Carl Edwards – Last fall at Phoenix Edwards finished second and had a third place average running position. There’s no reason why people should expect a let down in the Subway Fresh Fit 500 if they pick him. The last time the series visited this venue only him and Tony Stewart ran the entire race in the top fifteen. I also think Carl Edwards will be a threat for winning the pole. Although he qualified ninth last fall the top three starting spots were occupied by Fords.
Jeff Gordon – Gordon was a non factor on the new track surface last fall but I think the #24 will be tough to beat this time around.This is a smart team and their always tough to beat on .75 and 1.0 mile ovals. At Hendrick Motorsports the #24 team and #5 team work out of the same shop. Something tells me Alan Gustafson might borrow some of Kasey Kahne’s crew chief notes.
Kyle Busch – Coming fresh off his suspension last year Kyle Busch had motor problems not once but twice during the weekend of the Kobalt Tools 500. His first engine failure resulted him starting the race in the back of the pack. When the green flag was waved he drove up through the field and got as high as third before he lost his second engine of the weekend (Yahoo chart). I think Phoenix is now a reverse Richmond and Kyle Busch is dominant there. Look for him to contend for the win.
Kevin Harvick – Harvick was a mid teens driver last year at best on the new track layout. One thing I really like about Harvick is how strong his teammate Jeff Burton was last year. He was a “Front Runner” who finished 4th and had the 5th best driver rating. Burton was testing new setups for the organization and the #29 will benefit from this. You also can’t overlook how good he is at Richmond.
Jimmie Johnson – The changing of the track layout will be just a temporary setback for Jimmie Johnson. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if he wins the Subway Fresh Fit 500. Lessons were learned last fall and I believe no team is smarter than the #48 Lowes crew. The addition of race winner Kasey Kahne to the organization won’t hurt either.
Tony Stewart – Stewart put on a clinic last fall. He led 160 laps and had a second place average running position. I still can’t say he had the best car though. He dominated the first two-thirds of the race but in the last segment he consistently ran 3rd and 4th. I think Stewart will be strong again but I don’t think he’ll have his “eye of the tiger” intangible that was present with him in the Chase.
Matt Kenseth – From last years race at Phoenix the only thing that comes to peoples mind about Kenseth is what former cup driver Brian Vickers did to him (video). Before Vickers exacted his revenge Matt Kenseth was having a pretty good day. He started on the pole and never ran lower than 4th (Yahoo race chart). Don’t look for him to have a Daytona hangover. In 2009 when he won the Daytona 500 he went on to win the following week.