Phoenix about more than just title

BY foxsports • November 14, 2011

Beyond the battle between Carl Edwards and Tony Stewart in NASCAR's Chase for the Sprint Cup and Kasey Kahne earning his first win of the season, here are 10 compelling tales from Phoenix International Raceway:

1) AJ Allmendinger finds overdue consistency

The No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports pit crew has executed few favors for its driver this season and Sunday was no exception. Allmendinger qualified second and ran in the top five for most of the race. But his pit crew cost him spots on every stop. The ongoing problem was exacerbated due to the newly paved track which promoted single-file racing. After losing four spots on the previous pit stop, someone had the good sense to call an audible before the pit stops on Lap 220.

“We have to work on our pit stops," said Allmendinger, who finished sixth. “Thanks to the No. 6 guys (of David Ragan's crew), our Ford teammates coming over and pitting the last two stops. That was a big difference.”

Although Allmendinger’s average finish this season is 16th, it’s the first time in 2011 that the team put together consecutive top-10 finishes.

2) No six-pack for five-time superhero Jimmie Johnson

For NASCAR fans, the nostalgia surrounding the Johnson era will rank among Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt’s seven titles and David Pearson’s dominance at Darlington Raceway. Yes, there’s only one King, one Intimidator and one Silver Fox. But there’s also only one five-time superhero -- J.J.

3) How can someone so good be so bad?

Jeff Gordon was a force to deal with in the February race at Phoenix when he won for the first of three times for the season. On Sunday, Gordon had dropped to 29th, two laps down, 208 circuits into the race after developing an issue with his brakes. Inevitably, Gordon finished 32nd, six laps down.

4) Life will never be boring ...

... when Kyle Busch is around. And he made the action at Phoenix interesting coming from the back of the pack to third before his engine soured on Lap 186 and expired two laps later. The No. 18 changed an engine on Friday. This was not surprising.

At this point, we’ve lost count how many engines have failed throughout the course of a weekend for Joe Gibbs Racing this season. However, the tally under competition is six. Let’s see if TRD can do a better job in 2012.

5) Why don't we learn from our mistakes?

That’s what Kurt Busch asked his crew after running out of fuel after leading 57 laps with less than 35 circuits remaining in the Kobalt Tools 500. We’d like to know that, too. Busch has the talent to win championships. Let’s hope his next crew chief does a better job at working through adversity than Steve Addington.

6) Get the monkey off my back

With Kasey Kahne earning his first win of the season, will we see someone repeat the feat at Homestead?? Race winner from 2010 Greg Biffle, Jamie McMurray, Juan Pablo Montoya and David Reutimann all are worthy candidates.

7) Team orders

Did anyone else notice that Jeff Burton didn't put up much of a fight when Tony Stewart battled the No. 31 Chevrolet for third place?

8) Dramatic debut

Cole Whitt, a candidate for the next evolution of the current Red Bull Racing operation, qualified 19th. Whitt, 20, raced in the top 15 early in the race but spun on the backstretch on Lap 168 and finished 25th.

9) Three strikes and you're out

For goodness sake, Geoffrey Bodine, please retire with dignity. I’m not sure what you’re paying Tommy Baldwin to drive the No. 36 Chevrolet, but after igniting three of eight cautions in the first 160 laps, it’s time to find an alternative thrill ride.

10) Take the long way home

Good luck to the motorcoach drivers who have a 38-hour haul between Phoenix and Homestead!

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