NASCAR Sprint Cup Series
 
                 === How will the Gen-6 perform at Phoenix? ===
 
 Avondale,  AZ  (Sports Network) -  Even though  the Gen-6 made its competition
 debut  at  Daytona, NASCAR's new  race car for the  Sprint Cup Series will get
 its first true test this weekend at Phoenix International Raceway.
 
 The  Gen-6  was not exactly a  hit during last  Sunday's Daytona 500, due to a
 lack of passing for most of the race. But Daytona was by no means an indicator
 of  the  car's full  potential, especially with  the season-opening race being
 contested on a restrictor-plate track.
 
 Phoenix,  a one-mile  oval, is the first downforce track on the 36-race Sprint
 Cup  schedule this season.  Since the Gen-6 is 150 pounds lighter and has more
 downforce  than the previous Cup car, which was used from 2007-12, the current
 car will likely break track speed records here. Kyle Busch currently holds the
 track  qualifying  record at Phoenix  with a lap at  138.766 mph., set in Nov.
 2012.
 
 A  couple of  weeks before  last year's  fall race  at Phoenix,  eight drivers
 participated  in a  Goodyear  tire test  for this  car.  Brad Keselowski,  the
 defending series champion, was one of them.
 
 "I  think we're  all anxious to see  how the car performs this weekend when we
 all get on the track together," Keselowski said. "It's our first true test."
 
 Teams  still  have a  lot more  to learn  about the  Gen-6. After Phoenix, the
 series moves on to Las Vegas, which is the first intermediate (1.5-mile) track
 on  the schedule.  The series will then compete at Bristol (0.533-mile) before
 running at California (two-mile).
 
 "Once  we  get  a downforce  race  or  two  behind  us, we'll  have  a  better
 understanding,"  said reigning  Daytona  500 champion  Jimmie Johnson.  "We're
 really  excited for  the races to come.  But it is a little early. Maybe after
 Vegas, Bristol, we can see which team has the upper hand."
 
 After  winning the  Daytona 500 for the second time in his already illustrious
 NASCAR  career,  Johnson has been busy  during the week with media obligations
 throughout  the country, including appearances on ABC's "Good Morning America"
 and the "Late Show with David Letterman" on CBS.
 
 Johnson, the five-time Sprint Cup champion, is hoping to start the season 2-0.
 He holds the record for most victories at Phoenix with four. Johnson won three
 straight  fall races here  from 2007-09. He won the spring event at this track
 in 2006 as well.
 
 "When we pull into the gates at Phoenix next weekend, it's a totally different
 game,  as we all  know," he said. "We'll enjoy this rush. If there's some down
 points  through the year, we'll look back on this race (Daytona 500) and smile
 again."
 
 Denny  Hamlin and Kevin Harvick have run very well at Phoenix lately. When the
 series  competed  here one year ago,  Hamlin conserved enough fuel late in the
 race  and held off a fierce challenge from Harvick in the closing laps to snap
 his 23-race winless streak.
 
 "With  Daytona  such a prestigious race  of its own,  I look at Phoenix as the
 start  of the points  season," Hamlin said. "You're going to see what cars are
 good  and what  teams have done a good  job in the offseason. The new car will
 also mix that up."
 
 Hamlin's win at Phoenix came in his second race with crew chief Darian Grubb.
 
 Harvick  lost  fuel pressure with two  laps remaining but managed to finish in
 the  runner-up spot - 7.3 seconds behind Hamlin. He led the most laps with 88.
 Harvick  came back  to  Phoenix in  the  fall and  ended  his 44-race  winless
 drought, holding off Hamlin at the finish by a half-second.
 
 "This year, we have a new car and a lot of new things to deal with, so you got
 to have an open mind on how to approach the weekend," Harvick said.
 
 Forty-three  teams are on the preliminary entry list for Sunday's Subway Fresh
 Fit 500.
 
 Series: NASCAR Sprint Cup. Date: Sunday, March 3. Race: Subway Fresh Fit 500.
 Site: Phoenix International Raceway. Track: one-mile oval. Start time: 3 p.m.
 ET. Laps: 312. Miles: 312. 2012 Winner: Denny Hamlin. Television: FOX. Radio:
 Motor Racing Network (MRN)/SIRIUS NASCAR Radio.
 
 
 02/28 14:45:22 ET

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