Phoenix: News of note, schedule

Phoenix: Teams Must Find The Right Setup Although Phoenix International Raceway is one of three 1-mile oval tracks in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series, it has characteristics unlike any of the others. The track has different banking in Turns 1 and 2...

Phoenix: Teams Must Find The Right Setup

Although Phoenix International Raceway is one of three 1-mile oval tracks in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series, it has characteristics unlike any of the others. The track has different banking in Turns 1 and 2 than in Turns 3 and 4. It also has a 'dogleg' in the backstretch that makes navigating the track more difficult.

In addition, this will be the first Car of Tomorrow race at a 1-mile track. So what will be expected?

First and foremost, teams need to take their information from the recent Richmond test and try to find the right setup. Teams that can find the right package will be able to get out front.

Look for teams to put in a lot more practice laps on Thursday and Friday as they try to find the right combination for the optimum car setup.

Teams with the best car setups will be able to come out of Turns 2 and 4 in better shape than their competitors. The teams that can turn the center of the corners better will be able to generate good forward traction coming out of the corners and build momentum for the straightaways.

Locked In: Sauter-Driven Chevrolet Holds Important 35th Position In Owner Points

Johnny Sauter's (No. 70 Yellow Transportation Chevrolet) 22nd-place finish at Texas Motor Speedway was good enough to keep his team in the top 35 in NASCAR NEXTEL Cup owner points and guarantee a starting spot in Saturday night's race.

The Gene Haas-owned team holds the 35th, and final, guaranteed starting spot for the third consecutive week.

Also important for the team was that Ken Schrader finished 31st in the No. 21 Motorcraft Ford owned by Glen Wood. Because of the 27-point differential in Sunday's race, Sauter and Haas were able to open a comfortable lead in the point standings over the Wood Brothers Ford.

Scott Riggs and the No. 10 Valvoline-Stanley Tools Dodge owned by Jim Rocco hold the 37th position in the owner standings, 43 points behind Sauter.

In The Loop: Kevin Harvick's 2006 Sweep Makes Him Loop Data Leader

The timing is perfect for Kevin Harvick (No. 29 Shell/Pennzoil Chevrolet).

After finishing 41st at Martinsville and 29th at Texas, Harvick has fallen out of the top 12 for the first time this season. But hope -- in the form of a 1-mile oval -- is on the horizon.

Last year, Kevin Harvick made Phoenix International Speedway his playground.

In winning both Phoenix races last year, Harvick led 262 laps, accumulated impressive numbers and solidified himself as a championship contender.

Harvick sits atop the leader board in a variety of stats.

Beyond that, Harvick posted top-five rankings in Fastest on the Frontstretch, Turn 1, Turn 3, Turn 4 and Speed in Traffic. Over the past four Phoenix races, Harvick turned the fastest lap 103 times, which is second only to Greg Biffle's (No. 16 Ameriquest Ford) 194. What makes last year's dominance all the more clear, is that the stats and rankings include sub-par finishes of 19th and 23rd in 2005.

Biffle is another driver to watch this weekend in Phoenix. Though his average finish over the past four Phoenix races is just 23.0, Biffle has performed well -- he notched a second-place finish there in the second race in 2005.

Biffle has the second highest pre-race Driver Rating (114.7) and has led more laps at Phoenix over the past four races there -- 342 -- than any other driver.

Biffle's Roush Fenway Racing teammate Carl Edwards (No. 99 Office Depot Ford) is another driver who has turned in stellar performances at Phoenix over the two years. Edwards' average finish over the past four Phoenix races -- 5.5 -- is the best of any driver and he hasn't finished lower than seventh in any of those races.

Edwards has a fifth-best Average Running Position of 9.516 at the mile-long track and a fifth-best Driver Rating of 106.4. His speed figures also stand as some of the fastest on the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series. He ranks in the top 10 in Fastest on the Frontstretch (sixth), Backstretch (second), Turn 2 (first), Turn 3 (second) and Turn 4. His 89 Fastest Laps run are fifth-most and he has the fastest Green Flag Speed at Phoenix. He also has 1,069 Laps in the Top 15, which is fifth-most.

Edwards' passes at Phoenix are key and timely. He's tied for the top "Closer" at Phoenix -- he has improved 12 positions in the last 10% of the four races. Also, his 105 Quality Passes -- passes of cars in the top 15 under green flag conditions -- are second only to Ryan Newman's 111.

Montoya Takes The Lead In Raybestos Rookie of the Year Standings

Juan Pablo Montoya (No. 42 Texaco/Havoline Dodge) finished eighth at Texas Motor Speedway to regain the lead in the Raybestos Rookie of the Year Standings. Montoya leads David Ragan (No. 6 AAA-Show Your Card & Save Ford) by four points, 81-77. The finish was Montoya's second top 10 of the season and moved him to 13th in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series standings.

Paul Menard (No. 15 Menard's Chevrolet), finished 15th at Texas, his highest finish of the year, and is in third place with 43 points. David Reutimann (No. 00 Domino's Toyota), 37 points, and AJ Allmendinger (No. 84 Red Bull Toyota), 22 points, did not make Sunday's race.

Off-Track Happenings

Joy Ride

Casey Mears (No. 25 National Guard/ GMAC Chevrolet) will trade in his stock car for a Super Dual Sport Dune Buggy for a few days this week. Mears will not be competing in an off-road race, rather will spend a few days riding around the Glamis Sand Dunes in Southern California.

"It's just a way for me to play and relax away from the track," Mears said. "I love the West Coast, and I always try to take advantage of any opportunity I have to spend a few days out there, especially when I can get to the dunes and tear around a little bit."

Mears got a custom-built dune buggy at the end of 2006 with a GPS, full-blown stereo system and two-way radio.

Helping Hand

Kenny Wallace (No. 78 Furniture Row Chevrolet) will join brother, Rusty, for the newest episode of "NASCAR Angels", which will be filmed in Phoenix this week. The show gives deserving families, who help in the community, an opportunity to meet their NASCAR heroes while their vehicle is fixed by Angel Automotive Technicians.

This week, the Wallace brothers, and NASCAR.COM reporter Shannon Wiseman, will be helping T/Sgt. Keith Brown of the U.S. Air Force. T/Sgt. Brown has managed deployment of 147 armed convoy missions into Iraq and recently returned from a tour of duty.

The Nominees Are ...

Jeff Burton (No. 31 Cingular Wireless Chevrolet) attended the 2007 CMT Music Award Show on Monday night in Nashville, Tenn. Burton presented the Video Director of the Year Award along with country music artists Blake Shelton and Taylor Swift.

NASCAR Podcasts

Every week NASCAR produces Podcasts available through NASCARmedia.com and iTunes. Mondays feature a race recap from the previous event and includes driver interview post-race audio. Tuesdays we look ahead to the next race with a statistical preview featuring NASCAR's Manager of Statistics, Writing and Production, Mike Forde.

Brett Bodine joins us Wednesdays for a look at the upcoming venue, providing insight and analysis. This Thursday we will feature a media profile Podcast of Jim Gintonio with the Arizona Republic for an insider's view of the week-to-week NASCAR beat. In addition, a crew-member profile of Phoenix-native Pierre Keutel (crew chief for Carl Edwards in the NASCAR Busch Series) will come out on Friday.

On Deck: Aaron's 499 at Talladega Superspeedway

The NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series will head to Talladega Superspeedway for Race No. 9 on Sunday, April 29 for the Aaron's 499 (FOX, 1:30 p.m. ET).

Jimmie Johnson won last year's race, his first win at Talladega. Elliott Sadler (No. 19 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge) sat on the pole for the third time at the track.

***

Next Race: Subway Fresh Fit 500

The Place: Phoenix International Raceway
The Date: Saturday, April 21

The Time: 8:30 p.m. (ET)
TV: FOX, 8 p.m. (ET)

Track Layout: 1-mile oval
Distance: 500 kilometers/312 miles/312 laps

Purse: $4,961,431

2006 Winner: Kevin Harvick
2006 Pole: Kyle Busch

Phoenix Pre-Race On-Track Schedule (local/PT time): Thursday -- Practice, 12:45- 2:15 p.m.; Qualifying, 5:10 p.m.; Friday -- Practice, 1:30-2:20 p.m.; Final Practice, 4:50-5:50 p.m.

-credit: nascar

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Juan Pablo Montoya
Teams Roush Fenway Racing