Kevin Harvick – Kevin Harvick is a super-elite performer at Phoenix. He’s an 8-time winner who has nine straight top 6 finishes. In the last three Phoenix races he’s been strong, but hasn’t been a factor to win. That’s notable because in the 6 races prior to that he was dominant having either finished in first or second. Last fall at Phoenix, Harvick was a solid top five performer. When the checkered flag waved he finished 5th, had a 6th place average running position, finished 5th in Stage #1 and 6th in Stage #2. In spring 2017 Harvick started in 23rd and raced his way up to a 6th place finish. I will note he was slightly better than his result and if the end of the race stayed green he was on pace to finish 3rd. In fall 2016 Harvick had a strong car, but he wasn’t his typical self and wasn’t a factor to win. He finished 4th and led zero laps. For much of the race Harvick looked about 10th place good but he started to run a little better at the end. In the six Phoenix races prior to that he had 5 wins and averaged leading 177 laps per race. On Sunday look for Harvick to compete for a top five finish and be a factor to win.
Kyle Busch – Kyle Busch will be a favorite to win at Phoenix. He runs extremely well here and is arguably the best driver at shorter flat tracks. Over the last five Phoenix races he’s performed at a very high-level. Over those five races he has a 4.0 average finish and a 6.0 average running position. Last fall at Phoenix he had a solid showing. He was already locked into the championship so it’s hard to say his team put in 100% effort. When the checkered flag waved he finished 7th, had a 7th place average running position and earned the 7th best driver rating. Additionally he finished 6th in Stage #1 and 5th in Stage #2. Last spring Kyle Busch was the class of the field but the late caution took away a certain victory. In the race he earned the best driver rating, finished 3rd, had a 3rd place average running position and led a race high 114 laps. With 6 laps to go he had a 3.25 second lead over second place Kyle Larson. In fall 2016 Busch had a strong car and finished runner-up. Additionally in the race he earned the 6th best driver rating and had a 10th place average running position. In spring 2016 Kyle Busch had a great car. He started on the pole, led 75 laps and finished 4th. Performance wise he likely had the second best car but near the mid-point he had a devastating pit stop that dropped him from 2nd to 16th (ran over air hose, had to back up, and too close to the wall). Last year at shorter flat tracks Busch had the best driver rating, best average running position (5.5) and the second best average finish (8.0).
Kyle Larson – Kyle Larson will be a contender to win at Phoenix. He’s become an elite driver at shorter flat tracks and he’s been knocking on the door to victory lane in recent Phoenix races. Last year at shorter flat tracks Larson scored the most points and minus the fall Phoenix race he had a 4.2 average finish and had a result in the top two in 4 of the 5 races. Over the last three Phoenix races Larson’s run exceptionally well and has been top three good. Last fall he had a great car but finished a misleading 40th after his engine blew up. At the time of his engine failure on lap 104 he was running in 2nd. Additionally from the race it should be noted he won Stage #1 and in a post-DNF interview he said he thought he had the best car. Last spring Larson had a great car. He finished 2nd, earned the 2nd best driver rating and had a 2nd place average running position. In fall 2016 he was also impressive and finished 3rd. It wasn’t an easy third though. In the race he started in 2nd and on lap 1 he was spun. Later in the race on lap 82 he spun again. From that point on he rallied hard up to his good result.