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Each of standings' top drivers know way to PIR’s Victory Lane
The top drivers in the Sprint Cup Series have more in common than lofty positions in the standings. Kyle Busch leads a class of drivers with recent success in the Valley of the Sun.
It’s often said that success at a particular track can be a precursor to a championship, even with the title crowning months away. Need proof? See the oft-used stat that explains the eventual series championships of nearly half of the previous winners of the Brickyard 400, which ran its 15th installment just two weekends ago.
On only two occasions of 20 has the winner of the Checker Auto Parts 500 Presented by Pennzoil at PIR been named the titlist just weeks later, but that doesn’t mean drivers at the top don’t do well - scratch that - very well on the one-mile oval.
Take a look at the current Sprint Cup Series standings: Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jimmie Johnson, and Jeff Burton sit in second, fourth, and fifth place, respectively. Now, look at the list of drivers with two or more PIR Sprint Cup wins since the inaugural event in 1988, and you’ll find all three men. Each won their pair in consecutive fashion: Burton in 2000 and 2001, Earnhardt Jr. in 2003 and 2004, and Johnson in November 2007 and April 2008.
Delve a bit further into PIR’s statistical archives and you’ll notice that it’s Johnson with the highest average finish over the past 10 races in the Valley of the Sun, having driven to a mean of sixth place. 85 other drivers have taken a Sprint Cup green flag at PIR since 2002, and Johnson trumps them all.
Long before Busch won seemingly everything under the stock car sun as he’s done in 2008, he was but a 20-year-old NASCAR pup, entering the 2005 Checker Auto Parts 500 Presented by Pennzoil with just one career win. That total doubled in one afternoon, as Busch outlasted Greg Biffle and Jeff Gordon to add his name to PIR’s winner list.
The winning for the Sprint Cup leaders doesn’t stop in NASCAR’s top division, however. Though Carl Edwards (third) has yet to visit PIR’s Victory Lane in a Sprint Cup car, he did lead 36 of 200 laps in a November 2005 Nationwide Series race at PIR for a win.
As for Busch, his recent tear through all three of NASCAR’s top divisions was foreshadowed slightly last November at PIR, as he won in both the Craftsman Truck and Nationwide Series. Back in April, Busch followed up his Nationwide dominance with a win in the Bashas’ Supermarkets 200.
What about Gordon and Biffle, currently sixth and eighth in the standings? They’ve had their share of good times in the Valley of the Sun, as Biffle is one of just two drivers with two Nationwide Series wins at PIR and Gordon has both a Sprint Cup win and a Nationwide win on the one-mile oval.
All in all, it’ll be hard to say that the drivers gunning for a championship on the second Sunday in November don’t have any winning experience at Phoenix International Raceway. The numbers speak for themselves.
Tickets for the Checker Auto Parts 500 Presented by Pennzoil and the remainder of the November NASCAR event weekend at PIR can be purchased online at www.racetickets.com, or over the phone at 1-866-408-RACE (7223). Be a part of it all at PIR!