Tony Stewart has already said the stuff surrounding Kyle Busch has been just fine for him, allowing him time out of the spotlight and time to prepare for the two weeks to come. He sits only 3 points behind Carl Edwards, and although he hasn't had all of the consistency the Carl has, he has momentum. Four wins out of the 8 run so far is bound to work in his favor. He has the desire that no other driver has. For the first time since Alan Kulwicki did it years ago, he could be the first owner/driver to win a Championship. And even though he made the top ten in NASCAR's bad boys, he also seems to have a the majority of fans cheering for him. Judging by the number of people I've noticed on other websites with the same, or similar, logo as I, "I'm With Smoke" has been a very popular promotional event. I haven't seen a single person with a "Go Edwards" logo.
Carl has also been rather quiet this week. He claimed that he simply wasn't worried about Smoke, and that the other drivers lurking behind Tony were the drivers he was more concerned about. He expressed confidence in
Matt Kenseth starts the race from the Pole. Of course, with the rain in Phoenix (yep, rain in the desert) all the rubber from the two races yesterday has been washed away. With the new configuration, drivers say there is only one groove around the track. Passing, they say, is next to impossible. Could this mean that Kenseth is in the best position to win the race? Well, of course there will be several pit stops before the race is done, probably a few cautions, and of course, there will be some passing. The track was a fun one to race before, and was a good show for the fans, and judging by Sam Hornish's victory yesterday in the Nationwide Race, the track hasn't changed all that much. Sam has won at Phoenix before in the IndyCar series and in fact, got his first IndyCar win at the track in 2001. If he can race well here, even with the new configuration, and the pavement, surely one of the Sprint Cup drivers who has won here before can do the same.
Coincidentally, Carl Edwards has the fastest qualifying record at Phoenix prior to the new configuration, while Tony has the fastest race win. Carl Edwards and Ryan Newman are the only non-Hendrick winners at the track in recent history. Does that give Carl an advantage? Well, Tony has won here as well, earlier in the the previous decade, and with his teammate, Ryan, showing recently that he knows how to get around the track, does that give Tony an advantage?
And what of Kevin Harvick? Looking at the stats at Phoenix, Happy's name is conspicuous in its absence. If you know Harvick, though, that little fact will only make him try harder. He hasn't been too positive in the last few days about what the race holds for him, but come race time, I'm betting he'll pull out all the stops.
So there you have it. The race is about to get underway, and we hardly mentioned Kyle Busch. As it should be, there is a lot to talk about that doesn't involve him. And the good thing? With his probation, and the threat of an indefinite suspension if he does anything considered questionable by NASCAR, he should be on his best behavior and not be a factor in the finishing positions of others, as he was in the spring race. Oh, in case you were wondering, he had contact with Carl, resulting in a 38th place finish for Edwards.
My pick for the race is Smoke. I just can't believe he's peaking at this time of the season, and working his ass off the way he is to falter now, when it really counts. I can't help but think Carl is a little too complacent.
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