NASCAR Picks for Phoenix
Length: 1.000 miles
Shape: D-shaped Tri-Ov
Location: Avondale, Arizona
Punches flew for the second time in four races after the checkered flag last weekend at Texas, and the new Chase format continues to bring out the best and worst in the title contenders. Now, just 18 points separate the eight remaining championship contenders heading into the final race of the Eliminator Round Sunday at Phoenix International Raceway. Needless to say, the atmosphere at PIR is going to be intense, and the closing laps will likely be treacherous for both drivers and fantasy owners as desperation sets in and the pressure to advance to the season finale boils over.
Kevin Harvick, #4 Budweiser/Jimmy Johns, Stewart-Haas Racing [Yahoo Class A]
Harvick is trying for a three-peat at Phoenix this weekend after winning at the track last fall and earlier this season. He has also won three of the last four races at the track and owns a series-leading five victories overall. In his last five races at PIR, Harvick has scored a series-best 318 points and has led a series-high 397 laps, including 224 in his dominating win in March.
Jimmie Johnson, #48 Lowe's/Kobalt Tools, Hendrick Motorsports [Yahoo Class A]
His 6.3 average finish at Phoenix is the best in the series, and in 22 career starts at the track, Johnson has amassed 18 Top-10s. More importantly, he has 14 Top-5 finishes, including four wins, at PIR. In his last three starts at the track, Johnson has finishes of second, third and sixth.
Jeff Gordon, #24 Drive to End Hunger/Axalta, Hendrick Motorsports [Yahoo Class A]
Expect the four-time champ to be very motivated Sunday after the green-white-checkered finish at Texas turned a potential trip to victory lane into a potential end to his title hopes. Gordon has won at Phoenix as recently as 2011, and he has three straight Top-15s at the track, including a fifth-place finish earlier this year.
Brad Keselowski, #2 Miller Lite, Team Penske [Yahoo Class B]
Keselowski has been stellar in his last five races at Phoenix, compiling a 5.8 average finish and scoring the second-most points in the series. During the stretch, he has four finishes of sixth or better, including a career-best third-place finish back in March.
Joey Logano, #22 Shell-Pennzoil, Team Penske [Yahoo Class B]
While his overall numbers at Phoenix don't jump off the page, his last two starts at the track have been strong. He finished ninth at PIR last fall and fourth earlier this season, and in those two races, he has led a combined 104 laps with 71 of those coming in March.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., #88 National Guard/Diet Mountain Dew, Hendrick Motorsports [Yahoo Class A]
He has definitely found a setup that works for him at Phoenix the past couple of years. Junior has reeled off three straight Top-5 finishes at the track, posting a 3.7 average finish during the stretch. He finished second at PIR in March, and he should be a strong option once again this weekend.
Denny Hamlin, #11 FedEx, Joe Gibbs Racing [Yahoo Class B]
His last two starts at Phoenix haven't been his best, but Hamlin has been one of the more reliable options at the track throughout his career. Over the past 20 races, his 11.3 average finish at PIR ranks fourth in the series. Hamlin only has five finishes outside the Top 15 in 18 starts at the track, and he has three Top-3 finishes in his last five starts, including a win in 2012.
Kyle Busch, #18 Mars Brands/Interstate Batteries, Joe Gibbs Racing [Yahoo Class A]
Although his lone win at Phoenix to date came in just his second start at the track, Busch has been piling up solid finishes in the desert recently. He finished seventh at PIR last fall and ninth earlier this year, and he has four Top-10s in his last five starts. For his career, Busch has 12 Top-10s in 19 starts at the track and just five finishes outside the Top 15.
Kasey Kahne, #5 Farmers Insurance/Quaker State, Hendrick Motorsports [Yahoo Class A]
His overall record at Phoenix is mediocre at best, but Kahne has been excellent in the fall race lately. In his last three starts at PIR in November, he has finished second, fourth and first. Kahne makes a great upside pick this weekend, and he is a potential A-List alternative in Yahoo! leagues for owners trying to make a move on the competition in the final weeks.
Ryan Newman, #31 Caterpillar, Richard Childress Racing [Yahoo Class B]
Newman just keeps piling up solid finishes, and there is no reason to expect that to change this weekend at Phoenix. After all, he has seven Top-10s in his last nine starts at the track, including two straight. Plus, Newman has five Top-5 finishes over the same span so he has some upside to go along with his reliability.
Carl Edwards, #99 Fastenal/Aflac/UPS/Subway, Roush Fenway Racing [Yahoo Class B]
He has been one the more consistent performers at Phoenix throughout his career, and in the last 20 races at the track, he owns the fifth-best average finish of any driver. In those 20 races, Edwards has 14 finishes of 11th or better, including two wins and an eighth-place finish earlier this season. He should make a solid addition to fantasy rosters Sunday.
Matt Kenseth, #20 Husky/Dollar General, Joe Gibbs Racing [Yahoo Class A]
Although he hasn't been horrible at Phoenix by any means, Kenseth hasn't been great at the track either. He has four Top-15s in his last five starts at PIR, but he only has one Top-10 in his last seven starts at the track. Throw in the fact that Kenseth has gone 13 races without a Top-5 at Phoenix, and fantasy owners will want to temper expectations a bit.