The Cup Series will complete the “West Coast Swing” this week when they compete at Phoenix Raceway. NASCAR wanted the Gen-7 car to bring parity to the sport and they are close to achieving their goal. So far 28 drivers have finished in the top-10 through the first three races. That is the most in the Cup Series since 1973. Hendrick Motorsports and Team Penske still won all of the races. There is priority throughout the field, but the top teams continue to win the races. At least the parity is bringing more drivers into play for the Fantasy Live game.
Fantasy Live Strategy
The Fantasy Live picks are performing better than most teams. The picks are outscoring 98.5% of the entries and we are still looking good with our allocations for the season. I am still looking for that dominant performance when all of the drivers finish in the top 10 and score a lot of stage points. Hopefully we will have better luck this week and this is the race where our drivers finish up front.
So how do we pick our drivers this week? Do we use the drivers who have finished up front in recent races at Phoenix? Do we use the drivers who have been running up front in 2022? We are fortunate to have practice and qualifying back this year and I am taking advantage of it. The drivers who ran well in practice should run well in the race. I will be using a lot of the drivers who posted fast speeds on the single-lap and 10-lap average speed charts for my lineup Sunday.
Here are the speeds from Saturday’s practice at Phoenix…
Fantasy Live Lineup
Kyle Larson (9): We only get 10 allocations with Larson so we need to use them wisely. Larson won the last race at Phoenix and he has finished the last six races at the track in the top-seven (fourth-place average finishing position since 2017). I seen this stat this week and it amazed me…. Larson has run 39 races in the No. 5 car and he finished 18 of them in the TOP-TWO!!! If you remove the four Superspeedway races, that would be a top-two finish in 18 of 35 races (31%). Larson is just too good right now to fade. Larson has to start in the back but I am not worried about it. There should be a competition caution and Larson should be in the top-five by the end of Stage 1.
Ryan Blaney (9): NASCAR tested the Gen-7 car at Phoenix in January and Blaney had the fastest car. It looks like they found something in that test because Blaney is fast again this weekend. The No. 12 car posted the second-fastest speed in practice and was second-fastest on all of the long-run speed charts. Blaney won the pole so he should score a lot of Stage Points and finish in the top-five.
William Byron (9): Hendrick Motorsports won the last two races. Can they make it three in a row? I wouldn’t bet against them. Byron has had speed in every race this year. He looks fast again this week. Byron posted the fastest speed in practice and qualified third. The No. 24 car should spend a lot of time running in the top-10, score a lot of Stage Points and be a good pick for your Fantasy Live lineup.
Denny Hamlin (9): The No. 11 car has had a lot of speed but Hamlin has had a problem driving it. He had DNF’s in two of the three races and sits 30th in the Point Standings. He needs to turn his season around quickly and trip to Phoenix should be the medicine he needs to cure his problems. Hamlin finished five of the last six races at Phoenix in the top-five (including a win in 2019). Hamlin qualified on the front row. I will take a chance with Hamlin and hope this is the race where he gets back to being “Denny Hamlin.”
Joey Logano (8): I already burned two allocations with Logano but I am not worried about it. That was the plan heading into the season. Logano always gets off to a hot start and then cools off over the summer. Logano had a good car on the long-runs in practice. He was fifth-fastest on the 10-lap average speed chart and sixth-fastest on the 20 lap average speed chart. Logano’s car does have a scrape on the back fender but it should not be an issue. If the No. 22 team fixes the damage and Logano has to start in the back, I will switch this pick to Kyle Busch.
Garage Driver: Kevin Harvick (10): I will have the safest pick in the field in the Garage this week. Harvick has finished 17 races in a row at Phoenix in the top-10. If he finishes in the top-10 Sunday he will match Dale Earnhardt Sr. and Richard Petty who both have 18 consecutive top-10 finishes at North Wilksboro. Harvick was seventh-fastest on the 15-lap average speed chart. His car is set up for the long runs. Harvick should be a good insurance policy to have in the Garage Sunday.
Fantasy Live has a new Bonus Picks section this year. Instead of selecting the winning team or manufacturer, we will earn 10 bonus points for selecting the driver who finishes the best in a Head-to-Head matchup. Here are my picks for the matchups…
Martin Truex Jr. vs. Denny Hamlin (My Pick: Denny Hamlin
Kevin Harvick vs. Brad Keselowski (My pick is Kevin Harvick)
Alex Bowman vs. Christopher Bell (My pick is Christopher Bell)
Aric ALmirola vs. Ross Chastain (My pick is Arik Almirola)
Good Luck this week!
*Stats from Fantasy Racing CheatSheet Pro
* Team Information from Jaysky.com
If you need any further advice with your team, look for me on Twitter @MrFantasyNASCAR
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