After all the hullabaloo that followed the Daytona opening races in all three NASCAR classes this weekend’s Phoenix meeting sees what many consider to be the start of the season proper. Gone is the bump-drafting, at least until Talladega and the return to Daytona, and what we have now is straight car against car, driver against driver racing.
The Phoenix International Raceway one mile flat oval is in stark contrast to Daytona’s 2.5 mile tri-oval with banking no steeper than eleven degrees and from last week’s flat out blind the drivers now have significantly more input as they scrub off speed into the turns.
Friday night saw the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race, a two-horse race with Clint Bowyer leading the first forty-three laps until the pit stops during a caution caused by debris in turn three from Chase Mattioli‘s blown right front tyre. Kyle Busch came off pit lane in first place and was never headed again.
Clint Bowyer blamed himself saying he kept messing up the restarts after the many caution periods and was just unable to take the race to Busch despite finishing just 0.291 seconds behind him.
Towards the end of the race it seemed the trucks had difficulty keeping away from the wall with cautions shown on laps 102, 108, 133, 124,129 and 134 of the 150 lap race. Among the big names to fall victim to crashes were defending champion, Todd Bodine, Travis Kvapil, Brendan Gaughan and Ricky Carmichael.
With both Busch and Bowyer ineligible for points in the Truck Series the top point scorers were third to fifth place men, Ron Hornaday, Johnny Sauter and Austin Dillon.
The change in NASCAR points system and the need for drivers to register for just one Series in which to score points means the first four races of the season have had their winning drivers score zero points. Additionally a total of twenty-eight drivers have been awarded points for leading a lap but, again, not one of those points has gone to the man who led the final and winning lap. There is no guarantee that Saturday’s Nationwide Series driver will score points so it will possibly be the sixth race of the year, Sunday’s Sprint Cup Series race, that will finally see a driver take the forty-three points for first place, three for winning and one, possibly two, for leading.
Busch’s domination of the field gave him his 25th win in the Truck Series and he became the driver who is now the quickest to achieve twenty-five wins in any NASCAR series.
In the Camping World Truck Series Matt Crafton heads the points table one point ahead of Clay Rogers who has seventy with rookie Cole Whitt a further two points in arrears in third place. The Series now goes its own way with its next race at Darlington on March 12th.