Gaughan earns first win in 98 Nationwide Series starts
NASCAR driver stats, preview information for the 2014 season
Jacques Villeneuve makes a move on Alex Tagliani, and when that does not work he finishes the No. 30 off.
Jacques Villeneuve slams into Marcos Ambrose in Turn 2 and then Ambrose repays the favor later that lap.
Storied paperclip oval was one of original tracks on NASCAR circuit Vote: Who will win at Martinsville? " Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series heads to Martinsville (Va.) Speedway this weekend, one of two annual treks to the legendary half-mile that have taken place for more than 65 years. Before Charlotte, Bristol, Texas or Talladega. Before Daytona or Darlington even, there was Martinsville. They were racing at Martinsville before NASCAR grew from an idea into reality. “Stock car racing makes its debut at the new Martinsville Speedway next Sunday afternoon when more than 35 of the nation’s leading drivers risk their necks and cars for over $2,000 in prize money. … The new track boasts the largest grandstand of any speedway in the South, a huge affair which will seat 10,000 spectators. The total capacity of the speedway is 20,000 people. Built at a cost of $85,000, the Martinsville Speedway is regarded as one of the finest half-mile dirt tracks in the United States.” The item appeared in one of the region’s daily newspapers. The date was Monday, Sept. 1, 1947. NASCAR was officially incorporated in February 1948. Built by local businessman H. Clay Earles, Martinsville hosted one of the eight original stops on the NASCAR Strictly Stock schedule in 1949. Before that, drivers who would become some of stock car racing’s earliest stars could be found hustling their way around the paperclip-shaped track. Red Byron, winner of the inaugural ’49 race, won the track’s first official event two years earlier, a 50-lap affair for Modified stock cars. Fonty Flock won there in ’48 just as NASCAR was getting started. One by one, the other tracks on the schedule that first season eventually fell by the wayside – Charlotte Speedway, Daytona’s beach and road course, Occoneechee Speedway in Hillsboro, North Carolina, Langhorne and Heidelberg (Pennsylvania), Hamburg (N.Y.) Speedway. Even North Wilkesboro, a staple from the start, eventually faded into the background when NASCAR departed after the ‘96 season. Martinsville, however, remains. “It means we, and by that I mean going back to when the place was built by my grandfather all the way through until now, are doing something right,” said Clay Campbell, grandson of the track’s founder and president of the facility since 1988. “A lot of guys that started close to the same time, obviously they aren’t around now. I think my grandfather had the vision to keep investing in the facility and doing things that were necessary not only from a fan standpoint but from a competitor’s standpoint and everything that he did, I think we’re pretty much following the same philosophy.” • • • “It was dirt to begin with,” Richard Petty said, easing back in the recliner inside his motorhome. “I never ran on it when it was dirt. My daddy did and he won some races.” Outside, cars are circling Phoenix International Raceway , site of the recently completed CampingWorld.com 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races. PIR is roughly 2,000 miles from Martinsville, and Petty, now 77, is nearly as removed from his days as a championship driver. One of the five inaugural members of NASCAR’s Hall of Fame, Petty is the sport’s all-time leader in premier series wins with 200 and is one of only two drivers to win seven championships. He’s also a valuable link to NASCAR’s past. And Martinsville, much like the Petty family, is an unbroken piece of ribbon that has run through the sport from its earliest days. Petty’s father, Lee, was NASCAR’s first three-time champion. A Hall of Fame member as well, Lee Petty won 54 times. Three of those victories came at Martinsville – two when it was dirt and a third after the track was paved. “When they asphalted it (in ’55), it was completely different,” Richard Petty said. “When they re-did the track, they cleaned up the infield. When (NASCAR) ran there and it was dirt, there were bushes in the infield, a little creek running down through there. All that was there was the track. “Once they asphalted it, they didn’t just do the track, they cleaned up everything else. It was like a brand new track. It was shaped the same, but everything else was different.” The creek is still there today, running underneath the track and working its way from one end of the speedway to the other. Petty won 15 times at Martinsville, a record matched only by his success at North Wilkesboro. It’s no surprise that Martinsville remains a staple on the schedule after all these years. “Not really,” he said. “It’s just so different from any other track we run.” At 0.526 mile, it’s the shortest of the short tracks and unlike other venues, there’s only the slightest banking in the turns. Turn 43 cars loose all at one and it isn’t just close-quarters racing -- it’s the closest-quarters racing fans are likely to see all season long. “Back when we had drum brakes, the deal was being able to run 500 laps and have brakes when the race was over,” Petty said. “Probably wasn’t but two or three cars that had brakes that could stop the thing when it was over with. “It was just a good track for the way I drove and the way (crew chief) Dale Inman set up cars; we just had a good combination for that race track. We understood the track.” From 1967-73, Petty won 10 times at Martinsville, including five straight starts between ’68-71. “We spent more time working on the brakes that week than we did on getting (the car) to handle or run fast,” Petty said. “From our strategy standpoint … a lot of times we didn’t race that hard. We saved our brakes, stayed in the race. But as far as going out and trying to lead all the laps and everything, that wasn’t our deal. It was more of a survival track. Over a period of time they got the brakes better and it got to where you had to race all the time.” • • • The lone block concession stand in the infield is one of the few reminders of Martinsville’s past. “The last piece of history,” Campbell said. “It goes back as far as the ‘60s, probably longer than that.” Other structures have been upgraded or replaced through the years. The sport has changed, and those that follow it have as well. Keeping up with the fast-paced sport, and everything it entails “is difficult,” Campbell said, “but therein lies the fun part of the business and the challenge of it. “It’s no different than the competitors – they have to keep changing to newer things and keep up with the pace; and the same thing for the facilities. Fortunately now with us being a part of ISC and a bigger global picture we’re more in touch with things that we need from a social media standpoint, Wi-Fi and on and on and on. Things we now have and things we’re exploring for the future.” International Speedway Corp. owns 12 of the 23 tracks hosting NASCAR Sprint Cup Series events in 2015. The company purchased the speedway in 2004. Nearly 170 tracks have hosted one or more NASCAR premier series races since that inaugural 1949 season, from Airborne to Wine Creek, Auto Club to Watkins Glen. Most are now gone. Martinsville, one of the very first, is still there. “We’re very fortunate that we had the things we needed and on are par with most of the others so we can keep on moving right along,” Campbell said. “Things like the garage, access roads coming in, the (Turn 4) tunnel, the suites, and things of that nature. “Luckily, as time went on with my grandfather, he didn’t sit still and that was a good thing. Because had he done that we’d be playing catch-up, and now’s not the time to be playing catch-up.” MORE: READ: Latest NASCAR news PLAY: Sign up for Fantasy Live WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView today FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Bruce: Track's famous hot dogs have been essential part of race weekend Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live They're trifling with tradition at Martinsville, and you'd think a track that has been on the circuit ever since there was a circuit to be on would know better. They're not changing race dates or moving the start/finish line from the frontstretch to the backstretch. There will still be asphalt on the straightaways and concrete in the corners. And the train tracks up on the hill? They're still there. This goes deeper. Much deeper. Martinsville Speedway is changing hot dogs. In a pig's eye, you say? There's a new purveyor of pink wienies at the series' shortest venue and its name is Valleydale, a division of Smithfield Foods. Jesse Jones has been gunned down. You remember Valleydale, don't you? Cartoon pigs playing trombone, drum and cymbals back in the day. "Everybody shouts hooray for Valleydale!" The racing connection came later -- title sponsorship of the spring Sprint Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway , the Valleydale 500, lasted 11 years, from 1980 through 1991. Jesse Jones hot dogs have been a staple at Martinsville for much longer. Some say they've been a part of the concession fare almost from the beginning, which would have been around 1948. That may or may not be the case, but they've certainly been an essential part of the race weekend experience for decades. The infield concession stand, located near the start/finish line and run by a local booster club, does a brisk business on race weekends. Crewmen and fans can be found lined up throughout the day purchasing hot dogs for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Officials are hoping that's again the case next week, when the track hosts the Kroger 250 Camping World Truck Series race (March 28, 2:30 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1) and STP 500 Sprint Cup race (March 29, 1 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1). Other tracks have gone hog-wild with different types of food offerings. Phoenix International Raceway officials unveiled the CARBuretor Crunch for this past race weekend. The deep-fried peanut butter and jelly sandwich came with Cap'n Crunch and caramel on the outside, bacon and bananas on the inside. Fans visiting Charlotte Motor Speedway can partake of the new Brunch Burger, a quarter-pound cheeseburger topped with hash browns, cheese, bacon and egg. It comes on French toast and includes hot maple syrup. But the Martinsville hot dog? It's gone unchanged and unchallenged. Until now. Actually, that's not quite true. The track did switch hot dog vendors several years ago when International Speedway Corp. purchased the facility. New owners, new hot dogs, same $2 price. It caused quite a ruckus. Folks complained. The original hot dogs were quickly brought back. Order was restored. Track officials seem confident that this latest change will satisfy fans and competitors alike. Lessons were learned. I hope they're right. Race fans have adapted to schedule changes, rules changes and how the championship is determined. But when it comes to the Martinsville hot dog, they've proven to be less understanding. MORE: READ: Latest NASCAR news PLAY: Sign up for Fantasy Live WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView today FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
First race came 20 years ago at Phoenix Twenty years ago, a black Goodwrench No. 3 Chevrolet outran a rainbow-schemed vehicle to earn a historic victory. No, it wasn't a race involving Dale Earnhardt and Jeff Gordon . It wasn't even in the premier series. This particular event was the 1995 Skoal Bandit Copper World Classic, the first-ever Truck Series race, and it was held Feb. 5 at Phoenix International Raceway , the site of this weekend's stop on the NASCAR circuit . Mike Skinner won that race -- and later that year, the series championship -- after a thrilling late duel with Terry Labonte , who was driving the Rick Hendrick-owned No. 5 Chevrolet. The field also included Ken Schrader , Geoff Bodine, Roger Mears and Bob Keselowski, as well as future series champions Mike Bliss , Jack Sprague and Ron Hornaday Jr . Twenty years later, the present-day NASCAR Camping World Truck Series consists of talented veterans driving alongside NASCAR's next stars. Camping World and NASCAR announced a seven-year extension in 2014, ensuring moments like the one below will continue for a long time to come. MORE: READ: Latest NASCAR news PLAY: Sign up for Fantasy Live WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView today FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Analysis of all 43 cars in Sunday's Kobalt 400 Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live RELATED: Full race results " Updated series standings 1. Kevin Harvick , No. 4 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . An 18th-place start was only a temporary stall for the defending NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion, who surged to take the lead on Lap 91. He paced the field for a race-high 142 laps and persevered through "an uncomfortable last run" to earn his first Cup win at the 1.5-mile desert oval and his third straight top-two result of the 2015 season. Harvick, now the points leader, has won his past three contests at Phoenix International Raceway , the next stop on the Cup circuit . " WATCH: Harvick discusses the win in Victory Lane 2. Martin Truex Jr ., No. 78 Chevrolet, Furniture Row Racing . Truex overcame a loose-handling condition midway through the race to record his best LVMS result and earn his third straight top-10 of the year. " READ: Truex's inspirational drive 3. Ryan Newman , No. 31 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing . As the temperatures increased on the 1.5-mile desert track, the handling of Newman's Chevrolet initially disappeared. He rallied to finish third and capture his best career LVMS result. " WATCH: Newman discusses Vegas finish 4. Dale Earnhardt Jr ., No. 88 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports . Junior showed strength driving the high line, but his late-race lead was cut short by a hard-charging Harvick. "Second, fifth, fourth -- it don't matter (where you finish) if you don't win," said Earnhardt, who now ranks second in the points standings. " WATCH: Junior weighs in on late-race gamble 5. Denny Hamlin , No. 11 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . The left-front of Hamlin's Toyota sustained damage early while he tried to navigate a congested pit road. The impact was enough to affect his initial speed but not his overall performance. He is the biggest mover from the race weekend, improving 11 spots to eighth in the standings. 6. AJ Allmendinger , No. 47 Chevrolet, JTG-Daugherty Racing. The single-car outfit continues its ascent after Allmendinger wheeled his way to his second straight top-10 result. Allmendinger picked up three spots and now ranks fifth in the standings. 7. Brad Keselowski , No. 2 Ford, Team Penske . A tire vibration and subsequent pit road violation could have spelled doom for Keselowski, but he caught a break in both cases. First, the competition caution gave his team a chance to address the vibration. Much later, Jimmie Johnson blew a tire, which prompted the caution and enabled then-beneficiary of the free pass Keselowski to return to the lead lap. The 2012 Champion picks up six spots in the standings, improving to 16th. 8. Kyle Larson , No. 42 Chevrolet, Chip Ganassi Racing . Larson's pit crew performed well, helping the Cup sophomore nab his first top 10 of the season. 9. Matt Kenseth , No. 20 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . Kenseth scored his second top-10 of the year after working with his team to solve a loose-handling condition. Another big mover, Kenseth improves eight spots to now rank 10th in the points standings. " See the full Sprint Cup Series standings 10. Joey Logano , No. 22 Ford, Team Penske . Two pit road speeding penalties couldn't keep Logano down, as the driver led the opening 27 laps prior through the competition caution. The Daytona 500 champion rallied to post his third straight top-10 of the year and ranks third in the points standings. 11. Jamie McMurray , No. 1 Chevrolet, Chip Ganassi Racing . McMurray just missed recording his first top-10 of the season and improves seven positions to 25th in the driver standings. 12. Paul Menard , No. 27 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing . Menard, who narrowly avoided being collected by Carl Edwards ’ incident on Lap 195, improves four spots in the points standings to 13th. 13. Brian Scott , No. 33 Chevrolet, Circle Sport Racing. Scott benefited from the beneficiary of the free pass after a caution on Lap 187 and went on to claim his best career Cup finish. 14. Greg Biffle , No. 16 Ford, Roush-Fenway Racing. Biffle started strong, but encountered a loose-handing condition that hindered his forward progress. Still, he improved two spots in the points standings to 11th. 15. Brian Vickers , No. 55 Toyota, Michael Waltrip Racing . Vickers, in his first race back since open heart surgery, began Sunday's race by thanking his team for not giving up on him. He surged quickly through the field after starting 28th. 16. Regan Smith , No. 41 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . Smith weathered an early pit road penalty and returned to the lead lap as the beneficiary of the free pass after Carl Edwards ’ accident on Lap 195. Smith was running fourth with 17 laps to go and was among the leaders trying to hold out for a late-race caution during the long green-flag stretch. 17. Kasey Kahne , No. 5 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports . Kahne could seemingly run any line he wanted at Vegas on Sunday and spent the first half of the event racing inside the top five. His luck faded, though, on Lap 195 when he was traveling the high line and Carl Edwards forced him into the wall. " MORE: Kahne, Edwards clash in Kobalt 400 18. Jeff Gordon , No. 24 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports . Gordon, the Coors Light Pole Award winner, had to start from the rear of the field after being involved in an accident with Danica Patrick during final practice. The highs and lows continued for the veteran in his final Vegas race. He improved to crack the top 10 by Lap 143, but sustained critical damage to the nose of his car after bumping Jeb Burton 29 laps later. Burton was trying to avoid being collected when Jimmie Johnson blew a tire. " MORE: Tough day for Gordon in Las Vegas 19. Ryan Blaney , No. 21 Ford, Wood Brothers Racing . Blaney recovered from early issues to find speed late in the race and post his best result so far of the 2015 Sprint Cup Series season. 20. Austin Dillon , No. 3 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing . Dillon improved 15 spots to crack the top 10 on Lap 75, but later was dealt a pit road penalty that impacted his team's forward march. 21. Clint Bowyer , No. 15 Toyota, Michael Waltrip Racing . Rear grip was a problem for Bowyer in practice and on Sunday, he constantly reported a tight-handling race car. His team gambled on pit strategy by staying out during late-race, green-flag stops, but Bowyer ultimately had to stop to make it to the end. 22. David Ragan , No. 18 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . Despite qualifying 13th, Ragan started from the rear of the field after slapping the wall during final practice. The team made consistent gains and ran steadily inside the top 25. 23. David Gilliland , No. 38 Ford, Front Row Motorsports . Crew chief Donnie Wingo reminded Gilliland that Las Vegas had a history of getting looser as the race continued and encouraged Gilliland to use the driver-adjustable track bar feature. 24. Sam Hornish Jr ., No. 9 Ford, Richard Petty Motorsports . Late-race gains improved the handling of the No. 9 Ford, and he held on to score his best result at LVMS since 2009. 25. Casey Mears , No. 13 Chevrolet, Germain Racing . Although handling was an ongoing issue, Mears' top-25 result keeps him inside the top 10 of the points standings. He is ranked ninth going into next week at Phoenix International Raceway . 26. Aric Almirola , No. 43 Ford, Richard Petty Motorsports . Almirola ran as high as ninth on Sunday and raced inside the top 20 until he was clocked going too fast entering pit road at Lap 197. 27. Danica Patrick , No. 10 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . Patrick's team salvaged her starting spot after she was involved in a last-minute accident in final practice. She reported aero issues on Sunday, which she said made her car easy to turn sideways in traffic. 28. Trevor Bayne , No. 6 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing . Bayne struggled to find balance all race long in his Ford, which shifted from a tight- to loose-handling condition as the race unfolded. 29. Ricky Stenhouse Jr ., No. 17, Roush Fenway Racing . Stenhouse's Vegas run was complicated after he made contact with the wall and then hit a loose tire on pit road. He worked with his team to persevere through the damage. 30. Michael McDowell , No. 95 Ford, Leavine Family Racing . McDowell narrowly avoided colliding with Michael Annett , when Annett lost the handle on his car around Lap 150. Still, McDowell held on to earn his best LVMS finish. 31. Justin Allgaier , No. 51 Chevrolet, HScott Motorsports . Allgaier struggled to make forward progress after being penalized three times throughout the race by the new pit road scoring system. " MORE: Allgaier's car too light in post-race inspection 32. Cole Whitt , No. 35 Ford, Front Row Motorsports . Although Whitt's team struggled to find the right combination, he held on to achieve his best Las Vegas result. 33. Tony Stewart , No. 14 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . A steering box issue compounded initial handling woes for Stewart, who also was dealt an uncontrolled tire violation during a Lap 84 pit stop. 34. Josh Wise , No. 98 Ford, Phil Parsons Racing. Wise kept his nose clean during Sunday's race and quietly steered the No. 98 machine to his best result at the 1.5-mile desert track. 35. Landon Cassill , No. 40 Chevrolet, Hillman Smith Motorsports. An early pit road violation wasn't insurmountable for Cassill, who went on to post his best Vegas finish. 36. J.J. Yeley, No. 23 Toyota, BK Racing . Yeley finished 16th in Saturday's NASCAR XFINITY Series race, but struggled to carry that momentum over into the Cup scene. 37. Brett Moffitt , No. 34 Ford, Front Row Motorsports . Moffitt opened the race with promise after posting an eighth-place finish last weekend at the intermediate track of Atlanta Motor Speedway . He qualified 36th and struggled to make up much ground, ultimately brushing the wall as he concluded his first outing at Las Vegas. 38. Brendan Gaughan , No. 62 Chevrolet, Premium Motorsports. The only Las Vegas native in the race -- given the absence of the Busch brothers -- was clocked too fast entering pit road on Lap 76 during green flag stops. 39. Michael Annett , No. 46 Chevrolet, HScott Motorsports . Early in Sunday's contest, Annett wiggled exiting Turn 4 and made hard contact with the wall. Tire smoke prompted him to make an unscheduled pit stop. 40. Jeb Burton , No. 26 Toyota, BK Racing . The lone Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate in the field, Burton slowed to avoid Jimmie Johnson 's first incident when he received an inadvertent nudge from behind by veteran Jeff Gordon . 41. Jimmie Johnson , No. 48 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports . Johnson led 45 laps during the first half of Sunday's race and appeared poised to contend for his fifth Las Vegas victory when tire issues arose. Two blown tires within 14 laps of one another sent Johnson to the garage at Lap 186. " MORE: Tire trouble ruins Johnson's day at Vegas 42. Carl Edwards , No. 19 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . Edwards' promising run was cut short Sunday when his car slid up the track and made contact with Kahne. Edwards almost saved his car from a subsequent spin, but ultimately retreated to the garage with a busted oil cooler. " MORE: Edwards, Kahne clash at Las Vegas 43. Alex Bowman , No. 7 Chevrolet, Tommy Baldwin Racing . An engine issue on Lap 28 dashed Bowman's hopes of continuing the momentum he started last week at Atlanta Motor Speedway . MORE: READ: Latest NASCAR news PLAY: Sign up for Fantasy Live WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView today FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Fourth-place finish gives Earnhardt three straight top-four finishes to start '14 Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live LAS VEGAS -- It all looks so easy, so effortless, when Dale Earnhardt Jr . and that No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet glide around the race track, snapping up the competition and soaring toward the front of the pack. Trust crew chief Greg Ives on this: It's not so simple. "It's been a lot of damn hard work," Ives said while walking through the garage following Sunday's Kobalt 400 , pausing to autograph a No. 88 hat. "We work hard. Everybody on the team does. Dale, me, the guys at the shop, the engineers, all those guys. They make it seem easy, but it's not." If that's the case, they're likely fooling a lot of folks. Once again, the No. 88 came off the hauler fast, this time in sun-splashed Las Vegas. Once again, it kept that speed on race day. Junior finished fourth Sunday, and it's his third consecutive top-five to start the year. It's the second consecutive year in which Earnhardt's group has notched that achievement, but this year's mark was set under the backdrop of change. Ives is just one piece of a rebuilt No. 88 puzzle as Junior's first-year crew chief -- the over-the-wall crew has three new members, too, yet there hasn't been a dip in either car speed or stops on pit road. "I think we were first, second, second (to start the season last year), so we have to step it up a little bit," Junior said with a laugh. "No, Hendrick, overall, has great speed and the engine department is doing awesome. We're having fun." Clearly. The veteran has been at-ease this entire season, and for the second year in a row at Las Vegas was pleased with a late-race gamble. Last year, it was a fuel strategy call that had Junior leading on the last lap, only to go dry on the final circuit and finish second. This year it was a two-tire call on the final round of green-flag pit stops, one that put him first when pit stops had cycled through. The dominant No. 4 Chevrolet of Kevin Harvick eventually caught and passed Junior, and Earnhardt wound up finishing fourth -- he was second at the time of the late pit stop. Still, it was the spirit in which that decision was made and not the subsequent loss of two spots that had Earnhardt excited. "We didn't put lefts (tires) on it; made it a gamble," he said. "I like to gamble. I liked the call. I love being aggressive. We weren't going to drive up there and pass that No. 4. So, we had to take a chance. Second, fifth, fourth, whatever; it really don't matter if you don't win." Wins may be coming soon, though, especially as Earnhardt continues to learn about his ability to adjust the track bar mid-race. After not finding it useful early on this season, he came out even more strongly in favor of it Sunday, making the self-adjusting track bar just another new thing that seems to work for this group. "We've been running the track bar pretty much even the whole race, and at the end there I had it down three inches on right side trying to save my butt," he said. "Maybe it was worn-out lefts, I don't know. The left side (tires) is new and a little softer compound maybe we just took it a little bit too far." Maybe, but as his late-race gamble shows, this group would rather take it a little too far than play it conservatively. They have the speed and the skill; it's those types of decisions, though, that often mean the difference between challenging for a win and, well, not. "This year, our cars are racing up there," Earnhardt said. "So, we think we've got the cars better than we had last year. But I want to win. We're going to get there." MORE: READ: Latest NASCAR news PLAY: Sign up for Fantasy Live WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView toda FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Breaking down how the full 43-car field fared at Phoenix International Raceway Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live RELATED: Full race results " Updated series standings 1. Kevin Harvick , No. 4 Chevrolet , Stewart-Haas Racing . The desert domination continued for Harvick and the No. 4 bunch, which led 224 of 312 laps in the team's fourth straight Phoenix victory. Harvick's second straight NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win increased his streak of top-two finishes to seven, the first driver to accomplish it since Richard Petty in 1975. "That gives me chills," said the defending Sprint Cup champ. 2. Jamie McMurray , No. 1 Chevrolet , Chip Ganassi Racing . Though he voiced concerns about a tire going down to crew chief Matt McCall in the final 50 laps, McMurray persevered for his best Sprint Cup finish since winning at Talladega Superspeedway in October 2013. McCall's decision to keep the No. 1 on the track over the final fuel run gave McMurray a chance to battle hard with Harvick in the late stages. 3. Ryan Newman , No. 31 Chevrolet , Richard Childress Racing . Newman went all the way into late June last year before he notched his first top-five finish of the season. Four races into the 2015 campaign, Newman already has two top-fives -- his 99th and 100th of his career -- thanks to his second straight third-place finish. 4. Kasey Kahne , No. 5 Chevrolet , Hendrick Motorsports . Kahne saved his best finish of the season for his 400th start in NASCAR's premier series, moving up two spots to fourth place in the Sprint Cup standings in the process. "I hope I get 400 more," said the 34-year-old driver. 5. Kurt Busch , No. 41 Chevrolet , Stewart-Haas Racing . The driver formerly known as "The Outlaw" ran second to his SHR teammate Harvick for much of the waning stages, but lost ground when he pitted for fresh tires with 22 laps left. In his first race of the season since NASCAR lifted his suspension, Busch was all business, telling his crew on the radio on the cool-down lap that he thought he had "enough good will saved up, but top five is exactly where we need to be." " Sign up for Scanner today to hear in-car audio 6. Brad Keselowski , No. 2 Ford , Team Penske . The 2012 Sprint Cup champ led the second-most laps (52) and landed his best finish of the season, but remains on the hunt for his first top-five. "We just didn't quite have enough speed," said Keselowski, who drove the top-finishing Ford. "I thought we were about a third- or fourth-place car and got shuffled to finish where we did." 7. Martin Truex Jr ., No. 78 Chevrolet , Furniture Row Racing . The scrappy Colorado-based team continued its upswing, moving to third in the early Sprint Cup standings. Truex rose to as high as second place Sunday, gaining two spots on a 126th-lap restart and leading his spotter to exclaim, "All clear, you are the man!" Truex joins points leader Kevin Harvick and Daytona 500 winner Joey Logano as the only three drivers with top-10 finishes in all four races thus far. " Sign up for RaceView to see in-car video on race days 8. Joey Logano , No. 22 Ford , Team Penske . Logano led twice (the only driver other than Harvick to lead more than once) for 35 laps, benefitting from some fleet-footed pit work from his No. 22 crew. He rallied back after a pit stop during the next-to-last caution period, saying afterward, "getting a top-10 is great but we want to win some more." 9. Jeff Gordon , No. 24 Chevrolet , Hendrick Motorsports . The first top-10 finish of Gordon's final full season in NASCAR's top division couldn't come soon enough, helping him jump five spots to 25th in the Sprint Cup standings. He gave up third place by pitting during the ninth of 10 yellow flags, but threaded his way back for his fourth top-10 in his last five Phoenix races. 10. Kyle Larson , No. 42 Chevrolet , Chip Ganassi Racing . Larson survived a dicey moment shortly after a restart in the 126th lap when Kevin Harvick pushed on his back bumper, getting the No. 42 askew off Turn 4. Larson kept headed in the right direction, securing his second straight top-10 finish. 11. Jimmie Johnson , No. 48 Chevrolet , Hendrick Motorsports . Johnson's adventures came early and late in the 312-lapper at Phoenix: He collided with Brian Vickers at the end of the first lap, leading Johnson to tell crew chief Chad Knaus on the radio, "It's so weird, he left me a lane and came over on the straight." Johnson pressed on after more contact with Carl Edwards on pit road during the race's seventh caution. 12. Ricky Stenhouse Jr ., No. 17 Ford , Roush Fenway Racing . Stenhouse was at the head of the Roush Fenway class Sunday, marking his best Sprint Cup finish since a sixth-place effort at Bristol Motor Speedway last August. The effort wasn't without some drama, an 81st-lap nudge from Tony Stewart that sent him out of the groove and cost him a handful of spots early on. 13. Carl Edwards , No. 19 Toyota , Joe Gibbs Racing . Over his radio in the final stages, Edwards -- who withstood a collision with Jimmie Johnson 's No. 48 on pit road -- radioed his crew that the No. 19 was "shaking like hell," but he was assured that a flapping piece of sheet metal at the rear was upsetting the car's balance. His JGR entry was the highest-finishing Toyota in the 43-car field. " Sign up for Scanner today to hear in-car audio 14. Paul Menard , No. 27 Chevrolet , Richard Childress Racing . Menard's third straight finish on the outskirts of the top 10 didn't come without some excitement as he just missed Tony Stewart 's spinning car in the 238th lap. "I may have just kissed it, but nothing major," he told his RCR crew. 15. Austin Dillon , No. 3 Chevrolet , Richard Childress Racing . Another RCR driver having a more definitive brush with Tony Stewart was Dillon, who sustained a 143rd-lap bump off the fourth turn. Displeased team owner Richard Childress, Dillon's grandfather, gave him some stern instruction for dealing with Stewart over the team radio: "You know what to do when you get back there." 16. Matt Kenseth , No. 20 Toyota , Joe Gibbs Racing . Kenseth spent his fair share of the day mixing it up among the top 10, but an 188th-lap penalty for speeding exiting the pits cost the No. 20 group precious track position. 17. AJ Allmendinger , No. 47 Chevrolet , JTG-Daugherty Racing. The 'Dinger overcame a pair of Phoenix setbacks -- starting at the rear of the field because of a Saturday engine change, then seeing his jack man sidelined by injury on an early pit stop. The solid finish kept Allmendinger firmly in the provisional Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoff grid, fifth in the series standings. 18. Justin Allgaier , No. 51 Chevrolet , HScott Motorsports . Allgaier sewed up his best finish of the season, but also drew some initial criticism from Tony Stewart after their 238th-lap battle sent Smoke spinning. "I don't think I crowded him, but you know how it is," Allgaier told his crew, noting the difficulties in judging his line through the third and fourth turns. " Sign up for Scanner today to hear in-car audio 19. Aric Almirola , No. 43 Ford , Richard Petty Motorsports . Almirola lamented his car's struggles with handling, especially in traffic, but was hopeful for a rebound next Sunday at Auto Club Speedway , site of the third and final leg of NASCAR's West Coast Swing. "Our intermediate program has been good this year, so we'll look to getting up front next week in California," Almirola said. 20. Casey Mears , No. 13 Chevrolet , Germain Racing . Handling woes kept the No. 13 from making progress during the 500-kilometer race, but Mears tweeted hours after the checkered flag that the team found a problem in the right-rear that was the culprit. Despite the midpack finish, he still held a tenuous grip on the 12th of 16 spots in the provisional Chase grid. 21. David Ragan , No. 18 Toyota , Joe Gibbs Racing . Ragan's stint as a substitute for the injured Kyle Busch has yet to produce a finish better than his interim car number. Sunday, it produced an irate Danica Patrick after their late-race run-in. Ragan's JGR team celebrated as last year's winner at Auto Club Speedway , where Busch scored his only Sprint Cup victory of the season. 22. Landon Cassill , No. 40 Chevrolet , Hillman Smith Motorsports. The Iowa native posted his best finish of the Sprint Cup season by a wide margin, finishing on the lead lap for the first time in 2015. He was the recipient of the free pass back onto the lead lap three times in the early going. 23. Denny Hamlin , No. 11 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . Finishing last among the JGR contingent didn't sit well with Hamlin, who hopes to bounce back into form at Auto Club Speedway , a track that has been a house of horrors, injury-wise, for him the last two years. "We have to go to California and offset this," he told his No. 11 team on the cool-down lap. " Sign up for Scanner today to hear in-car audio 24. Clint Bowyer , No. 15 Toyota , Michael Waltrip Racing . An unscheduled pit stop for a loose wheel in the 143rd lap left Bowyer shouting a stream of profanities over his team radio near the race's midpoint. He received the free pass back onto the lead lap during the sixth of 10 caution periods. 25. Cole Whitt , No. 35 Ford , Front Row Motorsports . Whitt matched his best performance in five career Sprint Cup starts at Phoenix International Raceway , but also held the distinction Sunday as the race's biggest gainer, finishing 14 spots up from his starting position. 26. Danica Patrick , No. 10 Chevrolet , Stewart-Haas Racing . Patrick found herself at the tail of the field after drawing a 201st-lap penalty for her crew's failure to control a tire on pit road, then spun through turns 3 and 4 after a significant nudge from David Ragan 's No. 18. "Nice try, Mr. Nice Guy Ragan," she told her crew under caution. " Sign up for Scanner today to hear in-car audio 27. Greg Biffle , No. 16 Ford , Roush Fenway Racing . A loose wheel with roughly 75 laps to go cost Biffle dearly when he was forced to make an unscheduled green-flag pit stop. He was the beneficiary of the race's next caution flag, but wound up as the final driver on the lead lap in his worst finish of the season. 28. Trevor Bayne , No. 6 Ford , Roush Fenway Racing . After going a lap down to leader Kevin Harvick in the race's first half, Bayne said, "I about flipped over trying to keep up with him. Loose in, about to wreck every lap. Just terrible." Bayne matched both his result from the previous week and the number of laps down at the finish (3). 29. David Gilliland , No. 38 Ford , Front Row Motorsports . Gilliland illustrated the tooth-and-nail nature of racing back in the pack when he traded paint with Mike Bliss down the backstretch early on, trying to avoid going a lap down. He eventually did, winding up three laps back at the checkered flag in his worst result so far in 2015. 30. Alex Bowman , No. 7 Chevrolet , Tommy Baldwin Racing . The second-year driver made the most of an ill-handling car, telling his TBR crew over the radio about feeling "brake shake" as the race entered its second half. It marked a modest improvement over Bowman's last-place finish the previous weekend in Las Vegas. 31. J.J. Yeley , No. 23 Toyota , BK Racing . High hopes for a solid day in his Arizona hometown went for naught with his worst finish at the 1-mile track since spring 2011. The performance left him 0-for-13 in the top-10 column over his Sprint Cup career at Phoenix. 32. Brett Moffitt , No. 34 Ford , Front Row Motorsports . In two starts thus far as David Ragan 's sub in the No. 34, Moffitt has been unable to replicate the magic from his eighth-place outing earlier in the season as Brian Vickers ' fill-in at MWR. He'll get another shot this Sunday at Auto Club Speedway in the last of his three scheduled drives for the Front Row team. 33. Mike Bliss , No. 32 Ford , GoFAS Racing. After Bliss failed to qualify the previous weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway , the No. 32 was back on track Sunday at Phoenix. The veteran won a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series event at Phoenix in 1998, but has been no better than 20th in the desert in his Sprint Cup career. 34. Jeb Burton , No. 26 Toyota , BK Racing . The rocky start to Burton's Sprint Cup tenure continued Sunday at Phoenix, but the 22-year-old can take some solace in wrapping up a career-best finish. "We made big gains this weekend had a better car then (sic) where we finished," Burton tweeted after the race. "Proud of the effort all weekend." 35. Matt DiBenedetto , No. 83 Toyota , BK Racing . After failing to qualify the previous two weeks at Atlanta and Las Vegas, DiBenedetto's Sprint Cup debut finally came. He drove home in the same position that he started -- 35th. 36. Josh Wise , No. 98 Ford , Phil Parsons Racing. Wise lagged to his lowest finish of the season, continuing a trend of finishing 35th or worse in all six of his Sprint Cup starts at Phoenix International Raceway . 37. Brendan Gaughan , No. 62 Chevrolet , Premium Motorsports. Gaughan sits sixth in the standings in his regular circuit , the NASCAR XFINITY Series, but the results haven't been there on the Sprint Cup side. His third start of the season in the Jay Robinson-owned ride marked his 45th career start in NASCAR's top series. 38. Alex Kennedy , No. 33 Chevrolet , Circle Sport Racing. Kennedy started last in the Joe Falk-owned Chevy and recovered from a Turn 3 spin during the 16th lap. He wound up eight laps down in making his first Sprint Cup start of the year. 39. Tony Stewart , No. 14 Chevrolet , Stewart-Haas Racing . Smoke used brute force to complete two passes earlier in the race, but found close-quarters racing with Justin Allgaier to be his undoing in the 238th lap. Stewart scraped the wall again 52 laps later, ending his day. The three-time series champ has just 32 points, lowest among drivers who have run all four Sprint Cup events this year. 40. Sam Hornish Jr ., No. 9 Ford , Richard Petty Motorsports . Involvement in the fourth yellow flag (for a solo spin) and the ninth caution period (for catching a piece of Tony Stewart 's second crash of the day) doomed any chances at Phoenix, the site of his first NASCAR XFINITY Series victory. The Petty No. 9 spent plenty of time behind the wall for repairs, finishing 35 laps down at the end. 41. Brian Vickers , No. 55 Toyota , Michael Waltrip Racing . Vickers' second start of the year went awry as he crossed the stripe to complete Lap 1, when he collided with Jimmie Johnson 's car on the frontstretch. "What happened to all clear?" Vickers exclaimed, raising the possibility of miscommunication with his MWR spotter. 42. Michael Annett , No. 46 Chevrolet , HScott Motorsports . Annett's car sputtered down on the apron in the 63rd lap, leading him to radio his crew: "Something rattling around in the drivetrain. … It's in gear and nothing gets power to it." Once in the garage, crew chief Jay Guy issued a warning to the No. 46 crew: "The gear is burned up. Do not expose it to air, it will catch on fire." Annett eventually returned to the track, finishing 110 laps down. " Sign up for Scanner today to hear in-car audio 43. Dale Earnhardt Jr ., No. 88 Chevrolet , Hendrick Motorsports . A blown right-rear tire sent Earnhardt's car careening into the Turn 2 wall, severely damaging the rear end and snapping his streak of three top-five finishes to start the season. Earnhardt was uninjured and was at least able to joke about the situation, which happened suddenly in the 182nd lap. "They never tell you they are going to blow out, never," he said with a laugh. "You don't ever have a warning." MORE: READ: Latest NASCAR news PLAY: Sign up for Fantasy Live WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView today FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule