NASCAR Delivered In Phoenix


Sunday’s Quicken Loans Race For Heroes 500 lived up to all the hype and then some. The racing was intense from the drop of the green flag and the championship battle came down to the final lap. Whether you were watching on TV, listening on the radio, or in attendance everyone was treated to a great race that will not be soon forgotten.

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With each and every lap the outcome of the chase hung in the balance. I found myself holding my breath each time a caution came out waiting to see if any of the chase drivers would be affected and what it would mean for someone’s championship hopes.

Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano both struggled with issues throughout the race. At one point they were both a lap down and their championship chances looked dismal at best. There was one restart in particular where both drivers were fighting for the lucky dog. If someone would’ve tuned into ESPN at that moment they could have easily mistaken it for Logano and Hamlin’s battling for the win in the closing laps. It was that intense.

Logano ended up winning that exchange and received the lucky dog while Hamlin had to wait until the next caution to circle back onto the lead lap. With 25 laps remaining they both made a great call to take four tires while most of the top runners stayed out. At the end of the day Hamlin and Logano fought their way back and finished fifth and sixth respectively and transferred on to race for the championship next weekend.

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Going into Phoenix there were five drivers that had to win in order to guarantee themselves a spot in the championship round. Kevin Harvick was the favorite to win at Phoenix and he delivered. He was challenged by Gordon, Keselowski, and Kenseth who all had to win to advance but they didn’t have anything for Harvick. The No. 4 Budweiser Chevrolet let 264 of 312 laps on the way to his fourth win of the season and an automatic shot at the championship next week.

Ryan Newman was another fascinating story coming out of Phoenix. Newman was up on the wheel during the closing laps of the race trying to hold off faster cars with new tires. When the white flag waved the No. 31 team was out of the chase by only one point. Ryan dug down deep and drove the car hard into turn three using Kyle Larson as a guard rail in order to get by. The one point that pass was worth was the difference between Newman racing for a championship next Sunday or just trying to close the season out on a high note.

On the other side of the coin was Jeff Gordon. Gordon fought hard all day and finished second. Not bad for most races but with his season on the line second was not enough.  After a tough week at Texas he had to win and just wasn’t able to seal the deal. Only one point separated him from transferring in instead of Ryan Newman.

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All in all the fans got what they wanted on Sunday. Hard racing from lap one all the way through the final corner of lap 312. The drivers put it all on the line because next week wasn’t guaranteed. It has raised the level of competition and taken the drivers out of their comfort zone causing them to do things they wouldn’t normally do. The fans are reaping the rewards.

Aaron Hale is a Staff Writer for on the FanSided Network. Follow us on Twitter @Beyond_The_Flag and “Like” us on Facebook.