The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and NASCAR Xfinity Series traveled to Phoenix International Raceway in Avondale, Arizona this past Saturday and Sunday, and the racing action did not disappoint.
On Saturday afternoon in the Xfinity Series' 200-lap race, Justin Allgaier secured the victory driving for Dale Earnhardt, Jr., holding off NASCAR Cup Series rookie contender Erik Jones for the win.
However, nothing topped Sunday afternoon's Camping World 500. Sensational sophomore driver Chase Elliott drove his #24 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet into the number-one position. Elliott, the son of 1988 NASCAR Cup Series champion Bill Elliott, consistently held off challengers such as Kyle Larson, to capture the second stage of the Camping World 500. However, stage number three would prove to be a marathon compared to the seventy-five-lap sprints that comprised nearly half of the event.
Elliott led the way on the restart and appeared to drive away from the competition on a thirty-five-lap green flag run. However, the reigning Rookie of the Year's dominating drive was slowed on Lap 193, when Matt Kenseth slammed the wall in his #20 Toyota to bring out yet another caution period.
With the field under the yellow flag, pit road was bustling with activity, as stellar work by the #18 Skittles Toyota pit crew placed Kyle Busch in command of the race.
Busch would go on to lead 114 laps during the event, the most of any driver that afternoon. Little did Busch know though since the pace would once again be slowed, this time by a jarring incident involving rookie contender Gray Gaulding in his #23 Toyota and David Ragan, piloting the #38 Ford. Neither driver was able to continue, though fortunately both of the two wheelmen escaped from the wreckage unhurt.
With only four laps remaining in the scheduled race distance, Joey Logano, who had sent Busch into a tailspin at Las Vegas, hit the wall hard, his #22 Shell/Pennzoil Ford out of the running for a triumph in the Arizona desert. As the caution flag flew over the Phoenix International Raceway, the top contenders headed down pit road for a splash of fuel, tires, or any other last-minute adjustments. Ryan Newman, however, had other plans. Prompted by his crew chief Luke Lambert, Newman made a gutsy move not to pit under the final yellow-flag period. The caution would set up a two-lap shootout, pitting Newman against the 24-year-old California hot shoe Kyle Larson.
The green flag flew for the final time at Lap 313, as Newman and Larson battled into the first corner. Despite several moves to gain command of the lead and score the second victory of his young career, Larson had to settle for his third consecutive runner-up effort, after finishing second at Atlanta and Las Vegas. After starting in the twenty-second position, the South Bend, Indiana native scored his first win in 127 races and nearly four years, dating back to the 2013 Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis.
The next stop for NASCAR's top two series is the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California.