Well, NASCAR couldn’t have asked for a better setup (drama-wise) for this weekend’s Can-Am 500(k) at Phoenix International Raceway. We had Brad Keselowski–who is currently into the Championship Race by 19 points–qualify the worst of all playoff drivers on Friday while two drivers on the outside looking in, Ryan Blaney and Denny Hamlin, will lead the field to the green on Sunday. Oh, and don’t forget about Chase Elliott (who starts 4th) and Jimmie Johnson (12th), too. There are 312 laps before the final spot for Homestead is decided, and it’s bound to be a good one on Sunday.
The full starting lineup for Sunday’s race can be found by clicking here. There were two practice sessions held at Phoenix on Saturday, and the speeds from those two sessions can be found here: Practice #2 — Happy Hour. As always, our in-depth practice notes can be found here: Practice #2 — Happy Hour.
Final Top 25 Rankings for the Can-Am 500(k)
1. Denny Hamlin – Starts 2nd – DraftKings Price: $8,900 – Yahoo! A Group
**Risk Factor: Medium Risk**
It’s very possible that Denny Hamlin could make it to the Championship Race on points alone, but getting a win here on Sunday would be a hell of a lot easier. The problem with that scenario, though, is that Hamlin is a mentally weak driver and often crumbles under pressure (hello speeding penalties!). With that being said, the #11 Toyota is one of the fastest cars in the field this weekend, and Hamlin excels when racing at flat tracks. Additionally, he’s starting on the front row on Sunday, and track position means a lot here at Phoenix. As far as track history, Hamlin has five top 10 finishes in the last six races here in the desert, and it’s worth noting that he went to victory lane here back in 2012. Denny was 5th-fastest in Practice #2 on Saturday and then wound up 8th-fastest with the 3rd-best ten-lap average in the Happy Hour session. Momentum-wise, this #11 team has finished between 3rd and 7th in each of the last five Cup Series races overall, and they should extend that to six in a row here on Sunday–although they just might improve upon that first number.
2. Kyle Busch – Starts 8th – DraftKings Price: $11,100 – Yahoo! A Group
**Risk Factor: Low Risk**
Kyle Busch is an elite racer here at Phoenix International Raceway, but what’s interesting is that he has performed much better in the spring race here over the last couple of years compared to the fall event. Still, Rowdy is on a four-race streak of top 5 finishes at this track, and there’s no reason to think that he won’t compete for his fifth in a row in Sunday’s Can-Am 500(k). Kyle probably didn’t qualify as high as he should have here on Friday, but starting 8th isn’t a disadvantage here in the desert. As far as the practice sessions on Saturday, the #18 Toyota ranked 3rd-best in ten-lap average during Practice #2 and then 2nd-best during the Happy Hour session. I really only have two concerns with Kyle Busch this weekend from a Fantasy NASCAR perspective: 1.) he has been boom or bust in the Playoffs this year, with three wins along with four finishes of 15th or worse, and 2.) this team could already be focused on Homestead, as this race means nothing for the #18 crew. I wouldn’t be surprised if any of the three drivers locked into the Championship Race went with strategy late in the race here on Sunday to try and get a win in the desert.
3. Kevin Harvick – Starts 6th – DraftKings Price: $10,000 – Yahoo! A Group
**Risk Factor: Low Risk**
The Master of Phoenix has lost his edge a little bit at this 1-mile race track, but the good news for Harvick fans is that he’s already locked into Homestead, so it really doesn’t matter how the #4 Ford does here on Sunday. With that being said, crew chief Rodney Childers said he thinks they may have found a bit of their edge back, and I don’t disagree with him: the #4 Ford had the fastest car in in Practice #2 on Saturday and then wound up fastest in Happy Hour as well. He was 6th-best in ten-lap average. Harvick finished 6th here back in March, but he had to start 23rd in that race, so it was actually pretty impressive. This weekend, “Happy” will roll off the grid from 6th, which is where he started in last year’s fall Phoenix race as well. He ended up finishing 4th that day. There’s no reason to think that Harvick won’t post a top 5 result here on Sunday. He’s finished 6th or better in ten of the last eleven races at this track.