the cut off for the top-35 in owner points. With forty-eight cars on the preliminary entry list for this weekend’s Subway Fresh Fit 500, thirteen go-or-go-home cars will be vying for eight spots.
On the bubble this weekend is Raybestos Rookie of the Year contender Joey Logano. Following a 30th-place finish two weeks ago in Texas, the driver of the Joe Gibbs-owned No. 20 Home Depot Toyota dropped one spot in the owner standings. With only twenty-three points keeping him from being a go-or-go-homer, Logano is optimistic heading to one of his favorite tracks on the circuit.
“I love Phoenix,” Logano explained. “It could be one of my favorite tracks, if not the favorite. There’s just something about it — I took to that place great. I ran the Camping World West race there and won. I should have won the Nationwide race there last year as we’ve been fast every time we’ve been there. I did the tire test there and it’s just a place that I seem to take to real good. It’s got two different ends — one is real sharp and you have to keep working on your forward drive off that one, and the other is sweeping, more like a New Hampshire corner. It’s cool and it wears out your tires quite a bit and you have to be smart out there with your tires. I enjoy that place a lot.”
The man chasing Logano and looking to make his way back into the top-35 is David Gilliland and his TRG Motorsports team. Only twenty-three points separates Gilliland from the top-35.
Behind Gilliland in 36th is the No. 8 Earnhardt Ganassi Racing Chevrolet. Team officials announced recently the team has been shut down due to a lack of sponsorship funding. The iconic number made famous by Dale Earnhardt Jr. will be vacant from the track this weekend and the following weekends unless the team is able to find a company willing to support their cause. By not competing, this team will simply fall down the standings and allow others – like Scott Speed in 37th – a better shot at clawing their way back into the top-35.
For the other rookie contender, the season has not gone exactly according to plan. Speed has struggled in the opening stages of the season and was unable to make the show two weeks ago in Texas. Ninety-six points behind Logano in 35th, Speed needs to step it up as the season is about to enter a long stretch of racing. He is not out of the picture by any means, but better runs and more efficient qualifying efforts are in order if he wants to get the No. 82 Red Bull Toyota back in the top-35.
On the safe side of the top-35, Paul Menard was the big mover leaving Texas. A thirteenth-place finish bumped the driver of the No. 98 Yates Racing Ford up three spots in the owner standings to 32nd.
Coming off a disappointing 39th-place finish in Texas, owner/driver Robby Gordon fell three spots to 34th in the standings. Now just forty-four points ahead of Gilliland, Gordon has suffered back-to-back engine failures and is looking to turn his season around in the desert.
Those thirteen drivers required to qualify for Saturday night’s race include; Brandon Ash, Trevor Boys, Sterling Marlin, Scott Riggs, Jeremy Mayfield, Dexter Bean, Todd Bodine, Dave Blaney, David Gilliland, Tony Raines, Regan Smith, Scott Speed and Joe Nemechek.
Qualifying for the Subway Fresh Fit 500 at the Phoenix International Raceway is scheduled for 7:10pm E.T.
Be sure to check back to http://HardcoreRaceFans.com for the latest updates and to see which drivers make the show and which make the long trip home early.
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