Comments: NASCAR Picks for Phoenix

Comments: NASCAR Picks for Phoenix

Last weekend's race at Texas was a perfect example of how drivers battling for the championship tend to run well down the stretch regardless of their career numbers at a track. Brad Keselowski had never even finished in the top 10 at Texas and had a 25.3 average finish at the track, and he promptly went out and finished second and was one restart away from winning. Meanwhile, Clint Bowyer finished a strong sixth despite having good (but not great) numbers at Texas. Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards were lights out in the final races of last season, and it appears Jimmie Johnson, Keselowski and Bowyer are set to close 2012 with similar streaks. Numbers are still important, but when a title is hanging in the balance, momentum can sometimes trump everything else.

It is an important trend to keep in mind as the series heads to Phoenix International Raceway this weekend, but the flat, one-mile oval could also give some other drivers a chance to shine. Plain and simple, PIR has a unique shape with two very different sets of corners. Passing is difficult and track position is huge, which means fuel mileage and pit strategy could end up deciding the outcome. Keep in mind that while a championship is hanging in the balance for Johnson, Keselowski and Bowyer, the rest of the field has nothing to lose. Don't be surprised to see a few drivers gamble late in the race, and if it pays off, there could be some unexpected names running up front when the checkered flag waves.

Drivers listed in this article:
  1. Jimmie Johnson, Lowe's/Kobalt Tools
  2. Brad Keselowski, Miller Lite
  3. Denny Hamlin, FedEx
  4. Kyle Busch, Mars Brands/Interstate Batteries
  5. Jeff Gordon, Drive to End Hunger/3M
  6. Clint Bowyer, 5-Hour Energy
  7. Kasey Kahne, Farmers Insurance/Great Clips
  8. Kevin Harvick, Budweiser/Jimmy Johns
  9. Tony Stewart, Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1
  10. Greg Biffle, Ortho
  11. Martin Truex, Jr., Furniture Row
  12. Ryan Newman, Caterpillar
  13. Carl Edwards, Arris/Stanley
  14. Mark Martin, Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1
  15. Dale Earnhardt, Jr., National Guard/Diet Mountain Dew
  16. Matt Kenseth, Dolllar General/DeWalt
  17. Joey Logano, Shell-Pennzoil
  18. Kurt Busch, Haas Automation
  19. Jeff Burton, PEAK BlueDEF
  20. Aric Almirola, Smithfield Foods
  21. Juan Montoya, Target
  22. Marcos Ambrose, Stanley/Dewalt Power Tools
  23. Sam Hornish, Jr., Twisted Tea
  24. Paul Menard, Menards
  25. Jamie McMurray, McDonald's/Cessna
  26. Regan Smith, Haas Automation
  27. Bobby Labonte, C&J Energy Services
  28. Danica Patrick,
  29. Travis Kvapil, Burger King/Doctor Pepper
  30. Dave Blaney, TBA
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Feb. 23