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Press Snoop: Phoenix NASCAR notebook.


The NASCAR Nextel Cup Subway Fresh 500 race at Phoenix International Raceway started on time - 5:30pm local time - but, at 3:20pm, it looked doubtful for an on-time start of the race, and BRYAN SPERBER, PIR president, said he thought the race would be delayed, but that Fox would hang in there until it started.

Several showers hit and ran Saturday afternoon and then the sun came back out - with a vengeance. It was hot and muggy. All kinds of post-rain activities blossomed. Two jet dryers slowly - and painfully loudly - circled the track, along with other vehicles. Everywhere, pit crews were employing various devices with which to dry their spaces, such as large leaf blowers, giant industrial-sized squeegees, push brooms and fans. One crew told me all teams have one of the squeegees. Another enterprising fellow was pouring Coke on the yellow painted lines in his pit box, to make them sticky, because, as he told me, "painted lines become slick and slippery when wet".

On the pit-lane, the cars were all lined up, under covers. As it dried out, more and more were unwrapping, but not all. Those who didn't cover up in time were fiddling with their taped radiators. Pole sitter JEFF GORDON had a complete redo in effect, under the watchful eye of a NASCAR official. There are no specifics in the rule book regarding how much air space has to be left uncovered on a radiator grille, but working on the car between qualifying and the race is strictly regulated. Wet tape falls off, which is not good for the aerodynamic advantage it provides.

Most of the 43 Cup cars had some kind of duct tape applied to the frontal area, especially in the vicinity of the grille. No two cars were done up the same. All kinds of colour combinations and configurations were used. Many of them had tape in strips, with identifying marks or numbers. The crew of DALE EARNHARDT Jr had the most elaborate, and explained the numbering system was the order in which the strips would be pulled from the grill if the engine got too hot (due to water loss from the radiator). Just such a scenario played out for TONY STEWART during the race.

During the driver introductions, it was a toss-up whether the most boos went for Stewart or KURT BUSCH. Clearly, the fans loved Earnhardt Jr - he got the largest and loudest reaction, and all cheers. Pole sitter Gordon drew a loud and mixed reaction.

After introductions, Stewart hopped into the #2 CITGO Pontiac Crawford Daytona Prototype and ran an exhibition lap, to promote the September Grand-Am race at PIR. This is the car that Stewart raced at the 2005 Rolex 24 at Daytona with the Howard Boss Motorsports team. His co-drivers then were ANDY WALLACE and JAN LAMMERS, and they finished third overall and in class. The PIR race will be on an infield road course.

A week later, Stewart's team-mate at Joe Gibbs Racing, BOBBY LABONTE, will make an exhibition run at the Talladega Cup race. Labonte will drive the #44 Pontiac Doran he raced at this year's Rolex 24 with brother TERRY, IRL driver BRYAN HERTA and sportscar/F1 veteran JAN MAGNUSSEN. They finished ninth overall and in class. The exhibition lap will promote the July Rolex Series race at nearby Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham. It could be construed as extra seat-time for Bobby Labonte, who is considering running that Rolex race on 31 July, one of the few off-weekends for Nextel Cup.

Three cars were moved to the back of the pack for the start of the Cup race - MIKE WALLACE for unapproved modification after impound - repairing a leaking brake line; and engine changes for KEVIN LEPAGE and ROBBY GORDON. Gordon was last in the starting line-up already, so it was no loss.

An hour into the race, The National Weather Service issued a 'severe thunderstorm warning' for Maricopa County, lasting until 6:30pm; and then, later, the same warning for two other counties - Mohave and Le Paz until 7:15pm-7:45pm and 7pm, respectively. By that time the weather was looking pretty dark and ugly. The temperature was mild, but it was gusty.



Related Pictures

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NASCAR Nextel Cup Series #8 Budweiser Chevrolet driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. at Daytona International Speedway, Daytona Beach, FL-2/20/05 ©Dorsey Patrick
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmie John`s/Budweiser Chevrolet, suffers a mechanical issue during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on February 28, 2015 in Hampton, Georgia.  (Photo Credit: Rainier Ehrhardt/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Discount Tire Ford, leads the field past the green flag to start the NASCAR XFINITY Series Hisense 250 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on February 28, 2015 in Hampton, Georgia.  (Photo Credit: Sarah Glenn/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Jeffrey Earnhardt, driver of the #55 Fronius USA/Viva Auto Group Chevrolet, spins out during the NASCAR XFINITY Series Hisense 250 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on February 28, 2015 in Hampton, Georgia.  (Photo Credit: Rainier Ehrhardt/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #88 Bad Boy Buggies Chevrolet, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR XFINITY Series Hisense 250 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on February 28, 2015 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo Credit: Jonathan Moore/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #88 Bad Boy Buggies Chevrolet, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR XFINITY Series Hisense 250 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on February 28, 2015 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Discount Tire Ford, soc during practice for the NASCAR XFINITY Series Hisense 250 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on February 27, 2015 in Hampton, Georgia.  (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images)
David Ragan, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, drives in the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on February 27, 2015 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo Credit: Kevin C. Cox/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmie John`s/Budweiser Chevrolet, prepares to drive during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on February 27, 2015 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo Credit: Sarah Glenn/NASCAR via Getty Images)
David Ragan, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, stands on the grid during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on February 27, 2015 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, signs the Coors Light Pole board after qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on February 27, 2015 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo Credit: Sarah Glenn/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, poses with the Pole Award after qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on February 27, 2015 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo Credit: Sarah Glenn/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John’s/Budweiser Chevrolet SS qualifies in second position Friday, February 27, 2015 for a front row position start in Sunday`s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jamie McMurray, driver of the #1 McDonald’s Chevrolet SS qualifies in third position Friday, February 27, 2015 for Sunday`s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kyle Larson, driver of the #4 Energizer Chevrolet SS qualifies in sixth position Friday, February 27, 2015 for Sunday`s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS qualifies in seventh position Friday, February 27, 2015 for Sunday`s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo by Alan Marler/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Team XTREME Racing #44 entry - driven in the Daytona 500 by Reed Sorenson (Photo Credit: Robert Laberge/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Gene Stefanyshyn, NASCAR Vice President of Innovation and Racing Development, speaks to members of the media after a testing session at Atlanta Motor Speedway on February 26, 2015 in Hampton, Georgia.  (Photo Credit: Kevin C. Cox/NASCAR via Getty Images)

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