Photo Credit: Robert Laberge/Getty Images
AVONDALE, Ariz. — After a turbulent opener at Daytona, the NASCAR Nationwide Series moves on to Phoenix International Raceway for the Blue Jeans Go Green 200.
39 cars are entered for the second round of the Nationwide season; Sprint Cup drivers Matt Kenseth, Brad Keselowski, Kyle Larson, Kyle Busch, and Kevin Harvick will be running the companion event to Sunday’s The Profit on CNBC 500.
While the odds may appear to be stacked against the Nationwide regulars, the past history of this event indicates that full-time Nationwide drivers have been able to score the victory at the track. Elliott Sadler won the spring race in 2012 and Sam Hornish Jr. won the fall race in 2011.
Joe Gibbs Racing has dominated this track in recent years and has scored the last three victories at the track, with Busch in the No. 54 sweeping last year’s races here. Busch is the current king at Phoenix with six of his career Nationwide Series wins coming from the one mile track. His average finishing position over his last five races at the track is 3.6, a statistic that leads all competitors entered for the race.
Gibbs has also entered Kenseth in the No. 20 and Sadler in the No. 11 for the event. Sadler has been hit-and-miss at Phoenix in recent years; while he did win here for Richard Childress Racing in 2012, he has never cracked the Top-5 since. Kenseth, on the other hand, has proven to be a strong performer here in the Nationwide Series. In 13 career races at Phoenix, he has finished inside the Top-10 11 times; Kenseth also has one victory here that came in the 2006 fall race.
Brad Keselowski in the No. 22 Discount Tire Mustang has stringed together some impressive runs at the track as well. His average finishing position over the past five races here is 6.8; in his last five races here he has only finished outside of the Top-10 once. Keselowski is yet to win at Phoenix, although going off his past results at the track he just might be able to breakthrough and take his first victory.
Trevor Bayne, driver of the No. 6 Advocare Mustang, has also impressed in his most recent performances at the track. He has finished in the Top-10 in his last four Phoenix races with an average finish of 6.0. A strong showing here tomorrow can potentially deliver him his third career victory in the Nationwide Series.
The spring race at Phoenix has never gone caution-free, the average number of cautions the nine runnings of the 200-lap event has had over the years is 8.1. The fewest amount of cautions the race has had in its history has been three. Given these statistics, expect a fair amount of cautions to be on the cards tomorrow.
The racing surface in the turns does not provide much room for side-by-side racing, however, that doesn’t mean the drivers won’t attempt it. We’ll be witnessing plenty of beating and banging throughout the race tomorrow as 40 modern gladiators will battle it out for the race victory at Phoenix.
Will Busch make it three-in-a-row for himself and four-in-a-row for Joe Gibbs Racing? Will a Nationwide regular such as Sadler or Bayne snag themselves a victory? Will Regan Smith still be the points leader after the checkered flag waves? The answer to these questions we will find out when the dust settles at the conclusion of the Blue Jean Go Green 200 at Phoenix tomorrow.
The Blue Jean Go Green 200 airs live on ABC tomorrow beginning with pre-race coverage at 3:30p.m. EST.