Here’s your primer for Sunday’s Can-Am 500 Cup elimination race at Phoenix

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The penultimate race of the 2017 NASCAR Cup playoffs takes place this Sunday with the Can-Am 500 at Phoenix Raceway.

This is the final elimination race of the playoffs, with five drivers still eligible for the one remaining position to advance to next week’s season-ending and championship-deciding Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Or, as NBCSN’s Kyle Petty so succinctly put it, “party of five, table of one.”

Thanks to Racing Insights, here’s all you need to know about Sunday’s race and racetrack:

NASCAR Cup 2017 Season Breakdown

  • Different Winners: 14
  • Most Wins: 7- Martin Truex Jr.
  • Most Poles: 8- Kyle Busch
  • Most Runner Ups: 8 – Kyle Larson
  • Most Top-fives: 17 – Martin Truex Jr.
  • Most Top-10s: 24 – Marin Truex Jr.
  • Most Laps Led: 2175– Martin Truex Jr.
  • Stage Wins: 19 – Martin Truex Jr.
  • Stage Top-5s: 46 – Martin Truex Jr.
  • Stage Top-10s: 53 – Kyle Larson
  • Playoff Points: 69 – Martin Truex Jr.

Phoenix recent race history:

  • The last seven Phoenix races had seven different pole winners, Alex Bowman got his first career MENCS pole driving the No. 88 in November 2016.
  • Ryan Newman won at Phoenix in March ending a 127 race winless streak and a 112 race winless streak for Richard Childress Racing.
  • Ryan Newman stayed out from seventh on the final lap 308 stop and kept the lead during the final two lap overtime finish, he went the final 56 laps on the same set of tires.
  • Ryan Newman led only six laps in his Phoenix win in March, all six came after lap 308. It was the second fewest laps led by a Phoenix winner, the fewest was four laps by Ryan Newman in April of 2010.
  • Chevrolet won seven of the last eight Phoenix races, Joey Logano’s win in a Ford in the fall of 2016 is the only non-Chevrolet win in the last eight Phoenix races.
  • Kevin Harvick has eight Phoenix wins the most of all drivers by four wins.
  • Kevin Harvick won six of the last 10 Phoenix races but failed to lead a single lap in the last two races.
  • Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick are the only active drivers who have reached eight wins at a track, 
Johnson (11 wins Dover, 9 wins Martinsville, 8 wins Charlotte), Harvick (8 wins Phoenix).
  • 22 of the last 28 Phoenix races were won by drivers who currently compete for four organizations: Stewart-Haas Racing active drivers have 9 wins, Hendrick Motorsports active drivers have 8 wins, Joe Gibbs Racing active drivers have three wins and Richard Childress Racing active drivers have 2 wins. Five of those 28 races were won by drivers that no longer compete in the Cup series (Jeff Gordon 2 wins, Carl Edwards 2 wins and Mark Martin 1 win).
  • Neither stage winner finished in the top-10 in the March race at Phoenix.
  • Kyle Busch was passed for the win at Phoenix in March, it was the third straight race that a Joe Gibbs 
Racing driver was passed for the win at Phoenix and the second straight that a JGR driver was passed in 
the final eight laps there.
  • There have been zero DNFs for engine failure in the last six Phoenix races.
  • Six DNFs for accident in the race last March is tied for the most in the last nine Phoenix races.
  • 15 Lead changes in March at Phoenix, the most in the last seven races.
  • Kevin Harvick led the most laps in six of the last eight Phoenix races but failed to lead a single lap in the 
last two.
  • Kevin Harvick currently has an eight race streak of top-10 finishes at Phoenix, it is the third longest 
streak at the track and the longest active streak.
  • The last 14 Phoenix races were completed in less than 3 hours and nine minutes.
  • November 12th will be the 43rd race held at Phoenix Raceway.
  • Phoenix has hosted a Cup race every year since 1988 and two races a year every year since 2005.
  • Phoenix has been the penultimate race of the season since 2005.
  • Phoenix has hosted a race in every year of the playoffs and has been the final cut race before Miami in 
every season of the elimination style format.
  • 238 days between the Spring and Fall Phoenix races is the longest time between two events at one 
track in the same season.
  • 119 days between the November 2017 and March 2018 races at Phoenix.
  • Stage lengths at Phoenix: Lap 75 (75 laps), Lap 150 (75 laps), Lap 312 (162 laps).
  • Seven of the last 13 Phoenix winners started outside the top-10, Ryan Newman started 22nd in March.
  • There were seven or more cautions in 11 of the last 12 Phoenix races that were not rain shortened.
  • Eight Phoenix races had an overtime finish, including the last three.
  • The final green flag stretch was two laps or less in the last four races and 12 laps or less in the last seven r The driver leading the most laps failed to win in thee of the last four races at Phoenix.
  • Joey Logano, who won this race in 2016, is the only driver to win at Phoenix in the last 10 races who had 
not won there prior.

Phoenix Playoff Highlights:

  • 10 of 13 Phoenix playoff races were won by playoff eligible drivers.
  • 10 Phoenix playoff races were won by Chevrolet drivers.
  • Hendrick Motorsports leads all organizations with five Phoenix Playoff race wins.
  • Joe Gibbs Racing has won twice at Phoenix but neither win came in the Playoffs.
  • 10 of 13 Phoenix race winners started inside the top-10, including 10 of the last 11.
  • Four Phoenix playoff races had an overtime finish, the race in 2016 went to 324 laps (12 over the 
scheduled 312).
  • Phoenix was the penultimate race in 12 of 13 years of the playoffs (since 2005).
  • Hendrick Motorsports (3 poles) and Joe Gibbs Racing (2 poles) have won the last five poles in Phoenix 
playoff races.
  • Kevin Harvick in 2014 and Joey Logano 2016 clinched a birth in the final four at Miami with a Phoenix playoff race win.

2017 NASCAR Cup Season Highlights:

  • Joe Gibbs Racing (7), Furniture Row (5) and Chip Ganassi Racing (2) won 14 of the last 17 races.
  • The pole winner won six times in 2017: Kyle Larson ACS, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Talladega-1, Kyle Larson 
MIS-1, Kyle Busch POC-2, Kyle Busch NH-2, Martin Truex Jr. KS-2.
  • The final lead change came in the last 10 laps in 19 of 34 races in 2017, the final three laps in 13 races 
and on the last lap in four races.
  • Either Martin Truex Jr. or Kyle Busch won a stage in 23 of 34 races in 2017.
  • Martin Truex Jr. has won at least one stage in 14 of 34 races in 2017 but has not won a stage in the last 
six races which is his longest stretch of races without a stage win in 2017.
  • Martin Truex Jr. is the only driver to win both Stage 1 & 2 and go on to win the race (Las Vegas, Kentucky).
  • Five drivers won a race but have not won a stage in 2017.
  • Four drivers have won a stage but have not won a race in 2017.
  • Atlanta, Pocono-1, Michigan-2 and Chicagoland are the only races without a caution before the end of Stage 1.
  • Atlanta, Michigan-2 and Chicagoland are the only races to not have a caution other than stage 
breaks in the first two stages of the race.
  • Three Cautions at Watkins Glen the fewest in a race in 2017.
  • 15 cautions at Kansas-1 and Dover-1 are the most in a race in 2017.
  • Three times a driver has won after going to the rear: Jimmie Johnson Texas-1 (unapproved tire 
change), Joey Logano Richmond-1 (transmission change), Jimmie Johnson Dover-1 (rear gear change).
  • Denny Hamlin won in New Hampshire-1 after going to a backup car prior to qualifying.
  • Three times in 2017 a driver has gone on to win after a speeding penalty: Kurt Busch Daytona-1, Brad 
Keselowski Martinsville-1 and Martin Truex Jr. Chicagoland.
  • Martin Truex Jr. won at Kansas after a restart violation on lap 36, it was the fourth time in 2017 a driver has recovered from a in race infraction to win and the second time by Martin Truex Jr.
  • Three drivers got their first career win in 2017: Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Talladega-1, Austin Dillon Charlotte- 1, Ryan Blaney Pocono-1, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. is the first first-time winner to get his second win in 2017.
  • There have been two track records set in 2017: Kyle Busch (Kentucky), Kurt Busch (Texas-2).
  • Eight times driver has swept all three rounds of qualifying: Kevin Harvick- IMS 2014, MIS 6/14 and TX 
4/17, DAR 2017; Joey Logano MART 4/16 10/17; Brad Keselowski TX 11/15; Kyle Busch CHI 2017.
  • Kurt Busch’s pole at Texas was the fastest ever on a 1.5 mile track at 200.915 mph.
  • Qualifying was cancelled twice in 2017: Martinsville-1, Bristol-1.
  • 11 races had an overtime finish in 2017: PHX-1, ACS, TAL-1, Dover-1, Daytona-2, KY, Indy, MIS-2, 
RICH-2, CLT-2, MART-2.
  • Four races were won with a last lap pass: Daytona-1 Kurt Busch passed Kyle Larson, Talladega-1 Ricky 
Stenhouse Jr. passed Kyle Busch, Talladega-2 Brad Keselowski passed Ryan Newman, Martinsville-2 
Kyle Busch passed Denny Hamlin.
  • Three races were affected by rain in 2017: Bristol-1 (postponed until Monday), Charlotte-1 (delayed 90 
minutes lap 145), Indianapolis (Delayed on Lap 12 for 2 hours).
  • Three drivers ended the longest winless streaks of their career in 2017: Ryan Newman 127 races, Kasey Kahne 102 races, Kyle Busch 36 races.

Phoenix Raceway Track History

  • The track was built in 1964 with the goal of becoming the western location of open wheel racing. The first race at PR was on the road course. AJ Foyt won the first oval track race in March 1964.
  • Richard Petty won the first NASCAR race, a 1978 Winston West Series event. Over the years the track has hosted most professional classes of racecars.
  • In 1985 Buddy Jobe purchased the then 10,000 seat track from Dennis Wood. Jobe soon initiated a massive improvement program with the goal of landing a NASCAR Cup race.
  • The first Cup race, held on November 6th, 1988, was won by Alan Kulwicki in his No. 7 ZEREX Ford Kulwicki celebrated by performing the first ever “Polish Victory Lap.”

Friday 5: Legacy MC seeks to stand out as Trackhouse did in ’22

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While the celebration continued after Erik Jones’ Southern 500 victory last September, executives of what is now Legacy MC already were looking ahead.

“(September) and October, decisions we make on people are going to affect how we race next (February), March and April,” Mike Beam, team president, told NBC Sports that night.

Noah Gragson had been announced as the team’s second driver for 2023 less than a month before Jones’ win. 

But bigger news was to come. 

The team announced Nov. 4 that Jimmie Johnson would become a co-owner, lifting the profile of a team that carries Richard Petty’s No. 43 on Jones’ cars.

As February approaches and racing resumes, a question this season is how far can Legacy MC climb. Can this team mimic the breakout season Trackhouse Racing had last year?

“I think everybody looks for Trackhouse for … maybe the way of doing things a bit different,” Jones told NBC Sports. “Obviously, starting with the name. We’ve kind of gone that same direction with Legacy MC and then on down from there, kind of how a program can be built and run in a short amount of time.

“There’s some growth in the back end that we still have to do to probably be totally to that level, but our goal is definitely to be on that same trajectory that Trackhouse was over the last two seasons.”

Trackhouse Racing debuted in 2021 with Daniel Suarez. He finished 25th in the points. The organization added Ross Chastain and several team members from Chip Ganassi Racing to form a two-car team last year. Chastain won two races and finished second in the points, while Suarez won once and was 10th in the standings. 

Legacy MC co-owner Maury Gallagher purchased a majority interest in Richard Petty Motorsports in December 2021 and merged the two teams. Jones won one race and placed 18th in points last year. Ty Dillon was winless, finishing 29th in points and was replaced by Gragson after the season. 

“Legitimately, we were a pretty new team last year coming in,” Jones said. “There were a handful of Richard Petty Motorsports guys who came over, but, for the most part, it was a brand new team.

“I think what we built in one year and done is similar to Trackhouse in their first year. I think maybe even we were a step ahead of where they were in their first year.”

Legacy MC looks for more with Jones, Gragson and Johnson, who will run a limited schedule this year. Johnson will seek to make the Daytona 500 field.

Jones said Johnson has infused the team with energy. Gragson has been trying to soak up as much as he can from Johnson.

Gragson told NBC Sports that having Johnson as a teammate is “going to be an incredible opportunity for a young guy like myself, first year in the Cup series, a rookie, to be able to lean on a seven-time champion.

“Incredible person, friend, mentor that Jimmie has become for myself. He’s probably going to be pretty over me by the time we get to the Daytona 500 because I just keep wearing him out with questions and trying … pick his brain.”

2. Kyle Busch’s impact

Car owner Richard Childress says that Kyle Busch already is making an impact at RCR.

Busch joins the organization after having spent the past 15 seasons driving for Joe Gibbs Racing. Busch will pilot the No. 8 Chevrolet for RCR this year.

He took part in a World Racing League endurance race at Circuit of the Americas in December with Austin Dillon and Sheldon Creed. The trio won one of those races.

“I was down there for that, just watching how (Busch) gets in there and works with everybody,” Childress said. “He’s a racer. He wants to win. That’s what I love about him.”

Childress sees the influence Busch can have on an organization that has won six Cup titles — but none since Dale Earnhardt’s last crown in 1994 — and 113 series races.

“He brings a lot of experience and knowledge,” Childress said of Busch. “I think he’ll help Austin a lot in his career. I think he can help our whole organization from a standpoint of what do we need … to go faster.

Dillon told NBC Sports that the team has changed some things it does in its meetings based on feedback from Busch. Dillon also said that he and Busch have similar driving styles — more similar than Dillon has had with past teammates. 

“I think as we go throughout the year and he gets to drive our race cars, he’ll have some new thoughts that he’ll bring,” Dillon said of Busch. “I think we’re already bringing some new thoughts to him, too.”

3. New role for Kevin Harvick

Kevin Harvick, entering his final Cup season, has joined the Drivers Advisory Council, a move Joey Logano said is important for the group.

“Kevin is necessary to the sport, even post-driving career,” Logano told NBC Sports. “He’s necessary for our sport’s success. Kevin sees it and does something about it. 

“He’s always been vocal, right? He’s always been very brash, and like, boom in your face. That’s what people love about Kevin Harvick. Something I like about him as well is that you know where you stand. You know where the weaknesses are. 

“He’s going to push until something happens. That’s great. There’s nothing wrong with that. Having him on the Advisory Council now for the drivers, his experience, but also his willingness to push, is important.”

Jeff Burton again will lead the group as Director of the Council. The Board of Directors is: Harvick, Logano, Kyle Petty, Austin Dillon, Daniel Suarez, Corey LaJoie, Kurt Busch and Tom Buis.

Logano, Petty, Dillon, Suarez, LaJoie and Busch all return. Buis, a board member of Growth Energy after having previously been the company’s CEO, joins the drivers group and provides a business background. 

4. Finding one’s voice

Chase Briscoe’s contract extension with Stewart-Haas Racing means he could be the longest tenured driver there in the near future.

The 28-year Briscoe enters his third Cup season at SHR, but the landscape is changing. This will be Kevin Harvick’s final season in Cup. Ryan Preece is in his first season driving in Cup for the team. Aric Almirola was supposed to have retired last year but came back. How long he remains is to be determined.

Those changes could soon leave Briscoe as the team’s senior driver.

“It’s a role that is crazy, truthfully, to think about because that could be me in the next year or two, being I wouldn’t say that flagship guy, but being a leader as far as the drivers go in an organization,” Briscoe said.

“Truthfully, I feel like that’s something I want to be. I’ve always enjoyed that kind of leader, team building type of stuff. So, yeah, if that role is kind of placed on me naturally, then that’s one that I would love to have and try to do it to the best of my ability. I feel like that’s a role that you don’t choose, it kind of chooses you.”

Briscoe, who won the spring Phoenix race and made the playoffs last year, said that he’s becoming more comfortable speaking up in team meetings. 

“I look back, especially on my rookie year, we’d go into our competition meeting on Tuesday and, truthfully, I wouldn’t really talk much,” he said. “I would say kind of what we thought for the weekend, but outside of that I would just kind of sit there and listen.  

“This past year, I definitely talked a lot more, and I’d bring up ideas and kind of say things I wanted to get off my chest, where in the past I wouldn’t have done that. I feel like as I’ve gotten more confident in myself and my position, I’ve gotten to the point where I speak my mind a little bit more and, I guess, be a little bit more of a leader.”

5. Busch Clash field

NASCAR released the preliminary entry list for the Feb. 5 Busch Clash. No surprise, the entry list features only the 36 charter teams. Those teams are required to be entered.

With 27 cars in the feature — which is expanded by four cars from last year’s race — there’s no guarantee a non-charter car could make the field. That’s a lot of money to go across country and face the chance of missing the main event.

The Daytona 500 field has four spots for non-charter cars. With that race’s payoff significantly more, it will attract at least five cars for those spots: Jimmie Johnson (Legacy MC), Zane Smith (Front Row Motorsports), Chandler Smith (Kaulig Racing), Austin Hill (Beard Motorsports) and Travis Pastrana (23XI Racing). Helio Castroneves confirmed Thursday that he will not enter the 500. He had been in talks with the team co-owned by boxer Floyd Mayweather.

Helio Castroneves rules out Daytona 500

Helio Castroneves Daytona 500
Robert Scheer/Indy Star/USA TODAY NETWORK
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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Helio Castroneves might be at the 2023 Daytona 500, but the four-time Indy 500 winner won’t be in a race car.

During a news conference Thursday at Daytona International Speedway, Castroneves confirmed in response to a question from NBC Sports that he essentially has ruled out attempting to make his NASCAR Cup Series debut in the Feb. 19 season opener.

As recently as last Thursday at Rolex 24 Media Day, Castroneves, 47, said he still was working on trying to piece together a deal.

The Brazilian had been negotiating with the Cup team co-owned by boxer Floyd Mayweather and would have been in an “open” entry that lacked guaranteed entry to the Great American Race. That potentially would leave him in the precarious position of needing to make the race on qualifying speed or a qualifying race finish (as action sports star Travis Pastrana likely might need in his Cup debut).

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“Unfortunately for me, lack of experience, no testing,” Castroneves said. “A lot of things. I believe it would be a little bit tough throwing myself in such a short notice, and to go in a place that you’ve got to race yourself into it. So as of right now, yes, it’s not going to happen.

“But we did have an opportunity. We just got to elaborate a little bit more to give me a little more experience on that. So there is more things to come ahead of us, but as of right now, I want to focus on the IndyCar program as well and (the Rolex 24 at Daytona).”

Castroneves, who has a residence in Key Biscayne, said he still might attend the Daytona 500

“I might just come and see and watch it and continue to take a look and see what’s going to be in the future,” he said.

Castroneves enters Saturday’s Rolex 24 at Daytona having won the event the past two years. He made his signature fence-climb after winning last year with Meyer Shank Racing, which he will be driving for full time in the NTT IndyCar Series this year. He became the fourth four-time Indy 500 winner in history in his 2021 debut with Meyer Shank Racing.

The 2020 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar champion also has indicated an interest in Trackhouse Racing’s Project 91 car that aims to place international drivers in a Cup ride (such as Kimi Raikkonen at Watkins Glen International last year). Team co-owner Justin Marks recently tweeted Trackhouse wouldn’t field the Project 91 car at the Daytona 500.

After winning the 2022 Superstar Racing Experience opener, SRX CEO Don Hawk had promised he would help secure a Daytona 500 ride for Castroneves.

Castroneves has been angling for a NASCAR ride for years, dating to when he drove for Team Penske from 2000-20. After winning the Rolex 24 last year, he said he had been lobbying Ray Evernham and Tony Stewart for help with getting in a Cup car.

Though Castroneves is out, Sports Business Journal’s Adam Stern reported that Mayweather’s The Money Team Racing still is considering IndyCar driver Conor Daly for its seat.

Fire at Reaume Brothers Racing shop injures three

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A Thursday fire at the Reaume Brothers Racing shop in Mooresville, North Carolina, injured three individuals, according to Mooresville (North Carolina) Fire-Rescue.

Firefighters were dispatched to the shop, which is scheduled to field entries for driver Mason Massey in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series this season, at about 11:30 a.m. Thursday.

The fire department extinguished the blaze quickly. The department stated on its Facebook page that one individual was transported to Lake Norman Regional hospital for smoke inhalation, and another was transported to Baptist Hospital in Winston-Salem, N.C. with burn injuries. A third was treated and released.

The team stated Thursday night on social media that Taylor Collier and Devin Fokin had been treated and released. The team stated that Taylor was treated for smoke inhalation and Fokin was treated “for serious burns.”

The Mooresville Fire Marshall’s office is investigating the cause of the fire. The fire department said the shop sustained “significant fire damage.”

In a tweet, the team said it is determining the extent of damage to the building. “More importantly,” it said, “a few of our team members did sustain injuries during the fire and are being transported for medical treatment.”

 

Trackhouse, RFK Racing, Front Row Motorsports sign sponsorship deals

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Trackhouse Racing, RFK Racing and Front Row Motorsports announced sponsorship deals Thursday morning.

Trackhouse said WWEX, a Dallas-based global logistics group, will increase its sponsorship presence with the team this year, serving as the primary sponsor in 21 races for drivers Ross Chastain and Daniel Suarez.

WWEX will appear on Chastain’s Chevrolets in 19 races and will sponsor Suarez twice. The organization was a Trackhouse sponsor in 11 events in 2022, which was a breakout season for both Chastain and Suarez.

RFK announced that Solomon Plumbing, which joined the team last season, will expand its presence this season and in future years. The Michigan-based company will serve as the primary sponsor for several races on driver Brad Keselowski‘s No. 6 Ford.

MORE: Chase Briscoe signs contract extension with Stewart-Haas

Solomon specializes in plumbing and fire services for new development and construction. It initially sponsored Keselowski last season in the dirt race at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Front Row Motorsports has signed Quincy Compressor, a Bay Minette, Ala.-based compressor manufacturer, as a sponsor for four races.

Quincy will sponsor Todd Gilliland‘s No. 38 team in three events and Michael McDowell‘s No. 34 team in one race.