Showdown in the Desert: Subway Fresh Fit 500 Race Recap
By: Billy Tewes
The second stop on the Nascar Sprint Cup Schedule takes us to the Phoenix International Raceway. Carl Edwards and his #99 Subway team would conquer the one mile oval and win a race for the first time in nearly two seasons! After starting 15th, Edwards came out of the gate slow, but by lap 120 cracked the top 5. On the final pit stop, Edwards’ pit crew had the fastest two tire stop and would leape from 4th to 1st. Edwards would then outlast 2013 Daytona 500 winner Jimmie Johnson for the final 78 laps of the race. Edwards’ pit crew put him in position to win and that pit stop would be the difference maker for Edwards.
The big story line heading into Phoenix was how well the newly designed cars would handle at a downforce track (one-two mile ovals). In 2013, Nascar redesigned the car template (dubbed “generation 6 car”) so that the manufacturers could build cars that handled better and created better racing. Much like Daytona, the drivers continued to complain about an aero push when attempting to pass. Aero push is caused by a drastic change in air flow when one car approaches another and this push was key to the limited amount of passing at Phoenix. Drivers just couldn’t pass without sliding up the track and almost wrecking. The #18 car of Kyle Busch was a perfect example as he spun out trying to pass earlier on.
The surprise of the week happened a few days before the actual race. Mark Martin, driver of the #55 Aaron’s Toyota was fastest in qualifying and started from the pole position. The 54 year old Martin is the second oldest driver to start from the pole position (oldest being Harry Gant). Martin couldn’t capitalize on his starting spot as he would end up finishing 21st. Traditional Nascar fans like myself take pride in seeing a 54 year old driver like Martin still succeed years after he once “retired” in 2005. I think Mark could possibly race until he’s 60. Now that would be something else!
As a race fan, I believe the Subway Fresh Fit 500 was worth watching. While there wasn’t a lot of passing, there was still a lot of close quarter racing and a lot to talk about after the race. Strategy clearly played a huge role in determining the outcome of this race as Carl Edwards essentially won the race via a great pit stop. I don’t think we can be too harsh on the newly designed car just yet as it is only the second race of the year. The car itself is a work in progress and will get better once teams begin to figure it out. Next week, the Sprint Cup Series goes to Las Vegas. The generation 6 car will face yet another crucial test as fans hope for more passing and better racing!