By: Ashley McCubbin
Photo By; Russell Labounty | Nigel Kinrade Photography
Phoenix Raceway may have been criticized for the type of racing that was put on last fall, but the track is two-for-two in putting on good shows this weekend.
Just like the ARCA Menards Series, the NASCAR Xfinity Series event delivered in both fronts that you would like to see. For those looking for a thrill, the restarts were wide and crazy as ever with drivers electing to try each of the available lanes. Though for the traditional fan, the long run produced some side-by-side racing to where there was always a battle featured on the NASCAR on Fox broadcast.
The combination of tires that fall off over the course of a run, along with the new PJ1 application being higher on the racing surface certainly have shown early signs of producing the event that you would expect from the desert. When the series returns for the championship finale in November, at least we are heading in the direction of having a solid event.
Joe Gibbs Racing was the dominant force as they swept the top-three spots with Brandon Jones winning ahead of Kyle Busch and Harrison Burton.
Although it is the first trip to victory lane of 2020 for Jones, he showed promise in the first couple events this season, easily having a shot to win at Auto Club Speedway before tire issues. A second year with JGR is certainly showing early signs of being successful.
Though Burton still may get the nod between the drivers as he has now completed each race this season in the top-five, including a victory at Auto Club. Solid consistency and putting himself in position to win races and gain points each week will shine through when it matters if he can keep this going.
While you may want to give the Toyota camp the early nod, you cannot forget about the others just yet.
JR Motorsports showed potential to be right there with JGR with Noah Gragson winning the second stage before fading in the late stages to finish seventh, while Justin Allgaier placed 13th after a tire strategy did not play out as he and Jason Burdett would have hoped. If the No. 7 had gotten tires at the same time as Busch and Jones, he could have easily given them a run for their money, as he did en route to winning last fall.
Chase Briscoe did not contend for the win among the highlights, but he put together another consistent finish with a sixth after a late-race drive through the field. With only one result outside of the top-six in the four races thus far – including a victory at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, he is giving Burton a run for his money.
Ultimately, parity seems to be the name of the game with “the big three” having moved on thus far, as you have seen four races, four different drivers in victory lane thru far with Gragson, Briscoe, Burton and now Jones sharing honors. The potential is there for that easily not only through Allgaier, but Justin Haley and Austin Cindric could easily hoist a trophy given their speed.
Keeping track of the number of winners may be critical as if you get more than 12, then the saying “win and you’re in” for the playoffs no longer simply applies.
Drama was certainly at play after a discussion on pit road involving Dillon Bassett and Brandon Brown. It looked as though Bassett was overreacting over a simple racing incident on-track, but it shows you that the guys in the back-half of the field are fighting just as hard as those up-front.