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oakley radar path Friday's NASCAR Green Flag: After unique aspects of Daytona, the real season starts (poll, map, video) Dale Earnhardt Jr. on the ESPN set with Mike Greenburg and Mike Golic during his post-Daytona media tourHUNTSVILLE, Alabama - Each Friday afternoon, we'll look at a hot topic in NASCAR and preview the weekend's race: Now, the real season starts. That's the sentiment, spoken and unspoken, in the NASCAR garage as the teams put Daytona in their rear-view mirrors. The hype, the extended stay, the unique qualifying procedure, the preparations for a restrictor plate race make the Daytona 500 unique. Now, 2,150 miles removed from Sunday's late-night drama, the series is at Phoenix International Raceway, a tight oval as flat as a pizza. It means a return to a more typical weekend schedule - though today does bring the Sprint Cup debut of the new qualifying format - and racing much more "just another day at the office" feel. One thing is a given, considering history: Dale Earnhardt Jr. won't win at Phoenix. Only twice since Daytona replaced Riverside as the season-opening race in 1982 has a driver won the first two events, Jeff Gordon in 1997 (following Daytona with a Rockingham triumph) and Matt Kenseth (winning at Fontana, Calif., the week after Daytona). The post-Daytona demands on a driver can't help take their toll on a driver. After the requisite Sunday night-into-Monday-morning celebration, there is the ceremony at Daytona where the car is enshrined for a year in the speedway museum. Then it was on to Bristol, Conn., for ESPN appearances, then New York for "The Late Show With David Letterman." On Wednesday, he was in southern California to promote the upcoming race there, then finally to Phoenix on Thursday. To be sure, Earnhardt has run well at Phoenix. He has two wins and 10 top 10s in 23 starts in the desert, but not since 2004And he'snever gone into Phoenix after a week like this. After winning Daytona, he had to fulfill a promise to get on Twitter. On Thursday, he sent this message: "Hope y'all enjoyed this week as much as I have. WE won the Daytona 500! Phoenix is next, let's grind em out!" Daytona is over. The grind is on. The Race: The Profit on CNBC 500K, Phoenix International Raceway, Avondale, Ariz. Fox TV. Green flag, 2 p.m. Central. The defending champ: Carl Edwards won last March's race at Phoenix. Of note: Teams at every series will have a decal this weekend commemorating Wendell Scott's NASCAR first career start, on March 4, 1961. Scott remains the only African-American to win a race at NASCAR's highest level.w The Track: Located on the western outskirts of Phoenix, the speedway sits at the foot of a rugged mountain where, in the early days of the track, members of a nearby Native American tribe could be spotted watching races from horseback. The one-mile trioval went through a major reconfiguration in 2010 that stretched the dogleg in the backstretch trioval. Fantasy buys: Jimmie Johnson, with a 6.1 average finish in the past nine years, Denny Hamlin, who has averaged a 10.9 finish at Phoenix and is coming off a great Daytona, and Carl Edwards, the defending winner and also with a 10.9 average finish. Our pick to win: Denny Hamlin Your pick to win: amp;lt;a href="http://polldaddy.com/poll/7837590/" amp;gt;Who is your pick to win Sunday's race at Phoenix? amp;lt;/a amp;gt;