Commentary

Subway Fresh Fit 500 Preview

Updated: April 8, 2008, 5:24 PM ET
By Mark Garrow | Jayski.com

Each Tuesday, Mark Garrow sets the stage for the upcoming Sprint Cup Series race. This week, it's the Subway Fresh Fit 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on Saturday.

Background

• This is the eighth race of 36 for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in 2008.

• This is the fourth of 17 intermediate track races this season. ( NASCAR defines an intermediate track as an oval between one mile and two miles in length.)

• This is the 24th time the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series has competed at Phoenix International Raceway since 1988.

• Phoenix is a one-mile oval with 11-degree banking in Turns 1 and 2 and nine-degree banking in Turns 3 and 4.

• Forty-five drivers are on the pre-entry list to compete for one of the 43 starting slots in Saturday's 312-lap, 312-mile race. Of those 45 entrants, 10 must get into Saturday's field based on qualifying times. They are: Johnny Sauter, David Reutimann, Patrick Carpentier, Bill Elliott, Dave Blaney, Kyle Petty, Dario Franchitti, John Andretti, Mike Skinner, and Joe Nemechek.

• Of those drivers, Elliott is eligible for a past champion provisional.

• The drivers who are on the bubble for the top 35 in owners' points are:
31. Scott Riggs/Haas CNC Racing, 588 points (98 points ahead of 36th place)
32. Michael Waltrip/Waltrip Racing, 530 (+40)
33. J.J. Yeley/Hall of Fame Racing, 505 (+15)
34. Sam Hornish/Penske Racing, 502 (+12)
35. Regan Smith/Dale Earnhardt Inc., 496 (+6)

• The following drivers are outside the top 35 and will have to get into the race based on their qualifying speeds:

36. Johnny Sauter/Haas CNC Racing, 490 points (6 points out of 35th place)
37. Dave Blaney/Bill Davis, 473 (-23)
38. David Reutimann/Waltrip Racing, 458 (-38)
39. Dario Franchitti/Ganassi Racing, 447 (-49)
40. Mike Skinner/Red Bull Racing, 364 (-132)

• The make-it-or-go-home drivers who would miss the show if qualifying were cancelled are Joe Nemechek and John Andretti.

• The following drivers are also scheduled to participate in Friday night's NASCAR Nationwide Series race: Clint Bowyer, David Ragan, Jamie McMurray, Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Robby Gordon, Jeff Burton, Kevin Harvick, Reed Sorenson, Carl Edwards and David Reutimann.

Jeremy Mayfield was released from the No. 70 team this week and will be replaced by Johnny Sauter, who finished ninth and 15th, respectively, last year at Phoenix.

Jeff Gordon is coming off what is only his second-ever 43rd-place finish in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. He is the defending winner of this event at PIR, though, and of all drivers with 10 or more starts here, he has the highest-average finish (8.3) and the most top-10s (15).

• Of the drivers starting Saturday's event, only Jeff Burton, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Kevin Harvick have multiple wins, with two apiece. Burton has the best average finish (11.4), and neither Burton nor Harvick have had a DNF here. Every multiple winner, including the late Davey Allison, has won their events consecutively.

• No one has completed all 23 Cup Series races here, but Kyle Petty and Mark Martin each have 22 starts at Phoenix. Martin has completed the most laps here with 6,656 and has led the most with 608. He is also tied with Jeff Gordon with the most top-5s (8).

• Last year, a number of teams tested at Gateway International Raceway, a track near St. Louis with similar characteristics to Phoenix, prior to the fall event. Included in that group was Jimmie Johnson, who led 55 laps at Phoenix and won the race. Despite having only one win, Johnson has never finished outside the top-15 and has finished outside the top-ten only twice. His average finish is 6.6, he's led 168 laps, and he has completed every possible circuit here.

• Of the drivers who are guaranteed entry into Sunday's race with 10 or more starts here, Robby Gordon has the worst average finish (28.1). The make-it-or-go-home driver with at least 10 starts here with the best average finish is Joe Nemechek (23.5).

Previous winners at Phoenix
Driver Phoenix wins
Jeff Burton 2 (November, 2000, October 2001)
Dale Earnhardt Jr. 2 (November 2003, November 2004)
Kevin Harvick 2 (April 2006, November 2006)
Kurt Busch 1 (April 2005)
Kyle Busch 1 (November 2005)
Bill Elliott 1 (November 1989)
Jeff Gordon 1 (April 2007)
Jimmie Johnson 1 (November 2007)
Matt Kenseth 1 (November 2002)
Mark Martin 1 (October 1993
Tony Stewart 1 (November 1999)

Last four races at Phoenix
Pos. Fall 2007 Spring 2007 Fall 2006 Spring 2006
1 Jimmie Johnson Jeff Gordon Kevin Harvick Kevin Harvick
2 Greg Biffle Tony Stewart Jimmie Johnson Tony Stewart
3 Matt Kenseth Denny Hamlin Denny Hamlin Matt Kenseth
4 Tony Stewart Jimmie Johnson Jeff Gordon Carl Edwards
5 Ryan Newman Matt Kenseth Carl Edwards Clint Bowyer
6 Kevin Harvick Jeff Green Mark Martin Kasey Kahne
7 Martin Truex Jr. Kyle Busch Kasey Kahne Jimmie Johnson
8 Kyle Busch Bobby Labonte Kurt Busch Bobby Labonte
9 Jeff Burton Johnny Sauter Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jeff Burton
10 Jeff Gordon Kevin Harvick Jeff Burton Jeff Gordon
11 Clint Bowyer Carl Edwards Brian Vickers Mark Martin
12 Kurt Busch Mark Martin Martin Truex Jr. Sterling Marlin
13 Casey Mears Jeff Burton Matt Kenseth Brian Vickers
14 J.J Yeley Tony Raines Tony Stewart Jamie McMurray
15 Johnny Sauter Reed Sorenson Ryan Newman Greg Biffle
16 Denny Hamlin Joe Nemechek David Gilliland Ken Schrader
17 Juan Pablo Montoya Greg Biffle Elliott Sadler Tony Raines
18 Bobby Labonte Kurt Busch David Stremme Jeff Green
19 Reed Sorenson Dale Earnhardt Jr. Joe Nemechek Dale Jarrett
20 David Stremme Martin Truex Jr. J.J Yeley Casey Mears
21 Brian Vickers J.J Yeley Tony Raines Travis Kvapil
22 Paul Menard Clint Bowyer Scott Riggs Martin Truex Jr.
23 Jamie McMurray Jamie McMurray Dave Blaney Dale Earnhardt Jr.
24 Robby Gordon Robby Gordon Ken Schrader Kurt Busch
25 Sterling Marlin Paul Menard Kyle Petty Kenny Wallace

2008 Sprint Cup Series Top 10

  1. Jeff Burton (1,065 points) was the sixth-place finisher at Texas and maintains his first-place standing in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings. Burton has 17 starts here, with nine top-10s, five top-5s, two wins and an average finish of 11.4.
  2. Kevin Harvick (-59) was the 11th-place finisher Sunday at TMS and remains second in the Cup Series standings. In 10 starts here, Harvick has five top-10s, three top-5s, two wins and an average finish of 13.2.
  3. Kyle Busch
    Jason Smith/Getty Images for NASCARKyle Busch has climbed back into third place in the standings.
  4. Kyle Busch (-64) finished third at Texas on Sunday and moves up two spots in the Cup Series standings to third. Busch has six starts here, with four top-10s, a win and an average finish of 16.3.
  5. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (-87) finished 12th on Sunday and maintains his fourth-place position in the Cup Series standings. Earnhardt has 11 starts here, with five top-10s, four top-5s, two wins and an average finish of 19.0.
  6. Tony Stewart (-108) was the seventh-place finisher at Texas on Sunday and moves up one spot in the Cup Series standings to fifth. Stewart has 12 starts here, with eight top-10s, six top-5s, a win and an average finish of 9.4.
  7. Jimmie Johnson (-144) was the runner-up at Texas and moves up four spots to sixth in the Cup Series standings. In nine starts here, Johnson has seven top-10s, four top-5s, a win and an average finish of 6.6.
  8. Denny Hamlin (-152) finished fifth at Texas to move up one place in the Cup Series standings to seventh. Hamlin has five starts here, with two top-5s and an average finish of 13.8.
  9. Ryan Newman (-164) was the fourth-place finisher Sunday and moves up three spots in the Cup Series standings to eighth. In 11 starts here, Newman has three top-5s and an average finish of 20.6.
  10. Greg Biffle (-164) was the 39th-place finisher at Texas on Sunday and falls six places in the Cup Series standings to ninth. Biffle has eight starts here, with two top-5s and an average finish of 17.4.
  11. Carl Edwards (-184) was the winner at Texas and moves up four spots in the Cup Series standings to 10th. In seven starts here, Edwards has four top-10s, two top-5s and an average finish of 16.0.

Mark Garrow covers fantasy racing for ESPN.com.

Mark Garrow

Fantasy Racing
Mark Garrow covers fantasy racing for ESPN.com.