Why the Ruoff Mortgage 500 is a Crucial Race in NASCAR

The Ruoff Mortgage 500 has a great deal of history leading up to the 52nd race hosted at the Phoenix Raceway. This one mile, low-banked tri-oval in Avondale, Arizona features an asphalt racing surface with various degrees of turns.

This race in particular is an important race to the NASCAR season, that serves as a barometer for driver success for the rest of the season. If they can finish high or win here, they can succeed throughout the rest of the year. Below you can see how crucial this race is to NASCAR and why the history makes it an iconic racing event.

History of Ruoff Mortgage

The track opened back in 1964 but it was not until 1978 when NASCAR held their sanctioned event with Richard Petty winning in the Winston West Series. As for the Cup Series, Alan Kulwicki was the first ever driver to win here, in which he celebrated with a “Polish Victory Lap” as he circled the track in the opposite direction.

The first spring race occurred on April 23, 2005. This also happened to be the first night race, in which Kurt Busch was the winner.

The track was reconstructed quite a bit in 2011 and even replaced for the first time since 1990. The frontstretch was widened from 52 feet to 62 feet. The radius of the dogleg was made tighter from 800 feet to 500 feet.

There was also banking implemented on the track. Between each of the turns, it started with 11 degree banking and then down one degree for each of the turns.

The raceway had a name change in 2017 to ISM Raceway. Then in 2019, the name was changed back to Phoenix Raceway.

Phoenix Raceway underwent another facelift, but only some minor touches. In 2018, they moved the start/finish line from the middle of the track’s longest straightaway to the exit. This was previously known as “Turn 2”.

Drivers Love This Track

Over the years, some divers have adjusted to this relatively easy going track to race on. It may be a relief to many drivers, especially if they are struggling heading into this event and they have an opportunity to turn things around.

The Ruoff 500 is a 312-lap race around the one-mile Phoenix Raceway. Martin Truex Jr. is the defending champion from the 2021 season, and this race was his 27th career victory in the NASCAR Cup Series.

Expectations are high for veteran drivers that are supposed to perform well in these types of races. History shows that no matter who you are, as long as you do not have any major mistakes, you can win.

The Stewart Haas Racing team has the most wins collectively heading into this event, with five victories total here. Four of them have come from Kevin Harvick.

Favorites That Fans Love to See

Either the competition is getting better, or some drivers have lost their touch. Regardless, Phoenix Raceway has a way of exposing it. It also creates an opportunity for drivers to get out of a slump, like Truex Jr. did last season.

Looking at Truex’s last two starts here, he had a second place finish at the NASCAR Cup Series Championship Race and his victory at the Ruoff Mortgage 500. With his victory, it allowed him to turn his season around and contend for the Cup Series title, even though he came up short.

Looking ahead at this season’s race, there are a handful of fan favorites that lead the way for popularity. Kyle Larson is the defending Cup Series champion and he will be challenged by veterans that have dominated in this track before.

Other drivers to take a look at are Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, and of course Truex Jr. Even though Harvick might be years removed from his previous victories and dominant driving, that does not mean you can count him out either.

He still poses a threat to other drivers, especially during his run in 2012 to 2016, where he won six out of eight tries. During that stretch, he also had six top 10 finishes.

Harvick also has 17 consecutive top 10 finishes at Phoenix Raceway coming into this season. This season’s race promises to be one of the more popular ones.