The Subway Fresh Fit 600 on Saturday from Phoenix is going to look different than it did a year ago. The NASCAR race from Phoenix will start earlier on Saturday, be longer and have different rules. The race will start earlier for television and there are 63 more laps than last year. The new distance will be just over 603 km. The earlier start time may or may not affect how the race is run. “I don’t think it’s going to have a big impact,” said Chad Knaus, crew chief for Jimmie Johnson, “The track stays pretty consistent through the daylight hours, so I don’t think you’re going to have a big swing. You go through a pretty big transition when it gets dark: It gets cooler and the track picks up speed.”
Johnson is the favorite in NASCAR odds at SBG Global to win the race that can be seen on Fox television. He leads all drivers with four career Cup victories at the track. The Subway 600 is just the second NASCAR race that is using the new spoiler instead of the rear wing. How well the cars handle in traffic is a major question mark at Phoenix. “The wing wasn’t accepted as widely as we had hoped it would have been by competitors and fans alike,” said Robin Pemberton, NASCAR’s vice president of competition.
The defending champion of the race is Mark Martin and he is the second choice at 6-1 at SBG Global behind Johnson. In the last five years, the winners at Phoenix have been Martin, Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch. Martin started from the pole last year and dominated the race. He led five times for a race-high 157 laps. Even though Martin won from the pole, only three pole winners in 27 races have ended up in victory lane. That doesn’t mean starting from the Top 10 is not important as more than 50 percent of the winners in this race have started in the Top 10.
Denny Hamlin is expected to be in Phoenix even though he had surgery last Wednesday to repair a torn ACL in his left knee. Casey Mears will be on standby in case Hamlin needs relief.
Carl Edwards will be making his 200th career NASCAR Sprint Cup start on Saturday. He has a fourth place finish at Phoenix for his best finish at the track. He is 14-1 in NASCAR odds to win this week. “There’s no better place for me to have a milestone start like this than at Phoenix,” Edwards says. “That is where I ran my first-ever pavement race in 2001.”