Aggressive driving leads to early Phoenix wrecks Print
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Sunday, 27 February 2011 14:48
NASCAR Headline News

 AVONDALE, Ariz. (AP) - Sprint Cup drivers normally don't race each other too hard early in the season, particularly early in races.
That wasn't the case at Phoenix International Raceway on Sunday.
With cars bouncing off walls and each other, Phoenix looked a lot like Talladega for while. Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne was an early victim. Robbie Gordon spun and damaged his car, and Carl Edwards got knocked out for a while when Kyle Busch appeared to get loose and bumped him.
The big one came on Lap 67.
Matt Kenseth triggered it when he went up the track a little and made contact with Brian Vickers, knocking his car loose. Vickers tried to gather his car, but got sideways, setting off a chain-reaction wreck that sent cars careening into the walls on both sides of the track.
The red flag came out and so did the wreckers after 13 cars were involved, leading to a 14-minute delay while officials cleaned the mess up.
``We're all smarter than this, we're all better race car drivers than this,'' said Clint Bowyer, who was collected in the wreck. ``We're driving like idiots. Everybody is taking two tires, four tires - everybody is on completely different agendas right there and we never could get going. It's just stupid.''
Kenseth didn't seem to hit Vickers hard, but it was enough to get his car loose. Kenseth thought he had given Vickers enough room and his crew agreed during a call on the radio.
Vickers saw it a different way.
``The 17 ran us into the wall, door slammed us into the corner coming out of Turn 2, just 67 laps into a very, very long race,'' Vickers said. ``I felt like it was unnecessary and I'm sure it will come back to him.''
Edwards and Busch have had some heated moments in the past, so Edwards initially wondered if the contact between them was intentional.
``I thought at first he was just frustrated and he turned left to get back and line and didn't know I was there, but I watched the tape and I think he really did get loose,'' said Edwards, who finished 28th after his crew got him back on the track. ``He hit me hard and I was left with nothing.''
Busch said he felt bad after the bump.
``The car kind of got out from underneath on the backstretch and I made a mistake and got into Carl Edwards, completely destroying his day,'' he said. ``I can understand his frustration and I apologize to him first and foremost.''
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BAYNE'S WEEKEND: Bayne had a rough post-Daytona weekend.
He had the brakes lock up on the first lap of Sprint Cup practice Friday, sending his car into the wall and forcing him to a backup. He had a solid run going after starting seventh in the Nationwide race, only to end up in the wall again after a tire blew, finishing 31st.
Bayne hit the wall for a third time on Lap 50 of Sunday's race, spinning out after trying to squeeze in front of Travis Kvapil. He never returned and finished 40th.
``That tough coming off of our high at Daytona to come to this, but we've got a great race team behind us,'' Bayne said. ``We'll be back at Vegas. I hate it ended this way this weekend, but we'll be back.''
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HENDRICK BOUNCES BACK: Hendrick Motorsports had a disappointing Daytona 500, leaving the team owner wondering what went wrong.
What a difference a week makes.
At Daytona, Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon had lengthy trips to the garage, Mark Martin faded from contention and Dale Earnhardt Jr. wrecked on the green-white-checkered restart.
Hendrick's drivers didn't qualify well at Phoenix - Gordon was best at 20th - but they made up for it on race day. Not only did Gordon win, ending his 66-race winless streak, Johnson wasn't far behind in third, Earnhardt finished 10th after starting 25th, and Martin was 13th.
After an offseason that included a major restructuring among the four teams, this was a good sign they made the right moves.
``I think we needed to do something to rejuvenate our whole group,'' team owner Rick Hendrick said. ``I see every one of our guys stepping up.''
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REPAVING PHOENIX: Watching out the window from the media center, Johnson was surprised to see a giant tractor drive up the backstretch and park at the start/finish line.
Phoenix International Raceway will undergo a $10 million repaving and reconfiguration project before the next race in the fall. The project's expected to take six months, but race officials didn't hesitate to show they're ready to get started, wheeling a big-boomed tractor out to the front of the grandstand.
``Well, they're not missing an opportunity, are they?'' Johnson said. ``Let's see what happens.''
Nothing did.
The tractor stretched out, put its bucket on the pavement and the operator climbed out.
The real action didn't come until later, when the tractor took its first chunk of the old asphalt out with a series of ground-shaking thuds. A small group of fans stuck around to watch, but Johnson was long gone.
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CAR SWAP: Tony Stewart is going to swap cars with former Formula 1 champion Lewis Hamilton.
The drivers are expected to switch cars at Watkins Glen sometime this summer, an exhibition set up by a mutual sponsor of both drivers.
And it won't be lookalikes to their race cars. Both drivers will have their race teams with them to tune up the cars.
Juan Pablo Montoya, now on the Sprint Cup circuit, made a similar swap with Jeff Gordon at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2003.
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PIT STOPS: Sunday's race featured 28 lead changes, a new track record. ... Johnson has 14 top-10s in 16 Sprint Cup races at Phoenix. ... Kyle Busch is the early Sprint Cup points leader, three ahead of his brother, Kurt. ... Chevys have won 10 of the last 11 Sprint Cup races at Phoenix. ... Hendrick has the most wins all-time as an owner at Phoenix with nine.
 

NASCAR Odds

Driver Odds
Sprint Cup - Odds to Win the Camping World RV Sales 301 @ New Hampshire Motor Speedway
Jimmie Johnson #48 +500
Kevin Harvick #4 +750
Brad Keselowski #2 +750
Dale Earnhardt Jr. #88 +800
Jeff Gordon #24 +850
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