The Monster Energy Nascar Cup Series remains out west this week as the drivers get set to take on the one mile asphalt track in Avondale, Arizona. Phoenix International Raceway has been hosting Nascar Cup races since 1988 and was awarded a second race in the 2005 season which saw both Busch brothers winning the races that season.
Since then a few drivers have been able to win multi races here at Phoenix with Kevin Harvick leading the way with eight wins which is the most of any driver at this track. Jimmie Johnson has won four times here but hasn’t found victory lane since the fall of 2009.
The new format of breaking down the races into three stages has made things interesting as you can tell at the end of every segment that has been run so far. Drivers seem to be jockeying for position to get those precious bonus points. We will however have to wait and see if this system actually works as I am sure someone will publish a standings chart at the end of the season that will show how the drivers would have finished without the bonus points.
My gut feeling is that if a driver races the same way that he did before, he can’t help but accrue the bonus points along the way. Ok, enough of the drivel, let’s get down to this week’s picks.
Kevin Harvick- $11,000- It is no wonder that Harvick is the highest priced driver in this week’s contest. I mean after all, when is the last time you were able to pick a driver that has had as much dominance as Harvick has had here at any given track? Despite having two subpar finishes this season Harvick has seen his salary rise over $1,000 since the Daytona 500. As mentioned above, he has won eight times here so far and has grabbed nine top 10 finishes over his last 10 starts here in Phoenix. Five of those wins have come in the last seven starts which makes him an easy, but almost unaffordable play today as he will start the #4 Jimmy John’s Ford from the 23rd position in the field when the green flag drops Sunday afternoon.
Joey Logano- $10,500- Logano is another driver that has done well here in Avondale as he has collected seven top ten finishes in his last 10 starts here. He has won the pole for Sunday’s race which means he will have a good chance to lead a lot of laps and maybe be a better play than the aforementioned Harvick. He won here last fall and could have figured something out as he had run the fastest lap in the final practice which means that the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford has not lost anything to his competitors. In a nutshell, these guys are on a roll and selecting Logano in this spot may be one of the wiser choices of the day.
I can’t argue if you like Brad Keselowski-$10,300, Kyle Busch-$10,100, Denny Hamlin-$9,700 or Kurt Busch-$8,700 in this spot either as they all have notched seven top ten finishes in their last 10 starts at this track. Keselowski and Kurt Busch have each grabbed two top 10 finishes so far this year while Kyle Busch seems to continue to have his problems on and off the track. Keselowski has the best shot here as he will start the Alliance Truck Parts Ford from the seventh position on the grid while Hamlin will be scored from the 19th position but will start from the rear of the field.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.- $8,500 – Junior may still be feeling some effects of the concussion that kept him out of his car at the end of last season. His finishes of 37th and 30th in the first two races this season, which was just not up to par for him, but he did seem to regain some stability last week as he finished in 16th position while starting from the 18th spot in Las Vegas. Hopefully the driver of the #88 Axalta Chevrolet is back to racing form because if he is, you should take him here. Earnhardt has been able to finish no lower that eighth in six of his last seven starts here which includes a win in the fall of 2015. His only bad finish was the race before the win in the winter of 2015 where he was collected up in a crash and finished dead last. Junior will roll off from the second row when the green flag drops on Sunday afternoon.
Ryan Blaney-$8,000- Although there is not much data on Blaney as this is just his second year as a bonafide Monster Energy Nascar Racing driver, we do know a few things. The first thing we know is that he has two top 10 finishes so far this season as he finished second in Daytona and seventh last week in Las Vegas. The second thing we know is that he has two starts here at this track and has claimed two top 10 finishes. Blaney will start the, ok get ready, #21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ture and Auto Center Ford from the front row which could mean that he could lead some of the 312 laps that it will take to win today’s race.
Erik Jones-$7,500- Jones has done well for himself so far as he finds his way through the thick forest that is Nascar racing. Although he just started his Monster Energy Series career, he was the 2105 Camping World Series Truck Racing Champion as well as being named rookie of the year last year in the Xfinity Racing Series. After a rough Daytona race Jones has bounced back to finish 15th and 14th in the last two races. His #77 will start from the fourth row on Sunday and will look to maintain the sixth faster speed he posted in yesterday’s ‘Happy Hour’ practice.
Trevor Bayne- $6,800- Bayne’s price has shot up $700 since I mentioned him last week and that is because he finished in 13th place in the Kobalt 400 which was run last weekend in Las Vegas. That was his worst finish of the year and will look to keep the pedal to the metal as he sits in 11th place through the three races they have run this season. It’s early in the season for sure but with Bayne starting the #6 AdvoCare Ford from the 24th positon, there should be a few points to be had by the end of the race.
Derrike Cope- $4,600 – Ok, ok, yes I know. Derrike Cope? Really? There could be some advantages to taking Cope here as the 58 year old veteran has just two Nascar Wins to his credit, both coming back in 1990 which was 27 years ago. Because Cope’s price is so low, by taking him it would allow you to get a few top of the line drivers. Kind of a stars and scrubs type of thing. Cope has grabbed positive points in both races he has started this season and looks to be in the positive again this week as he starts the #55 Chevrolet form the 37th position on the grid. Surely he can pass a few guys like Gray Gaulding, David Regan and Reed Sorensen to get you a few cheap fantasy points.
That will about wrap up another look into this weekend’s Nascar race. I will be back next weekend to break down the Auto Club 400 from Fontana, California. In the meantime, follow me on twitter @elctrceye and as always, good luck in your contests this afternoon.