Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. have both qualified for the championship race at Homestead-Miami in two weeks due to the face of Kevin winning the race at Texas and Martin having enough points that no one will be able to overtake him in next week’s race at Phoenix. That leaves one spot open for the remaining five drivers to fight for. Jimmie Johnson and Chase Elliott need to win the race to move on and I think we are going to see a lot of aggressive driving coming up in this week’s race.
The last race before the championship race will be held at the Phoenix International Raceway in Avondale, AZ. This is a one-mile fairly flat track. This will be a 500 km race, or about 312 miles. Can one of the five remaining drivers win this race and knock out the other hopefuls, or will we have a couple of drivers make the championship race on points?
Kevin Harvick: Kevin has eight wins at this track to lead all drivers here. He has also won six of the last ten races run here after the track was reconfigured and he will want to do everything he can to keep the likes of Jimmie Johnson out of the championship race. I think Kevin will get back to his winning ways here this weekend and give himself a lot of momentum as he heads to Homestead in search of his second championship.
Jimmie Johnson: Jimmie is second among all active drivers with four wins at this track. He needs to win this weekend if he wants to have a shot at winning his eighth championship. This team hasn’t been on the top of their game this season during the playoffs and it is going to be hard for them to come away with the win this weekend. Jimmie hasn’t run as consistent here as he did before the track was reconfigured and I don’t think he is going to make the championship race.
Kurt Busch: Kurt is usually very good at Phoenix and he has run well lately on all types of tracks. I think this is one of his favorite tracks on the circuit and I think he is going to have another strong run this weekend. A win here will go a long way towards getting him resigned with Stewart-Haas Racing. I see him coming away with a top five finish this weekend.
Denny Hamlin: Denny had a shot to win at Martinsville a couple of weeks ago and this track is similar in its layout. Denny will try to do everything in his power to get the win here so he doesn’t have to worry about racing his way into the championship on points. Any of the other four drivers win this race and Denny is out no matter how many points he has racked up. A second place finish here might not be enough to get him into the championship race.
Kyle Busch: Kyle is already locked into the championship race, but like the rest of those already in, Kyle is going to do everything he can to keep the likes of Jimmie Johnson out of the championship race. I think this is going to be one of the best championship races since the new playoff format started. Kyle has one win and sixteen top ten finishes in his twenty-four starts at this track.
Chase Elliott: Chase came oh so close once again at Martinsville a few weeks ago and a win here would get him into the championship race. That is a lot of pressure to put on a rookie who is still looking to win his first race in the series, but I think he can do it. He should have a lot of confidence heading into the weekend because of how well he ran at Martinsville and he just might pull off the upset here.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Dale has three wins at Phoenix in his career. He has run better lately other than having a mechanical issue at Texas last weekend. I look for him to run well here once again this weekend and maybe get himself in position to win one more race before he retires at the end of the season. I know there are going to be a lot of fans pulling for him in these next two weeks.
Kyle Larson: Kyle has three straight DNF’s. I think that comes to an end this weekend and he comes away with a top ten finish at Phoenix. This is the type of track where he will be at his best and he can relax a little bit. This team is looking to get a little momentum going into the off season so they can come back with a good attitude and a lot of confidence next year.
Brad Keselowski: Brad is going to do everything he can to pick up a win this weekend and propel himself into the championship race. This team has struggled a little bit lately with something always seeming to happen to them early in a race and then they have to spend the majority of the race trying to get back in contention. I think they will run well this weekend and have themselves in a position to battle for the win late in the race.
Ryan Newman: Ryan won the race here this spring which got him into the playoffs. He has two wins and ten top five finishes in thirty career starts at this track. They haven’t really run well lately, but he is someone you might want to take a chance on this week if you are looking to make up some ground in your league.
YAHOO! FANTASY NASCAR PICKS FOR PHOENIX INTERNATIONAL RACEWAY
Yahoo Driver Group A
- Kevin Harvick
- Kyle Busch
Yahoo Driver Group B
- Kurt Busch
- Kyle Larson
- Chase Elliott
- Ryan Newman
Yahoo Driver Group C
- Daniel Suarez
- Michael McDowell
MY TOP-5 OVERALL AT PHOENIX INTERNATIONAL RACEWAY
- Kevin Harvick
- Kyle Busch
- Kurt Busch
- Denny Hamlin
- Jimmie Johnson
Dark Horse: Chase Elliott
Stay Away From: Trevor Bayne
Big 18: Kevin Harvick