Credit: Robert Laberge/NASCAR via Getty Images
Credit: Robert Laberge/NASCAR via Getty Images

Denny Hamlin – Denny Hamlin should be solid in the Phoenix Good Sam 500 if he decides to race hard. Since 2012 he’s finished in the top ten in 5 of the 8 races. Last fall he had a good race. He finished 8th, earned the 9th best driver rating and had a 9th place average running position. In spring 2015 he struggled. He started 25th, had a 22nd place average running position and finished 23rd. In fall 2014 Denny Hamlin had an interesting afternoon. He started on the pole, led the first 24 laps and was running in 2nd at the time of the first caution but after he completed his stop he had a flat tire and pitted again. As a result he lost all of his track position and was at the back of the pack. While he was back in the field his car was junk and he fell a lap down. Fortunately for him there was a few timely cautions that saved him from dropping more laps down because otherwise he would’ve finished poorly. On lap 94 he got his first “Lucky Dog” but it was for naught because he got lapped again on lap 164. On lap 206 he got back on the lead lap again and this time it was for good. The key moment for Hamlin came with 24 laps to go when he choose not to pit. It ended up being the right decision because he finished 5th with a car that was down a lap for much of the event. At Phoenix in spring 2014 Denny Hamlin had an OK race. He started in 12th, had a 12th place average running position and finished 19th. His result is misleading because he performed better than that. His lack luster finish can be traced to his crew chief calling him in for a late 4 tire pit stop and then losing positions on the track late. In the last three races of the 2015 season at shorter-flat tracks Hamlin had a 5.3 average finish. (Yahoo B Driver)

Ryan Newman – Ryan Newman is a solid shorter-flat track driver. I would rank this sub-track type as his best. At Phoenix Newman has been successful. Over the last five Phoenix races he has an 8.4 average finish, 11.6 average running position and the 9th best driver rating. Over this stretch he’s finished between 3rd and 11th every race. Last fall Newman started 22nd, had a 17th place average running position and finished 11th. It should be noted he likely would’ve finished around 17th but the late caution during the pit cycle was favorable for him. Last spring he had a solid showing and was a consistent top ten performer. He started 5th, earned the 6th best driver rating, had a 6th place average running position and finished 3rd. In fall 2014 Newman didn’t have a great car but he managed to reach the championship round with his last lap “video game pass” on Kyle Larson. In the event he started in 20th, had a 13th place average running position and finished 11th. In the middle portion of the race Newman ran a lot of laps around 10th but in the final quarter he started to struggle and fell back to the mid-teens. Then when a caution came out with 24 laps to go he choose not to pit and moved up to about 5th. Over the closing laps he fell back to 12th until he made his last lap pass. In spring 2014 he ran well. He finished 7th, earned the 8th best driver rating and had a 10th place average running position. It was just an all-around good afternoon. In fall 2013 he finished 10th, led 31 laps, had a 12th place average running position and earned the 12th best driver rating. Last year at shorter-flat tracks Newman finished in the top 11 in every race except Richmond #2 where he was points racing. (Yahoo B Driver)

Further Recommended ReadingPhoenix Top Tier Elite Picks, Phoenix Mid Pack Predictions, Phoenix Scouting Report, Phoenix DraftKings Fall 2015 Points, Phoenix Fall 2015 Loop Data Box Score

Jamie McMurray – If you’re looking for a sleeper pick at Phoenix you should strongly consider Jamie McMurray. He’s a very competitive driver at shorter flat tracks like Phoenix. Last year at shorter flat tracks minus New Hampshire #1 where he had engine problems McMurray had a 9.6 average result and finished in the top 15 every race. Last fall McMurray had a quiet evening. He finished 15th, had a 15th place average running position and earned the 15th best driver rating. Last spring he had a great car and finished runner-up. Also in that race it should be noted he had a 5th place average running position and earned the 5th best driver rating. In the race he was happy with his car and was fast over long runs. Performance wise I think he was 4th place good because he benefited late from drivers who used poor pit strategy at the end. In fall 2014 he had a strong showing. He started in 19th and on lap #94 he raced his way up to 10th. Then during the pit cycle under yellow on lap 122 he was penalized for a tire violation that sent him back to about 30th. Over the next 120 laps he climbed up to the top ten again. Then with 68 laps to go while he was running in 15th he spun which cost him all of his track position. From that point to the conclusion he rallied up to his 14th place finish. In spring 2014 at Phoenix McMurray performed very well. He started 3rd, finished 10th, had the 10th best driver rating and an 11th place average running position. (Yahoo B Driver)

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