It’s coming down to the end of the 2016 Nascar season and like the play-offs in any sport, it’s starting to get intense. We already know that Jimmie Johnson and Carl Edwards are eligible for next week’s championship race but the real question is ‘who will join them?’ Phoenix International Raceway is the site where that question will be answered by late Sunday. PIR is a one mile dog-leg oval, which means there are indeed four corners but with a dog-leg on the back stretch. It kind of sets up like Richmond does with the only difference being it is a quarter of a mile longer and the dog-leg is on the backstretch. It will take 312 laps to complete the race so we must factor in laps led when we choose our driver’s this weekend. Strap in as I will cover ‘The Chase’ drivers as well as the rest of the field that may do well in the 29th Annual Can-Am 500.
Kevin Harvick – $10,600 – Harvick needs a win badly here as he finds himself in seventh place and 18 points out of the fourth and final transfer spot. The good news here is that he practically owns this place as he has grabbed eight top five finishes over the last ten starts here while winning six of them in the process. The bad news is that his salary is the highest on the board and to get him means you’d have to scale back on the rest of your roster. The driver of the #4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet has won races in the previous rounds to get him the free pass and will need to turn the trick one more time this weekend to assure his spot in next week’s championship race. Harvick will start from the sixth position and should be in good shape all day long.
Kurt Busch – $8,400 – Busch is the other driver in The Chase in need of a lot of help as he finds himself 34 points back from fourth place. That in itself may be an insurmountable amount of points to make up, so a win here is almost his only chance at the championship this season. The good thing going for Busch here is the fact that he has five top ten finishes in his last six starts here at Phoenix so there is no doubt he will not hold anything back today. Although it’s a longshot, the driver of the # 41 Monster Automation/Haas Automation Chevrolet will have every opportunity to get to the front as he will start in 12th place from the sixth row when the green flag drops Sunday afternoon.
Denny Hamlin – $9,900 – Hamlin doesn’t need much but to run a clean race as he find himself in sixth place but just two points out of the fourth and final transfer spot. By virtue of finishing six times in the top ten over the past ten races it’s safe to say that Hamlin knows his way around this joint. The driver of the #11 FedEx Ground Toyota finished third here earlier in the year and has a great shot at leading some laps as he had the fifth quickest time during qualifying.
Matt Kenseth – $9,300 – Kenseth is a mere one point away from moving into next week’s final race. As with any of the drivers above, a win would put them in which make it a little difficult for the other drivers to jump two spots up who are below them. The driver of the #20 Dollar General Toyota has put together a string of seven top ten finishes over the last eight races this season so being competitive won’t be a problem today. Kenseth does have finishes of seventh, 16th and third in his last three races here at Phoenix so starting from the tenth position can only help him stay in the top ten for most of the day.
Kyle Busch – $10,400 – Even though Kyle Busch had two fifth place finishes in this segment he still holds onto a third place tie place by a thread. Kenseth is right on his tail and still has to make up ground should one of the drivers below him win the race. The driver of the #18 M&M’s Toyota has five top finishes over the last seven races this season and has finished fourth in the last two races here at Phoenix. It would appear that all he needs to do is finish strong which may be tougher than it seems as he starts from the 19th position on Sunday, the furthest back of any driver in The Chase.
Joey Logano – $10,200 – Logano is in the same boat as Kyle Busch is in as he too is tied for third place. Any misstep here could be fatal to any hope he holds for winning the championship this season. His second and ninth finishes in this segment has got him where he is at but more than likely needs one more good race to advance to the next round of four drivers. His win at Talladega got him through to this round and now just needs to keep the car between the lines to move on. The driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford has done well here in the past by posting five straight top ten finishes before his 18th place finish earlier this year. Logano will start in the second row and should be able to lead a few laps in the 29th Annual Can-Am 500.
Brad Keselowski – $9,500 – Although Keselowsi is not in The Chase I’m almost certain he’d love to take the checkered flag come Sunday afternoon. Although he ran into some bad luck at both Kansas and Talladega he should be able to finish strong here as he has seven top ten finishes in the last nine starts with his worst finish being earlier this year as he came in 29th place when all was said and done. Keselowski will start from the 14th position on Sunday.
Martin Truex Jr – $9,800 – Truex had problems getting his car ready for qualifying so he will start from the last position on the grid and should be almost an automatic play because of it as he will surely pass a bunch of cars that are in the back of the field.
Paul Menard – $6,600 – Menard has shown flashes of becoming a top 20 driver but up to this point it has not fully materialized as he sits in 25th place. We know we need some lower priced drivers to fill out our rosters so taking Menard in this spot may not be a bad thing. He will start from the 20th position on the grid and hasn’t done too bad here by finishing 13th and 14th before crashing out in the race earlier this year. At this price, you could do worse.
A.J. Allmendinger – $7,400 – Allmendinger very quietly had put up three consecutive top ten finishes before his 17th place finish last week at Texas Motor Speedway. The good news is that he has finished no lower than 26th here in the last ten races and seems to know how to stay competitive but not get himself that extra push he needs to have a really good day. Allmendinger makes a ‘safe’ pick as he starts from the 20th position on Sunday.
That will do it for anopther week of Nascar analysis here at Fanvice.com. Be sure to tune in next week when I break down the championship race from Florida next weekend. As always, follow me on twitter @elctrceye and good luck in your contests this weekend.