Race Weekend Central

The Big 6: Questions Answered After the 2015 Quicken Loans Race For Heroes 500 at Phoenix

Who… gets my shoutout of the race?

If we learned one thing this year, it’s that with the current race car configuration, it’s hard to pass. Even if you have a fast car, making a pass is easier said than done. And while both Kurt Busch and Jimmie Johnson put themselves in bad positions via penalties (Busch for jumping the start and Johnson for speeding on pit road), they earned their way back to top-10 finishes, and Johnson a top five. Busch was close to losing a lap to Johnson early, but held on tenaciously. Both he and Johnson worked their way back through the field methodically and cleanly, and by the end of the night, had something to show for it.

What… is on my mind after the race?

I know that NASCAR makes every attempt to run a race on the scheduled day, but with so much at stake, perhaps waiting until Monday, where there was just a 20% chance of rain, would have been the better option. It just rings hollow that after 35 weeks of working their fingers to the bone, four teams’ title hopes are over not because of how they performed, but because of weather and an ill-timed crash by a couple of backmarkers. That a couple of backmarkers and a rain shower could play such a role in determining who the champion will be is one of the things inherently wrong with NASCAR’s playoff system — you can’t run a race with just four or eight or 16 cars in it for any number of reasons, but the rest of the field can determine, ultimately, who wins the title.

Another thing about the rain delay: Why not talk to people instead of showing race reruns all day? I’d rather see interviews with every driver in the race first, and then race replays, but how about some races from years past instead of one we all saw last week? It would have been a great opportunity, though, to let fans get to know some drivers they rarely see during a broadcast.

Where… did the polesitter and the defending race winner wind up?

If not for a speeding penalty during the competition caution, Johnson might have dominated the race after starting up front; as it was, he came from the back to finish fifth despite the rain-shortened race. Johnson and the No. 48 have shown the form that won them four races earlier this year in recent weeks.

Kevin Harvick inherited the lead on competition caution and was fairly stingy with it afterward, leading 149 laps only to lose it when it counted, late in the race, and finish second as a result, his worst result in the last four races at Phoenix. He has to be the favorite headed to Homestead.

When… did it all go sideways?

Nobody likes to see a hit like the one Joey Gase took on Sunday night when Ricky Stenhouse Jr.got loose and slid into the No. 32, spinning Gase out. The No. 32 suffered heavy damage and Gase was slow to drop the window net, the signal that lets everyone know a driver is OK after a crash. Gase was alright, but it’s always hard to see a team as small as his tear up a car to that extent — they don’t have a fleet to choose from back at the shop, so it’s a real loss for them.

Why… did Dale Earnhardt Jr. win the race?

It sounds simplistic, but because it rained when it did. Had the race restarted, Earnhardt would have had his hands full with Kevin Harvick and his teammate Johnson before the night was over. That’s not to say a win because of rain isn’t a legit win, because it certainly is — no matter the circumstances, you have to be in the right place to capitalize on a situation, which the No. 88 bunch did on Sunday. Short of winning due to an illegal car, there are no cheap wins, and Earnhardt earned this one fair and square.

How… did the little guys do?

The three best:

Martin Truex Jr.; Furniture Row Racing: Truex enters the final race with a very real chance at the title. It’s an interesting final four in that none have dominated races recently, but Truex has been so consistent all season that if it comes down to a top five to win the title, he could easily do it. While it’s hard not to call Harvick the favorite, Truex is the guy who’ll be lurking to take it from him should anything go awry.

Justin Allgaier; HScott Motorsports: This is the kind of finish that Allgaier has been capable of more and more this season: quietly working his way through the field into a top-20 finish before anyone sees him coming. It’s a shame he’ll lose this ride just when he was moving the team forward, but he’s got a solid NXS ride to look forward to; if he’s sneaky there, it’ll be for top fives and wins.

Casey Mears; Germain Racing: The biggest news for this team came before the race, in the form of a three-year extension with sponsor GEICO which included an extension though 2018 with Mears. This is a team on the brink — they’re making the second round in qualifying consistently and are capable of finishing in the top 20 on a weekly basis as well — they’d likely have been in the top 20 Sunday if not for getting caught in a bad spot on a pit cycle when the caution flew. Will Mears make the Chase next year without a win? Probably not, but could he pull off a surprise win? Yes.

All the rest:

No. Driver Team Car Start Finish +/- Points Position
78 Martin Truex Jr. Furniture Row Racing Furniture Row Chevy 5th 14th
Will compete for the title next weekend
-9 4th
51 Justin Allgaier HScott Motorsports Brandt Chevy 25th 17th
Quietly made gains and moved into top 20
+8 30th
13 Casey Mears Germain Racing GEICO Military Chevy 24th 22nd
Uncharacteristically quiet on the radio
+2 22nd
47 AJ Allmendinger JTG Daugherty Racing Fry’s/Clorox Chevy 23rd 24th
Team worked hard on getting car to turn well
-1 23rd
83 Matt DiBenedetto BK Racing VooDoo Barbeque Toyota 30th 28th
Best finishing rookie
+2 35th
26 JJ Yeley BK Racing Maxim Toyota 33rd 29th +4 N/A
38 David Gilliland Front Row Motorsports Love’s Travel Stops Ford 34th 30th +4 32nd
46 Michael Annett HScott Motorsports Pilot Flying J Chevy 36th 32nd +4 36th
35 Cole Whitt Front Row Motorsports Ford 38th 33rd
Early contact knocked toe in
+5 31st
40 Landon Cassill Hillman-Smith Motorsports Interstate Moving Services Chevy 32nd 35th -3 N/A
34 Brett Moffitt Front Row Motorsports Dockside Logistics Ford 40th 36th
One of those hurt by second caution as he’d just pitted
+4 34th
98 Ryan Preece Premium Motorsports Xyience Ford 41st 37th
A talented modified driver, he’s still learning.
+4 45th
7 Alex Bowman Tommy Baldwin Racing Nikko/Toy State Chevy 35th 38th
Issue with keeping the car running under second caution of the night
+3 33rd
23 Jeb Burton BK Racing Dr. Pepper Toyota 37th 39th -2 37th
33 Ryan Ellis Circle Sport Science Logic Chevy 42nd 40th

Ellis making Cup debut

+2 N/A
32 Joey Gase GO FAS Racing R Factor 2 Ford 39th 42nd

Hard crash on lap 196; car destroyed; had help from Stenhouse

-3 N/A
62 Timmy Hill Premium Motorsports Prairie Auto Credit Chevy 43rd 43rd
Behind the wall early for engine issue but did get back out; Hill will not race in Cup at Homestead


About the author

Img 1723

Amy is an 20-year veteran NASCAR writer and a six-time National Motorsports Press Association (NMPA) writing award winner, including first place awards for both columns and race coverage. As well as serving as Photo Editor, Amy writes The Big 6 (Mondays) after every NASCAR Cup Series race. She can also be found working on her bi-weekly columns Holding A Pretty Wheel (Tuesdays) and Only Yesterday (Wednesdays). A New Hampshire native whose heart is in North Carolina, Amy’s work credits have extended everywhere from driver Kenny Wallace’s website to Athlon Sports. She can also be heard weekly as a panelist on the Hard Left Turn podcast that can be found on AccessWDUN.com's Around the Track page.

Sign up for the Frontstretch Newsletter

A daily email update (Monday through Friday) providing racing news, commentary, features, and information from Frontstretch.com
We hate spam. Your email address will not be sold or shared with anyone else.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

I am very saddened that these 4 represent the sport in the final 4. NASCAR has now fixed it that the history books the sheep will think these final 4 were the best of the season. So sad, and so not true. And to add insult to injury..the weather played a part which could have changed the outcome. What other sport does, lets other teams play with playoff teams that can effect the outcome. What other sport has parts, blown engines…weather decide their fate as to go home or be crowned a champ as if they had done it for a season long effort. Jesus H. Christmas. I think the script writers at Castle Daytona definitely want Jeff Gordon gift win courtesy of Mental Matt to win at Homestead, but the TOYS pull is strong ie $$$$$$$$$$$$$$…what a great story KB has had with a 11 race miss (their words not the majority of fans) and the other luckier than a lotto winner Martin Truex Jr. who is a Chevy now, conveniently is going to a Toys next year. Most fans are silent now a week or two has past about Kevin Harvick’s supposed purposely intent…the biggest competitor Fords are out and all is right with the world. What a bunch of garbage. But that is what they are selling, if you are buying.


Well kb, look at it this way, like me, you won’t have to waste next Sunday watching this garbage. In fact, I have already informed any of the race tracks that I normally waste my tourist dollars going to, that I won’t be renewing any of my tickets. No travel, no wasting gas, no hotel bills, and not buying anything at the track. Ah, that feels good!

One final point, then I won’t post anything else, mainly because of a couple of people who love to viciously attack anyone who happens to be a Ford fan, or worse, a fan of the likes of Logano and Keselowski. I seriously hope this elimination of any Ford driver from “the sainted four” will finally make Ford wake up and realize that they are not wanted in NASCAR, and that the finally tell that brainless idiot France to take his “show” and shove it deep up where the sun won’t shine!

Enjoy the final everyone! This fan is finally done after 54-years!

J. Smith

Welcome to the cheap seats. Even from way out here you can post comments. Logano is just the latest victim of the $G7 format. Game 7 is now getting boring, can we go to G8 or G9?


Ford did it to themselves. Logano would still be in the chase if not for his arrogance at Kansas, and Keselowski screwed up at Martinsville and again at Texas to lose his chance.

That said, the final four makes for an interesting storyline…but in no way represents the best drivers from this season. Unfortunately, NASCAR is probably thrilled, because they would rather have the more interesting storyline.


So racing is not racing, and the immaturity of a obviously unbalanced man ramming someone leading the race is racing. Nope, I don’t blame Logano or anybody who was/is in that situation, I blame the 43 year old baby or any other immature idiot doing the same thing. Nope, I never did buy that logic..”I am blocking all over the place, but if you continue to let me block, I will pay you the favor sometime in the very near future. I have yet to see that debt of gratitude repaid. Guess racing isn’t racing anymore.


Thanks Ken!!! My thoughts exactly.

J. Smith

That a couple of backmarkers and a rain shower could play such a role in determining who the champion will be is one of the things inherently wrong with NASCAR’s playoff system – Amy.

I’ve got one more for you. NASCAR penalizing the 41 for beating the 48 to the start line essentially knocked the 41 out, he never fully recovered. The race starts at the drop of the green flag and the race starts at the start line. How can it be both, idiots? TV said that, at the driver’s meeting, Jeff Gordon asked for clarification of this rule. Is it just coincidence that his 48 teammate later was involved in that rule being used to knock another 41 teammate out of the crapshoot? Wait that doesn’t make sense but it still reeks of suspicion. I wonder if some Hendrick guy was crying to NASCAR he beat us to the start line and you said…

J. Smith

I’ll probably never understand how a race can start at the drop of the flag but you can’t race until you get to the line but, my main point is that the call, just like weather and backmarkers, played a major role in determining a champion.


Amy I understand your point, but if it was consistent the same rule would apply to both restarts and the start of the race. The way Nascar changes the rules at their whim, I don’t think most fans know that they even have a rule book.


i have a feeling that old broad mother nature will impact next weekend too.

i was shocked to see the green flag as i was heading to bed. i figured they’d do whatever it took to get to halfway cause of all the marketing and media commitments for those 4 drivers this week.

yep, it’s just a dog any pony show, and na$car didn’t want to disappoint anyone who had ponied up money for the final 4 combatants to appear on their morning shows.

Bill B

The best part of the race was that Brian was denied his game 7 moment. This round of the chase ended with no drama but instead wet and soggy like NASCAR itself has become.
One more race to care about and then I will be free of all of this BS. One thing is for sure, that will most likely be the last time I ever lose sleep (literally or figuratively) over a NASCAR race.
I hope Jeff wins the championship but, really, I don’t care as long as he rides off into the sunset.


Yes, that was pretty great IMO, too.


With a six hour rain delay, the best NBC could do was interview the same 8 drivers, rehash the latest races highlighting ONLY the same 8 drivers? This total obsession with only 8 (now 4) drivers is especially stupid when any of the other cars on the track with them can affect the outcome of the race! By the time they flew the green flag, I was so sick of hearing about only 20 % of the field I had to mute the sound. I could care less about who ‘wins’ this crapshoot of a title, but I certainly wish they could figure out how to cover the entire race field.


Is a “competition caution” the same as a TV time-out?

It appears the rain gods are really angry with the delusional Brian and his ludicrous chase. He’s got quite the “product.”

If they telecast past races it would show how bad the “races” are now. Look what happened when the just used past announcers.

When the cars were behind the pace car for a LONG time before the race started why didn’t they run through the pits too?

Bill B

My theory about why they won’t broadcast old races is because there is no value to their current sponsors. In many cases races from 5+ years ago will give free advertising to companies no longer paying NASCAR. By showing races from the current season they are giving paying sponsors more exposure. To hell with what the fans would want to see. It’s all about money.


hey, that’s a good point, Bill B. Funny thing, I used to record a lot of the races (pre-chase) so I could enjoy them at my leisure. I don’t bother doing that any more because for the most part, there aren’t many races that I’d bother to watch again.

and of course, you are right, it is all about the $$

Bill B

Yeah it’s a shame too. I go out of my way to watch any pre-Brian races from the 80’s and 90’s on the rare occasion that I see them on tv (classic NASCAR). Unfortunately there aren’t too many pre-80’s races recorded in their entirety.


Very good theory. Fortunately a number of old races can be found on YouTube.


I forgot to ask “What is learining?”


Snce Mother Nature rained in the desert – how ironic is that? I had already made plans for the evening, so I was out most of the time. I actually did get home in time to see some of the race.

I’m not a fan of the chase, never have been, because IMO Gordon has been screwed out of at least 2 championship trophies with the varying 10 race formats. I hope that he wins it all next weekend at Homestead, but if not, well, it has still been one helluva ride and I’ll be happy that after that race he won’t have to put up with the NASCAR nonsense after this and neither will I. Come next year, I can watch from the cheap seats and not give a rat’s patoot about Brian France’s follies. Hey stress free racing! What an awesome concept.

Charles Jenkins

Gina, that’s the way to do it. You will learn to like it. I have been a casual fan for years. I still am interested but just keep up with NA$CAR by reading and very minimal viewing. Old habits are sometime hard to break. Good luck next week and next year. Remember, it is just a show… not racing !!!!


Charles, I believe you are right. Thanks very much.

Carl D.

When deciding whether to watch the rain-delayed race or The Walking Dead, I chose the latter. I didn’t watch a lap and apparently I missed nothing.


Do you think there should be a competing show during the last race called The Racing Dead? It could have 39 characters.

Carl D.

Plus the zombies running Nascar in Daytona.


No they won’t. They’ll be the only ones watching the Lucky Four.


Wow. Nascar just can’t get out of its own way it ridiculous. How do you wait 6 hours to start the race then stop it with 100 laps to go? It wasn’t even raining when they were doing interviews on pit road. And considering they have waited until 2am local time to run races, calling this race early makes Nascar look even more dumb. They either need to get the full race in on the schedule day, or they need to postpone it for the next day. Either way these Chase races need to run in their entirety. Several drivers got screwed because of it. But with Jr leading, driver commitments on Monday, Nascar obviously wanted to get outta dodge. They even got Jr back his win that they screwed up on at Talladega to make his fans happy. So I guess in Nascar’s delusional little bubble, all is right with the world.

I’m calling BS on that restart that Kurt got screwed on. They didn’t want him in the Final 4 so what better way to ruin his chances than changing the restart rule……..again to suit their agenda. Of course the Kool Aid sippers in the booth all backed Nascar on the rule. What a shocker!!

Anyone notice how slow they were to get to Gase after he crashed? Funny how nobody seemed to notice or care. Oh right. He wasn’t a Chaser so he was irrelevant.

Watching the booth trip all over themselves with excitement over the final 4 was pretty funny. Considering we have a driver who hasn’t won a race all year, another who missed 11 races during the season, another who took half the field out at Talladega to keep himself in the Chase, and another that only has one win, I wouldn’t be too excited about having one of these guys represent the sport as their champion, especially when we have 3 guys on the outside that comprise 16 wins on the season. The final 4 consisting of only 9 wins total all year. Doesn’t sound like any of them are a deserving champion.

I will be rooting for Truex Jr to win the championship. Not because I like him as a driver, but because it will show the world what a complete farce this chase setup is. Gordon is my sentimental favorite simply because Nascar screwed him out of probably 2 more championships with this bogus format. Either way, I won’t lose a bit of sleep all weekend over this and will probably only catch that last laps of the race.


Since when is the start of the race different from a restart. its the same thing, regardless of what name you give it. Kurt got screwed either way. Why is it so hard for the green flag to dictate the start/restart? Its too simple. No restart zones, no waiting to cross the line, just mash the gas. I’m sure they don’t do it because it would take a manipulation option off the table from Nascar, so I guess its not surprising.


I completely agree. If someone doesn’t heed the flag/lights when they come out/on, they need to be penalized. He could have been hurt badly and time was wasted getting to him. Thanks for the update though. I didn’t realize why that caused the delay.


Well, first of all, I have never liked this chase format since it was started because to me it’s not a good way to determined a season champion. You cannot determined a season champion with a ten race format. And, to top it all you have a guy who could win the championship who has missed more races(eleven)than is in the chase itself. I said this would be a disaster if they allowed Kyle to be able to compete in the chase after missing that many races and now here we are with him having a very good chance of winning it all. That is insane that a driver could be eligible to win it all with missing that many races. And no, I’m not upset that this driver is Kyle I’m saying any driver should not be eligible to win it all after missing that many races. And, now it’s just who can survive getting wrecked by someone. Quite a few drivers eliminated by “questionable” actions on the track due to no fault of their own. Sure, you can get wrecked anytime during the season but with the old format you have many more races to overcome a circumstance like that but with the chase it’s too bad you are done unless you can win a race to advance. Wow, want that be great if Kyle wins it all after missing that many races? I’m sure Nascar and the all in announcers will really be hyping it up about what a great thing that Kyle did form all of his “adversity”. Nascar, you really screwed the championship up with this chase format. And, don’t forget about changing the green white checker rule in the middle of the chase. What a disaster!


I think it will be more exciting to watch and see if Logano gets payback on Kenseth now that he is back in the car this weekend. That’s probably more exciting than determining an undeserving champ anyway.

Carl D.

I don’t think that will happen. Nascar laid down the law after Martinsville. My guess is that any suspensions for intentionally wrecking another driver might be enforced at the beginning of next season, and no one wants to start off the season sitting out a couple of races. Also, I suspect both drivers are probably ready to put this season behind them. But I could be wrong.


I agree Carl, but in my opinion that payback would be more exciting than watching 4 undeserving drivers try to win the championship. What does that tell you about the state of the sport? If Joey wants retribution for Martinsville, he will wait until such time where it will hurt Kenseth the most (not physically harm but championship harm before you all attack me for wishing injury to a driver). Homestead would not be it because they are both eliminated

Fed Up

After watching the 88 back off the 48 before the green flag, I was wondering what was going on. It didn’t
take but a few seconds to figure it out. Busch was snookered by the HMS boys, but he should have known
better. When will NA$CRAP start the race with the flag and end all the games and demolition? Everyone has
been the victim, so why don’t the owners demand a fair start from Brain Farce?


I suspect (Re JJ Brake check) you may be right as the benefits to the 24 are obvious …That said Hope Jeffy can pull it off next week & would settle for Truex…The rules are clear for everyone & speaking as a multi team attendee of this specific race (or any Sunday race) I would be flying home after the race & the first time I missed one (not supposed to rain in the middle od the desert) due to Nascar going to move it to Monday would be my/our last…Just sayin…Note: Cheered for Kes when he won his …Note: Don’t care for the “chase” but the Big Issue I Have is the on track product (due to the car combined with tracks) has become follow the leader & then (brian) its just cars going around in a circle…Best to All (cept brian)


IMHO, it’s the point-resetting that caused this whole mess. Fine, reset the points with Chase race 1. Fine, have your elimination rounds. But DON’T RESET THE POINTS AFTER EVERY THIRD RACE!!!! Had the points carried forward, Matt probably wouldn’t have felt the need to block Joey. Maybe Harvick wouldn’t felt the need to wreck the field to secure his advancement. And maybe Dale would have been okay after ‘Dega. The current points system fosters this whole ridiculous circus. In any one race, one single event can affect the outcome of an entire season. And it doesn’t have to be driver actions. Last week, it was seriously sucks tires. This week, Mother Nature. That is absurd! None of the teams can control those things! One bad day, for whatever reason, and your whole season is shot. CHANGE THE POINTS, NASCAR!!!!


Tracy, I was with you until you said the tires sucked at Texas. If it only happened to 3 or 4 drivers, its not the tires. I’m assuming you are referring to Logano in your rant. He could have just ran over something, which means luck and the idiot driving the 20 car ruined his chances, which still backs up your argument. I just don’t think it was bad tires that ruined it for Joey.


Steve, I just heard a lot of comments about the tires throughout the race, although I will say that I wasn’t following it as closely as normal. It was more of an example, because we know there have tire issues in races past, and it’s something there’s not much control over. And because there are thints out of teams’ control, the point system needs to allow for that and be a little more forgiving of a single bad race or incident. Which I think we’re in agreement on :)!

J. Smith

But Traci, if we didn’t have eliminations we wouldn’t have Matt blocking Joey. Maybe Harvick wouldn’t felt the need to wreck the field to secure his advancement. And maybe Dale would have been okay after ‘Dega. No Matt bulldozing Logano. What fun would that be?


LMBO! This site is like a hen party. All the whining and biatching. All you folks who are leaving the sport should share addy’s so you can continue your Lonely Heart Club among yourselves next year.

Ken Smith

It never ceases to amaze me how all these people that don’t watch the races anymore come on here and comment, and seem to know every little thing that happened during the race !!

Carl D.

Most of us long-time fans still watch, but for how long? I wouldn’t fret too much about it, though…once the whiners and “biatchers” are gone, there will still be a good handful of you cheerleaders here to keep Nascar running smoothly. Just remember, the engine runs on Kool-Aid and cash. Like politics, only without any accountability. And be sure to let us know when you’ve had enough… there’s always room for one more here at the Lonely Hearts Club hen party.

Tim S.

Preach on, brother Carl. The lockstep minions are likely to get a rude awakening as the Gordon and Stewart fans disappear.


I’d bet that NASCAR and maybe sites like this will be a lonelier place when the “whiners” and “biatchers” go.

Share via