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Everything That Happened In The Cup Race At Phoenix

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Cody Williams

Cody Williams

Cody Williams is the author of BUNNY BOY and THE FIFTH LINE. He lives near Bristol, TN.
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What’s Happening?

The Xfinity youngsters had their chance yesterday, now it’s the Cup guys’ turn! In the fourth race of the NASCAR Cup Series regular season, the greatest stock car drivers in the world take to Phoenix Raceway with a slightly different short track rules package. Was Penske able to continue their dominance at the track or were there new faces up front? Here’s Everything That Happened in the NASCAR Cup Series Race at Phoenix International Raceway!

You Need To Know:

  • Heading into the race, there were a lot of eyes on the Penske drivers as they, particularly Ryan Blaney, have been the class of the field as of late at the 1-mile Arizona trioval. And while they did show some speed during practice on Friday, it was the Toyotas who made up must of the top-10. They would later go on to sweep the front row with JGR teammates, Ty Gibbs and Denny Hamlin while 23XI’s Tyler Reddick and LMC’s Erik Jones also showed some speed in time trials.
  • Despite many fans not liking the Phoenix track, particularly when it comes to it being the host for the season finale, it was announced shortly beforehand the command to fire engines that the grandstands were completely sold out. With NASCAR experiencing a ratings climb in recent weeks, it will be interesting to see how that translates to TV viewership, or whether or not it does at all.
  • Another race, another week with many fans online complaining about the abundance of full-screen commercials while the action is heating up on track. There were several moments where there was an intense battle for the lead or a major player was having some sort of issue while FOX was away only for it to never be mentioned when we returned to the in-race coverage.

Kraus Spins, Collecting Cindric and Dillon

Within the first 6 laps of the race, we got our first caution for incident. The wreck was triggered by rookie Derek Kraus in the No. 16 for Kaulig as he spun around near the back of the pack, a product of him getting loose on the apron. As he spun, he would collect RCR driver, Austin Dillon in the No. 3 as well as the No. 2 Penske Ford of Austin Cindric.

Kraus and Dillon were able to continue the race, albeit with fairly significant damage. While Kraus was able to remain on the lead lap, Dillon would go down 3-laps. Cindric, however, would end up breaking a toe link and would retire from the race. You can relive the carnage in the video clip below, provided by NASCAR on FOX.

Here’s the incident from a different angle:

Reddick Snatches Stage 1 Win Away From Ty Gibbs

Early on, it looked like Ty Gibbs in his No. 54 Monster Energy Toyota Camry was going to handily win the opening stage of the race. However, with 4-laps remaining in the stage, Tyler Reddick in his No. 45 23XI Toyota was able to run him down and pass the sophomore Cup Series driver for the stage win. This awards Reddick with 10 points and 1 very valuable playoff point.

Gibbs finished second in the stage followed by 23XI co-owner and Gibbs’ teammate at JGR, Denny Hamlin in 3rd. Crossing the line in 4th was the Toyota Racing Development driver Erik Jones for Legacy Motor Club and rounding out the top 5 was NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver in Chase Elliott.

You can watch the closing lap of the first stage in the FOX Sports footage below.

A potential issue that might have contributed to Ty Gibbs being passed for the lead was that his brakes seemed to have been overheating in the closing laps of the opening stage. He came over the radio alarmed with how hot his brakes were getting, no doubt remembering when his teammate, Christopher Bell, suffered a brake failure at Phoenix, which ended his championship hopes in the 2023 season finale. It was something to keep an eye on, for sure.

Christopher Bell Nabs Stage 2 Win Away From Reddick

Like the first stage, Stage 2 saw a clear favorite rocket out front in Stage 1 winner, Tyler Reddick. However, with 5 laps to go in the stage, Reddick would be passed by a hard-charging Christopher Bell in his No. 20 Rheem Toyota Camry. This rewards Bell with 10 points + 1 playoff point for the postseason, marking his first stage win of the 2024 season.

It was all Toyota all the time in this stage as they would take 4 of the top 5 spots to end the stage. Reddick finished second, his 23XI co-owner Denny Hamlin in third, with William Byron being the lone Chevy in the top-5 in 4th, and Martin Truex Jr. rounding out the top-5.

You can watch the closing laps of the second stage in the NASCAR on FOX clip provided below.

Something to note: During the second stage, as the field cycled through green flag pit stops, Ty Gibbs had some issues on pit road with the right rear tire. The jackman seemingly dropped the car before the tire was fully on, costing the No. 54 crew a massive amount of time. He finished the second stage in 15th.

His JGR teammate, Christopher Bell, would end up having a similar issue on pit road after winning the second stage. This would cost him his lead which would be inherited by another JGR driver in Denny Hamlin.

Kyle Busch’s Bad Day Gets Worse

Noticeably absent at the front of the pack for much of the race was fan-favorite driver Kyle Busch in his RCR No. 8. He was never able to improve his track position, running most of the race anywhere from 20th-30th. After the restart to begin the final stage of the race, Kyle Busch got loose in turn 2, similar to Derek Kraus earlier in the race. This sent his No. 8 Chevy around. He was running 33rd at the time, 1-lap down. Luckily, he didn’t make contact with the wall and didn’t collect anyone else in the spin.

Here’s what happened:

Logano, LaJoie, and Kraus Collected in Multi-Car Crash

Once the race restarted following the Busch spin, “it’s go time” must have been on the minds of a lot of the drivers as there were several clusters of three-wide racing around the track. Somehow, they were able to go a couple of laps of stacking up without crashing but something just had to give and, eventually, it did. The wreck that took Logano out started after the driver of the 22 Hunt Brothers Pizza Ford was tagged from behind by John Hunter Nemechek. This sent him around and up the track into traffic, collecting Corey LaJoie and Derek Kraus while Josh Berry went spinning.

Logano, LaJoie, and Kraus would all retire from the race. Unfortunately for LaJoie, this ended his 44-race streak without a DNF, the highest in the series, as reported by Trey Ryan.

Yellow Fever Continues With Denny Hamlin Single-Car Spin

After only a few more green flag laps, the mayhem continued throughout the field with aggressive racing. Denny Hamlin, who was running second at the time and was battling his own car, Tyler Reddick’s No. 45, for the race lead, got loose and spun around. Fortunately, nobody hit him and he was able to continue on, virtually unscathed.

Watch the incident in the clip below:

Truex’s Strategy Gamble Doesn’t Pay Out

After several cautions, Martin Truex Jr. as well as Ryan Preece opted to stay out on the racetrack to gain track position in hopes that there would be another caution flag. This put him in a tight window on both tires and fuel. While he would initially rocket out front and start putting a gap between himself and teammate Ty Gibbs, Christopher Bell would eventually run him down. With less than 40 laps to go, Truex finally bit the bullet and pitted under green, spoiling his chances to win.

Christopher Bell Gets His Redemption At Phoenix

In November of 2023, Christopher Bell and his No. 20 JGR Toyota team went into the season finale at Phoenix International Raceway looking to win a championship. However, a brake failure would send him hard into the outside wall in the opening stage of that race, ending any hopes of Bell hoisting the Bill France Cup by the end of the race.

While Christopher Bell didn’t have the most dominant car in the Toyota stable, he did have the most consistently fast car with the least amount of falloff in the long run. Following poor strategy moves from his JGR teammate Martin Truex Jr., a late-race spin by another teammate in Denny Hamin, and a perfectly timed caution, Christopher Bell got the redemption he was looking for as he won the spring race in the Valley of the Sun.

This win is Bell’s first win of the 2024 season and he was fast most of the day as he won the second stage of the race. A late-charging Chris Buescher came in second in front of Ty Gibbs, and the Fords of Brad Keselowski and defending champion, Ryan Blaney. Congratulations to Bell on this monumental win.

Around The Garage

Bob Pockrass of FOX Sports caught up with Austin Cindric who was caught up in the Lap 6 incident with Austin Dillon and Derek Kraus. He said in the interview that his qualifying poorly was a key factor as to why he was in the position he was in to get caught up in the crash.

Jamie Little of FOX Sports caught up with Michael Hicks, the rear tire changer for Christopher Bell. This is what he had to say regarding the team’s pit stop woes.

Bob Pockrass caught up with a disappointed Corey LaJoie after he got caught up in the wreck with Joey Logano.

Joey Logano also got to speak his peace after a very frustrating day.

In The Stands

ihave40wins found it hilarious that Austin Cindric fell out of the race so early. Hey, the incident wasn’t of his own making, man…

In the first stage of the race, as there was a battle for the lead between Ty Gibbs and Erik Jones, many fans took to X to post about the questionable decision for the FOX broadcast to cut to a full-screen commercial break as the action was heating up out front.

Max Pedraza, Matt, and AJ all complained that the Ty Gibbs brake issue happened during one of these lengthy commercial breaks. Here’s what they had to say:

Following Nemechek getting into Logano and spinning him around, DicksBeenTricklin posted this rather funny meme on X.

Yeah, Rusty…unless your favorite driver happens to be Tyler Reddick or Hamlin himself, I suppose he did just spin in front of your favorite driver…

Conclusion

By practice and qualifying times alone, we knew that the Toyotas were going to be strong heading into this race. What we didn’t know was which Toyota was going to be in the best position to capitalize when the time came for the checkered flag to fly. Early on, it looked like Ty Gibbs might get it done. However, with the way his car faded on the longer run, all eyes went to Tyler Reddick and Denny Hamlin. But, when it was all said and done, it was Christopher Bell who was left standing tall.

What did you think about the race, Daily Downforce readers? Were you surprised by the winner? Did you expect Bell to redeem himself in this way? How did your favorite driver do? Let us know by commenting on all our social media pages. Keep it right here at DailyDownforce.com for the latest news and stories as we gear up and head to the hills of Bristol, Tennessee. It’s Bristol, Baby!

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Cody Williams

Cody Williams

Cody Williams is the author of BUNNY BOY and THE FIFTH LINE. He lives near Bristol, TN.
All Posts