Phoenix: Win, Lose or Draw

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It rained in Phoenix. Really…

That probably is the oddest happening at Phoenix International Raceway over the weekend. Kevin Harvick dominated and won for the third time in the last four races at the track. This Kyle Busch at Bristol approach may not have made for an eventful telecast, but those chasing Harvick did create some interesting conversations. Here’s the Bert Convy breakdown:

Win: Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Of course ESPN showed a graphic stating Dale Jr. had never won consecutive races, and the #88 got stuck in the saving fuel/chasing Harvick quandary. So what? The #88 finished second at a Chase track, and with this new scoring system, consistency during the Chase will be essential if a driver wants to get to Homestead. Earnhardt Jr. doesn’t need to win every week; he does need to run like this if he wants to be the 2014 Sprint Cup champion. This story will only gain momentum.

Lose: Sprint Cup Young Blood

Daytona allows for wild cards. Phoenix is a reality check. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. finished 18th; that was the best of any driver with two years of experience or less. Kyle Larson was 20th. Austin Dillon placed 24th. Cole Whitt was 27th. Danica Patrick finished 36th.

It’s possible rookies and second year drivers will take a leap in 2014, but the only leap this week was to the back of the pack. Maybe Vegas will offer these newbies some better luck.

Draw: Ford

Ford placed two drivers in the top five and three in the top ten. More importantly, both Team Penske cars ran well all day. That transition from Dodge to Ford wasn’t easy.

So why a draw? Seventeen wins in 146 races for Roush Fenway racing since the start of 2010. That’s an 11.7% clip or a little more than three wins per season.  Jack Roush can’t be enamored with those numbers. And while Aric Almirola finished 15th, Marcos Ambrose lingered in 21st for Richard Petty Motorsports.

It’s been common for Ford to have performance swings. Last year was a down year. 2014 hasn’t started with a spike. Its performance will be interesting to watch as the 1.5 mile season picks up over the next few months.