Phoenix International Raceway schedule, news, media, tickets, & information for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series track only on the official site of NASCAR
Phoenix Int'l Raceway schedule, news, media, tickets, and information for the NASCAR Nationwide Series track only on the official site of NASCAR.
At first race, Penn State student got great view of NASCAR action Students are encouraged to work as active media members at the race track and ultimately tell the story of their unique experience at a NASCAR event. Following each immersion, one student will have the chance to see their work published on NASCAR.com. Melissa Conrad, a senior at Pennsylvania State University, attended the race weekend in Avondale, Arizona, and filed this story. I grew up watching and playing all sports, from field hockey to tennis to cross country and everything in between. I traveled up and down the East Coast watching my brother play summer league baseball and competing in AAU basketball tournaments myself. I watched NFL games every Sunday with my dad. I pined over Olympic figure skating and gymnastics with my mom, the one non-sports-oriented person in my family. I chose to attend Penn State University for the well-respected education I would receive from the College of Communications and the athletic involvement opportunities that would present themselves at such a high-profile institution. Now, as a senior having completed a multitude of internships in the industry, I thought I had accomplished a diverse, well-rounded background in sports knowledge. That is, until Nov. 7 when I arrived at Phoenix International Raceway to experience NASCAR. Before arriving in Phoenix to participate in an exclusive student immersion program for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and NASCAR Nationwide Series races, NASCAR was defined as such: The sport of which I have almost no knowledge or opinion. My definition today? The best-kept sports secret of my generation. Per my own observation, it seems that the buzz for NASCAR exists mostly within an older-than-college crowd. However, my experience in Phoenix is proof to why the buzz needs to spread (and will). As soon as we landed at the airport, we were immediately whisked away to the track. Tom Bryant, director of communicators for Touring and Weekly racing, met us at the track entrance to get us set up with credentials that would allow us access to people and areas that thousands of others would beg for during the weekend. I can genuinely say that the scene we walked into was unlike any other sports scene I’ve been a part of, from Penn State’s Beaver Stadium filled to capacity to Gaelic football playoffs in Ireland. It was an organized chaos of pit crews handling hundreds of tools and parts, passionate fans looking on and waiting for autographs, media members fighting for interviews and cars zooming by in tight lanes to enter the raceway for practice or qualifying rounds. Friday consisted of meeting the on-site NASCAR Competition Communications team from top to bottom, who welcomed us as if we were one of their own. The group was not only quick to offer any and all background information on the sport, but was also just as interested to hear our stories -- where we were from, what our majors were, what brought us here and so on. We looked on in amazement as the final practice round for the NASCAR Nationwide Series took place, followed by NASCAR Camping World Truck Series qualifying. I never realized that NASCAR isn't just the race itself; it’s the compilation of qualifying and practice rounds that are just as crucial. The sun went down and it was time for NASCAR under the lights at Phoenix International Raceway . There was one problem though: a power outage in the region. Half of the race track was completely darkened beside the Arizona desert mountains, and the main attraction of the day (not to mention, my first ever NASCAR race) was delayed by an hour. When the lights turned on and the race did get going, a crash occurred before some of the trucks even reached the start/finish line, thus rendering 18 ensuing caution laps. Everyone in the press box made a point to stop by the Penn State students' chairs and whisper: "Don't worry, it's not usually like this." However, what they didn't realize is that you never forget your first experience with a particular sport. Power outages and cautions laps or not, NASCAR was beginning to make sense to me. Saturday was another full day of practice rounds, qualifying, media interviews, press conferences and most notably a 100 mph, adrenaline-spiking pace car trip around the track. The NASCAR Nationwide Series race was set for 2 p.m. that afternoon. We had the amazing opportunity to sit atop Kyle Larson 's pit box, an experience I'm sure would be envied by many NASCAR loyalists. I almost felt guilty taking such an incredible viewing spot for the race, having had no previous knowledge of a sport in which millions live and breathe. Watching the @NASCAR_NNS race at @PhoenixRaceway from @KyleLarsonRacin 's pit box. pic.twitter.com/AvFJIGbSr3 — Melissa Conrad (@melissaconradPR) November 8, 2014 What an experience it was to see the race from that vantage point. Listening to the radio, watching Larson's team go to work in less than eight seconds each pit stop and being that close to the track was a sports moment I will never forget. I learned in those three hours that you do not need to fully understand a sport to truly grasp its intensity. The beauty of sports is just that. If you have a passion for competition, it doesn't matter whether it's a ball bouncing on a court, a puck skimming across the ice, a glove making a catch, or a high-speed car revving its engine. All sports matter. I arrived at the Phoenix International Raceway as a NASCAR doubter and left as a believer. Text goes here MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView
Take a virtual lap around the Phoenix International Raceway with Jimmie Johnson.
JGR driver will lead field to green in Sunday's Quicken Loans Race for Heroes 500 (3 p.m. ET, ESPN) MORE: Full race lineup AVONDALE, Ariz.— Needing an 11th-place finish or better in Sunday's Quicken Loans Race for Heroes 500 to secure one of four positions in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series' title race, Denny Hamlin took a giant step toward that goal with a pole-winning effort on Friday at Phoenix International Raceway . Hamlin covered the one-mile distance in 25.332 seconds (142.113 mph) to win his third Coors Light pole award of the season, his second at Phoenix and the 20th of his career. The driver of the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota edged fellow Chase driver Brad Keselowski (142.079 mph) by .006 seconds for the top starting spot in the final race of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup's Eliminator Round (on ESPN at 3 p.m. ET). With Kevin Harvick third at 141.995 mph, Joey Logano fourth and Matt Kenseth fifth (both at 141.794 mph) and Jeff Gordon sixth at 141.665 mph, Chase drivers claimed six of the top seven spots on the grid. The only interloper was Kyle Busch , who will start sixth after posting a lap at 141.771 mph. With one of the best pit crews in the Sprint Cup garage, Hamlin will choose pit stall No. 1, closest to the exit from pit road and a considerable advantage at Phoenix . But even with the top starting spot and the best pit box, Hamlin doesn't think he'll be able to coast to the final race. "I think the competition is just too close and tight to think that you're just going to coast to an 11th-place finish," Hamlin said. "Nowadays, the difference between 11th and third and 20th is not that much, so you've got to go all-out on every single lap and fight for every position on restarts. "So, really, from my standpoint, there is no backing into this thing and coasting our way to Homestead. We have to go out there and perform at a high level, or else we're not going to make it. There are too many cars that are too good for us to think that we're just going to ride around and take our spot." Harvick, who was fastest in Friday's opening practice, said he didn't "connect the dots" in either round of knockout qualifying. Nevertheless, the consensus in the garage is that Harvick, who has won three of the last four Phoenix races, has the fastest car in race trim. "I just didn't hit everything on both laps," Harvick said. "I got up the race track a little bit the first lap in Turn 1, and on the second lap, I got up the track at Turns 3 and 4. So I just missed it by a little bit, but our Budweiser Chevrolet is really good in race trim and (I'm) really looking forward to the race. "We have to keep tweaking on it tomorrow and know we qualified 13th here the first time and drove to the lead. We have to keep doing what we're doing, and we'll be fine." Keselowski and Harvick, who are seventh and eighth in the Chase standings know that a victory at Phoenix is their surest path to the season finale. Keselowski, who had to win at Talladega to advance to the Eliminator Round, spelled it out. "Technically, I don't have to win this race, but the probabilities are that I do," he explained. "I think it will be very hard to pass three cars in points. I think I'm within five on all three, but that means if you didn't win, you'd have to beat at least three cars by five spots on the track—and these are good guys. These are good drivers and good teams. "There's a reason why they're this far in the Chase, and to beat all three of those by five spots, that's a tough task for anyone to really feel good about. But you know if you win, you're in, and that's the great thing about this system and we have a great shot at it, for sure." Chase driver Carl Edwards was 25th fastest in opening practice but improved to 13th in time trials. "I hate to admit it, but I'm very happy with 13th," Edwards said. "We were about a 25th-place car in practice, and I was nervous about this and it went well, so that's good. I'm telling you, we're within striking distance. "We're better than we qualified in the spring, and now we work on race trim. We're always better in the race here than we are in qualifying, so we'll just go focus on it and keep digging." Ryan Newman, who needs a ninth-place finish to advance to Homestead with title eligibility, qualified 20th, deepest in the field of the Chase drivers. Clay Rogers failed to make the 43-car field. MORE: READ: Latest NASCAR news WATCH: Latest NASCAR video PLAY: NASCAR Fantasy Live FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL CHASE COVERAGE • Chase hub page • Chase Grid games • #MyChaseNation
Rookie tries to be youngest title winner in NASCAR national series history RELATED: Play NASCAR Fantasy Live " Sign up for RaceView today Plenty of history remains up for grabs for Chase Elliott as the NASCAR Nationwide Series season winds down. That doesn't mean he's overthinking matters. The 18-year-old phenom enters the year's penultimate race with a 48-point edge over JR Motorsports teammate Regan Smith . If Elliott loses no ground in the standings after Saturday's DAV 200 Honoring America's Heroes (4 p.m. ET, ESPN) at Phoenix International Raceway , he'll be crowned champion with one race remaining. If Elliott can cash in on his commanding lead -- either in the desert or at the Homestead-Miami Speedway finale the following weekend -- he'll become the youngest title winner in any of NASCAR's three national series and the first rookie champ since the series' formative years. He'd also be the first to win the title and Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors in the same season. A championship would also put the Elliotts as the fourth father/son combo to win NASCAR national series championships as Bill Elliott, 2015 NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee and Chase's father, won NASCAR's premier series championship in 1988. While the scenarios for clinching the crown are fairly straightforward, Elliott isn't making the task ahead more complex that it needs to be. At the same time, the teenager said he grasps the importance of the potential accomplishment. "It would be phenomenal. It would mean the world to me, and not just me, but our team and our sponsors, NAPA and everybody that makes it happen," Elliott said last weekend after adding six points to his lead at Texas Motor Speedway . "We'll give it our best shot to do so. We'd still like to have another win or two before the year is out, so that's our main goal. The biggest thing about the points, I think, is keeping it as simple as knowing you get the most points for finishing highest up at the end of the day. I think that's about as simple and as much as you need to worry about it. "So we'll give it our best shot each week and hope for the best and wherever it unfolds, it unfolds." While an Elliott championship isn't a lock, a first Nationwide title for the JRM operation virtually is. Richard Childress Racing 's Brian Scott ranks third, a distant 63 points off the top, meaning he'd need a monumental collapse from both Elliott and Smith in the next two races to overtake them for the crown. Elliott Sadler , 68 points behind in his last year with Joe Gibbs Racing , and RCR's Ty Dillon , 75 points off the lead, are the only other drivers with a mathematical chance at the championship. On the team owners' side of the Nationwide standings, the battle at the top tightened up after Kyle Busch 's victory last weekend at Texas. The triumph helped the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 54 Toyota team move closer to Team Penske 's No. 22 Ford, driven to a second-place finish in Fort Worth by Joey Logano . With two races left, the Penske No. 22 leads by 26 points. Busch will again be behind the wheel at Phoenix , where he's won three consecutive Nationwide races and seven times overall in the series. Brad Keselowski -- a four-time winner in Nationwide competition this year but winless at Phoenix -- will pilot the Penske No. 22 this weekend. Last season, Penske's No. 22 prevailed in the season-long team owner championship hunt by just one point over the Gibbs No. 54. MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
No. 11 and No. 16 team crew chiefs discuss their testing plans RELATED: Play NASCAR Fantasy Live " Sign up for RaceView today Phoenix International Raceway will b e a busy place over the next month and a half. In addition to hosting the Quicken Loans Race for Heroes 500 (Nov. 9, 3 p.m. ET, ESPN), the final race of the Eliminator Round in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup where four drivers will be eliminated before the season wraps up in Homestead, the track will also host a Goodyear tire test. Speaking to SiriusXM NASCAR Radio's "The Morning Drive," Darian Grubb, crew chief for Denny Hamlin 's No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing team, disclosed that there will be a test and discussed the positives and negatives of testing during the season. "We found out yesterday that we're actually going to have an extra day at Phoenix turned into a 2015 tire test after we do our team test out there. So that's going to be interesting right before we go to Talladega and the stressful week, a lot of our guys are going to have to stay out there and do a third day of testing just for Goodyear and NASCAR. So it's exciting because it gives you a chance to get ahead on next year's stuff, but it's also tough to be able to concentrate on this year and start working on next year as well." Hamlin's team is planning on testing at Phoenix "the week after next" and will also be testing at Homestead "two weeks after that," Grubb said. Hamlin is still in the championship hunt as the Chase heads into the Contender Round at Kansas Speedway for the Hollywood Casino 400 (Sunday, 2 p.m. ET, ESPN) Grubb was also asked about the 2015 rules package that was announced last week. Among the changes announced are a reduction in horsepower and a ban of team-facilitated testing for next season. "I really think it's a good direction. I wish we had gone a little farther with the downforce reduction, but it is what it is and we're going to go out there and we're going to race hard. From what we saw at Michigan and how racy the cars were and how the drivers were physically having to drive the car, I think the direction is for sure going to be the right thing. I think racing will become a lot closer, and the driver is going to have more of a chance to mess up and jump the cars loose and guys diving inside. Hopefully they're going to have more talks in the future and go even further with the downforce reduction and give Goodyear some freedom to be able to give us more grip in the tires and more falloff and make pit strategy and things like that a lot more of a game to play. Any time you open up the rulebook for crew chiefs to have a little more chance to work and a little bit more freedom to make your car better than the other guy, we all thrive on that because we all want to find that advantage. The more that goes, the happier we're going to be and hopefully the racing gets even better because of it." For a team eliminated from the Chase, working toward 2015 is at the forefront of their mind. Matt Puccia, Greg Biffle 's crew chief, discussed with "The Morning Drive" the tests the No. 16 Roush Fenway Racing team has lined up. "(We've) got a lot of stuff to do for 2015 in the next month and a half, two months that really we're working hard on now," Puccia said. "We've got a Homestead team test that we're going to use this year. Maybe we'll work on some stuff there. There's a Goodyear test that we're going to go to and work on the rules package this year. I think we've got Charlotte they're talking about this year and California maybe. So really going to start strapping down here and start working on '15 here." MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
See where your favorite driver will be pitting on Friday (FS1, 8:30 p.m. ET) RELATED: Full race lineup By winning the 21 Means 21 Pole Award for Friday night's Lucas Oil 150 (8:30 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1) at Phoenix International Raceway , Erik Jones got the top selection for a pit stall for the race. Jones chose the pit stall closest to the pit road exit. Jones' first career NASCAR national series win came at Phoenix in this race last year. With his pit stall, Jones will have an opening in front of him to pull out of his pit box. Matt Crafton (starting second), Ben Kennedy (starting third), Ben Rhodes (starting fourth), Joey Coulter (starting fifth), Tyler Reddick (starting seventh), John Hunter Nemechek (starting eighth), Brennan Newberry (starting 11th), Austin Dillon (starting 12th) and Johnny Sauter (starting 14th) will also have the advantage of an opening in front of them on pit road. Matt Tifft chose the pit stall closest to the pit road entrance. Entering the Lucas Oil 150 , the defending series champion Crafton holds a 23-point lead over Ryan Blaney for the championship. MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Chase contender led 224 laps in win at 1-mile track in March Kevin Harvick has been remarkably strong at Phoenix International Raceway in recent races at the 1-mile track. Harvick has won three of the last four races at the desert track, including a dominating performance in just his second Sprint Cup Series points race for Stewart-Haas Racing earlier this year. Harvick led 224 of a possible 312 laps en route to his first win with SHR. For his career, Harvick has five wins -- the most of any Sprint Cup driver at the track, including a sweep of the 2006 races. In the past nine years, Harvick has the second-highest driver rating (103.9) at Phoenix .
Late caution allows veteran to pass Kyle Busch for victory RELATED: Race results " Series standings AVONDALE, Ariz. - Brad Keselowski took advantage of a late-race caution to edge Kyle Busch for a Nationwide Series victory at Phoenix International Raceway , but Chase Elliott was the day's big winner at Saturday's DAV 200 - Honoring America's Veterans . Elliott, the 18-year-old son of 1988 Sprint Cup champion Bill Elliott , finished fifth to clinch the NASCAR Nationwide Series title, becoming the first rookie to accomplish the feat. The Elliott family joined the Pettys, Pearsons, Jarretts and Earnhardts in becoming families with father-son national touring series champions. Elliott, who won races at Texas, Darlington and Chicagoland this season, did what he needed to, finishing ahead of JR Motorsports teammate Regan Smith , who entered the race 48 points behind Elliott in the series standings and ran 10th. Elliott said he wasn't sure how to celebrate his series triumph. "I wasn't sure if it was OK to do a burnout lap or not," he said. "But I did one anyway because I was too excited not to. "I never would have even believed this was in my future. At the beginning of this season I had only run a couple of truck races. I feel lot of this is just due to the group of guys I was able to work with. Those guys were bringing me super-fast cars every week." Elliott's NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet did what Busch's Toyota could not do -- survive a green-white-checkered finish after Alex Bowman was slow on the track, bringing out a race-changing caution flag with slightly more than a lap to go. To that point, Busch had been dominant, seemingly on his way to his eighth win in 25 starts this season by leading 187 of the race's 206 laps. But Keselowski had other ideas, swooping to the inside and driving past Busch in Turn 1 of the final lap to prevent Busch from winning his fourth consecutive Nationwide start at Phoenix . "We didn't give up," Keselowski said. "Kyle was really fast – probably a 10th (of a second) or two faster than everybody. Then, that yellow came out and I really don't know what happened. I think we grabbed a gear and he slipped. "It was a little bit surreal. I really didn't even know the race was over. We were low on gas in that whole (end-of-race) situation." Busch was similarly at a loss for words. "The Monster Energy Camry was faster than everyone else – just not at the right time," said Busch, who said he knew he was in trouble when Keselowski's car "cut better than mine in Turns 3 and 4. "I tried to let him go into (Turn) 1 and cut back underneath, but my (car) wouldn't turn," Busch said. "(Right there) his stuff doesn't turn but it still turned better than ours 'cuz he still got me." Neither Keselowski nor Busch are eligible for the series title because they are full-time Sprint Cup Series drivers. For much of the race, Smith appeared primed to put his teammate's title hopes on hold. But Smith struggled after leaving the pits with 29 laps to go after taking left side tires on a yellow-flag pit stop. Elliott leaped from ninth to sixth in the running order and held serve the rest of the way. Busch took fresh tires during that same caution and restarted fifth. The strategy seemed to pay off as he easily got around Keselowski, Elliott Sadler and Bowman, each of whom elected to forego the pits on that final stop. But Keselowski made it happen in the final two laps of his Nationwide Series campaign. "We have a great team," said Keselowski, who did not finish worse than fourth in any of his 10 Nationwide starts this season. "I'm proud to be a part of it. It's been a phenomenal year and I'm going to remember this one for a long time." MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule