Denny Hamlin only had one path to the Championship 4 in Miami Sunday at Phoenix and that was to win.
The two-time Daytona 500 champion did just that by leading a race-high 143 en route to victory and a spot next week in Miami. Hamlin started third Sunday and remained at the front all afternoon. Like others, he fell victim to the dreaded dirty air that kills this package.
Hamlin was the dominant force of the day. At one point the #11 FedEx Camry had a 12 second lead on the field. A preposterous lead at any track but especially at a 1-mile track. Combine Hamlin’s dominant car, this packages inability to be race-y on a flat track and Goodyear doing what Goodyear does by bringing a tire that doesn’t wear and you have an absolutely putrid race.
8 of the Top-10 finishers started in the Top-10. The other two started in 12th and 13th, that’s not something you want to see. Races are meant to have comers and goers. When passing is next to impossible outside of a restart and the tires will last for 1,000 laps you have this type of finish.
Congrats to Hamlin before we get into the bigger issue this race caused. He showed up to Phoenix this week and dominated. The #11 was the clear car to beat all weekend. Joe Gibbs Racing has the field covered this year. They just won their 18th race out of 35 this year. And for once Hamlin didn’t crack under the pressure. However, there’s still next week.
The 2020 NASCAR Finale At Phoenix Is Going To Be Awful
When NASCAR rearranged the schedule for 2020, and it is a rearrangement, not a change. The brain trust in Daytona decided the fans liked Homestead a little too much. The racing there was a little too good. With its multiple lanes, guys riding the top, others diving to the bottom. Why would fans want to see a track with grooves and tire fall off?
So in their infinite wisdom, they decided to move the 2020 finale to Phoenix.
A somewhat flat 1-mile circuit that NASCAR’s ISC group ruined. Old Phoenix was great. Worn out pavement, flat corners, dogleg on the backstretch that had grass. Look;
This is when Phoenix was good. Flatter corners, dogleg with curbing, grass. Everything about this Phoenix was better because it was slower. When NASCAR raised the banking, paved the grass in the dogleg put an acre of pavement in turn 1, they ruined it.
Throw the 2019 aero package into the mix and you have a recipe for a very expensive parade. When NASCAR announced Phoenix would host the finale everyone moaned. The track hasn’t produced good racing in years since the reconfiguration coincidentally. A single groove race track dominated by Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch in recent years isn’t the place a championship race should be held. Homestead is a diverse track.
Sunday’s race at Phoenix only made the complaints louder. Hamlin dominated the race, there was no passing and it doesn’t bode well for 2020. Why? Because NASCAR is keeping the high downforce package for next year. So the 4 green flag passes you saw for the lead on Sunday are what you can expect from the race that will determine the NASCAR “champion.”
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