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Lap-by-Lap: Phoenix

March 04, 2012, ,

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Lap 312 -- CHECKERED FLAG: Denny Hamlin hangs on to take the victory. He says on the radio, "It feels so good to be competitive again!"

Lap 310 -- Kevin Harvick is out of fuel!

Lap 309 -- Kevin Harvick has caught Denny Hamlin for the lead. Here we go!

Lap 307 -- Five laps to go. Will the leaders be able to make it the rest of the way on fuel? Kevin Harvick is closing on leader Denny Hamlin.

Lap 306 -- Denny Hamlin is picking his way through lapped traffic.

Lap 303 -- Denny Hamlin is told that Kevin Harvick has to back off and save fuel. That doesn't actually look to be the case, as the gap has dwindled to half a seecond.

Lap 302 -- Ten laps to go. The margin between Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick is staying steady at about seven tenths of a second.

Lap 300 -- Darian Grubb, Denny Hamlin's new crew chief, has got to be loving this!

Lap 296 -- Marcos Ambrose brings his Ford to pit road.

Lap 294 -- Marcos Ambrose, who was running third, is showing smoke out of the exhaust pipes.

Lap 292 -- Twenty laps to go. Denny Hamlin's lead over Kevin Harvick is about six-tenths of a second.

Lap 291 -- Jeff Burton has been black flagged.

Lap 288 -- After developing a problem, Jeff Burton is told by NASCAR to pick up his speed.

Lap 285 -- Denny Hamlin has never won here at Phoenix. His previous best finishes were four third-place showings.

Lap 282 -- Thirty to go. Denny Hamlin's lead over Kevin Harvick is now right at a second.

Lap 280 -- Brad Keselowski takes fifth from Jimmie Johnson. That opens up room for Kyle Busch to sneak past Johnson as well.

Lap 278 -- Jimmie Johnson and Brad Keselowski are waging a great battle for fifth place. They run side by side for more than a lap.

Lap 276 -- Marcos Ambrose has made his way to third place. He's about two seconds back of second-place Kevin Harvick.

Lap 273 -- Kevin Harvick has erased about half a second off Denny Hamlin's lead.

Lap 272 -- Forty laps to go. Brad Keselowski takes fifth place from Jimmie Johnson.

Lap 266 -- Fifth-place Jimmie Johnson has also been told that he should have enough gas to make it the rest of the way. But what if there's a green-white-checkered finish?

Lap 264 -- Denny Hamlin has a 1.3-second lead over Kevin Harvick. Although he'd been told he was good to go on fuel, he's still being asked to conserve.

Lap 260 -- GREEN FLAG: Denny Hamlin, Brad Keselowski, Greg Biffle, Kevin Harvick and Marcos Ambrose. Hamlin is told just before the green that he's a lap and a half "to the good."

Keselowski passes Hamlin for the lead going into Turn 3, but slips up the track coming out of the next corner.

Lap 257 -- There's a bit of damage on the right front of Carl Edwards' Ford, and A LOT all over Ryan Newman's!

Lap 256 -- YELLOW FLAG NO. 7: Ryan Newman crashes in Turn 4 after contact with Carl Edwards.

Lap 254 -- Brad Keselowski takes second place from Kevin Harvick.

Lap 253 -- GREEN FLAG: Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski, Denny Hamlin, Marcos Ambrose and Greg Biffle are the top five. Harvick is told that he's two laps short on fuel. Tony Stewart comes back on the track two laps down.

Harvick and Hamlin duke it out for the lead, with Hamlin taking the advantage coming off Turn 4.

Lap 251 -- Tony Stewart says that he turned the ignition off in his car to save fuel, and it wouldn't turn back on.

Lap 249 -- Tony Stewart has gone a lap down. He finally makes it to his pit stall after a push from a wrecker.

Lap 248 -- The leaders are on pit road. Tony Stewart is very slow on the track.

Lap 247 -- YELLOW FLAG NO. 6: David Reutimann's car looks to have blown an engine. Martin Truex Jr. will be pitting.

Lap 245 -- Kevin Harvick appears to be closing ground on leader Martin Truex Jr.

Lap 242 -- Martin Truex Jr. has about a one-second leader over Kevin Harvick, but the report is that he'll have to stop for fuel.

Lap 240 -- Denny Hamlin is working on Brad Keselowsi for third place, and he takes the spot on the backstretch.

Lap 237 -- So far, Martin Truex Jr. has been able to hang onto the lead. Kevin Harvick is in second place, three tenths of a second back.

Lap 235 -- Jimmie Johnson is being told that he'll be three laps short on fuel.

Lap 233 -- GREEN FLAG: Martin Truex Jr., Kevin Harvick, Mark Martin, Brad Keselowski and Jimmie Johnson are the top five. Harvick is told just before the green flag that the Hendrick Motorsports cars will be about four laps short of making it the rest of the way without stopping for fuel. Harvick will be about nine short.

There's a big scramble on the backstretch. Truex clears for the lead.

Lap 230 -- After his stop, Kevin Harvick is told that he'll be about 11 laps short on fuel.

Lap 229 -- Kevin Harvick leads the field back down pit road.

Lap 227 -- YELLOW FLAG NO. 5: There's debris on the race track. Kevin Harvick says that left-side tires were "magic" for his car.

Lap 225 -- Kevin Harvick's lead over Denny Hamlin is about 2.1 seconds. It's another 3.2 seconds or so back to third-place Mark Martin.

Lap 223 -- The top five after the cycle of green-flag stops are Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin, Mark Martin, Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch.

Lap 221 -- Leader Kevin Harvick says that his car is getting too tight again.

Lap 215 -- Jamie McMurray has gone to the garage.

Lap 213 -- Jamie McMurray is being black-flagged for the smoke that is clearly trailing from his car.

Lap 212 -- Jamie McMurray says that his engine is blowing up, and it's starting to show some smoke. There are 100 laps remaining.

Lap 210 -- Jimmie Johnson, who had to pit several times under the last caution, is now running in eighth place.

Lap 209 -- Jamie McMurray finally hits pit road. That gives the lead back to Kevin Harvick.

Lap 206 -- The breaks don't fall Martin Truex Jr.'s way, and he has to pit. Jamie McMurray stays on the track is now the leader.

Lap 203 -- His crew tells Martin Truex Jr. that he'll have to pit in about three laps.

Lap 202 -- Martin Truex Jr. is hoping to catch a caution. He says that he's faster than Kyle Busch, who is running just in front of him. Jamie McMurray has also not stopped, and he's in second place.

Lap 200 -- A.J. Allmendinger is finally coming down pit road.

Lap 199 -- Martin Truex Jr. is now shown as the leader.

Lap 198 -- Jeff Burton gives up the top spot to pit.

Lap 194 -- Jeff Burton, Martin Truex Jr., Aric Almirola, Jamie McMurray and A.J. Allmendinger pitted earlier, so they're able to stay out a little longer.

Lap 193 -- Dale Earnhardt Jr. is pitting.

Lap 192 -- Carl Edwards and Regan Smith make their stops.

Lap 191 -- Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth drop into the pits.

Lap 190 -- Jeff Gordon's crew goes to work on pit road.

Lap 189 -- Denny Hamlin makes his stop.

Lap 188 -- Brad Keselowski assumed the lead during the cycle of stops, but now he's on pit road.

Lap 187 -- Tony Stewart, Greg Biffle and others are making their stops.

Lap 186 -- Joey Logano is pitting.

Lap 185 -- Leader Kevin Harvick comes in for service. Mark Martin is also on pit road.

Lap 183 -- Kurt Busch is on pit road. Kurt, not Kyle, this time.

Lap 181 -- Kyle Busch gives up third place to pit for tires and fuel.

Lap 180 -- Kyle Busch is going to be pitting.

Lap 176 -- Kyle Busch asks how short he would be on fuel if he has to pit now.

Lap 173 -- The issue with his car may cause Kyle Busch pit.

Lap 170 -- Kyle Busch says that his car has developed a vibration.

Lap 169 -- Kevin Harvick finally takes the lead as Kyle Busch slides up the track in Turn 1. Mark Martin uses the opportunity to grab second place as well.

Lap 167 -- Kevin Harvick goes to the apron again on the backstretch, and it still doesn't pan out. Mark Martin is right behind the battle for the lead.

Lap 164 -- Kyle Busch holds the groove on the backstretch as Kevin Harvick dives to the dogleg apron to take a shot at the lead. It doesn't work.

Lap 163 -- Kevin Harvick is working it!

Lap 159 -- Kevin Harvick has caught Kyle Busch up front, and should be making a move for the lead fairly soon.

Lap 156 -- The race has reached the halfway mark. Kyle Busch leads Kevin Harvick by half a second.

Lap 150 -- Move Mark Martin to third place, past Brad Keselowski.

Lap 147 -- Mark Martin has moved into fourth place.

Lap 144 -- Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch are side by side for the lead after Harvick slips in Turn 2.

Lap 141 -- GREEN FLAG: Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, Mark Martin, Brad Keselowski and Tony Stewart are the top five when the race pace picks back up. Jimmie Johnson is in 24th place.

Harvick shoots into the lead on the backstretch, and Keselowski grabs second from Busch.

Lap 137 -- Jimmie Johnson makes another stop under caution. He has some sort of issue with one of the rear wheels on his car.

Lap 134 -- The leaders are on pit road. Jimmie Johnson had just reported a loose wheel before the caution, and was planning to pit when the yellow came out.

Lap 132 -- YELLOW FLAG NO. 4: Paul Menard crashes in Turn 4. AlJ. Allmendinger and Jamie McMurray are also involved. The accident was triggered when Menard tagged the rear of Allmindinger's car coming off the corner.

Lap 131 -- The top five are Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson, Mark Martin and Brad Keselowski.

Lap 127 -- Kyle Busch's team tells him over the radio that he just ran his quickest lap of the race.

Lap 123 -- Kyle Busch has already moved out to a 1.5-second lead over Kevin Harvick.

Lap 121 -- Brad Keselowski took a brief peak to the inside of Kevin Harvick going into Turn 1, but couldn't opted not to make a move for second.

Lap 119 -- Kyle Busch finally clears Kevin Harvick for the lead in Turn 1.

Lap 118 -- GREEN FLAG: Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski, Jimmie Johnson and Mark Martin lead the field to the restart.

Busch and Harvick remain side by side the entire lap.

Lap 116 -- Ryan Newman has been penalized for removing equipment from his pit stall. He'll start from the rear of the field.

Lap 112 -- The leaders are on pit road.

Lap 110 -- YELLOW FLAG NO. 3: There's spin in Turns 1 and 2 by Casey Mears.

Lap 104 -- A third of the way into the race, Jimmie Johnson has opened the cushion back up a little bit.

Lap 97 -- Kyle Busch has cut about half a second off Jimmie Johnson's lead, which is now about 2.7 seconds. Johnson's crew is letting him know where he is in relation to Busch.

Lap 95 -- The top 10 are Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Tony Stewart, Mark Marton, Brad Keselowski, Kurt Busch and Juan Montoya.

Lap 90 -- Dale Earnhardt Jr. doesn't remember making contact with anyone to cause the damage on the left front of his car. Evidently, it was with Aric Almirola.

Lap 87 -- This is pretty much the definition of cruising. Jimmie Johnson is now 3.4 seconds in front of Kyle Busch. Crew chief Chad Knaus reminds him to take care of his brakes.

Lap 84 -- There's not a lot of talk on leader Jimmie Johnson's radio, other than crew chief Chad Knaus giving him lap times.

Lap 82 -- Race leader Jimmie Johnson has won here at Phoenix four times.

Lap 76 -- That would be a negative, at leas for the time being. Jimmie Johnson has opened up his advantage over Kyle Busch to 2.3 seconds.

Lap 72 -- Kyle Busch is currently 1.7 seconds behind leader Jimmie Johnson. Let's see if he's able to close the gap any.

Lap 68 -- Kyle Busch goes past both Matt Kenseth and Kurt Busch as they approach Turn 1. That moves Kyle Busch into second place, Kenseth to third.

Lap 67 -- Jimmie Johnson goes into the lead on the backstretch.

Lap 65 -- GREEN FLAG: Jimmie Johnson, Kurt Busch, Denny Hamlin,, Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch are the leaders.

Watch Johnson and Busch slugging it out up front. Busch has a nose out in front coming off Turn 4.

Lap 63 -- Dale Earnhardt Jr. drops back onto pit road to top off his fuel supply and to recheck the damage on his car.

Lap 61 -- Mike Bliss comes in for service.

Lap 60 -- The leaders are on pit road. Mike Bliss did not come in, so he's shown as the leader.

Lap 59 -- YELLOW FLAG NO. 2: There's debris reported in Turn 2.

Lap 57 -- Jimmie Johnson is maybe ten or 12 car lengths behind leader Kevin Harvick. NASCAR is looking at what might be debris on the race track.

Lap 53 -- Kevin Harvick has been able to put another tenth of a second or two on Jimmie Johnson.

Lap 50 -- The gap between first-place Kevin Harvick and Jimmie Johnson in second is narrowing. It's now down to about a second.

Lap 48 -- Move Jimmie Johnson to second place, past Regan Smith. Johnson is very clearly on the move.

Lap 45 -- The top-five cars -- Kevin Harvick, Regan Smith, Jimmie Joihnson, Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch -- are separated by less than four seconds.

Lap 42 -- Jimmie Johnson slides under Denny Hamlin for third place.

Lap 39 -- Regan Smith is losing a bit of ground to race leader Kevin Harvick.

Lap 32 -- Kevin Harvick has opened up a lead of 1.3 seconds over Regan Smith. Denny Hamlin is third, another seven-tenths of a second back.

Lap 31 -- Kasey Kahne has taken his car to the garage.

Lap 29 -- The smoke from Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s car appears to be caused by minor damage to the left front.

Lap 26 -- NASCAR officials are checking Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s car for smoke.

Lap 25 -- Clint Bowyer has also popped the wall in Turn 4. It appears to be another tire problem. There's no caution.

Lap 23 -- Kasey Kahne brings his Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet to pit road.

Lap 22 -- Kasey Kahne slaps the wall in Turn 4 and drops dramatically through the field.

Lap 21 -- GREEN FLAG: Kevin Harvick, Kasey Kahne, Regan Smith, Jeff Burton and Denny Hamlin are the top five on the restart.

Harvick gets a great start is well clear of Kahne between Turns 1 and 2.

Lap 17 -- Several leaders are pitting, including Jimmie Johnson, Tony Stewart, Greg Biffle, Mark Martin and others.

Lap 16 -- YELLOW FLAG NO. 1: The caution is out for Clint Bowyer's blown tire.

Lap 13 -- Regan Smith has lost a couple of spots, and is now running in fifth place.

Lap 11 -- Jimmie Johnson slips past Tony Stewart for the lead.

Lap 10 -- The top five are currently Tony Stewart, Jimmie Johnson, Regan Smith, Greg Biffle and Juan Montoya.

Lap 9 -- Jimmie Johnson has taken over second place from Regan Smith.

Lap 7 -- Tony Stewart has a lead of about seven-tenths of a second over second-place Regan Smith.

Lap 4 -- Mark Martin has slipped back to eighth place.

Lap 2 -- Mark Martin loses grip in the turn, and slides back in the field. Tony Stewart goes to the lead.

Lap 1 -- GREEN FLAG: The race goes green at 3:17 p.m. ET. Mark Martin gets position on the start, with Tony Stewart sorting out into second.

3:15 p.m. ET -- The race is going green the next time by the starter's stand.

3:13 p.m. ET -- Cars are on the track for the start of the pace laps.

3:08 p.m. ET -- Ndamukong Suh, the Detroit Lions' star defensive tackle, gives the command to fire engines.

3:02 p.m. ET -- Four F-16s from the 310th "Top Hats" fighter squadron out of Luke Air Force Base do the fly-over. Bucket list!

3:01 p.m. ET -- Brian McKnight & Sons sing the national anthem.

3 p.m. ET -- PIR Chaplain Ken Bowers is saying the invocation.

2:47 p.m. ET -- Hopefully, there will be no need to mention a jet dryer today ... for ANY reason!

2:45 p.m. ET -- Just fifteen minutes remain until the start of the invocation and national anthem.

2:33 p.m. ET -- Great to see Chris Myers back on the Fox broadcast of today's race. Myers lost his 19-year-old son in an automobile accident Feb. 16.

1:58 p.m. ET -- The youngest and oldest Sprint Cup winners ever here at Phoenix are both in today's starting lineup. Kyle Busch won here November 2005 at the age of 20 years, six months. He starts 12th.

Mark Martin won here in April 2009 at 50 years, three months old. He started from the pole in that event, as he does today. Both races at PIR were won from first on the starting grid that year. Carl Edwards also accomplished the feat that November.

7:44 a.m. ET -- During qualifying yesterday, Mark Martin scored the 52nd pole position of his career with a lap of 136.815 mph. It was Martin's second pole at Phoenix, with his last coming in April 2009.

Tony Stewart will start second, followed by Regan Smith, Jimmie Johnson and Juan Montoya. Ryan Newman, Greg Biffle, Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano and Kasey Kahne round out the top 10.

Timmy Hill failed to gain a starting berth in the Subway Fresh Fit 500.