Aric Almirola – Aric Almirola should definitely be on your fantasy NASCAR radar at Phoenix. It’s been a stellar track for him and over the last four races he has a 6.0 average finish, the 8th best driver rating and he’s finished in the top 9 every race. Currently at Phoenix, Almirola has back to back 4th place finishes. This spring in the desert, Almirola was strong. When the checkered flag waved he finished 4th, earned the 6th best driver rating, had an 8th place average running position and led 26 laps. Last fall late in the race he was very competitive. When the checkered flag waved he finished 4th, earned the 8th best driver rating and had a 10th place average running position. In spring 2018, he finished 7th, earned the 9th best driver rating and had a 13th place average running position. In fall 2017, Almirola snuck in a 9th place finish despite his 19th place average running position. On Sunday, look for Almirola to compete for a top ten.
William Byron – William Byron is a solid performer at shorter-flat tracks who should be counted on for a strong showing. On Sunday, I think he’ll be a high single-digit to low double-digit driver. In 5 of his 8 races on this sub-track type he’s finished between 9th to 14th. At Phoenix he’s finished within that range in 2 of his 3 races. Earlier this year in the desert, Byron showed potential, but finished a disappointing 24th. With 35 laps to go while he was running just outside the top ten he made a green flag pit stop. That was either very bad pit strategy, or an unexpected pit stop. From the race I’ll note he finished 8th in Stage #1 and had a 16th place average running position. “Performance Wise” I thought he was a low double-digit performer. Last year at Phoenix, Byron had a great season. In fall 2018 he started 19th and finished 9th. It was a strong performance for him. He finished 9th in Stage #2, had a 12th place average running position and earned the 12th best driver rating. In spring 2018 he finished 12th, had a 13th place average running position and earned the 13th best driver rating.
Jimmie Johnson – Don’t overlook Jimmie Johnson at Phoenix. He’s a strong performer at shorter-flat tracks and he’s run well in the desert. This year at shorter-flat tracks minus New Hampshire where he had problems he has an 8.7 average finish and an 11.7 average running position. At Phoenix, Johnson has run well and in 5 of the last 7 races he’s finished between 8th to 15th. In the two races he didn’t finish within that range he wrecked. This spring at Phoenix, Johnson was strong. He finished 8th, had an 8th place average running position and earned the 7th best driver rating. Last year, Johnson didn’t have a season to brag about and he finished mid-teens twice. Last fall he finished 15th and had a 16th place average running position. In spring 2018, he finished 14th, had a 15th place average running position and earned the 16th best driver rating. In fall 2017, Johnson was having a solid race, but his afternoon wasn’t incident free. On lap 149 while running in 11th he had a blown tire and got into the wall hard which marked the end of his race (finished 39th). Additionally, he finished 10th in Stage #1 and almost always ran within a few deviations of 10th. In spring 2017, Johnson had a solid race. He earned the 5th best driver rating, had a 7th place average running position and finished 9th. If there wasn’t a late caution he was on pace to finish 6th.