MENCS: Garage Talk Notes for Phoenix


The MENCS makes a trip out west this weekend for the “Last Chance Race” at ISM Raceway (Phoenix). Martin Truex Jr. and Kevin Harvick have secured their spot in the championship race. Two drivers will join them after the race in Phoenix. The Bluegreen Vacations 500 can be seen Sunday at 2:30 p.m. ET on NBC.

The Garage Talk Notes will not be as detailed as they usually are because final practice was Friday night and I had an obligation to attend to. This article should have enough info to help you make good picks for your Fantasy NASCAR teams this week. I will have the full Garage Talk Notes for the final race next week.


Track Notes

The cars will have the 750 HP engines with the 2” splitter, 8” spoiler and no aero ducts this week. This is the same aero package they have raced on all short tracks this season and nearly the same as what they raced last November in Phoenix. If you need to know who will be up front Sunday, look at the Richmond Results in the playoffs. Many of the drivers talked on the radio about how they made a couple of runs to test out a setup for Phoenix in that race.

All three series (Truck, Xfinity and Cup) will run the same tires this week. The teams will run the same right-side tire they ran in March with a new tire compound on the left-side. Teams will receive three sets of tires for the two practice sessions, one set for qualifying and eight sets for the race (plus one set from either qualifying or practice).

NASCAR will add traction compound to the track this week. Some teams (Stewart-Haas Racing and Team Penske) were concerned that the high winds in Phoenix will blow dust onto the “Sticky Stuff” and cause it to be slick.” The Chevy’s think it is good for their cars because the Camero does not cut the corners (turn) as well as the other cars. So Chase Elliott and Kyle Larson will benefit the most if the top lane comes in Sunday.


Stats from Races on Short, Flat Oval Tracks in 2019

Diver Avg. Finish Laps Led

Driver Rating

1. Kyle Busch

4.0 715 130.6

2. Martin Truex Jr.

4.8 303


3. Kevin Harvick




4. Denny Hamlin




5. Brad Keselowski




6. Ryan Blaney




7. Kurt Busch




8. Clint Bowyer




9. Joey Logano




10. Aric Almirola




11. Ryan Newman




12. Erik Jones




13. Chase Elliott




14. Jimmie Johnson




15. Kyle Larson




16. William Byron




17. Austin Dillon




18. Daniel Suarez




19. Alex Bowman




20. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.




21. Matt DiBenedetto




22. Paul Menard




23. Chris Buescher




24. Ty Dillon




25. Bubba Wallace Jr.




* Short, Flat Oval Tracks Include Phoenix, Richmond and New Hampshire


Driver Notes

Chase Elliott: The Round of 8 has not been kind to Elliott. After a 36th-place finish at Martinsville and a 32nd-place finish at Texas, Elliott is in a “must win” situation Sunday. Elliott took the early lead in the spring race and left the field in his exhaust. His success in the race was short-lived because NASCAR determined the No. 9 jumped the restart and had to do a pass-through penalty. This put Elliott a lap down and he spent the rest of the race trying to get his track position back. Elliott finished 2nd and 3rd at Phoenix in 2018 so he knows how to get around this track. The No. 9 team just needs to stop beating themselves. Stage points are meaningless for the No. 9 team since they must win. This takes away from his value in Fantasy Live. DraftKings / FanDuel do not award points for Stage points so Elliott will be a good Tournament Contest pick in DFS this week.

Jimmie Johnson: Johnson has not been much better than his teammate (Chase Elliott) in the Round of 8. Johnson finished 38th at Martinsville and 34th at Texas. The No. 48 car qualified 15th and finished 8th at Phoenix in March. Johnson really struggled at the start of the season so it was surprising to see him run so well. That was his only top-10 on a short, flat track this season so maybe it had more to do with luck than an outstanding performance.

Alex Bowman: When people think of Bowman at Phoenix most think he is a great sleeper pick because they remember his 6th place finish at the track when he filled in for an injured Dale Earnhardt Jr. in 2016. Bowman has been one of the worst drivers at the track since it was reconfigured. He finished 30th last November and 35th in March. Bowman has a 23.8 average finishing position on the short, flat tracks this season. Not very good.

William Byron: Byron has been the most consistent driver from Hendrick Motorsports. Byron has a 10.5 average finishing position in the playoffs (Not including the race at Talladega). Byron finished 13th at Richmond and 12th at New Hampshire earlier this season so he has been a decent Fantasy NASCAR pick. Byron qualified 7th and finished 24th at ISM in March but that had a lot to do with an uncontrolled tire penalty (Remember those…). Byron finished 9th in this race last year.

Kyle Larson: Larson could be a good sleeper pick this week, especially in DFS. Larson is not the first driver you think of when the series travels to the desert. Larson has been the second-best driver (behind Kyle Busch) since the track was reconfigured. Larson finished 3rd in this race last year and 6th in March. Larson is 23 points below the transfer spot for the playoffs so he may need to win to make it to Homestead. Larson will have a lot of help from Kurt Busch this weekend. Crew Chief Chad Johnston told Sirius XM radio this week, “NASCAR decided to add the traction compound to ISM Raceway. That should really help Kyle. I will bet on Kyle every time if the otter grove comes in Sunday.”

Kurt Busch: Busch announced last weekend that he was going to race at least two more seasons for Chip Ganassi Racing. He also said in that press conference that one of the reasons why he chose to return is because he wants to help Kyle Larson win a championship. The No. 1 team used a lot of their practice time to test setups for Larson last week at Texas and they did the same today. Busch has been to Victory Lane at Phoenix before so he knows his way around the track. Busch qualified 16th and finished 7th at ISM in March. He should finish in the top 10 Sunday.

Kevin Harvick: Harvick was the King of Phoenix between 2012 – 2017. He won 6 of the 9 races and finished 2nd in 2 other races. Since NASCAR forced teams to share data from their cars, Harvick lost his edge. Other drivers can now see where he was getting on and off the gas pedal and how he was using his brakes. Harvick has still been very good but not as dominant as he once was. Harvick is locked into the championship race at Homestead so he has nothing to race for Sunday. Harvick said on Fox Sports RaceHub this week, “Phoenix is the Championship race next year so we are going to do everything we can to run well. We need to learn as much as possible so we can be setup to run well if we are competing for the championship next year.”

Clint Bowyer: ISM Raceway ranks as the 14th best track for Bowyer. He only has one finish in the top 10 in his last 12 races at the track. Bowyer did finish 3rd and 8th at Richmond so maybe there is a chance he will run well Sunday. His average finishing position in the 8 playoff races is 13.5 so Bowyer has only been an “OK” Fantasy NASCAR pick since the start of September.

Daniel Suarez: Saurez is the only driver from Stewart-Haas Racing who does not have a contract for the 2020 season. Suarez entered the race at Texas last week after finishes of 34th (Charlotte Roval), 32nd (Talladega), 32nd (Kansas) and 31st (Martinsville). Those numbers do not scream.. “Give me a contract.” Suarez did step up last week with a 3rd-place finish at Texas. He needs another good finish Sunday. He will have his work cut out for him though since Phoenix ranks as his 17th best track. Suarez finished 36th and 23rd in the two races at Phoenix since the reconfiguration.

Aric Almirola: Whatever Kevin Harvick was selling for Phoenix; Almirola was buying it. He has really run well at the track since joining Stewart-Haas Racing. He said the first thing he did when he got to SHR was to sit down with Harvick and ask how he was so good at Phoenix. Almirola finished 4th in both races since the track was reconfigured. He has never finished worse than 9th in a SHR car at the track. Almirola will have some momentum after his 2nd place finish last week at Texas.

Brad Keselowski: Keselowski does not have much momentum heading into the race at Phoenix. His average finishing position in his last four races is 21.5. Keselowski could have a good chance to turn things around Sunday. He finished 2nd and scored 13 Stage points in this race last year. Keselowski also won the pole and finished 4th at Richmond in September. I am sure Team Penske Racing will be more focused on their two playoff drivers, but Keselowski should still be a good pick in Fantasy Live.

Joey Logano: Logano won the November race at Phoenix in 2016 and it has been all downhill from there. Logano’s poor finishes at ISM Raceway has a lot more to do with penalties and bad luck then with slow cars. Logano is the cut line this week so he needs to stay ahead of Denny Hamlin, Ryan Blaney, Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott if he wants to advance on points. That is not going to be easy to do. Logano finished 2nd at Richmond earlier this season so he has the ability to run well on the short, flat tracks.

Ryan Blaney: Blaney could be the best chance Team Penske has to make the final four this season. Blaney had the 2nd-best car in the race at Phoenix in March. Blaney won the pole; won Stage 1, led 94 laps and finished 3rd. Blaney is 23 points below the transfer line for the playoffs so he will likely need a win to advance. He ranks 6th this year on the short, flat tracks so he has a decent chance to get to Victory Lane.

Paul Menard: There is just nothing exciting about playing Paul Menard in your Fantasy NASCAR lineup. His average starting position on the short, flat tracks this season is 17.4 and his average finishing position is 19.2. Menard qualified 17th and finished 17th at Phoenix in March. He will likely finish between 17th – 20th Sunday. Menard will only have value in DFS if he qualifies 30th like he did last week at Texas.

Kyle Busch: All of the numbers point to Busch easily winning the race Sunday. He won both races at Phoenix since the track was reconfigured, he finished 2nd at Richmond in September and he leads the series with 715 laps led on the short, flat tracks this season (412 more than any other driver). Busch is 22 points to the good for the playoffs so he will only need a top 5 finish in order to advance. It will be interesting to see if Busch will settle for a top 5 finish or go for the win if his teammate (Denny Hamlin) is competing for the win. (That way both Joe Gibbs Racing cars will get into the final four)

Erik Jones: Joe Gibbs Racing has dominated the short, flat tracks this season but Jones has not been part of the party. The No. 20 car finished 29th at Phoenix in March and 14th and 38th at Richmond. He did have a good race at New Hampshire though. Jones qualified 4th and finished 3rd in the Granite State. Jones had a 10th place average finishing position at Phoenix before the track was reconfigured. He has a 23rd average finishing position at the track since the start-finish line was moved.

Denny Hamlin: Hamlin is a good pick to win Sunday. He has historically been very good on the short, flat tracks but most of his success has come in his home state of Virginia. Hamlin did win at Phoenix in 2012. The No. 11 car qualified 3rd and finished 5th at Phoenix in March. Hamlin also finished 3rd and 5th at Richmond and 2nd at New Hampshire. Hamlin sits 20 points below the playoff cut line so he will likely need to win in order to advance to Homestead. He will have a lot of help from Martin Truex Jr. and Erik Jones to get the job done Sunday.

Martin Truex Jr.: Truex has been the best driver on the short tracks this season and it is not even close. Truex won both races at Richmond, won at Dove and he won at Martinsville. Truex has never been to Victory Lane at Phoenix but he has finished 3 of the last 4 races at the track in the top 5. Truex does have some risk this week though since his spot in the championship four is already secured. Truex has nothing to race for. Like Harvick, I expect the No. 19 team try to have a good race so they can take some momentum into Homestead.

Matt DiBenedetto: DiBenedetto has been one of the biggest surprises this season on the short tracks. The No. 95 car finished 5th at New Hampshire, 2nd at Bristol and 7th at Dover. DiBenedetto has been better on the short, steep tracks (Bristol and Dover) than he has been on the short, flat tracks. I also heard that Joe Gibbs Racing is not sharing as much info with DiBenedetto once he announced he is going to the Wood Brothers in 2020. I still expect DiBenedetto to run in the top 20 Sunday.

Daniel Hemric: Hemric only has two more races in the No. 8 car before Tyler Reddick takes over the seat in 2020. Hemric is racing for his future so you know he will be giving it all he has to give Sunday. The problem is that he has not been very good on the short tracks this season. Hemric has a 21.9 average starting position and a 25th average finishing position on the short tracks this season. Hemric finished 18th in the race at Phoenix in March.

Austin Dillon: Dillon could be a good sleeper pick Sunday. He has a habit of coming out of nowhere and finishing up front. Dillon qualified 15th and finished 8th in this race last year. He also finished 6th at Richmond earlier this season. Dillon is more of a DFS gamble pick than he is for season long Fantasy NASCAR games.

Ty Dillon: Ty Dillon is also a good sleeper pick. He has run decent on the short tracks this season and the No. 13 team has improved since they received more funding for their team a month ago. Dillon finished 15th at Phoenix in March and 19th in this race last year. Dillon is worth a spot in your DFS lineups if he qualifies outside the top 20.

Chris Buescher: Buescher has two more races in the No. 37 car before he moves to the No. 17 at Roush Fenway Racing. The word in the garage is that the relationship between Buescher and JTG Daugherty Racing was damaged when the driver shocked his team with his announcement to leave. Buescher has a 14.6 average finishing position in his last 3 races so I still think this team has a good enough relationship to run well. Buescher qualified 22nd and finished 16th at Phoenix in March. I expect a similar race from him Sunday.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.: Stenhouse has been hit or miss at Phoenix, hit or miss at the short, flat tracks and hit or miss at all other tracks. His inconsistency is the reason he lost his ride at Roush-Fenway Racing and the reason why he is a risky Fantasy NASCAR pick. Stenhouse finished 13th at Phoenix in March, but he finished 33rd at this track last year. Which Stenhouse will we get Sunday? He is a hard driver to predict.

Ryan Newman: Newman is at his best on the short, flat tracks. The No. 6 car finished 12 in the spring race at Phoenix, 5th and 9th at Richmond and 7th at New Hampshire. Newman was in Victory Lane at this track only two years ago so he has to have a little extra excitement heading into the race Sunday. I do not expect the No. 6 car to qualify up front but I do expect Newman to finish in the top 10 again at Phoenix.


Favorites to win Sunday: Denny Hamlin, Ryan Blaney, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, Joey Logano, Kyle Larson and Martin Turex Jr.


Good Sleeper Picks: Erik Jones, Clint Bowyer, Aric Almirola, Daniel Suarez, Paul Menard, Matt DiBenedetto and Austin Dillon



MENCS Final Practice Speeds


MENCS Final Practice 10-Lap Avg.Speeds



Click Here for Friday 1st Practice Speeds



Follow me on Twitter @MrFantasyNASCAR