This weekend's race in Phoenix will feature 63 extra laps - in hopes of more strategy coming in to play. I am always for longer races, but it seemed that there was enough strategy in the past. Anyway, I have decided my new way of previewing the upcoming races is to show how the current chasers have fared at the upcoming track. The first driver we will look at is our 12th place driver, Brian Vickers
12. Brain Vickers - Phoenix is not a good track for Brian. His best finish here was 5th back in 2005. Since then the best he was able to do was 11th the next year. Vickers has also crashed out in two of the past three Phoenix races.
11. Paul Menard - I am still shocked that Menard has been a chaser for three straight weeks. There is not much to say about his track record here, other than all of his finishes have been in the 20's.
10. Dale Earnhardt Jr. - Junior had 4 straight top 5's from 2002-2005 (they ran only race a year until 05). In the five years since, he hasn't scored a single top 5. If you look deeper though, Dale has been strong the past two spring races - he almost won in 2008. He looks to have improved a little over last year and should be competitive this weekend.
9. Clint Bowyer - Phoenix is not know as one of Clint's better racetracks - he has only 3 tops 10's and 21 laps led in 9 starts here. His best finish in the desert was the spring race in 2008 when he finished second.
8. Tony Stewart - Tony won his first race here back in 1999 but has not won in the 15 races since then. Still, this is a decent track for Tony - he has 7 top 5's and 9 top 10's. He also has no DNF's and has led a total of 312 laps, the exact number of laps they had been running here.
7. Jeff Gordon - Since Jeff got his one and only win here in 2007, he hasn't finished better than 9th. Overall Gordon is pretty consistent in Phoenix and once had 18 consecutive top 20 finishes. This means that from 1994 to 2008 Gordon finished no worse than 17th in any Phoenix race.
6. Kurt Busch - Kurt has seen both good and bad times at Phoenix - he won the spring race in 2005 but didn't even race in the fall because of some off track issues that occured in Arizona (reckless driving). Right now Kurt is on a bit of a Phoenix hot streak with 3 consecutive top 10's and has lead at least 60 laps in all three of these races.
5. Jeff Burton - I knew Jeff was good here, but get this - in Jeff's first three races, his best finish was 23rd. He has finished in the top 15 in every race since, going all the way back to 1996. On the contrast, Jeff hasn't led a single lap since his second victory in 2001.
4. Kevin Harvick - Phoenix is only one of two tracks (Chicago being the other) that Kevin has more than once on. Other than his 2006 season sweep though, Harvick has run rather poorly with only one other top 5. It will be interesting to see how he will do this weekend as this is the strongest season he has had since 06.
3. Matt Kenseth - Kenseth did win here back in 2002 and has 4 more top 5's to go with his win. The past two seasons have been a struggle though with finishes of 38th, 15th, 27th, and 18th. Like Harvick, Kenseth seems to be stronger this year so I will be curious to see if he can be a top 5 car this weekend.
2. Greg Biffle - The best way to describe Biffle's history at Phoenix is inconsistent. He has finished second twice, but has also had several mediocre runs as well. It has been a good year so far for Greg as he is the only driver this season yet to finish outside the top 10.
1. Jimmie Johnson - I mentioned earlier how impressive it was that Jeff Burton hasn't finished outside the top 15 since 1996. Almost equally impressive is the fact that Jimmie Johnson has never finished outside the top 15 since he started racing in 2002. There are several other things to be said - Phoenix is Johnson's best track statistically with a 5.1 average finish. Yes, even better that Martinsville and Fontana. One other thing to point out - of 4 of Johnson's wins have come with the wing. Now that the wing is gone we will find out if this allows the others to catch up.
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