The Backstretch Blog's Race Day: The TicketGuardian 500 at ISM Raceway

AVONDALE, AZ - MARCH 10: Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #78 5-hour Energy/Bass Pro Shops Toyota, practices for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series TicketGuardian 500 at ISM Raceway on March 10, 2018 in Avondale, Arizona. (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)

Okay let's get this out of the way first for all of you asking what's an ISM Raceway. It's Phoenix, it's just Phoenix with a sponsors name. ISM Connect gave a bunch of money to the Racway's remodeling project back in September and got to put their name on the building. So here we are, at ISM Raceway.

With that out of the way, lets talk about the racing. It's our first trip to a short track this season., though it's not a short track on the same way a Bristol or even a Martinsville is. ISM is big for a short track, 1-mile long and it's flat.

“ISM Raceway in Phoenix is definitely a unique racetrack," said AJ Allmindinger. "For a while racing there, you felt like you needed a lot of mechanical grip. I feel like as we’ve taken off downforce on our rules package, the more aerodynamic stability you get in our Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, the more difference it makes in the racecar. It’s a place where because it is really flat – especially through Turns 3 and 4, and even in Turns 1 and 2 – as you go down the corner, there’s a fine line between getting the car to turn and not being too loose, and vice versa. It’s always a challenge there.”

This race is also week two of the sports West Coast Swing. It's a challenging three straight weeks on the left coast at a time when teams are just trying to figure out what the have for the season.

“I think our team really benefited from a strong west coast swing last year, and hopefully we can add to our good start this season with another solid run in Phoenix," said Kyle Larson. "Our Chevy’s have been pretty strong there recently,"

Starting on the pole for Sunday's race is Martin Truex, Jr. It's his first pole of the young season and a chance for his team to show they haven't lost a step from last year's championship run.

"If you run good, you stick with the same basic thoughts and tweak things from there based on the tire difference, track changing a little bit, the weather conditions or the rules we’re running that will affect the balance of the racecar," said Truex. "I’d say you use a similar thought process especially if you run good but you make quite a bit of changes here and there to try to optimize everything.”

Larson starts second, followed by Chase Elliott, Alex Bowman and Joey Logano. Tennessee native Trevor Bayne starts 21st. Virginia natives Denny Hamlin and Gray Gaulding roll off sixth and 33rd respectively.

The green flag is set to drop on the Ticket Guardian 500 at 3:44pm. You can watch the race on our sister station, FOX Tri-Cities WEMT.

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