NASCAR Picks for Phoenix
Length: 1.000 miles
Shape: D-shaped Tri-Ov
Location: Avondale, Arizona
Sandwiched between a pair of speedy 1.5-mile ovals is this weekend's race at Phoenix International Raceway. Sunday's AdvoCare 500 is the penultimate race of the 2013 season, and it is also the most unique challenge remaining for drivers and fantasy owners. After all, Phoenix has one of the strangest layouts of any track on the schedule. Not only are the corners flat, but two sets of corners are dramatically different from each other. As a result, passing is incredibly difficult and setting up a car to run well in both sets of corners might be even harder. Plain and simple, there really isn't a track on the schedule that can be used as a barometer of what to expect at Phoenix, and not surprisingly, there are drivers that run much better at PIR than they normally do and vice versa. As a result, it may take a little more work on the part of fantasy owners in order to assemble a strong lineup for this weekend's trip to the desert.
Jimmie Johnson, #48 Lowe's/Kobalt Tools, Hendrick Motorsports [Yahoo Class A]
His 6.5 average finish at Phoenix is by far the best in the series; in 20 starts at the track, Johnson has 16 top-10 finishes. More importantly, he is a four-time winner at the track and has 13 top-five finishes -- including 12 in the last 14 races. Johnson finished second at Phoenix earlier this year, and there isn't a safer bet for a top-five finish this weekend.
Kevin Harvick, #29 Budweiser/Rheem, Richard Childress Racing [Yahoo Class A]
Harvick is the defending winner of this weekend's race, and he is a three-time winner at the track overall. Meanwhile, he has racked up six top-15s in his last seven starts at Phoenix, including three straight. During the stretch, Harvick has finished sixth or better four times.
Brad Keselowski, #2 Miller Lite, Penske Racing [Yahoo Class A]
After a modest start to his career at Phoenix, Keselowski has been on a tear at the track recently. He has reeled off three straight finishes of sixth or better at the track, posting a 5.0 average finish during the stretch. Keselowski finished a career-best fourth at Phoenix earlier this year; at his current pace, a win at the track could be in his future as early as this weekend.
Carl Edwards, #99 Fastenal/Aflac/UPS/Subway, Roush Fenway Racing [Yahoo Class B]
He is going for a season sweep at Phoenix this weekend after winning at the track in the first month of the season. Meanwhile, Edwards has three finishes of second or better in his last three starts at Phoenix, including a pair of wins. He is the only driver to win multiple races at the track during the stretch, giving him as much upside as any driver in the field this weekend.
Kyle Busch, #18 Mars Brands/Interstate Batteries, Joe Gibbs Racing [Yahoo Class B]
Busch won in just his second Cup start at Phoenix, and while he hasn't been back to victory lane, he has remained a consistent performer at the track. In fact, he has finished in the top 15 in six of his last eight starts at Phoenix. Busch has four top-10s during the stretch, including a third-place finish at the track last fall.
Kasey Kahne, #5 Farmers Insurance/Quaker State, Hendrick Motorsports [Yahoo Class A]
Fantasy owners shouldn't let his 19.1 average finish at Phoenix scare them away. After all, Kahne has been dialed in at Phoenix the past couple of years. In his last five starts at the track, he has finished sixth or better three times, including a win and a fourth-place finish in the last two fall races.
Matt Kenseth, #20 Husky/Dollar General, Joe Gibbs Racing [Yahoo Class A]
Although he is a former winner at Phoenix, Kenseth has gone 11 straight starts at the track without logging a top-five finish. On the plus side, he does have six top-15s in his last seven starts at the track, including three straight, so it's not like he has been a bad option by any means. Kenseth may not be the best option in Yahoo! leagues this weekend, but he should still be good for a top-10.
Denny Hamlin, #11 FedEx, Joe Gibbs Racing [Yahoo Class A]
His career numbers at Phoenix are outstanding, and his 9.8 average finish at the track is the second best in the series. Meanwhile, Hamlin has finished sixth or better in nine of his 16 starts at Phoenix and has seven finishes of third or better. Hamlin has actually finished in the top three in his last three starts at Phoenix, and while his value takes a bit of a hit because he hasn't been having a great year, his upside is tremendous.
Jeff Gordon, #24 Drive to End Hunger/Axalta, Hendrick Motorsports [Yahoo Class A]
Gordon has been rock solid at Phoenix throughout his career, piling up 20 top-10s in 29 starts to go along with an 11.4 average finish. With six finishes of 11th or better in his last eight starts at the track -- including a ninth-place run earlier this year -- fantasy owners should expect another steady performance this weekend.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., #88 National Guard/Diet Mountain Dew, Hendrick Motorsports [Yahoo Class B]
While Junior actually won back-to-back races at Phoenix early in his career, recent history suggests that he is more of a top-10 option. After all, he has finished in the top 15 in five of his last seven starts at the track, but has just one top-five finish in his last 16 starts. Junior won't carry a fantasy team this weekend, but he should help out owners as a useful addition.
Ryan Newman, #39 Quicken Loans/Haas Automation, Stewart-Haas Racing [Yahoo Class B]
Although he is normally a middle-of-the-road fantasy option, he is the middle of excellent stretch at Phoenix. Newman has logged five top-five finishes in his last seven starts at the track, picking up one win during the stretch. It's tough to deny his top-five upside this weekend, he is definitely worth considering in a variety of fantasy formats.
Kurt Busch, #78 Furniture Row, Furniture Row Racing [Yahoo Class B]
Busch is a former winner at Phoenix, and he has been solid at the track in recent years. He has seven top-15 finishes in his last 10 starts at Phoenix, including six top-10s. Busch finished eighth at the track last fall, and he should finish in or around the top 10 again this weekend.