After a back-to-back races at 1.5-mile ovals, NASCAR’s West Coast swing will continue this weekend at ISM Raceway. Many fans will know ISM better as Phoenix, and while the track recently underwent a reconfiguration, it still challenges drivers with little banking and two different sets of corners.
Sunday’s TicketGuardian 500 will also feature a high-horsepower package (750 HP) that could increase tire wear a bit and potentially put the race back in the hands of the driver a little more than at the intermediate speedways.
I won’t be discounting what has happened on the track the last couple of weeks, especially when it comes to trying to decide which middle-tier drivers stand out above the rest. However, I will also be putting a lot of stock in past results at Phoenix.
This is just a unique track in terms of both layout and the approach a driver needs to take, and we have seen a few drivers build incredible resumes here. Changes to the rules and the track can alter the hierarchy a bit, but I think you can comfortably lean on a few Phoenix aces to build the foundation for strong lineups this weekend.
1. Kevin Harvick, #4 Jimmy Johns/Busch Beer, Stewart-Haas Racing
He’s always been one of the best at Phoenix, but his numbers here with Stewart-Haas Racing are ridiculous. In 10 starts, his worst finish is sixth, and he has compiled a 2.7 average finish and five wins. Harvick won the March here last year, and he led more than 70 laps in the fall event. He isn’t slowing down.
2. Kyle Busch, #18 M&M’s, Joe Gibbs Racing
Busch led 128 laps and finished second in the March race last year and led 117 laps in a win in the fall. He now has six Top 5s in his last seven starts here and hasn’t finished worse than seventh in that span. Busch has also led more than 100 laps in three of the last four Phoenix races and at least 75 laps in four of the last six.
3. Brad Keselowski, #2 Miller Lite/Discount Tires, Team Penske
He’s been on fire to open 2019, and I don’t expect him to cool off this weekend. Keselowski has great numbers at the flat tracks, including Phoenix, and he was the runner-up in the fall race here a year ago.
4. Chase Elliott, #9 NAPA Auto Parts, Hendrick Motorsports
Elliott has quickly amassed a strong resume at Phoenix, logging four Top 10s in six starts and a pair of Top 3 finishes in his last three starts. He has also led more than 15 laps in three of the last four races here. This a track to target him in across all fantasy formats.
5. Joey Logano, #22 Shell-Pennzoil, Team Penske
With four straight finishes outside the Top 10 at Phoenix, Logano has been in a bit of a slump here. However, his mini slump was proceeded by a win in the fall of 2016, and he has been excellent out of the gate in 2019. I’d be fine to ride the hot hand this weekend.
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