Subway Fresh Fit 500: Denny Hamlin Grabs Checkered Flag In Phoenix

Denny Hamlin won the Subway Fresh Fit 500 at Phoenix International Raceway, taking the point lead for the first time since November 2010 at Phoenix when he squandered a dominant win and choked away the championship a week later. Kevin Harvick finished second despite running out of gas, ahead of Greg Biffle, Jimmie Johnson, and Brad Keselowski.

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Subway Fresh Fit 500 Results: Denny Hamlin Wins At Phoenix

It was a day of perhaps sweet redemption for Denny Hamlin, as he won Sunday's Subway Fresh Fit 500 at the Phoenix International Raceway. It is Hamlin's 18th-career win, his first at Phoenix, and his first since winning at Michigan last June.

A year and a half ago, he dominated at Phoenix in the pentultimate race of 2010 but had to make a late pit stop. The frustration from that race carried through a week later, with Hamlin choking away a 15 point lead to Jimmie Johnson. His entire 2011 season was a disappointment, claiming just one victory and never coming close to contending for the title he missed out on in 2010. With the win, he still climbs atop the standings.

Kevin Harvick stalked Hamlin in the final laps but began to run out of fuel with a lap and a half remaining. His Chevrolet still coasted around to a runner-up finish, while Greg Biffle, Jimmie Johnson, and Brad Keselowski completed the top-five. Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr., defending race winner Jeff Gordon, polesitter Mark Martin, and Joey Logano rounded out the top-10.

Visit NASCAR.com for the full results.

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Subway Fresh Fit 500: Jimmie Johnson Dominant Early, Dale Earnhardt Jr. Struggles

Jimmie Johnson has pretty much put on a clinic in the early stages of the Subway Fresh Fit 500 at Phoenix International Raceway. Through 113 laps, Johnson has led 55 laps and consistently been the fastest car on the race track. Only Kevin Harvick has led for a comparable amount of time, after not pitting on a restart in which Johnson took four tires and started from the 14th position. Johnson shot through the field to reclaim the lead after 43 circuits with Harvick at the front.

Johnson previously dominated Phoenix, winning four of five races from November 2007-2009 and is the all-time lap-leader at the 1-mile oval, despite not racing there until 2002.

While Johnson has been in contention and looking to rebound from last week's tribulations, teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. is having a tough follow-up to his runner-up result in Monday's Daytona 500. His No. 88 Chevrolet sustained early fender damage after contact with Aric Almirola and has run outside the top-25 for the race's entire duration.

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NASCAR At Phoenix: Kasey Kahne Hits Wall Early, Goes To Garage

After winning last at Phoenix International Raceway November, Kasey Kahne was supposed to contend for the victory in today's Subway Fresh Fit 500. Unfortunately, his race is effectively over after banging the wall exiting the fourth turn and doing significant damage to the right-front suspension of his Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet. Kahne has gone behind the wall for repairs and will likely finish deep in the field for the second-straight race after wrecking late in Monday's Daytona 500.

Kahne is not the only driver to have trouble so far today, as Clint Bowyer has suffered two flat right-front tires in the early stages of the event. The first time brought out the race's lone caution to date, but the second saw his Toyota glance off the wall in the same area Kahne smacked the wall earlier.

Varying pit strategies on the race's lone caution flag have put Kevin Harvick out front. Harvick dominated Saturday's Nationwide Series race before finished fourth. Regan Smith and Denny Hamlin sit second and third. Jimmie Johnson, coming off a miserable week, is running fourth and has consistently had the fastest car on the track.

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NASCAR At Phoenix: Subway Fresh Fit 500 Starting Grid And Stories To Watch

Today's Subway Fresh Fit 500 marks the true start of the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup season. The pagentry of the Daytona 500 is all over and done with - and fortunately, so is the rain, as there is a 0% chance of rain in Avondale, AZ today - and now the grind that is a 36-race Sprint Cup season, including the 26-race battle to make the Chase for the Championship, begins.

Mark Martin is not racing for a title this year, running only about 25 races, but he starts today's race from the pole position. Tony Stewart, meanwhile, is trying to defend his championship from last season and will start today's race from the outside of the front row. For the entire 43-car starting grid, visit Jayski.com.

Here are some stories to watch in this event, which can be seen at 2:30 on FOX.

Can Jimmie Johnson overcome one of the worst proffessional weeks of his career? After tying a career-worst 42nd-place finish in Monday evening's Daytona 500, Jimmie Johnson already had plenty of reason to be miserable. Then came the smackdown from NASCAR: a $100,000 fine, a six-week suspension for crew and car chiefs Chad Knaus and Ron Malec, and worst of all, a 25-point deduction. Johnson opens today's race with -23 points. Knaus is atop the pitbox pending the National Stock Car Commission's hearing of his team's appeal, and the team is confident they can present a case necessary to have at least some if not all of the sanctions overturned. They'll pretty much have to if they are to race for this year's championship. Johnson is in the midst of of one of his toughest stretches ever: since winning at Kansas last September, he has just one top-10 finish (second to Stewart at Martinsville). Worse, aside from a pair of 14th-place results, he has finished 26th or worse in every other event. Johnson can no doubt boost morale for his team by recording his fifth Phoenix victory today. He starts fourth, putting him in prime position to make a run at today's checkered flag.

After a terrible finish at Daytona, does Jeff Gordon rebound with another win in this event? Gordon broke a near-two-year winless drought by winning this race a year ago. He went on to record two more victories, but fell flat during the Chase. His Daytona 500 ended before the mid-point with a blown engine. Like his teammate, Gordon needs to turn things around and nothing would turn their fortunes around quicker than a victory in today's race. A triumph would be the 86th of Gordon's career, but more importantly, it would mark the 200th for team owner Rick Hendrick.

Phoenix has been the scene of the end of several long winless droughts, can Dale Earnhardt Jr. or another long-suffering driver break theirs today? Mark Martin, Ryan Newman, Carl Edwards, and Gordon each broke long winless streaks at Phoenix in recent years. Dale Earnhardt Jr., Greg Biffle, as well as Martin, are deep in strings without a triumph.

Juan Pablo Montoya grabbed headlines for all the wrong reasons in Daytona, can he score his first Sprint Cup oval win today? There is little doubt that the defining images of Monday's 500 will be taken from Montoya's incident with a jet dryer and its aftermath. Montoya could go a long way towards putting that misery behind him by scoring a victory today. Flat tracks have been Montoya's strong suit since joining the Sprint Cup series, at least among ovals. He hasn't won on a track with only left-hand turns since September 2000 at the now-defunct Gateway International Raceway in the likewise-defunct CART series.

There are plenty of other stories to follow today, 43 in all, in fact, one for each driver. SB Nation Atlanta will be following all of them. Let's go racing, boys 'n girls.

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Basha's Supermarkets 200 Results: Elliott Sadler Returns To Nationwide Victory Lane

Elliott Sadler took the lead with fewer than 30 laps remaining and held off Brad Keselowski over the final laps to win Saturday's Basha's Supermarkets 200 at Phoenix International Raceway. It is Sadler's first victory in the series since 1998 and sixth overall. The win comes in his second start driving for legendary car owner Richard Childress.

Keselowski took second, ahead of Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Sadler's Richard Childress Racing teammates Austin Dillon and Kevin Harvick. Harvick dominated the race, leading 107 of the 200 laps, but he was unable to climb from seventh after the final pit stop despite having four fresh tires while the leaders had two.

Sam Hornish Jr., who won at Phoenix last November, placed sixth, ahead of Trevor Bayne and Joey Logano. Polesitter Denny Hamlin finished a disappointing ninth after dominating the race's early laps. Michael Annett completed the top-10 despite smacking the wall hard in the event's middle stages.

Sadler had not won a Nationwide Series event since claiming the October 1998 race at Rockingham, driving for team owner Gary Bechtel. He moved to the Cup Series for 1999 and remained there on a full-time basis through 2010, winning three times but never coming close to fulfilling the promise held for him. Last season he returned to the Nationwide circuit with Harvick's team, finishing second in points but failing to record a win. When Harvick and his wife DeLana sold the team to Childress, Sadler was retained as driver of the No. 2 machine. He finished second at Daytona last week, taking the point lead (winner James Buescher has declared for the Camping World Truck Series championship). He extends that lead with his victory today.

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Subway Fresh Fit 500: Mark Martin Wins Pole At Phoenix

Ageless wonder Mark Martin will lead the field to the green flag in Sunday's Subway Fresh Fit 500. The 53-year-old beat Regan Smith, who was seeking to win his first-career Sprint Cup pole, then held off Tony Stewart to claim the top starting spot at the Phoenix International Raceway. Stewart, Smith, Jimmie Johnson, and Juan Pablo Montoya rounded out the top-five.

The top-ten was rounded out by Ryan Newman, Greg Biffle, Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano, and Kasey Kahne. Daytona 500 champion Matt Kenseth qualified 26th, while defending race winner Jeff Gordon was only 30th fastest. David Ragan of Unadilla timed in 34th in car No. 34. Only one driver, rookie contender Timmy Hill, failed to qualify. Hill was hoping to make his Sprint Cup debut.

Martin toured the one-mile d-shaped oval in 26.313 seconds, beating Stewart by .133 seconds for his 52nd-career pole position and the second of his career at PIR. Martin is making his second start in the No. 55 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota. The beloved veteran was so elated after claiming the top spot he climbed atop the door of his blue and white machine and saluted the fans as though he had won the race.

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Subway Fresh Fit 500: Entry Lists For Sprint Cup And Nationwide Events

This weekend features a double-dip of NASCAR action at the Phoenix International Raceway. The NASCAR Nationwide Series competes Saturday with the Basha's Supermarkets 200, an event won by Kyle Busch in 2011. Sunday will then see the Sprint Cup superstars in action as Jeff Gordon attempts to repeat his win in last year's Subway Fresh Fit 500.

A total of 89 cars are in Phoenix entered this weekend, 44 for the Cup race and 45 for the Nationwide event.

All 44 teams on the Cup entry list attempted the Daytona 500, but a handful of driver changes have taken place. Rookies Josh Wise and Timmy Hill, the only two drivers to declare for this year's rookie award, are attempting their season debuts in the No. 26 Front Row Motorsports Ford (driven by Tony Raines in the 500) and the No. 37 Gunselman Motorsports Ford (Mike Wallace attempted the 500 but failed to get into the show), respectively.

Veteran Scott Riggs will try to qualify the No. 23 R3 Motorsports machine, which Robert Richardson Jr. tried unsuccessfully to put in the Daytona 500 field. Terry Labonte is out of the No. 32 Ford, which is now locked into the field via a points arrangement with Jack Roush and no longer needs his past champion's provisional to make the field. Mike Bliss will drive the Frank Stoddard-owned machine.

The No. 10 Chevrolet driven during Speedweeks by Danica Patrick will be at PIR, but David Reutimann is piloting the car. It is his first of 26 starts in the Tommy Baldwin Racing machine. The No. 93 BK Racing car he drove at Daytona will be filled this weekend by Travis Kvapil.

Only one Georgia native, David Ragan of Unadilla, is on the entry list. His No. 34 Front Row Motorsports entry will be sponsored this weekend by the popular Barrett Jackson collector car auctions, based in Scottsdale, AZ.

On the Nationwide side, the usual mix of established stars and up-and-comers will be trying to make the show. Danica Patrick, of course, is the headliner as she figures to be until fans and more importantly TV networks get used to the idea of having a gal with mainstream appeal in the field.

Busch, last year's winner, will be trying to qualify his self-owned No. 54 Toyota. He has the championship provisional at his disposal, having won the title in 2009, but 2010 champ Brad Keselowski would have first crack at it if his No. 22 Dodge cannot make the show on speed.

All told, there are six past series champions in the field, with Keselowski and Busch joined by Kevin Harvick (2001 and 2006), Joe Nemechek (1992) and brothers Jeff (2000) and David Green (1994).

As for Georgia representation, Lawrenceville's Casey Roderick will be attempting to qualify the No. 08 Ford Mustang while Chase Miller will try to get Curtis Key's No. 46 Chevrolet into the field after failing to make the show at Daytona. Notably absent from the entry list is Peachtree City's Reed Sorenson, who put Jimmy Means' No. 52 car in the field at Daytona but was involved in a hard crash in the race that saw him drive clear underneath Justin Allgaier's machine.

Visit Jayski.com to see the entire Sprint Cup and Nationwide entry lists.

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NASCAR Penalizes Jimmie Johnson And No. 48 Team

NASCAR has laid the hammer down right square on its only five-time consecutive championship-winning race team.

The No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, piloted by Jimmie Johnson, has been hit with a $100,000 fine, the loss of 25 championship driver and car owner points, and six-week suspensions for crew chief Chad Knaus and car chief Ron Malec. The penalties are as a result of an infraction from Feb. 17, when the team's Daytona 500 car failed inspection and its C-posts (the body panels running from the roof to the rear fenders and decklid of a stock car) were confiscated.

Knaus and Malec will likely be with the team this weekend at Phoenix International Raceway, as Hendrick Motorsports is appealing the penalty. As with other sports, personnel are allowed to participate until their appeal is heard by the National Stock Car Racing Commision.

If the penalties are upheld - and it is rare for a the commission to completely overturn any sanction handed down by NASCAR - it will be a devastating blow to Johnson's pursuit of his sixth title. He crashed out of the 500 just past the completion of lap one and finished 42nd, netting just two championship points. That alone would have put him in a deep hole heading into this weekend's Subway Fresh Fit 500. Now sitting with -23 points, the first driver since Michael Waltrip in 2007 to have negative points after the Daytona 500, he will likely have to rely on racing his way into the top-20 in points by Richmond in September and making the Chase via a wild card. To do that he will have to score more than the single victory he claimed during the first 26 races.

Long story short, Johnson's entire season likely hinges on whether or not Hendrick Motorsports can win their appeal, which will probably be heard sometime next week.

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Subway Fresh Fit 500: NASCAR Heads To Phoenix To Dry Out

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season truly kicks off this weekend at Phoenix, as drivers and teams turn their attention towards accumulating victories and points in their pursuit of making the Chase for the championship. Defending Subway Fresh Fit 500 champion Jeff Gordon has a long way to go after his dislmal Daytona 500 result.

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