Photo by Johnny Crane
Two words: Low downforce
It was the theme of the day as the Cup Series held their first race with the low-downforce aero package since 2018, and it delivered on all fronts. The race saw much passing throughout the field as drivers were able to get to bumpers in front of them and create an opportunity to move up spots.
The PJ1 Traction Compound in the higher grooves created a second, and even a third lane for drivers to run. Some cars would get loose up in the compound, which would cost them multiple spots on laps, especially coming off of turn four.
The first stage of the race was dominated by Kevin Harvick and Chase Elliott. The two were the class of the field early and would swap the lead multiple times. Harvick would go on to win the stage while Elliott finished second. Matt DiBenedetto got off to a hot start as he claimed a fourth-place finish in the stage and rookie Tyler Reddick nabbed two points with a nine-place finish in the stage.
The biggest story of stage one was a wreck involving Denny Hamlin, Ryan Blaney and Brad Keselowski in turn three. Hamlin would get into both Penske cars, which would end Blaney’s day and Hamlin would run most of the remainder of the race a lap down, but would rally to pick up a top-20 finish.
Stage two would be where chaos begun today. Harvick and Elliott would once again go back-and-forth for the lead. However, late in the stage, Elliott would have to pit for a loose wheel and would have to fight back to get the free pass heading into the final stage. Keselowski capitalized and would take the stage win, while Reddick would surge into the top five and get a fourth-place finish in the stage.
However, the beginning of the final stage would begin the downhill slide for Reddick. He would slip to 10th after getting too high into the PJ1 and could not get back into the top five. He would later blow a tire and slam the wall in turn two, which would end his day. He wound up with a 33rd-place finish.
Cautions breed cautions and that’s how the end of the race would play out. Harvick and Keselowski were the dominant cars of the final stage, but incidents that would involve Chris Buescher, Martin Truex Jr., Ross Chastain and more. This would allow Joey Logano, who restarted 18th after a slow stop with under 50 laps to go, to crawl his way back up to the front.
Logano would eventually take the lead with 19 laps to go and that would be all she wrote. The race would go into overtime, but Logano would hold serve on every restart to hold off Harvick, Kyle Busch and Kyle Larson to claim his second win of 2020.
Clint Bowyer would round out the top five. Kurt Busch, Elliott, Aric Almirola, Cole Custer and William Byron would complete the top 10.
- Kevin Harvick is the only driver to score top-ten finishes in each of the first four races in 2020.
- Clint Bowyer scored his first Phoenix top-five finish since 2008 (Spring).
- Cole Custer became the first rookie to score a top-ten finish in 2020.
- There were 906 more passes in today’s race compared to the November 2019 race (via NASCAR Loop Data)
- Martin Truex Jr. has failed to claim a top-10 finish through four races in 2020.
- Gaunt Brothers Racing scored their best non-superspeedway finish with Daniel Saurez today. A 21st-place run for the team.
NASCAR heads back East next weekend for a race weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway.