The NASCAR Cup Series will join the Xfinity Series at Phoenix Raceway this weekend. This is the most important race of the regular season because the next time the two series compete in Phoenix; it will be to crown a champion. The teams need to complete all of the laps so they have some data to work with if their time is good enough to make it into the championship race in November. The racing at Phoenix is usually pretty good and NASCAR is working hard to put on a good show Sunday.
FANTASY PICKS SCHEDULE
I bumped up the Best Bets article one day because some people asked to get the picks early before the odds changed. The Driver Group Game picks will be posted Friday evening. I want to see the 50-minute practice session before I decide what drivers to use this weekend.
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.
There were six drivers who tested this aero package at Phoenix Raceway in January. Those drivers included Joey Logano, Christopher Bell, Ross Chastain, Brad Keselowski, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Erik Jones. The word in the Garage is that Bell dominated the speed chart in that practice. It will be interesting to see which teams were able to take the data from this practice session and unload with some speed Friday for practice.
The drivers who ran well in the championship race typically run well in the spring race at Phoenix Raceway. I am not sure that trend will continue this week since there are so many unknowns this week (new nose and hoods on the cars, new aero package, different track temperatures), but it doesn’t hurt to look at the last race at Phoenix.
You can watch the extended highlights of last year’s championship race at Phoenix Raceway in the NASCAR Race Rewind
FANTASY STATS FOR PHOENIX
The best way to predict who will be fast is to look at the driver’s stats on similar race tracks. The new rules package is going to be a game changer this week, so I am not sure we can learn too much from what happened last year at the one-mile tracks. It still doesn’t hurt to look though. I plan to look at the stats from the chart posted below and match it up with the practice speeds Friday. The drivers who are on the top of both lists will be in my Fantasy NASCAR lineups.
Here are the drivers sorted by Driver Rating in the races on the one-mile, short, flat tracks in 2022 (Phoenix, Richmond and New Hampshire)…
EARLY WEEK PICKS FOR PHOENIX
It will be important to see the cars on track Friday and look at the long-run speeds before we make the final decisions for our picks, but I know some of you like to have an idea of what I am thinking early in the week. Here are my picks right now for the United Rentals 500 (k)…
ONE & DONE PICK: Chase Briscoe
DRIVER GROUP GAME PICKS: Joey Logano, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Chase Briscoe, Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr., Ryan Preece., Ty Gibbs
FANTASY LIVE PICKS: Joey Logano, Ryan Blaney, Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, (GARAGE) William Byron
Good luck this week!
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