The 'Last Dance' At Old Phoenix
Phoenix International Raceway in its current configuration -- one-mile oval, narrow frontstretch and dogleg -- was essential to the creation and continuing success of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.
The Feb. 5, 1995 Copper World Classic, an 80-lap race, marked the debut of the then-NASCAR SuperTruck Series by Craftsman, NASCAR's third national series now in its 17th season.
Friday's Lucas Oil 150, the track's 21st NCWTS race, is the "last dance" for series competitors. Phoenix is getting a complete make-over, including compound banking, following this weekend's NASCAR events and effectively will be a brand-new challenge when series competitors return in 2012.
Here's a look back at series highlights in the Valley of the Sun. A pair of iconic NASCAR figures -- Dale Earnhardt and Richard Childress -- shared the spotlight in the track's first race. Earnhardt's driver Ron Hornaday Jr. won the pole and Childress' Mike Skinner scored a .09-seconds victory over former NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Terry Labonte. Skinner became the series' first double winner when the trucks returned in November. Jack Sprague won three consecutive races in 1996-97, his first championship coming in 1997. Hornaday, in 1998, became the third (and last) driver to win at Phoenix in a championship season. Series champions figure prominently in the track's victory log. The list of winners includes Skinner, Sprague, Hornaday, Mike Bliss, Greg Biffle, Todd Bodine and Johnny Benson. In sum, they have won 13 of 16 titles. The championship has been clinched three times at Phoenix in 1995, 2009 and 2010. Drivers in their 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s have Phoenix wins. Kyle Busch won in 2007 at age 22; Joe Ruttman won his second in 2000 at 55. Kevin Harvick is the most successful driver at Phoenix winning four times, consecutively in 2002-03 and 2008-09.
Rogers That: Clay In The Points Lead ... For Now
Clay Rogers finds himself in unfamiliar territory heading into Friday's Lucas Oil 150 at Phoenix International Raceway.
Rogers, making just his 21st start, finished a career-best third at Daytona, which earned him the series points lead. The 30-year-old's only other top five, a fourth, came at New Hampshire in 2005. (Click here for video of Rogers' thoughts on racing to the points lead.) Rogers isn't slated to run a full schedule, so the perch might change in the coming weeks.
The debut of NASCAR's new points systems gives Rogers a two-point advantage over Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender Miguel Paludo of Brazil. Fellow freshman Jeffrey Earnhardt and veteran Ricky Carmichael are five points off the lead.
Two drivers expected to contend for the championship were involved in one or more accidents during the Daytona race. Hornaday fared worst, finishing 28th. Hornaday seeks a fifth title. Bodine, a double Daytona winner, finished 23rd. They trail Rogers by 26 and 21 points, respectively. Only one driver finishing worse than 12th at Daytona has come back to win the title. Mike Bliss started the 2002 season with an engine failure and finish of 23rd.
Last week's season-opening race saw five Sunoco Rookie of the Year contenders finish among the top 20. Nine drivers thus far have filed for the 2011 rookie award -- the most since 2006. ... Jennifer Jo Cobb's sixth-place finish at Daytona marked the first time a female driver has cracked the top-10 barrier in the series. The previous highest finishing female was Tammy Jo Kirk, 11th at Topeka, Kan. in 1997. ... Drivers hoping to make their series debut in Phoenix include Dusty Davis, Justin Johnson and B.J. McLeod. Also entered is Greg Pursley, winner of last November's NASCAR K&N Pro Series West event. ... James Buescher, who led the most laps (55) at Daytona, will make his 50th series start at Phoenix. ... Chevrolet has won the last four and seven of the past nine series races at Phoenix. ... Matt Crafton will continue his role as spotter-coach for action sports star Travis Pastrana during Thursday night's K&N Pro Series West race. Crafton assisted Pastrana to a sixth-place finish in last month's NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown.
The Race: Lucas Oil 150
The Place: Phoenix International Raceway
Date: Friday, Feb. 25
The Time: 8 p.m. (ET)
TV: SPEED, 7:30 p.m. (ET)
Distance: 150 miles (150 laps)