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Phoenix International Raceway - image: NASCAR

Phoenix International Raceway - image: NASCAR

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After last weekend’s first full-length event with the Generation 6 Sprint Cup cars, the series heads west to the 1.0 mile tri-oval of Phoenix International Raceway. The Arizona  track lacks both the length and the banking of Daytona, meaning speeds will be a bit more moderate for the 500 kilometer (312 mile) race.

This early in the season, its hard to pick a favorite for the win. Denny Hamlin won here last March, but his Toyota was the only car from Joe Gibbs Racing to not suffer an engine failure last weekend.

While this race will be shorter in distance and slower in pace (and run without restrictor plates), the durability of the Joe Gibbs Toyotas remains yet unproven in the 2013 season.

Kevin Harvick won here last fall, at the AdvoCare 500, and Harvick appeared to be on a roll at Daytona after winning the Sprint Unlimited race and the first Budweiser Duel. Unfortunately for Harvick and his fans, any possibility of a hat trick with a win in the Daytona 500 was erased on a lap 33 crash.

Jimmie Johnson proved he’s still a contender with his Daytona 500 win, and he’s racked up a total of four wins at the track (including one in the 2008 Fresh Fit 500). Dale Earnhardt, Jr. also looked strong in Daytona, and Johnson’s teammate at Hendrick Motorsports put up wins here in 2003 and 2004.

Perhaps the best way to sum it up is that, this early in the season, it’s still (almost) anyone’s ballgame.

Look for Sunday’s weather to be partly cloudy, with a high of 81-degrees and virtually no chance for rain. If you won’t be in Phoenix, Arizona, this weekend, the race will air Sunday at 3:00 p.m. Eastern on Fox television.
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