Luke Lambert wins the MVP award at Phoenix. Ryan Newman hung around the edge of the top ten for most of the day, but it wasn’t until Luke Lambert made the bold call to leave Newman out on old tires to grab the lead. Newman was able to hold off Kyle Larson for two laps and pick up the win. It was Luke’s first win as a crew chief. It was Newman’s first win since 2013. You weren’t going to win it doing what everyone else was doing, so why not try something different?
Chase Elliott and Kyle Larson can’t close the deal… Again. It’s become a nasty little trend for both drivers. Elliott led the entire middle portion of this one, picking up a stage win. But Kyle Busch beat him off pit road once, which spelled the end for Elliott. Larson seemingly ran 2nd all day long and had plenty of pace, but never could get over the hump. I just knew he would be able to handle Newman with the tire advantage. With a couple more laps to work with, no doubt he would have been able to do so. It just wasn’t meant to be. I can’t imagine how frustrated Larson must be.
Kyle Busch had the best car on Sunday. While it took a minute for Busch to prove it, his No. 18 found the lead with a little over 100 laps to go. An assist from his pit crew got the job done. Once he was out front, Busch walked away. He had to be equally frustrated by Sunday’s result. The race was his until Joey Logano (Of course it had to be Joey Logano) melted a bead and slammed the wall.
It was really hard to pass. Too hard to pass. Track position became everything — and actually ended up determining the final result of the race. You saw Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano and Martin Truex Jr. forced to the back, but it took them seemingly forever to come back up through the field. I think this was more of a product of the track itself rather than the car, but the race was tough to watch for the most part today. A wild ending saved it, but there was a lot of single file racing out there with little position change during the green flag portion of the race — especially in the top ten.
Why didn’t more teams stay out? During the final caution nearly everyone came down for four fresh tires, except for Ryan Newman, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Martin Truex Jr. I don’t understand why more teams didn’t just stay out. Tires mattered — but not nearly as much as track position. Ryan Newman proved that. He took an 8th place car and made a bold call and stole a win. I’m shocked more didn’t try that. Tires are typically the name of the game, especially after a long run, but the tires brought to Phoenix didn’t have too much give up in them. I loved the call for Newman, Truex and Stenhouse, just trying to make something happen. Newman did — now he’s got a lot less pressure to deal with come late Summer.