The top five qualifiers were bookened by a pair of non-Chasers with Kyle Busch taking the pole ahead of Chase contenders Martin Truex Jr., Denny Hamlin and Kasey Kahne. Aric Almirola rounded out the top five from outside of the top twelve in points.
The big story of qualifying was the relatively poor performance of the two point leaders. Jimmie Johnson was more than six tenths of a second off the pace and started way back in the twenty-fourth starting spot. Brad Keselowski was a little better as his lap was good enough for the fourteenth starting spot. Both of the point leaders will have some work to do in order to get to the front and avoid potential trouble.
Drop Of The Green
Kyle Busch got a good jump on the start and was clear of Truex before they even got to turn one.
Truex was stuck on the outside and fell back into the pack. Then it became apparent that his problems were more serious and he continued to fall out of contention. Martin Truex Jr. remained off the pace until he finally hit pit road on lap twelve to diagnose his problem.
Kyle Busch continued to lead through the remainder of the early going with his teammate Denny Hamlin settled into second place behind him.
Jimmie Johnson and Brad Keselowski came into Phoenix as the two Chase leaders. With only two races remaining in the season clearly the 2012 Chase for the Cup was going to be the biggest story of the weekend.
This Chase took a huge turn within a couple of laps in Phoenix. Brad Keselowski was digging to try to chip away at Johnson's point lead and he moved past Kyle Busch for the lead with 79 laps to go. Just two laps later point leader Jimmie Johnson was running seventh when he blew the bead on his the right front tire and hit the wall pretty hard. He had to take his car to the garage and fell many laps down.
Jimmie went from leading the points to twenty points behind in an instant and the longer he sat behind the wall the further he slipped behind. This is huge news for the Championship battle during the next-to-last race of the year.
When the checkered flag fell Brad Keselowski found himself with a twenty point lead over Jimmie Johnson with only Homestead remaining.
Chasing The Checkers
Eight laps remained with Kyle Busch out front and Kevin Harvick was along side in second. Busch again got a good restart before Harvick battled back on the outside not willing to give up. Harvick went around Kyle Busch for the lead with seven laps to go but this race wasn't over yet.
Jeff Gordon and Clint Bowyer got together while battling for position which cut one of Jeff Gordon's tires and caused Gordon to hit the wall. Gordon was limping around a lap down when Clint Bowyer came back past. Gordon totally turned left into Bowyer and wrecked both cars. In addition Joey Logano and Aric Almirola were collected in the crash.
Jeff Gordon was jumped in the garage area by Bowyer's team and then Clint Bowyer himself ran from his car to express his displeasure with Gordon. There was mayhem in the garage area as the two teams fought it out over this on track payback.
Jeff Gordon really crossed the line. His temper clearly got the best of him and this was dangerous and unnecessary.
The red flag flew for them to clean up the track before the green-white-checkers finish.
Harvick chose the outside lane for the restart and cleared Busch going into turn one. He maintained the lead which chaos once again reigned behind him.
Danica Patrick spun right before the white flag flew and was limping back around after leaving a ton of fluid on the track in turn four. NASCAR failed to throw the yellow and all of the leaders crashed as they raced through the fluid towards the checkered flag.
Harvick recovered from his powerslide and won the race while a huge wreck unfolded behind him. There was chaos on the front stretch as a number of cars crashed.
NASCAR really screwed this up. They clearly should have thrown the caution. This race track was unsafe.
- Kevin Harvick
- Denny Hamlin
- Kyle Busch
- Kasey Kahne
- Ryan Newman
- Brad Keselowski
- Greg Biffle
- Kurt Busch
- Paul Menard
- Mark Martin
Wow, Jimmie Johnson seemed to be in the driver's seat on his way to his sixth NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship. Now Brad Keselowski has a commanding lead for the title with only one race to go. Brad Keselowski's 20 point lead means he basically needs to finish in the top twenty next week in order to claim the crown.
The 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Standings: