With the first knock out qualifying of the season and special guests like AJ Foyt celebrating the 50th anniversary of Phoenix International Speedway, here is what else was surprising and not surprising from The Profit on CNBC 500 presented by Small Business Fueling America.
Surprising: While Kevin Harvick may be known as the ‘Closer’ and ‘Freaky Fast’, he can now add a surprising new moniker, that of ‘Leader’.
Harvick led more than 200 laps for the fourth time in the Cup Series, as well as leading a race-high 224 laps.
The driver of the No. 4 Jimmy Johns Chevrolet also took the lead from six-time champ Jimmie Johnson as the winningest driver at Phoenix International Raceway with five victories.
Finally, Harvick became the leader of the pack at Stewart-Haas Racing, grabbing the team’s first win, as well as his first win with his new team.
“This just solidifies so many things and so many decisions,” Harvick said after the race. “What a race car.”
Not Surprising: With PIR being a one-miler, it was not surprising that there was at least one short-track temper tantrum. And this time, that honor went to Danica Patrick, who was more than annoyed with Justin Allgaier.
“That damn 51 was driving like a complete jack**s out there,” Patrick said. “I’m not at all surprised we wrecked.”
Patrick went on to spin out again as a result of the damage inflicted in the incident with Allgaier’s car, finishing 36th. Since she also crashed out in the Daytona 500, she now sits 41st in owner points for the 2014 season, potentially endangering her chances in making races if she continues on that path.
Surprising: In spite of significant and integral parts of their team missing, with Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s spotter TJ Majors out for medical reasons and Brad Keselowski’s crew chief Paul Wolfe out for the birth of his child, both drivers did their missing compadres proud.
Dale Junior finished second in his No. 88 National Guard Chevrolet and Brad Keselowski finished right behind him in third in his No. 2 Alliance Truck Parts Ford. This was Earnhardt Jr.’s 11th top-10 finish and Keselowski’s fourth top-10 finish at Phoenix International Raceway.
“Yeah we had a great car,” Junior said. “We leaned on our teammates and got the car a lot better. Steve (Letarte) and those guys just keep getting better and better. These cars I’m driving I think are the best in the garage.”
“That was everything we could do to get up there and get third,’ Keselowski said. “We did the best we could and that was really all we had.”
Both drivers texted and tweeted their respective missing team members before and after the race, keeping them as connected as possible, as well as celebrating their good finishes together.
Not Surprising: With Team Penske being stout in qualifying it was no surprise that Joey Logano also had a good finish in his No. 22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, taking the checkered flag in the fourth spot. In addition, Logano also had the quote of the race day.
“It was fun out there,” Logano said. “I had a really good Shell Pennzoil Ford but that 4 car was just so fast.”
“I was joking on the radio that on the back bumper of that car it says freaky fast and they weren’t lying when they put that on there.”
Surprising: Kasey Kahne, who had surprisingly been the lone Hendrick Motorsports struggler, fought off an ill handling car to catch up to his teammates, finishing 11th.
“The guys battled hard today,” Kahne tweeted after the race. “11th was good for us after all that. On to Vegas!”
HMS drivers Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson also had good runs, finishing fifth and sixth respectively.
Not Surprising: Phoenix International Raceway, which requires some finesse and experience, was not quite so kind to the rookies in the field. In fact, the highest finishing rookie was Kyle Larson in the 20th position.
Austin Dillon finished 24th; Cole Whitt 27th; Justin Allgaier 30th; Michael Annett 34th; Ryan Truex 35th; Alex Bowman 41st and Parker Kligerman 42nd.
Surprising: Casey Mears, behind the wheel of the No. 13 Geico Chevrolet had another surprisingly good run finishing top-15. Mears had a great run in the Daytona 500, taking the checkered flag in the tenth spot.
So, after leaving Phoenix, albeit only the second race of the season, Mears now sits 11th in the point standings, having one of his best starts to the year.
Not Surprising: Kurt Busch, who had been a student at the University of Arizona, returned to the state to learn one tough lesson at PIR, blowing an engine to finish 39th in the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet.
“That was another disappointing finish for the No. 41 team,” Busch said. “We had a good Haas Automation Chevrolet early on and ran in the top-10 for more than 200 laps but we dropped a cylinder late in the race and couldn’t do anything to fix it.”
“We learned some things today,” Busch continued. “The school of hard knocks happens out on the road and in life.”
Surprising: While Kurt Busch was fighting his own engine demons, Brian Vickers was facing some surprising challenges of his own, turning his No. 55 Aaron’s Dream Machine Toyota into a nightmare.
“The second run we were trying to make an adjustment and the left rear jack screw broke so we didn’t get our adjustment,” Vickers said. “I think we even went the wrong way and that killed us — we lost track position and went a lap down.”
Vickers soldiered on to finish the race in the 25th position.
Not Surprising: Ryan Newman served as leader of the Richard Childress Racing team, finishing seventh in his No. 31 Quicken Loans Chevrolet.
“The guys did a good job in the pits,” Newman said. “We caught a good break with the debris caution but that happens. I’m sure we’ll get the opposite at some point this year, too.”
The next event on the Sprint Cup schedule is the Kobalt 400 on Sunday, March 9th at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The race starts at 3 p.m. EDT, with live coverage provided by FOX beginning with its prerace show at 2 p.m.