Fuel and Tires

All about auto racing with Gazette staffer Dave von Falkenstein.

Fuel & Tires: Phoenix NASCAR wrap-up, F1 season-opener, Schwarzenegger

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Dave von Falkenstein
March 17, 2015

NASCAR continued its West Coast jaunt while Formula One got started Down Under. See what's hot in the racing world this week.

Kevin Harvick made it four in a row at Phoenix International Raceway after winning Sunday's Sprint Cup race. Harvick led more than 200 laps to take his seventh overall win at the track. It's also Harvick's second straight win this season and his fifth win in the last ten races, dating back to last season. Jamie McMurray and Ryan Newman rounded out the podium.

—Harvick's teammate Kurt Busch, who returned to the Sprint Cup series after being sidelined by NASCAR, finished fifth in his first race this season.

—Harvick's and Busch's team owner Tony Stewart hit the wall late in the race and ended up finishing 36th. Stewart has not finished higher than 30th this season, and is the lowest ranked driver who has competed in every event.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished in 43rd position after blowing his tire and hitting the wall on lap 181. It was Earnhardt's first finish outside of the top four in the four races run so far this season.

Martin Truex Jr. continued his strong season, finishing seventh to take his fourth top-10 finish in four races this season. I would put money on Truex winning a race or two very soon.

—Janesville native Travis Kvapil was one of two cars who failed to qualify for the Sprint Cup race. Kvapil is on the entry list for this weekend's race in California. Here's hoping his luck finally turns and he can make the field.

Joey Logano led 176 of 200 laps en route to his win in Saturday's Xfinity Series race in Phoenix. Fellow Sprint Cup regulars Matt Kenseth and Harvick rounded out the top three while series points leader Austin Dillon finished fourth.

—As I mentioned, the Sprint Cup and Xfinity Series will hit Auto Club Speedway this weekend in Fontana, California. The Xfinity Series will run the Drive4Clots.com 300 on Saturday with coverage beginning at 3 p.m. on Fox Sports 1. Coverage for Sprint Cup's Auto Club 400 begins at 2:30 p.m. Sunday on Fox.

Jimmie Johnson holds the record for the most wins at Fontana, with five. Of other active drivers, Stewart, Kenseth, and Jeff Gordon also have multiple wins at the track. Kyle Busch, who is still out due to injuries suffered last month in Daytona, will have to wait at least another year to try and equal Johnson's win total at the track.

—The Formula One season got underway Sunday with defending series champion Lewis Hamilton winning the Australian Grand Prix. Hamilton's teammate Nico Rosberg finished second, while Sebastian Vettel took third place in his maiden race with Ferrari.

—Hamilton's win extended his streak of top-two finishes through the last eight races, dating back to last season. Of those eight races, Hamilton has won seven of them.

—The race began with only 18 cars on the grid after the Manor Marussia team arrived in Australia with a car that had not completed any testing. We'll see if they show up at the next race in Malaysia on March 29.

—Prior to the race, an additional three cars did not start due to a variety of issues. By the end of lap one, only 13 cars were still in the race. Jenson Button, looking to win his fourth race at the track, finished in the eleventh and final running spot, two laps down. It looks like Button's McLaren-Honda team has not yet found the speed to be competitive.

—A legal challenge that saw the Sauber team lose an appeal to keep driver Giedo van der Garde out of the car turned out to be a non-issue. Van der Garde surrendered his right to drive in the race Saturday morning, allowing the team's drivers Felipe Nasr and Marcus Ericsson to take part in qualifying and the race.

—One of the more entertaining occurrences came after the race during the podium celebration when Arnold Schwarzenegger came out to interview the top three finishers. Hamilton seemed completely surprised by the appearance of The Terminator. He even joined Schwarzenegger in repeating the actor's trademark phrase, “I'll be back,” in unison. Perhaps a reference to Hamilton taking many more wins this season? I would think so.

—Following the dominant performance (yet again) by the Mercedes team, the Red Bull team suggested they could pull out of the series if changes to the engine regulations aren't reassessed. The team, who won four championships with driver Vettel from 2010-2013, also won 41 of 77 races in the same time period. I don't recall any of the teams going out of their way to threaten to quit when Red Bull was dominating, but such is life in Formula One.

Look for my preview of the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series at the end of the week, ahead of the season-opening St. Petersburg Grand Prix on March 29.

Dave von Falkenstein is a digital content coordinator for The Gazette and an auto racing fan. Follow him on Twitter at @achtungvon or email him at [email protected].

Dave von Falkenstein is a digital content coordinator for The Gazette and an auto racing fan. Follow him on Twitter at @achtungvon or email him at [email protected].

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