Upon Further Review: Phoenix

Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images

Ryan Blaney’s performance Sunday at Phoenix International Raceway was something the Wood Brothers had not experienced in half a lifetime.

Half of Blaney’s lifetime that is.

The 22-year-old Blaney was 11 years old the last time the Wood Brothers accomplished back-to-back top-10 finishes. Blaney’s 10th-place run Sunday at Phoenix followed his sixth at Las Vegas Motor Speedway the week before.

The last driver to score consecutive top-10 finishes for the Wood Brothers? Ricky Rudd. He accomplished the feat with ninth-place results in Oct. 2005 at Kansas Speedway and Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Blaney’s success this season is just part an intriguing rookie battle with Chase Elliott — something that hasn’t been seen too often in recent years among the rookie class.

With a rookie field that includes Chris Buescher, Brian Scott and Jeffrey Earnhardt, Blaney and Elliott have had the greatest success in the season’s first four races. Both Blaney and Elliott have a pair of top-10 finishes this season after Elliott placed eighth at Phoenix.

This could be a race worth watching as the season progresses.

— A theme is emerging after three races on non-restrictor plate tracks.

Hendrick Motorsports has scored eight top-10 finishes and four top-five finishes in the first three races on non-plate tracks. Joe Gibbs Racing, which won both races that had the low downforce package last season, has six top-five finishes and seven top-10 results. Stewart-Haas Racing is next with two top-five finishes and five top 10s.

For Joe Gibbs Racing, this continues a remarkable streak. The organization has had at least one car in the top five in each of the past 26 Cup races. The last time a Cup race didn’t have a Gibbs car in the top five was Pocono last June. The top Gibbs car that day was sixth.

Think about that. Twenty-six races is the length of a “regular season” in the series.

Sunday’s race at Phoenix — Carl Edwards was second, Denny Hamlin third and Kyle Busch fourth — marked the second time this year JGR has had three cars in the top five. The Daytona 500 was the other race.

During the 26-race streak, Joe Gibbs Racing has scored 12 wins, seven runner-up finishes, eight third-place finishes, eight fourth-place finishes and 11 fifth-place finishes.

— The first four races of the season have been won by Joe Gibbs Racing (Daytona 500), Hendrick Motorsports (Atlanta), Team Penske (Las Vegas) and Stewart-Haas Racing (Phoenix). Those four teams combined to win 35 of the 36 races last season. Furniture Row Racing with Martin Truex Jr. was the only team to break the stranglehold of those four teams.

Also, those four teams, have won 49 of the last 50 Cup races, since A.J. Allmendinger‘s win in 2014 for JTG Daugherty Racing at Watkins Glen International.

— Kyle Busch has won all three Xfinity races he’s started this season and nine of the past 17 Xfinity races he has started since returning from his injuries last season.

— Does history repeat this weekend? Each of the last three Sprint Cup races at Auto Club Speedway ended with a last-lap pass for the win.

In 2013, Kyle Busch took the lead on the last lap after Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin tangled while battling for the top spot.

In 2014, Kyle Busch passed Kurt Busch on the last lap during overtime and held off Kyle Larson’s charge to win. Kyle Busch led only five laps that race.

Last year, Brad Keselowski passed Kurt Busch on the last lap of overtime to win. It was the only lap Keselowski led.

— NBC Sports’ Parker Kligerman still is the points leader in the Camping World Truck Series. The series did not race at Phoenix and is off this weekend, so he keeps his spot a little longer. In the Xfinity Series, Daniel Suarez remains the points leader. In the Cup series, Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch are tied for the points lead, but Harvick owns the tiebreaker with his Phoenix win.

NASCAR weekend schedule at World Wide Technology Raceway, Portland


NASCAR’s top three series are racing this weekend in two different locations. Cup and Craftsman Truck teams will compete at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway, and the Xfinity Series will compete at Portland International Raceway.

World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway (Cup and Trucks)

Weekend weather

Friday: Partly cloudy with a high of 87 degrees during Truck qualifying.

Saturday: Sunny. Temperatures will be around 80 degrees for the start of Cup practice and climb to 88 degrees by the end of Cup qualifying. Forecast calls for sunny skies and a high of 93 degrees around the start of the Truck race.

Sunday: Mostly sunny with a high of 92 degrees and no chance of rain at the start of the Cup race.

Friday, June 2

(All times Eastern)

Garage open

  • 1 – 8 p.m. Craftsman Truck Series
  • 4 – 9 p.m. Cup Series

Track activity

  • 6 – 6:30 p.m. — Truck practice (FS1)
  • 6:30 – 7:30 p.m. — Truck qualifying (FS1)

Saturday, June 3

Garage open

  • 8 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.  — Cup Series
  • 12:30 p.m. — Truck Series

Track activity

  • 10 – 10:45 a.m. — Cup practice (FS1, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
  • 10:45 a.m. – 12 p.m. — Cup qualifying  (FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
  • 1:30 p.m. — Truck race (160 laps, 200 miles; FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Sunday, June 4

Garage open

  • 12:30 p.m. — Cup Series

Track activity

  • 3:30 p.m. — Cup race (240 laps, 300 miles; FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)


Portland International Raceway (Xfinity Series)

Weekend weather

Friday: Mostly sunny with a high of 77 degrees.

Saturday: Mostly sunny with a high of 73 degrees and no chance of rain around the start of the Xfinity race.

Friday, June 2

(All times Eastern)

Garage open

  • 6-11 p.m. Xfinity Series

Saturday, June 3

Garage open

  • 10 a.m.  — Xfinity Series

Track activity

  • 11:30 a.m. – 12 p.m. — Xfinity practice (No TV)
  • 12 – 1 p.m. — Xfinity qualifying (FS1)
  • 4:30 p.m. — Xfinity race (75 laps, 147.75 miles; FS1, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

NASCAR Cup playoff standings after Coca-Cola 600


The severe penalty to Chase Briscoe and his Stewart-Haas Racing team Wednesday for a counterfeit part dropped Briscoe from 17th to 31st in the season standings. Briscoe now must win a race to have a chance at the playoffs.

The penalty came a day after NASCAR suspended Chase Elliott one race for his retaliation in wrecking Denny Hamlin in Monday’s Coca-Cola 600. Elliott is 28th in the points. The 2020 Cup champion also needs to win to have a chance to make the playoffs.

Ten drivers have won races, including Coca-Cola 600 winner Ryan Blaney. That leaves six playoff spots to be determined by points at this time. With 12 races left in the regular season, including unpredictable superspeedway races at Atlanta (July 9) and Daytona (Aug. 26), the playoff standings will change during the summer.

Among those without a win this season are points leader Ross Chastain and former champions Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski and Elliott.

Here’s a look at the Cup playoff standings heading into Sunday’s Cup race at World Wide Technology Raceway in Madison, Illinois. Drivers in yellow have won a race and are in a playoff position. Those below the red line after 16th place are outside a playoff spot in the graphic below.

NASCAR issues major penalties to Chase Briscoe team for Charlotte infraction


NASCAR fined crew chief John Klausmeier $250,000 and suspended him six races, along with penalizing Chase Briscoe and the No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing team 120 points and 25 playoff points each for a counterfeit part on the car.

The issue was a counterfeit engine NACA duct, said Elton Sawyer, NASCAR senior vice president of competition, on Wednesday. That is a single-source part.

MORE: Updated Cup playoff standings

The team stated that it accepts the L3 penalty.

“We had a quality control lapse and a part that never should’ve been on a car going to the racetrack ended up on the No. 14 car at Charlotte,” said Greg Zipadelli in a statement from the team. “We accept NASCAR’s decision and will not appeal.”

Asked how then piece could have aided performance, Sawyer said Wednesday: “Knowing the race team mentality, they don’t do things that would not be a benefit to them in some way, shape or form from a performance advantage.”

The penalty drops Briscoe from 17th in the season standings to 31st in the standings. Briscoe goes from having 292 points to having 172 points. He’ll have to win to make the playoffs. Briscoe has no playoff points at this time, so the penalty puts him at -25 playoff points should he make it.

Briscoe’s car was one of two taken to the R&D Center after Monday’s Coca-Cola 600 for additional tear down by series officials.

The penalty comes a day after NASCAR suspended Chase Elliott one race for wrecking Denny Hamlin in last weekend’s race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

NASCAR Championship Weekend returns to Phoenix in 2024


Phoenix Raceway will host the championship races for the Cup, Xfinity, Craftsman Truck and ARCA Menards Series in 2024, NASCAR announced Wednesday.

The races will be held Nov. 1-3, 2024. The Cup season finale will be Nov. 3, 2024. The only other Cup race for 2024 that has been announced is the Daytona 500. It will be held Feb. 18, 2024.

Phoenix Raceway has hosted the championship finale for Cup, Xfinity and Trucks since 2020. Chase Elliott won the Cup title there in 2020. Kyle Larson followed in 2021. Joey Logano won the crown there in 2022.

This year’s Cup finale at Phoenix will be Nov. 5 and air on NBC.