Under the warm, dry desert sun and amidst the cacti in the Estrella Mountains sits a gem of a facility known as Phoenix Raceway, and this weekend it sets the stage for the NASCAR Cup Series competitors to do battle on its 1-mile track for the 50th-time in series history.
Phoenix Raceway held its first NASCAR Cup Series race, the Checker 500, on November 6, 1988. The event was a memorable 312 laps that produced 15 lead changes among six leaders. Geoff Bodine started on the pole, Ricky Rudd dominated the race leading 183 laps but finished 26th due to an engine failure and NASCAR Hall of Famer Alan Kulwicki out of Greenfield, Wisconsin, won his first career NASCAR Cup Series race. During his celebration after the race, Kulwicki debuted his ‘Polish Victory Lap’ where he would drive in the opposite direction on the track (clockwise) and salute the crowd on his way to Victory Lane.
Since debuting back in 1988, Phoenix Raceway has hosted 49 NASCAR Cup Series races producing 25 different pole winners and 25 different race winners. Joe Gibbs Racing’s Kyle Busch and Roush Fenway Racing’s Ryan Newman lead the series in poles at Phoenix with four each. Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick leads the series in wins at Phoenix with nine victories.
Phoenix Raceway is no stranger to big NASCAR Cup Series events, since the inception of the series’ Playoffs Phoenix has participated in the postseason (2004-2021) and even served as the penultimate race from 2005-2019 and was named the Championship race in 2020. Last season, Team Penske’s Joey Logano won the spring race at Phoenix, and then Hendrick Motorsport’s Chase Elliott won the season finale and the 2020 series title.
This weekend’s race the Instacart 500 (March 14 at 3:30 p.m. ET on FOX, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) will be 312 laps and broken up into three stages. The first stage is 75 laps, the second stage is 115 laps and ends on Lap 190 and the final stage is 122 laps. The starting lineup for this weekend’s race was determined by Metric Qualifying and Team Penske’s Brad Keselowski will start from the pole and last week’s winner and Hendrick Motorsports driver Kyle Larson will join him on the front row.