Four and Fuel: Takeaways from Phoenix

Four and Fuel: Takeaways from Phoenix

Each week, Greg Atkins and I examine our hot takes from the previous weekend’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race and any burning topics leading up to the next week’s event.

Four takeaways from the Camping World 500 at Phoenix:

Biggest takeaway from Phoenix

Atkins – Kyle Larson leaves Phoenix as the points leader for the first time in his career and has asserted himself as a threat to win week in and week out. It’s only a matter of time before he starts winning races in bunches.

Painter – Aside from the incident at Las Vegas, Kyle Busch arrived at the track ready to put on a show. He didn’t disappoint either. Busch was poised to leave Phoneix with victory, until the final caution flag with a hand full of laps remaining.

Has Harvick lost his competitive ‘edge’ at Phoenix?

Atkins – No. He was fast, just simply never gained the track position he needed. He’ll be competitive at Phoenix in November.

Painter – Not at all. Harvick struggled early on in the first two stages of the race, but his car appeared to get stronger as the race was coming to a close. I expect him to be the favorite when the series returns to Phoenix in The Chase.

After four races, which rookie has impressed you the most?

Atkins – Erik Jones has shown speed in the last few weeks, especially at Phoenix. Phoenix has been a good track for him in the past so I’m not surprised that he ran well. We’ll see how he fairs as the season marches on.

Painter – For me, it’s a toss-up between Erik Jones and Daniel Suarez. For rookies, both of them are very competitive and show flashes of excellence. I’d give the slight edge to Jones, but expect big things from both drivers as the year progresses.

With Sunday’s win at Phoenix, is Richard Childress Racing ‘back’?

Atkins – Unfortunately, no. But they made the best of what they had and it was a deserved victory.

Painter – They’re not there yet. The gamble that Ryan Newman’s team made, paid off, but it’s going to take a lot more consistency from RCR before one can consider them ‘back’. This victory was a step in the right direction.

Fuel (bold prediction or statement) – It is early, but did Ryan Newman score the biggest upset of the year?

Atkins – No. I think there will be a bigger one later in the year.

Painter – No, this could end up being the best strategy call of the year.

Photo Credit: Jonathan Huff (