IMPALA SS SET FOR THIRD RUN OF THE YEAR Subway Frest Fit 500, Phoenix International Raceway Avondale, Ariz. -- The new-generation Impala SS race car will make it's third run of the season this week when the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series tour stops at...
IMPALA SS SET FOR THIRD RUN OF THE YEAR
Subway Frest Fit 500, Phoenix International Raceway
Avondale, Ariz. -- The new-generation Impala SS race car will make it's third run of the season this week when the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series tour stops at Phoenix International Raceway for the Subway Fresh Fit 500 on April 21, 2007.
Hendrick Motorsports drivers Kyle Busch and Jimmie Johnson put Impala SS in victory lane at the first two rounds of racing in the all-new vehicle. Busch scored the inaugural win at Bristol Motor Speedway (.533-mile track) in his No. 5 CARQUEST/Kellogg's Chevrolet and Johnson followed suit at Martinsville Speedway (.526-mile track) in his No. 48 Lowe's Chevy.
With two half-mile track races in the hopper, NASCAR heads west to Phoenix for a little bit more room to race on the 1-mile oval in the desert. The teams recently tested at Richmond International Raceway in preparation for the longer track at Phoenix.
"Phoenix is going to be a whole different ball game with the new car," said Busch, who won at PIR in 2005. "Phoenix is a good place, I tend to run well there. There have been some good races there for us but some bad races as well. We'll just go out there and see how it's going to be for the new Impala SS on a bigger race track. We've got some confidence. We've got some know-how on what we need on our cars to get the job done but I know it changes every week."
This week, the spotlight is on Richard Childress Racing drivers Kevin Harvick and Jeff Burton, who have also had success at Phoenix. Harvick, pilot of the No. 29 Shell-Pennzoil Chevy, took both race wins at PIR last year is ready to make another strong showing.
"Phoenix has been good to us over the years," said Harvick, the '07 Daytona 500 winner. "We won both Cup races last year; and won a Busch race and finished second in the other. Phoenix is one of those places I grew up racing on and have a long history there. I have been fortunate to have had a lot of success there and look forward to going back.
"The Impala SS will be a lot different setup-wise than Martinsville or Bristol. Jeff (Burton) went out there to do the tire test and he said it drove better than the car he raced there last year. I think people are making a bigger deal of it than they have to. Obviously we will have some kinks to work out but I think that is the responsibility of the drivers and the teams to make the cars better and in the end, it is safety first. That's where we started."
Fresh from last Sunday's win in at Texas Motor Speedway in his No. 31 Prilosec OTC Monte Carlo SS, Burton has also earned two wins at the Phoenix track (2000, '01). He's not worried about switching back to the Impala SS this weekend.
"We're going to go back and forth from one car to the other throughout the year," he said. "That's a challenge for us as teams to overcome. I'm comfortable with it. The overall game plan was right and the only way to execute that game plan is to alternate when you're in the cars. I'm not really paying much attention to what car I'm driving; I'm just trying to make it go around the track as fast as I can. And I think that's probably what everybody's doing."
Dale Earnhardt Jr. has also won twice at PIR (2003, '04) in his No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet and is looking forward to running there again. "I was really encouraged by how well we've done in the first two races with the new race car. I think everyone in the garage is anxious to see how this new car reacts on a track that's longer than the two short tracks we've raced on so far. We've been able to find some things in the set-up that the Impala SS seems to respond to, so I'm anxious to climb in and get out there."
Mark Martin, who is running a part time schedule this year in the No. 01 U.S. Army Chevrolet opted out of the first two races in the new Impala SS vehicle, but will be in Sunday's line-up at Phoenix.
"It will be my first race in the new car but I've done three or four tests with the U.S. Army team," said Martin, who won at Phoenix in 1993 and has more top-ten finishes there than any active driver (14). "I don't know exactly what to expect. Our testing has been a little bit disappointing to me. Really to be honest with you we haven't tested as well as we did with the regular car and we've raced much better than we tested with the regular car so if we race better with the new car than we tested then we'll do well. I had the option of going or not going to Phoenix. Sure I want to go. I love going out there. I like the race track. I love the fans there and their support and I look forward to working with this whole team on sort of a new challenge, especially for me, with the new car."
Jeff Gordon, the current Nextel Cup Series point leader, is ready to take his No. 24 DuPont Impala SS to victory lane at PIR. The track is one of only three active facilities on the tour that has eluded the four-time NASCAR champion, and a win there would be tie him in total career victories with the late Dale Earnhardt.
With seven of 36 rounds of racing in the books on the '07 tour, Team Chevy has dominated the competition with six wins. Seven of the top 10 in the point standings are Chevy drivers, and Chevrolet leads all other makes in the Manufacturers' Cup chase.
-credit: gm racing