One of the best things about NASCAR races in Las Vegas and Phoenix is that you don’t have to worry much about the weather except maybe the hot temperatures.
At Friday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series event, it was cool compared to the Cup Series race the next day. The track was 30 degrees warmer on Sunday, but the weather had little effect on either race.
For the first time this year, the NASCAR Xfinity Series won a new winner with Austin Cindric putting his # 22 Penske Mustang in the winner’s circle. This was followed by Martin Truex Jr., who became the fifth different pilot this year in the NASCAR Cup series, beating Joey logano in his No 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Camry. It was also his first victory since Martinsville Speedway last June. He is the second JGR driver to hit a ticker in the NASCAR playoffs after Christopher Bell just won on the Daytona Road Course.
Read also: How Martin Truex Jr. won in Phoenix
But there were several other developments from the NASCAR weekend that require some attention while not making the headlines. So here’s a look at the NASCAR weekend at Phoenix Raceway.
A NASCAR driver in reverse?
The season has started off well. By winning the Daytona 500, Michael McDowell secured his place in the NASCAR playoffs, leaving the rest of the season to just drive and collect as many bonus points as possible. So much for those shots after five races.
McDowell followed up his Great American Race victory with an eighth and sixth, respectively, at the Daytona Road Course and Homestead-Miami Speedway. A P17 in Las Vegas was thought to be an anomaly, but it was P23 in Phoenix on Sunday.
When it comes to collecting playoff bonus points, he doesn’t have any. He has not won a stage in any NASCAR race. As for the stage points, he has precisely four. He’s tied with Cole Custer and Matt DiBenedetto, with only Aric almirola (3) and Ross Chastain (2) behind him.
It’s still early days, but the trend must worry Bob Jenkins, owner of Front Row Motorsports. His other car, driven by Anthony Alfredo, is struggling with a better finish of the P22 season. A fall of 87 laps ended his day on Sunday. However, McDowell was getting his props for the early season success, and there was talk of him having a great season. Now?
As NASCAR returns to the East Coast, the next race will be at Atlanta Motor Speedway, a track that hasn’t been good for McDowell. In 10 starts at the Georgia site, his best score is twice P22 and he has an average finish of 33.8. Maybe he can look to the Bristol dirt run to get things back on track.
Justin Allgaier saves JR Motorsports, but …
It’s tough to celebrate a first top-10 of the season, but Justin Allgaier almost saw that go away in the last two rounds of the NASCAR Xfinity Series Call 800 Before You Dig 200. Reboots are always chaotic at Phoenix Raceway, and even if he was supposed to be in first place, he used the rule of choice to line up behind the race leader.
When the green flag waved, the mad rush began and Allgaier got help getting into the wall, ending his chance to win. He would complete a disappointing P8, but given how his season has unfolded, he’s as close as he has been to finding his way to victory. It’s also a lot better than his teammates at JR Motorsports.
As a team, JRM struggled to come out the door with a top-five (Noah Gragson in Las Vegas) and top-ten six across five NASCAR Xfinity events. The dark cloud that followed the team hovered over Phoenix, with three of the four cars failing to reach the end of the contest.
Noah Gragson was the first to come out after 67 laps with a burnt out engine marking his third DNF of the season, finishing P39. His crew didn’t know this was a problem until they saw him on the Fox Sports 1 feed. Michael Annett would also lose an engine after racing in the top 20 for most of the race. He reached lap 93 for his second DNF.
Josh Berry had a day he’d like to forget. He has four starts in NASCAR Xfinity and has more top 10 (2) than any other JRM driver, but it would be a series of calamities that would end his day after scoring a P8 at the end of Stage 2.
At the end of the race he came for the serve and had to return to the pits due to loose legs. He was then bagged for speeding. He restarted P31 in the back with slower cars, and you can pretty much guess what happened next. It was his second DNF accident.
It’s hard not to be followed when you’re not finishing the races. In nearly half of JR Motorsports’ starts (four cars, five starts), the team has so far had nine DNFs. To paraphrase a song from the long-running TV show Hee Haw, “If it wasn’t for bad luck, they wouldn’t have luck, sadness, despair and agony on me at all.”
A NASCAR (fire) and Ty combination, what’s next for the prodigy?
It doesn’t seem like his first victory in his first NASCAR National Series start was a fluke. Some people thought Ty Gibbs had his Daytona Road Course run behind his last name. These same people have no problem with NASCAR drivers who aren’t quite ready for prime time because they have sponsors to bring with them. It’s a strange position to take, but Gibbs got his chance because he deserved it.
It’s safe to say; Ty Gibbs is the real deal. The child wins and wins and wins. Put it in a car and point it at the checkered flag. How are these numbers?
- NASCAR K&N Pro Series East – Six starts, one win, six top-five.
- NASCAR K&N Pro Series West – One Start, One Win.
- ARCA Menards West – Two starts, one win, two top-five.
- ARCA Menards East – Six starts, one win, five top-five.
- ARCA Menards Series – 29 starts, nine wins, 21 top-five, 25 top-10, including a win and a fourth in two races this year.
Gibbs won Friday at the Phoenix Raceway at ARCA and started the NASCAR Xfinity Call 800 Before You Dig 200 on Saturday. He wasn’t in an enviable position from 27th place, but that didn’t stop the 18-year-old. At the end of stage 1, Gibbs was P10. End of stage 2, he gains a place in P9. He raced forward in the last stage, but it was the final restart that put him in a position to win again.
The # 54 Supra avoided the usual Phoenix reboot chaos (see Justin Allgaier above) and walked away unscathed and had Austin Cindric in its sights. Gibbs was about five car lengths behind at the White Flag and closed the gap so as not to be at the end.
“It was a learning experience more than anything,” Gibbs said in a Toyota version. “I’m just learning how these things run on the ovals, but I’m so thankful to be here. I cannot thank (sponsor) Pristine Auction enough. Just a short place.
You can bet that Ty Gibbs will be present at the end of many NASCAR races in the future.