The Cup Series will get to roll out the 750 HP aero package this week to see how the cars can perform on a 1-mile D-shaped oval track. It is going to be tough to beat the race at Las Vegas that had 27 lead changes, but Phoenix Raceway usually puts on a pretty good show. The Instacart 500 can be seen Sunday at 3:30 p.m. ET on Fox.
The Driver Group Game picks struggled again last week. They looked good on paper, but the races are not run on paper. Kevin Harvick should have been a good pick from the pole but his car sucked all day. I sent Rodney Childers a Tweet, asking him if they mistakenly brought the Phoenix car to the track last week. He blocked me on Twitter, so I will take that as a no. Alex Bowman ran well, but had a tire go down at the end of the race (bad luck). Michael McDowell finally looked like Michael McDowell. That is not what I was hoping for. At least we did get a win from Kyle Larson. My luck needs to change sooner or later, right?
Short, Flat Tracks Stats from 2020
There were only four races on the short, flat tracks last year. They included the two races at Phoenix and the races at Loudon and Richmond. Martinsville is also a short, flat track but the setup is completely different for the paper-clip shaped track. We can learn a lot by looking at which drivers ran well in the races at Phoenix, Loudon and Richmond. Here is a breakdown of how each driver finished each race, their total Stage points and their total laps led….
Here are my picks for the Instacart 500…
Driver Group Game A Picks
Group A Pick: Chase Elliott will be my pick in Group A. I really like the speed that Hendrick Motorsports has right now. The combination of Chad Knaus overseeing all of the cars and the new Hendrick/Childress engine is paying off. Elliott was a beast at Phoenix last year. The No. 9 car led 93 laps, score 9 Stage points and finished 7th in the first race. Elliott came back in November and led 153 laps, scored 17 Stage points and won the race. I will take my chances with Elliott Sunday.
Other Good Picks include: Brad Keselowski was the King of the Short, Flat Tracks last year. He finished second, first, first and 11th in the four races. He also averaged 118.5 laps led and averaged 9.8 Stage points per race. Keselowski will have a great chance to win from the pole position Sunday.
Allocation Saver: Joey Logano did not look great in his last two races but that was in the 550 HP aero package. This will be a completely different race at Phoenix in the 750 HP aero package. Logano was one of the best drivers using this package last year. He won this race at Phoenix and came back in November and finished third. He also finished third at Richmond and fourth at New Hampshire. Logano averaged 46 laps led in these race and 14 Stage points per race. He should lead some laps, score a lot of Stage points and have a good chance to win Sunday.
Group A Driver Rankings: 1) Chase Elliott 2) Brad Keselowski 3) Joey Logano 4) Denny Hamlin 5) Kevin Harvick 6) Martin Truex Jr.7) Ryan Blaney
Driver Group Game B Picks
Group B Pick: Kyle Larson will be my pick for Group B. I need points to make up some ground in the Driver Group Game standings so I am using another allocation with Kyle Larson. People wondered how good Larson could be in good equipment. So far he is awesome. He won the race last week and finished fourth at Homestead. Now Larson gets to compete at another one of his best tracks. Larson has finished fourth, fourth, sixth and third in the current aero package at Phoenix. The No. 5 car starts on the front row and should lead some laps, score a lot of Stage points and have a good chance to make it back-to-back trips to Victory Lane.
Group B Pick: Kyle Busch sure hates his cars this year but he still finished the last two races in the top 10. Now Busch gets to compete at one of his best tracks. Busch has been money at Phoenix. The No. 18 car has a 3.6 average finishing position in his last 11 races at Phoenix. That is a large sample size with a lot of success. Busch has also scored Stage points in every Stage ever run at Phoenix. That includes four Stage wins and an average of 83 laps led per race. This is the week to use an allocation with Busch.
Other Good Picks: Ryan Blaney bounced back last week with a top-five finish in Las Vegas. The No. 12 car has been hit or miss at Phoenix. He has three finishes in the top-six at Phoenix in the current aero package and he has two finishes outside the top-30. Blaney will be fast. Can he stay out of trouble and finish the race? If he can, Blaney should finish in the top-five this week.
Allocation Save: William Byron would be my pick this week if I were not barried in my league standings. I need guaranteed points so I am using the Kyle’s. Byron has been on fire the last two weeks and he should not slow down in Phoenix. Byron finished both races at Phoenix in the top-10 last year. The No. 24 car is running a lot better this year than they were in 2020. Rudy Fugle will likely gamble since the team is locked into the playoffs. If you want to save an allocation with Kyle Larson or Kyle Busch, Byron should be your play this week.
Group B Driver Rankings: 1) Kyle Busch 2) Kyle Larson 3) Ryan Blaney 4) William Byron 5) Kurt Busch 6) Austin Dillon 7) Matt DiBenedetto 8) Tyler Reddick 9) Aric Almirola 10) Cole Custer
Driver Group Game C Picks
Group C Pick: Ricky Stenhouse Jr. will be my Group C pick this week. This pick is not so much about Stenhouse’s stats at Phoenix but more about what he has done this season. Stenhouse has finished all four races in the top-18, including an 11th-place finish last week and a 13th-place finish at Homestead. It is obvious that JTG Daugherty Racing has better cars from Richard Childress Racing this year because the No. 37 car (Ryan Preece) is also running well. I will play the hot hand with Stenhouse Sunday.
Other Good Picks: Bubba Wallace “should” be a good pick this week. He finished 15th and 19th in his two races at Phoenix last year. That was in a Richard Petty Motorsports Chevy. This week he will have a new car prepared by Joe Gibbs Racing. You would think he should be able to improve on last year’s results in better equipment. So far Wallace has been a bust this year, but a lot of his poor performances have been the results of bad luck. Maybe this is the week he gets it going.
Group C Driver Rankings: 1) Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 2) Bubba Wallace 3) Michael McDowell 4) Ross Chastain 5) Bubba Wallace
Driver Group Game Team
Good luck this week!
*Stats from Fantasy Racing Cheat Sheet Pro
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