Phoenix Racing

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For the GT and touring car team, see Phoenix Racing (Germany).
Phoenix Racing
Owner(s) James Finch
Series Sprint Cup Series
Nationwide Series
Car numbers 09, 1, 4, 7, 51
Manufacturer Chevrolet
Opened 1990
Closed 2013
Debut 1990 Peak AntiFreeze 500 (Dover)
Latest race 2013 Advocare 500 (Atlanta)
Races competed 251
Drivers' Championships 0
Race victories 1 (Sprint Cup Series):
2009 Aaron's 499 (Talladega)
Pole positions 0

Phoenix Racing was a former motorsports team competing in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and the NASCAR Nationwide Series. Owned by Florida businessman James Finch, the team fielded entries from 1990 through 2013. The team fielded a wide variety of drivers and often changed manufacturers, though it often maintained a relationship with Hendrick Motorsports. In Sprint Cup, Phoenix Racing was victorious just once in 251 starts over 24 seasons.

The team was sold to Harry Scott, Jr. in September 2013, later renamed HScott Motorsports.

Sprint Cup Series[edit]

Car No. 51 history[edit]

Early days[edit]

Phoenix Racing began racing in the Cup Series in 1990, when it fielded the #51 Plasti-Kote Chevrolet Lumina for Jeff Purvis. In four races, Purvis failed to finish a race, his best finishing being a 31st at North Wilkesboro Speedway. Phoenix attempted to run a full schedule in 1991, but soon cut back to a part-time schedule, completing six races in total. Due to a lack of funding, the team only ran two races in 1992, with Finch's company Phoenix Construction of Panama City, Florida, serving as sponsor. In 1993, the team ran all of the restrictor plate races on the schedule, except for the Daytona 500, for which they failed to qualify. For 1994, they picked up sponsorship from Country Time and had planned to run a limited schedule with Neil Bonnett driving. Bonnett was killed in a practice crash at Daytona before the 1994 Daytona 500, and Purvis was brought back to drive the car. In six races, his best finish was 21st. Phoenix changed its number to 44 in 1995, and ran six more races with Purvis and Jackaroo Sauce, only finishing one race. MCA Records became the new sponsor for 1996, and the team had two top-ten qualification starts, but could not finish higher than twelfth.

2000s and Talladega win[edit]

After staying out of Cup for several years, Finch purchased a number of Ford Tauruses from Bill Elliott Racing, and ran all of the 2001 schedule's restrictor plate races with Purvis driving the #51, only finishing one race. In 2002, the team picked up funding from Miccosukee and switched to the #09. Driver Geoffrey Bodine had a third-place finish in the Daytona 500, and later had a 2nd-place qualification at the Pepsi 400. Mike Wallace ran a limited schedule for Phoenix in 2003, and had two top-ten finishes. Scott Pruett and Buckshot Jones also ran one race deals for the team that season, during which they switched to Dodge. The team began 2004 with Joe Ruttman and Johnny Benson sharing the ride. The idea was that Benson, who was also driving the team's Busch Series car, would run full races and Ruttman would start and park when he started. This drew criticism in the Subway 400, the second race of the season, at Rockingham when Ruttman entered with no pit crew, was parked by NASCAR after one lap, and collected $54,196 for a last-place finish.[1] The team later said they would be "legitimate racing" after the incident and both Benson and Ruttman were eventually fired. Bobby Hamilton, Jr. then drove for six races during the middle of the season, before Wallace and Johnny Sauter returned to run the tail part of the season. Pruett and Tony Raines, also ran in one-off attempts in the car. Sauter drove ten races in the #09 in 2005, and had a ninth-place finish at Phoenix International Raceway. Late in the season, Bobby Hamilton and Reed Sorenson drove the 09 at Martinsville and Homestead, respectively.

Beginning in 2006, Phoenix abbreviated the 09's schedule even further, switching back and forth between Dodge and Ford. Mike Wallace ran just three races and failed to finish higher than seventeenth. Mayfield ran the season-ending Ford 400, but did not finish due to an oil leak. Wallace had a fourth-place finish in the 2007 Daytona 500, but the team did not qualify for another race until the final two races of the year, when Sterling Marlin drove. For 2008, Marlin ran 10–12 races for Phoenix.

The #09 car

Phoenix Racing announced for 2009 that they would be running two different makes of cars for the upcoming Sprint Cup season. The #09 was shared by Marlin, Phoenix's Nationwide Series driver Mike Bliss, and Brad Keselowski, who at the time was a developmental driver for Hendrick Motorsports. The team fielded Dodges for the majority of the season, except for when Keselowski and Fellows drove for the team, they fielded Chevys. After 19 years in the Cup Series Phoenix Racing finally won its first race, taking the Aaron's 499 with Keselowski behind the wheel. Keselowski wrecked Carl Edwards when Edwards attempted a second block on Keselowski's passing move, but Keselowski held his ground and drove to the finish to lead his only lap of the day and win the race.

2010s and sale[edit]

Former Earnhardt Ganassi Racing driver Aric Almirola was hired to drive for the team in 2010. The team's competitiveness was put into question when it lost its longtime sponsor Miccosukee at the beginning of the season. Almirola failed to qualify three of the first seven events, including the Daytona 500, and start and parked in its four starts due to lack of funds. Almirola left the team after the race at Phoenix to focus on his Truck Series efforts,[2] and was replaced by Mike Bliss and a handful of other drivers, including (Xfinity Series driver) Landon Cassill, (Former F1 driver) Jan Magnussen, and (2000 NASCAR Winston Cup Series champion) Bobby Labonte. Phoenix Racing returned in 2011 despite rumors that Finch had been trying to sell the team. Bill Elliott drove the first 4 races before Landon Cassill took over the ride with sponsorship from Security Benefit. In June 2011, prior to the Kansas race, the team changed the car number to #51, which Phoenix Racing originally used when it first competed in the then-Winston Cup Series.

Kurt Busch driving the #51 at Texas Motor Speedway in 2012

For 2012, Cassill was replaced by 2004 Cup Champion Kurt Busch, who had been released from the #22 car at Penske Racing due to on-track incidents and off-track temperament, including a profanity-laced tirade directed at ESPN reporter Jerry Punch.[3] The team ran most of the season unsponsored, with, Monster Energy, and TAG Heuer coming on for single races. At Talladega in May, Busch ran a "ME" scheme from the movie Talladega Nights that Will Ferrell's character (a similarly controversial star driver) ran in a comeback at the track in one of the film's final scene.[4] Busch's best finish with the team was an impressive 3rd-place finish at Sonoma Raceway after racing for the lead with Clint Bowyer with under ten laps to go.[5] Outside of that high point, Busch was involved in many accidents trying to get the most out of his equipment.[6] He was also suspended for the June race at Pocono after expletives aimed at a reporter after a Nationwide Series race at Dover.[3] David Reutimann replaced Busch in that race, and Busch was welcomed back following a vote by team members.[7] Busch would leave the team following the fall Talladega race for Furniture Row Racing, and was supposed to be replaced by Regan Smith (the former driver with Furniture Row) until Dale Earnhardt, Jr. suffered a concussion in the aftermath of the Talladega race and Smith was needed as a sub for the Charlotte and Kansas races in the Chase. A. J. Allmendinger, coincidentally also released from the Penske #22 car due to a failed substance test, drove the #51 for those two races, with Smith returning later in the year.[8]

Regan Smith in 2013.

For 2013, the team returned full-time, fielding a number of different drivers. The team signed Guy Roofing, a company from the team's hometown of Spartanburg, South Carolina, as the sponsor for the Daytona 500 and two other early season races.[9] Regan Smith drove the car in the 500 to a strong seventh-place finish, and would run five other races that season with a best finish of sixth. Allmendinger ran 9 races, including running the retro Country Time scheme Phoenix had run in the past, with three top 15 finishes all in his first four starts.[6] Austin Dillon ran four races, and Ryan Truex made his series debut at Bristol in the fall. Bobby Labonte, Owen Kelly, Mike Bliss, Jacques Villeneuve, and Brendan Gaughan would all make single starts for the team in 2013.

In spite of early success (the team was ranked 9th in owners points after the fifth race of the season) and a more affordable car model in the Gen 6 Chevy SS, lack of long-term funding continued to plague the team.[6] Citing this recurring lack of stable sponsorship, Finch announced in May 2013 that he would close operations after the 2013 Brickyard 400.[10] In late June, Finch announced that he was selling his team. The team found a buyer July 17 and Finch stopped sponsoring the team after Indianapolis. He would continue to own the team through Labor Day weekend, providing assistance in the transition to new ownership. It was announced on August 28 that Harry Scott, Jr. of Turner Scott Motorsports had bought the team.[11][12]

Finch's last race as owner was the Labor Day race at Atlanta, where Mike Bliss drove the No. 51 Phoenix Construction Chevrolet to a 33rd-place finish, running six laps down at the checkered flag.[13]

Nationwide Series[edit]

Car No. 1 history[edit]

2009 No. 1 Nationwide car

Phoenix made its debut in 1989 with the No. 49 Buick driven by Jeff Purvis at Charlotte. They ran four races together the following season in the No. 15 car, but had three engine failures. The next season, Phoenix and Purvis ran four consecutive races in the No. 14/23 Seal-Tech Buick, with a best finish of seventeenth. After a seventh-place finish at Talladega in 1992, the team ran as the #28 Havoline Ford for three races, and then changed to the No. 4 Kodak Funsaver Camera Chevrolet in 1993. Purvis won his first pole at Talladega in 1994 as the No. 51 Country Time car, then switched back to the No. 4 Kodak car the next year, where he had three top-ten finishes.

Phoenix Racing made its first full-time season in 1996, despite the No. 4 not having major sponsorship. Purvis won two races and a pole position, finishing seventh in points. Purvis ran the first four races of the 1997, and had a top-ten finish, but was replaced by Tim Steele, who brought sponsorship from HS Die. He had two top-tens, but injuries forced him to exit the ride. He was replaced by multiple drivers, with Dale Shaw running a majority of the races that season, including a 2nd-place finish at South Boston Speedway. Sterling Marlin, Ernie Irvan, and Ron Fellows filled in for Shaw when he could not run. Kevin Lepage then drove two races near the end of the season, before Purvis returned to drive the last race of the year. In 1998, Purvis was again named full-time driver, with Lance Snacks sponsoring. Purvis made 26 starts, missing one race due to injury, during which he was replaced by Dennis Setzer, and an additional four races during which he was suspended for rough driving. Nathan Buttke and Matt Hutter took his place for those races.

Purvis and Lance Snacks departed for Bechtel/Gibbs Racing at the end of the year, taking the No. 4 with him. Phoenix Racing switched to the No. 1 and hired Randy LaJoie to drive. They did not have major sponsorship of start the season, and signed a one-race deal with Jani-King before winning the season-opening NAPA Auto Parts 300. Bob Evans Restaurants then became the sponsor, and LaJoie finished tenth in points. He followed that up with a victory at USA and a seventh-place finish in points in 2000. P. J. Jones was named driver of the No. 1 for 2001, bringing Yellow Freight sponsorship. After four races, he was replaced by Jimmy Spencer who drove in eighteen races for Phoenix, winning three races. Bobby Hamilton, Lepage, and Joe Ruttman filled in for Spencer on occasion. Phoenix dropped to a part-time schedule in 2002, with Spencer driving 23 races and winning twice, and Ruttman and Martin Truex, Jr. running one race apiece. In 2003, they formed a partnership with Chip Ganassi Racing and fielded the No. 1 full-time for two Ganassi drivers, Cup series driver Jamie McMurray and developmental driver David Stremme. McMurray had two wins, both at Rockingham, while Stremme made 16 starts, had two top-fives and won Rookie of the Year honors.

Johnny Benson was named full-time driver in 2004, with Miccosukee Resorts being named the new sponsor. He won one pole and had four top-tens when he was released after ten starts. McMurray ran three of the next four races, and Purvis returned for one race at Nazareth Speedway. Buckshot Jones drove the next two races with the return of Yellow Transportation to the team, followed by Tony Raines, Casey Mears, Bobby Hamilton, Sterling Marlin, Reed Sorenson, and Regan Smith. Johnny Sauter was named the permanent driver of the No. 1 in 2005, winning at Milwaukee and finishing twelfth in points after Boris Said took his place at the Mexico race. Sauter left for Haas CNC Racing and took the sponsorship with im, and Jason Keller was hired to drive. After eight races, Keller was fired and Mike Wallace took over for most of the season, garnering two top-five finishes, with Scott Pruett and development driver Cale Gale filling in. For 2007, J. J. Yeley was named the new driver of the No. 1, but struggled and only had one top-ten finish and missed six races, with Benson, Marlin and Max Papis filling for most of those races.

In 2008, Sauter returned to the team, but was released after five races. After Sterling Marlin drove one race, Mike Bliss was named the permanent driver of the No. 1 car. Marc Reno, who was born in California and currently resides in Concord, NC, serves as the crew chief and manages the team. He returned to the car after a solid season in 2008 for a full 2009 campaign. On May 23, 2009, Mike Bliss scored his second career Nationwide win and eleventh win for the team at Lowe's Motor Speedway by taking advantage of fuel mileage and a race-ending caution near the end of the race because of rain. In August 2009, Bliss was released due to conflicts with crew chief Marc Reno. Ryan Newman, Reed Sorenson, Max Papis, Martin Truex, Jr., David Gilliland, and Landon Cassill also took turns sharing the ride following Bliss' release. Rookie James Buescher was to drive the car full-time in 2010, but Finch put his entire operation up for sale on April 24. On May 12, 2010, Buescher parted ways with Phoenix Racing, Ryan Newman will drive at Dover.

On July 6, 2012, Phoenix recorded its first Nationwide Series win in three years when Kurt Busch, who would make occasional starts for the team that season, won the Subway Jalapeno 250 at Daytona for his fifth win in the series and his first for another team owner besides Roger Penske and Kyle Busch.

The No. 1 has 13 victories.

Car No. 4 history[edit]

Phoenix Racing began running two cars in 2000, when Matt Hutter drove the No. 51 at Daytona and Talladega, with Tracfone sponsoring; his best finish was 19th. LaJoie drove late in the season at Homestead, when P. J. Jones drove the No. 1. In 2005, they began fielding the No. 09 for three races, with Boris Said, Wallace, and Eric McClure driving. They began fielding the second car full-time in 2007, when Wallace drove the No. 7 GEICO Chevrolet. Despite failing to finish in the top-ten, he finished 11th in points. In 2008, the team switched to the No. 4, and leased its owners points to Jay Robinson Racing. Robinson ran the No. 4 car on a full-time basis, although Phoenix did field the No. 4 for Landon Cassill at Mexico City.


  1. ^ Fryer, Jenna (February 24, 2004). "NASCAR calls Ruttman run 'a sham'". ESPN. Retrieved January 25, 2014. 
  2. ^ Fan, Horn (April 14, 2010). "Aric Almirola's Sole Focus Is Now Camping World Truck Series". Bleacher Report. Bleacher Report. Retrieved November 26, 2014. 
  3. ^ a b Leistikow,, Chad (June 5, 2012). "Kurt Busch suspended for Pocono race after tirade". USA Today. Retrieved November 26, 2014. 
  4. ^ Gluck, Jeff (May 4, 2012). "NASCAR At Talladega: How Kurt Busch Got Ricky Bobby's Paint Scheme On His Car". SB Nation. SB Nation. Retrieved November 26, 2014. 
  5. ^ Bianchi, Jordan (June 24, 2012). "NASCAR Sonoma Results: Kurt Busch Finishes Third After Gutsy Effort". SB Nation. SB Nation. Retrieved November 26, 2014. 
  6. ^ a b c Ryan, Nate (April 4, 2013). "James Finch's Phoenix Racing just hanging on in NASCAR". USA Today. Retrieved November 26, 2014. 
  7. ^ Smith, Marty (June 17, 2012). "Phoenix team voted to keep Busch". Brooklyn, Michigan: ESPN. Retrieved December 17, 2014. 
  8. ^ Bianchi, Jordan (October 11, 2012). "AJ Allmendinger to return this weekend in Phoenix Racing's No. 51 car". SB Nation. SB Nation. Retrieved November 26, 2014. 
  9. ^ Cushnan, David (January 9, 2013). "Nascar’s Phoenix Racing nails Daytona 500 sponsorship". SportsPro. SportsPro. Retrieved November 26, 2014. 
  10. ^ Shoot, Jason (May 6, 2013). "Finch's Phoenix Racing to wrap up NASCAR operations July 28". News Herald. Retrieved May 8, 2013. 
  11. ^ Gluck, Jeff (August 28, 2013). "Justin Allgaier gets Cup ride after Harry Scott buys team". USA Today. Retrieved November 26, 2014. 
  12. ^ Pockrass, Bob (August 29, 2013). "New Phoenix Racing owner Harry Scott now ready for Sprint Cup racing". Sporting News. Retrieved November 3, 2014. 
  13. ^ "2013 Federated Auto Parts 400 results". Racing Reference. Racing Reference. August 29, 2013. Retrieved December 5, 2014. 

External links[edit]