THE STARTING GRID:
#48-Jimmie Johnson all but clinched his record-tying third consecutive Sprint Cup championship in utterly dominant style. Johnson was fastest in the first practice session, then won the pole, led the most laps, survived a green-white-checkered finish, and scored his seventh victory of the season and third straight at Phoenix. On top of it all, Johnson widened his point lead over #99-Edwards to 141 points. Though Johnson didn’t take the lead until lap 81, he hardly relinquished it after that and made a swift pass on #26-McMurray with 95 to go almost instantly after the restart. After that, he did have a moment of tension when he thought he had a right-rear tire going down with 51 to go, then was saved by the caution that came out that lap. Johnson now only needs a 36th place finish or better to clinch his third consecutive Sprint Cup championship. Led a race-high 217 laps.
1) #48-Jimmie Johnson** THE WINNER!
2) #2-Kurt Busch Like #26-McMurray, he continued his own late-season rally. He qualified 3rd, took the lead for the first time by taking 2 tires under the first caution on lap 20, and managed to hold the top spot until #48-Johnson got by on lap 81. After that, he was never far from the top 5 and, in fact, was mostly either 2nd or 3rd. For the final 67 laps after passing #26-McMurray, he was running 2nd behind #48-Johnson. When the race came down to a green-white-checkered finish, he did everything he could to catch the #48, closing the most through the dogleg, but came up just short. Led 60 laps.
3) #26-Jamie McMurray Had a big week following his season-best finish at Texas. Through the week, he proposing and became engaged to his girlfriend, receiving word that Donnie Wingo would return as his crew chief in 2009, qualified on the outside pole, beat #48-Johnson to lead the first laps of the race. The laps were the first he’d ever led at Phoenix. In doing so, he matched his 3rd place finish from Texas. Led 28 laps.
4) #99-Carl Edwards** His weekend got off to a great start with another significant victory, leading the most laps in the Nationwide Series race and winning to close ever-closer to point leader #07-Bowyer. For the Cup race, however, he was not quite as competitive. He qualified 15th and was still struggling around that position on lap 57. Still stuck in traffic on lap 67, he was forced to smoke his right-front tire to avoid hitting #31-J. Burton and #41-Sorenson in front of him. He made his bid for top 10 during the fifth caution brought out by debris on lap 211, a timely stop moving him up to 7th for the restart with 95 to go. He was up to 4th by 32 laps to go. His points deficit to #48-Johnson increased to 141 points, setting the two apart from the field as the lone contenders for the title at Homestead.
5) #11-Denny Hamlin** Was the fastest car in Happy Hour and came within a half-carlength of beating #99-Edwards in the Nationwide Series race.
6) #88-Dale Earnhardt, Jr.** On lap 6, he got very loose off turn two, but saved it. He’d qualified 5th and, after losing a couple spots along with #26-McMurray when cars such as #2-Ku. Busch took two tires under the first caution on lap 20, worked his way back into the top 5. He was up to 2nd by the lap 149 restart following the fourth caution of the race, fell back a few spots, then moved back up to 4th with 52 to go.
7) #29-Kevin Harvick** Running his own truck, he took the checkers in the wild Craftsman Truck Series race on Friday and looked to pick up his first Sprint Cup win of the season at one of his best tracks. He drove rather aggressively, bumping #99-Edwards into turn one on lap 57. On lap 72, he nearly collided with the slowing #12-Newman as the #12 attempted to get onto pit road and, with 21 to go, squeezed teammate #31-J. Burton between his car and #15-Menard.
8) #18-Kyle Busch** Brought out the eighth caution of the race with 28 to go when he rubbed against the left-rear tire of #41-Sorenson, cutting it down with his splitter and causing the #41 to spin.
9) #31-Jeff Burton** Ran a solid race and, coming to the ninth caution with 21 to go, was squeezed between teammate #29-Harvick and #15-Menard. Under the yellow, he and #15-Menard exchanged bumps to each other’s rear bumper at almost the same time as #20-Stewart and #16-Biffle did the same.
10) #6-David Ragan Qualified 30th and, by the time there were 71 laps to go, was up to 15th.
11) #16-Greg Biffle** Though his crew was able to make repairs to his primary car after slapping the outside wall on the dogleg during both his qualifying laps, but he was forced to start at the back of the pack due to a transmission change. Looking to make up some time, he stayed out a few laps more during the first round of green flag stops before finally pitting on lap 109. He remained in the top 10 for most of the race after that, running 9th with 88 to go. With 21 to go, he engaged in a bumping match with #20-Stewart coming to take the ninth caution of the race. Led 7 laps.
12) #07-Clint Bowyer** Pulled an impressive comeback in the Nationwide Series race on Saturday, coming back from damage sustained in a restart accident to get a top 5. Though he scored a top-15 finish on Sunday, he never contended for the win and went a lap down to #48-Johnson on lap 119. He got the lap back as the Lucky Dog when the big wreck sparked by #5-Mears and #42-Montoya brought out the seventh caution of the race with 40 to go.
13) #9-Kasey Kahne May have sustained some slight damage to the right-front of his car when #77-Hornish, Jr. spun himself off the nose of his car under the first caution on lap 20. His car pushed coming off turn four on lap 160, bounced off the outside wall, then bumped into the left-front of teammate #10-Allmendinger on his inside. Both cars kept going. He lost a lap sometime after the incident, then got it back as the Lucky Dog when debris brought out the fifth caution on lap 211.
14) #8-Mark Martin Was black-flagged during the first round of green-flag stops on lap 98 because his crew had left some lugnuts loose. He lost a lap, then got it back when the ninth caution fell for debris off #41-Sorenson with 21 to go.
15) #17-Matt Kenseth** When the third caution of the race fell after the lap 37 restart was called off due to rain, the red flag came out on lap 44 for around 15 minutes. Under that yellow, his car was discovered to have a flat left-front tire. When the yellow came back out again on lap 45, he pitted to get new tires after running around on the rim for a lap. He lost a lap sometime after that, then got it back as the Lucky Dog when #41-Sorenson’s crash brought out the eighth caution with 28 to go. He was then spun out along with #20-Stewart in the tenth and final caution with 7 to go when #10-Allmendinger bumped #20-Stewart into a spin when the #20 was running between the #10 and his car. His car avoided damage in the spin, but was then damaged a little when #7-R. Gordon locked his brakes and slid into him. As he crossed the finish line, his car twitched left and turned #10-Allmendinger on the inside into the inside wall along with #42-Montoya, sparking a pileup at the end of the frontstretch.
16) #10-A.J. Allmendinger Qualified 13th and, despite some struggles in traffic, turned in another impressive top-20 run in the third Gillet-Evernham Dodge. On lap 154, he was hovering in 11th, but three laps later may have sustained damage to the right-front of his car when he made contact with the left-rear of #01-Smith off turn four. On lap 160, he was again in the wrong place at the wrong time when #9-Kahne bounced off the turn four wall and hit him in the left-front, causing him to wobble to the inside of the track. Still, he kept going and was in 13th with 71 to go. Running around that spot, he brought out the tenth and final caution of the race with 7 to go. It was then that he dove under #20-Stewart and #17-Kenseth going into turn one, clipped the #20 in the left-rear with his right-front and putting both the #17 and #20 into a spin. Coming across the finish line, he was bumped by the twitching car of #17-Kenseth, causing him to cross the hood of #42-Montoya. The contact forced him head-on into the inside wall, blocking the #42 in the process. His disabled car then wobbled up the track and lightly touched the outside wall in turn one.
17) #42-Juan Pablo Montoya Lost a lap during the first third of the race, then got it back as the Lucky Dog when debris brought out the fourth caution on lap 141. He then sparked the seventh caution of the race with 40 to go when he bumped #5-Mears loose on the backstretch, sending #5-Mears into a spin through turn three. He was himself damaged in the final run across the finish line when #10-Allmendinger, forced to turn hard left by #17-Kenseth, crossed his nose, forcing him to hit the inside wall. As more cars piled in, his car slid up the track and stopped facing backwards against the outside wall entering turn one. The race was the final one for a Texaco / Havoline-sponsored car in NASCAR, dating back to Davey Allison’s landmark rookie season in 1987.
18) #47-Marcos Ambrose (R) Like #7-R. Gordon, he had trouble getting his car started to make his qualifying lap, but managed to get it going. Though he sustained some noticeable nose damage to his car in the seventh caution of the race with 40 to go when he couldn’t stop fast enough to keep from shoving #66-Riggs into the stopped #5-Mears, his crew made excellent repairs and he salvaged a top-20 finish. The efforts of both driver and crew were rewarded with the team’s move back into the 35th spot in owner’s points, now 17 ahead of #84-Speed.
19) #43-Bobby Labonte Sustained some minor right-front damage to his car in the seventh caution of the race with 40 to go when the spinning #77-Hornish, Jr. crossed his path, then spun off his car’s nose.
20) #22-Dave Blaney Debuted the team’s first new main sponsor since 2000 with longtime Bill Davis Racing sponsor Bad Boy Mowers on the car. Sustained some minor damage to the right side of his car in the final lap wreck when #20-Stewart’s wrecking car bumped into him just hard enough to make him almost spin in turn one.
21) #28-Travis Kvapil Sparked the follow-up accident as the field crossed the finish line when he was forced to slow suddenly entering turn one to avoid the wrecking car of #42-Montoya, causing #20-Stewart and #01-Smith to rear-end him in a chain-reaction. The contact sent his car spinning to the inside in front of #15-Menard, who spun as well. Both cars blocked the inside line, causing #21-Elliott, #96-Schrader, and #7-R. Gordon to pile in as well.
22) #20-Tony Stewart** Qualified 29th and finally made his way into the top 10 by 88 to go. Unfortunately, things started to go south when, like #70-Sauter, his car stalled when the yellow came back out following the red flag brought out by the seventh caution of the race with 40 to go. Fortunately, future teammate #12-Newman gave him a push and his car was soon back on its way around the track. Coming to take the ninth yellow of the race with 21 to go, he made contact with #16-Biffle, then shunted the #16 as the two slowed off turn four. He was then spun out by #10-Allmendinger in the tenth caution of the race when the #10 bumped him in the left-rear, sending his car spinning up the track with #17-Kenseth, who was on his outside. As he crossed the finish line, he could not avoid hitting the slowing #28-Kvapil and was rear-ended by #01-Smith, sending him into a spin with a damaged front end. As he passed the stopped car of #42-Montoya on his right, his car turned hard left and bumped against the right side of #22-Blaney, sending his car sliding back up the track before it again rolled down the banking.
23) #01-Regan Smith (R) The top-finishing rookie for the tenth time in 2008 behind leader #77-Hornish, Jr. with twelve and ahead of both #10-Carpentier with seven and #00-McDowell with six. The weekend got off to an unusual start as his primary car got banged up in the hauler on the way to the track, requiring some repairs. It got banged up again on lap 157 when #10-Allmendinger bumped into his left-rear off turn four. As he crossed the finish line, he had nowhere to go when #28-Kvapil and #20-Stewart stopped in front of him in the outside groove, and when #21-Elliott rear-ended him, he was forced to knock the #20 into the #28. He emerged from the smoke with smoke pouring from the rear of his damaged car.
24) #55-Michael Waltrip NO NOTES
25) #44-David Reutimann Though he qualified an excellent 4th place, he slipped back gradually through the third caution for rain on lap 37. When the caution came back out on lap 45, he came onto pit road for an unscheduled stop because his crew had failed to remove the cover on the car’s cowl. The same thing had happened to #18-Ky. Busch during qualifying at Infineon in June, allowing him to take another qualifying lap. He narrowly avoided the pile-up in turn one after the checkered flag when the spinning #42-Montoya crossed his path.
26) #15-Paul Menard After banging doors with #31-J. Burton coming to the ninth caution with 21 to go, he and the #31 both bumped each other in the rear bumper under the yellow. As he crossed the finish line, he spun to avoid the wrecking #28-Kvapil and turned hard left himself, then was turned the other direction by the wrecking #21-Elliott. His car and the #28 blocked the inside groove, leaving #96-Schrader and #7-R. Gordon with nowhere to go.
27) #96-Ken Schrader His car sustained some minor damage after the checkered flag when #15-Menard and #28-Kvapil blocked his path to the inside.
28) #7-Robby Gordon Like #47-Ambrose, he had trouble getting his car started to make his qualifying lap, but managed to get it going. On race day, he was first involved in the tenth and final caution of the race with 7 to go. Unable to slow down fast enough to avoid the spinning cars of #20-Stewart and #17-Kenseth, he locked his brakes and spun into the #17, resulting in minor damage to both cars. After the cars crossed the finish line, he locked his brakes once more and was seen sitting backwards on the inside wall, having been blocked in by the wrecked #15-Menard and #28-Kvapil.
29) #21-Bill Elliott Had nowhere to go when #28-Kvapil, #20-Stewart, and #01-Smith slowed in front of him as the field began to wreck after crossing the finish line and drilled the back of the #01, severely damaging the front of his car. His car then turned hard left and clipped the spinning #15-Menard, forcing the #15 to turn the other direction toward the outside wall.
30) #19-Elliott Sadler Suffered damage in the first caution of the race on lap 20 when #77-Hornish, Jr. got loose under him in turn three and sent his car backing into the outside wall. Repairs cost him a lap, then he got it back as the Lucky Dog under the second caution on lap 31. He was later the car which #5-Mears crossed the nose of with 45 to go, resulting in #5-Mears’ amazing save.
31) #41-Reed Sorenson Was taken out in the eighth caution of the race with 28 to go. #18-Ky. Busch had rubbed into his left-rear of his tire on the backstretch and cut it down, causing him to spin rear-first into the outside wall in turn three. The rear panel of his car fell off soon after the restart, bringing out the ninth caution of the race with 21 to go.
32) #09-Sterling Marlin Was running well behind the big wreck with 40 to go that brought out the seventh caution of the race when he accidentally clipped #45-Petty, sending the #45 backing into the outside wall.
33) #77-Sam Hornish, Jr. (R) Brought out the first caution of the race on lap 20 when he slid up into #19-E. Sadler entering turn 3, backing the #19 into the outside wall as his car drifted through the turn. Though he did not sustain any damage, he spun on pit road under the yellow when he crossed the nose of #9-Kahne. #99-Edwards, a couple cars behind the incident, had to lift off the throttle, but was fortunately not too close to the scene. He then suffered more damage in the seventh caution of the race with 40 to go when, as #5-Mears slid to the inside, he got loose up high in turn three and turned hard left just in time to be hit in the left-front by #43-B. Labonte. His car then spun backwards and hit the outside wall with the driver’s side at a reduced speed.
34) #12-Ryan Newman Qualified 6th, then followed teammate #2-Ku. Busch off pit road under the first caution on lap 20 to get up to 2nd. Still running 5th on lap 72, disaster struck when he blew a right-front tire, forcing him to make an unscheduled stop. He nearly collided with #29-Harvick as he came onto pit road. He returned to the race one lap down but, like #18-Ky. Busch at New Hampshire in September, had broken a hind joint as his car drove on the flat tire, forcing his car to lean very hard to the right. He returned to pit again on lap 78. By lap 112, he was behind the wall, his crew working to replace the broken part. When future teammate #20-Stewart stalled following the seventh caution and second red flag of the race with 40 to go, he helped push #20-Stewart to get him going again.
35) #38-David Gilliland Was involved in the most spectacular crash of the race during the seventh caution with 40 to go. Forced to stop up high behind the spinning #77-Hornish, Jr., his car was then drilled in the rear bumper by #84-Speed, who became lost in the smoke. The contact was so hard that the rear of his car was lifted onto the hood of #84-Speed, the rear tires of his car sitting at the base of the #84's windshield. Surprisingly, his car was still under power and he even spun his tires on the front of the #84 as #84-Speed climbed out of his car. With 25 to go, he returned to the track under power with most of the sheetmetal removed from his car.
36) #5-Casey Mears Qualified 16th, but marched his way through the field up to 6th by lap 125. Running 5th on lap 202, he nearly suffered the same fate as #1-Truex, Jr. when he caught a piece of debris, but before he could start spraying water, the debris came off as he followed #96-Schrader. Unfortunately, his day literally started slipping away with 45 to go when he crossed the nose of #19-E. Sadler in turn one and he made a dramatic save. Just 5 laps later, he was the first car damaged in the seventh caution of the race when #42-Montoya knocked him loose on the backstretch, causing his car to slap the outside wall with his right-rear and slide sideways through turns three and four. His car stopped down low, where it blocked the path for #66-Riggs and #47-Ambrose, who could not avoid running into him.
37) #70-Johnny Sauter Squeezed his way into the field by starting 43rd and seemed to recapture the magic of his previous runs for HAAS at Phoenix. By lap 93, he’d raced his way up to 20th and held fast to the lead lap during the race’s long green-flag runs before finally going down a lap. He then received the Lucky Dog under the sixth caution when debris was spotted again with 51 to go. He was also fortunate not to be involved in the seventh caution of the race with 40 to go when he managed to come to a full stop between #38-Gilliland and #43-B. Labonte, who both sustained damage. Unfortunately, his car stalled when the yellow came back out with 39 to go, and he required a push from a flatbed.
38) #66-Scott Riggs Was taken out in the seventh caution of the race with 40 to go when he could not slow down fast enough to avoid hitting the stopped car of #5-Mears and ran into the driver’s side of the #5, #47-Ambrose behind him shunting his car into the #5. His car stopped in the grass, bent-up both in front and in back. Though he was okay, the wreck was costly to his owner’s points ranking, dropping him to 33rd, 110 points ahead of 35th.
39) #45-Kyle Petty Made his final Sprint Cup race of 2008, his first since Kansas the previous month, and, as rumors have it, perhaps his last in the #45. The rear of his car was damaged in a follow-up wreck behind the big seventh caution pile-up with 40 to go. Somehow, #09-Marlin had got into the back of his car, sending him backing into the outside wall in turn three.
40) #84-Scott Speed (R) Sometime before lap 85, he sustained some minor damage to the front of his car above the splitter, requiring a small patch of blue tape on the right-front corner. The damage became much worse in the seventh caution with 40 to go when he became lost in the smoke while running up high in turn three and wound up running into the rear of #38-Gilliland’s stopped car so hard that it lifted the rear of the #38 onto the front of his car. He climbed out of the car okay as #38-Gilliland’s attempt at getting off his car caused the rear tires of #38 to grind against his hood. The red flag was thrown yet again so that NASCAR could separate the two cars. The wreck dropped his team to 36th in owner’s points, 17 behind #47-Ambrose, and sparked rumors that Mark Martin would drive the #84 at Homestead. The rumor was later quashed. Led 1 lap.
41) #24-Jeff Gordon** Qualified 7th, was running 4th on lap 125, and looked to be on his way to a top 10 run despite concerns of a change in his engine’s pitch. This pitch change proved to be his car’s downfall, however, for on lap 171, his car started to slowly drop back from what was diagnosed as a broken valve spring. By the time he was lapped by #48-Johnson on lap 195, he was running 4 mph off the pace. His crew looked under the hood during the fifth caution on lap 211, but was unable to diagnose the problem. He was back in 29th on the restart with 95 to go. Then, with 43 to go, the engine finally blew in a plume of smoke on the backstretch, taking him out of the race.
42) #83-Brian Vickers Brought out the second caution of the race on lap 31 when he suddenly blew a right-front tire going down the backstretch and slammed the outside wall very hard in turn three. He walked out okay, but the car did not return to the track.
43) #1-Martin Truex, Jr. Under the first caution of the race on lap 20, his car sprayed a tremendous amount of water as an errant clear plastic bag on his grille forced his engine to overheat. Suddenly, by the second caution on lap 31, he was in the garage area, the overheating problem having taken him out of the race.
DID NOT QUALIFY: