Rookie KYLE BUSCH came from fifteenth place on the grid to win his second NASCAR Nextel Cup race Sunday afternoon at Phoenix International Raceway in the Checker Auto Parts 500 race. The RICK HENDRICK driver swapped the lead with dominant GREG BIFFLE who led four times for 189 laps and turned the fastest lap of 131.109 mph on Lap 120 of the 312-lap race. Busch led three times for 63 laps.
It was a good race for both, according to their post-race remarks in which they each complimented the other for a good, clean, fun race. They swapped places at the end and raced each other hard and clean right down to the wire. The Margin of Victory was a mere 0.609 seconds.
The weather was hot and the enthusiastic crowd, estimated at 105,000, were responsive to every move of a favourite driver. I was hard pressed to find a fan who wasn't wearing or carrying some sort of motorsports-related merchandise.
Third, behind Biffle, was JEFF GORDON, which moved him back into the Million Dollar slot - P11 in the overall standings. He led once for 22 laps.
Points Leader TONY STEWART finished fourth and maintained his lead ahead of contender JIMMIE JOHNSON, who finished seventh. There is 52 points separating the two going into the season's last race next weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Finishing fifth was Stewart's Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, BOBBY LABONTE. This is the penultimate race for Labonte with JGR. Next season Labonte moves to Petty Enterprises.
Rookie CARL EDWARDS, who won the last two Cup races and Saturday's Busch Series race, came in sixth.
Pole sitter DENNY HAMLIN finished thirteenth, after leading twice for 23 laps.
KENNY WALLACE, the driver who subbed at the last minute for KURT BUSCH in No.97 Irwin Industrial Tools Ford, started last because of the driver change. Kurt Busch had qualified the car in P17. Wallace finished sixteenth on the lead lap. The decision will be made sometime this next week if Wallace, Roush Rookie Craftsman Truck driver, TODD KLUEVER, or someone else will race that car in the season's finale at Homestead next weekend.
Rookie TRAVIS KVAPIL improved the most positions in the race - 20, to finish tenth.
There were several accidents, but no one hurt. STANTON BARRETT and DALE EARNHARDT JR both cut a tyre; SCOTT RIGGS spun and hit the wall; and MIKE SKINNER and JIMMY SPENCER were involved in a four-car incident.
There were ten lead changes among five drivers, and nine cautions for 44 laps, mostly for accidents; and the race ran for 3 hours, 2 minutes and 23 seconds. The average speed was 102.641 mph.