Early Week Driver Rankings for Phoenix


The Cup Series will complete the “West Coast Swing” Sunday when the checkered flag is waived in the United Rentals 500(k) at Phoenix Raceway. This is the most important race on the regular season schedule because it is also the track the Cup Series will crown their 2023 champion at. This race tends to get wild as drivers cut the dogleg as they make a run to the start/finish line. It may be even wilder this year.

The racing on the short tracks was not very good last year, so NASCAR is making changes to the cars to help improve the action during the race. Each manufacture entered the season with a new nose and hood on their cars. This should change the way the cars drive Sunday, but that is not all of the changes that NASCAR made.

NASCAR announced last week that the Cup Series will use a new aero package at the short tracks (not including Bristol and Dover) this year. The rear-spoiler will be reduced from 4” to 2”. There are also many changes made to the diffuser underneath the car. All of this adds to about a 30% reduction in downforce and should make the cars more difficult to drive and more on the edge.

All of these changes are going to affect the way the cars drive and it could bring new drivers into play this weekend. We will not know for sure which team will hit on the setups until the 50-minute practice session is completed Friday.

I used the data from the two races at Phoenix last year, the data from the short, flat track races in 2022 and the data from the last six races at Phoenix to figure out the “Early Week Driver Rankings”. I also gave a slight bump to Ross Chastain, Brad Keselowski, Christopher Bell, Joey Logano, Erik Jones and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. since they tested the aero package at Phoenix in January.

Here are my early week driver rankings for the United Rentals 500(k)

1. Joey Logano
2. Ryan Blaney
3. Kevin Harvick
4. William Byron
5. Ross Chastain
6. Denny Hamlin
7.  Kyle Busch
8. Chase Briscoe
9. Kyle Larson
10. Christopher Bell
11. Aric Almirola
12. Tyler Reddick
13.  Martin Truex Jr.
14. Austin Cindric
15. Chris Buescher
16. AJ Allmendinger
17. Austin Dillon
18. Daniel Suarez
19. Brad Keselowski
20. Alex Bowman
21. Erik Jones
22. Bubba Wallace
23. Ryan Preece
24. Ty Gibbs
25. Josh Berry
26. Harrison Burton
27. Justin Haley
28. Michael McDowell
29. Noah Gragson
30. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
31. Zane Smith
32. Corey LaJoie
33. Todd Gilliland
34. Ty Dillon
35. Cody Ware
36. B.J. McLeod

 The updated rankings will be posted Saturday after qualifying.


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