1) Kevin Harvick (Starting – 6th)
Phoenix Bottom Line – Kevin Harvick will be a heavy favorite to win at Phoenix. He’s been a dominant performer in the desert and there’s no reason to suggest he won’t be the driver to beat again. In 5 of the last 6 Phoenix races he’s raced his way to victory lane. He should be a perfect 6 for 6 in the win column, but you’ll read about that below. On Sunday Harvick needs to win to advance. In the past when he’s been in this situation he’s always stepped up to the plate and has raced his way to the next round of the playoffs. This weekend he hasn’t looked like “Super Man” and there might be a chink in his armor. That said don’t count out overnight changes which can get his car to his liking.
Phoenix Track History – Kevin Harvick is a super elite performer at Phoenix. He’s won here 8 times and has won 5 of the last 6 races. Over those 6 races he’s been dominant in every statistical category (driver rating, laps led, fastest laps, average running position). This spring he had a great car and raced his way to victory lane from the 18th place starting position. In addition to finishing first he had a 4th place average running position and led 139 laps. Last fall he had the dominate car but lost it when an untimely caution came out during the pit cycle. The difference between him winning and losing was that he completed his pit stop, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. was in the middle of his when the field was frozen. The race never went back to green and he was sealed into finishing 2nd. Additionally in the race he earned the best driver rating, had a 2nd place average running position and led 143 laps. In spring 2015 he started on the pole, earned a perfect driver rating and led 224 laps. Nobody was going to beat him in that race. In the three Phoenix races prior to that he also raced his way to victory lane.
Recent Similar Track Success – This year at shorter flat tracks Kevin Harvick has scored the most points, has won twice, has a 3.2 average finish and is the only driver who’s finished in the top five every race.
Yahoo A Driver / DraftKings $10,600
2) Joey Logano (Starting – 4th)
Phoenix Bottom Line – Joey Logano will be a factor at Phoenix. When Penske needs to crank out more speed, like they’ll need to do this weekend, they always seem to find it. At Phoenix Logano has been a solid performer. If it wasn’t for the final caution / restart this spring he would have 6 straight top tens at Phoenix. One aspect I like about Logano is his momentum. In the last four races he’s had results of 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 9th. In Happy Hour Logano had good short run speed and long run speed. He had the 3rd quickest overall lap and the second best ten lap average. On Sunday look for Logano to compete for a top five.
Phoenix Track History – Joey Logano is a strong performer at Phoenix. In 5 of the last 6 races he’s finished in the top ten. The only race he finished outside the top ten was this spring. In that event he was likely around 9th place good but he lost a lot of positions following the late caution / restart which led to his 18th place result. Additionally in the race it should be noted Logano had a 7th place average running position and earned the 9th best driver rating. In the five Phoenix races prior to that he had a 6.0 average finish. Last fall he had a great car. He finished 3rd, earned the 3rd best driver rating and had a 4th place average running position. In spring 2015 he finished 8th, had a 5th place average running position and led 35 laps. In the three races prior to that he had results of 5th, 6th and 9th.
Recent Similar Track Success – This year at shorter flat tracks minus Phoenix #1 where he walked away with a misleading result Logano has an 8.0 average finish and has had a result in the top 11 every race. In the last two races on this track type he’s finished 10th and 11th.
Yahoo A Driver / DraftKings $10,200
Further Recommended Reading – Post Practice Predictions, Speed Cheat Sheet, Practice Notes / Practice Speeds Center, Qualifying Results, Yahoo Start Page, DraftKings Start Page, PROS Rankings, Asterisk Mark Report, The Low Tier
3) Matt Kenseth (Starting – 10th)
Phoenix Bottom Line – On Sunday I think Matt Kenseth has a very real chance to race his way into the Homestead finale. He’s a calm, cool, collected driver, who’s been a top ten machine in the Chase. In the playoffs he’s finished in the top five 50% percent of the time and has only once finished outside the top ten. In the last three races at shorter flat tracks Kenseth ranks as one of the strongest performers as you’ll read below. In both practice sessions on Saturday he had solid lap times over short runs and long runs. On Sunday I expect him to compete for a top five finish.
Phoenix Track History – Matt Kenseth has been a solid performer at Phoenix. Over the last four races he has an 8.7 average finish, 8.3 average running position and the 10th best driver rating. This spring he had a solid afternoon. He finished 7th and had an 11th place average running position. Last fall he missed the race due to suspension. In spring 2015 he had a 9th place average running position and finished 16th. I will note he was likely better than his result. In the race he got a speeding penalty and a late caution adversely affected him. In fall 2014 he ran very well. He finished 3rd, earned the 3rd best driver rating and had a 5th place average running position.
Recent Similar Track Success – This year at shorter flat tracks Matt Kenseth has been one of the best performers. If he wasn’t wrecked while running in the top five at Richmond #2 he would likely be a perfect 5 for 5 in terms of finishing in the top ten on this track type. In his last two incident free races on this track type he’s finished 1st and 2nd.
Yahoo A Driver / DraftKings $9,300