The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series will compete at ISM Raceway (Phoenix) this week. The track was reconfigured last year. Well, kind off. The only change that was made to the racing surface was the finish line was moved from the front stretch to the back stretch. The location of the line made a difference in the race. Some drivers who struggled at Phoenix ran well. The race should be fun to watch this week. The TicketGuardian 500 is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. ET on Fox.
The MENCS will have a normal schedule this week. The first practice is scheduled for Friday at 1:30 p.m. ET (No TV). Qualifying is Friday evening at 6 p.m. ET (FS1). There will be two practices Saturday. The first is at 11:30 a.m. ET (FS1) and the final practice is at 2 p.m. ET (FS1). Our lineups need to be submitted before 7 a.m. ET on Friday!
I am looking back at the November race at Phoenix to analyze the race for the Sunday. The location of the start / finish line made a difference, so the results this week should be closer to the November results then the March results in 2018. Kevin Harvick won the pole and led 73 laps but a flat tire sent the No. 4 car two laps down. Chase Elliott took the lead and won Stage 1. Kurt Busch dominated Stage 2 but he passed the pace car under caution so he was penalized 1 lap. After a HUGE wreck at the end of the race, Kyle Busch held off Brad Keselowski to win the race.
Race Rewind at Phoenix: Cam-Am 500
We need a bounce back race after the disaster in Las Vegas. We needed a caution to get Austin Dillon and Ryan Blaney back on the lead lap after their pit road penalties. The race went caution free and we were screwed. Fantasy NASCAR is a marathon and not a sprint. Everyone has a bad race, but it sucks ours happened this early. The race at Phoenix is more predictable so I expect great results Sunday.
Here are my picks for Phoenix…
Driver Group Game A Picks
Kevin Harvick (7): When the MENCS travels to Phoenix you must have Harvick on your team. He is not as dominant at the track as he was between 2012 – 2016 (He won 6/8 races in the time period) but he is still very good. Harvick has a 2.4 average finishing position in the last 11 races at Phoenix. Wow! And he led 1,175 in those races. To say Harvick knows his way around this track is an understatement. This is one of those races where you plan on burning an allocation with the No. 4 car.
Kyle Busch (8): As good as Harvick is at Phoenix, Busch mighthave been a little better last year. Busch finished 1st and 2nd in the two races at the track in 2018. He led 128 laps in the March race and 117 laps in the November race. Busch was pissed after the race in Las Vegas because he did not complete the sweep in his home town. Whenever Busch is extra motivated for a race I make sure he is on my team. I think Busch will be the 4th driver in 4 races to visit Victory Lane this season.
Group A Driver Rankings: 1) Kyle Busch 2) Kevin Harvick, 3) Brad Keselowski 4) Kyle Larson 5) Martin Truex Jr. 6) Chase Elliott 7) Joey Logano
Driver Group Game B Picks
Denny Hamlin (8): Hamlin was running 2nd in the last race at Phoenix when he got into a wreck with Kurt Busch and took out half of the field. I doubt that will happen again. Hamlin has been hit or miss at Phoenix in his career but he is off to a hot start in 2019 so I will play him. Hamlin has led 226 laps between the last three races in Phoenix. Momentum is important in Fantasy NASCAR so I will play Hamlin while he is on a hot streak.
Erik Jones (8): Phoenix ranks as the 3rd-best track for Jones so this is a good week to get the No. 20 car into your lineups. Jones has an 8.4 average starting position and a 11.2 average finishing position. His stats would be a lot better if he was not involved in the big wreck at the end of the race last year. Jones is another driver who is off to a hot start this season. I have no problem burning an allocation with Jones Sunday.
Aric Almirola (7): Before the season started I would have never thought Almirola would be the best driver in Group B. But it is true. He has been on fire since the playoffs began last year. Almirola ran two races in a Stewart-Haas Racing car at Phoenix. He finished 7th in March and 4th in November. Almirola even finished 9th in his last race at Phoenix while driving for Richard Petty Motorsports. This is the 4th-best track for Almirola so there is no need to save an allocation with him Sunday.
Kurt Busch (8): Busch really ran well at Phoenix in November. He took the lead in Stage 2 and led 52 laps before he was involved in the big wreck. Busch has run a lot better than he has finished at Phoenix. That was the case at Las Vegas too. Busch is off to a good start in 2019 so he should have another good run Sunday.
Group B Driver Rankings: 1) Denny Hamlin 2) Aric Almirola 3) Erik Jones 4) Kurt Busch 5) Clint Bowyer 6) William Byron 7) Ryan Newman 8) Ryan Blaney 9) Alex Bowman 10) Jimmie Johnson
Driver Group Game C Picks
Daniel Hemric (6): I was thinking about leaving Hemric off the team this week and taking a chance with another Group C driver, but then I looked at his Xfinity Series stats at Phoenix. Hemric finished 2nd in the November race and had a good chance to win it. He has competed in 4 Xfinity Series races at the track and his average finishing position is 5th. That should translate into a top-15 finish in the MENCS. Richard Childress Racing has found some speed this season. I will use Hemric while they are running well.
Chris Buescher (8): Buescher does not have the best stats at Phoenix but JTG Daugherty switched to Hendrick Motorsports engines right before this race in November. It made a big improvement for the No. 37 team. Buescher qualified 25th and finished 18th. He should finish in the top 20 again now that the team has had more time to work with the new car and engines. Buescher has been one of the more reliable drivers in Group C so I will have him in my lineup this week.
Group C Driver Rankings: 1) Daniel Hemric 2) Chris Buescher 3) Matt DiBenedetto 4) Ty Dillon 5) Ryan Preece
Driver Group Game Team
Group A: Kevin Harvick (7), Kyle Busch (8)
Group B: Denny Hamlin (8), Erik Jones (8), Aric Almirola (7), Kurt Busch (8)
Group C: Daniel Hemric (6), Chris Buescher (8)
I will post my final picks for Driver Group Game after final practice Saturday.
If you need any further advice with your team, look for me on Twitter @MrFantasyNASCAR
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