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TicketGuardian 500: Power Rankings

A group of first time selections in 2018

NASCAR: Pennzoil 400 presented by Jiffy Lube Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The rules I have implemented for myself are:

1.I will not pick a driver more than 10 times this season.

2.Due to #1 these are “Power Rankings” (in quotations) such that I’m not going to be picking Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Busch every week. I’m looking for value here.

My general format for my power rankings:

•Top 2 picks will generally be the favorites, the ones who should be top 5 or top 10 finishes.

• #3 and #4 will be your riskier picks, could be top 5 or bottom 15.

• Pick #5 is the dark horse.

Race Information

Race: TicketGuardian 500

Laps: 312

Date: March 11th

Venue: ISM Raceway

2017 Winner: Ryan Newman (3:00)

Broadcast: Fox (Darrel Waltrip & Jeff Gordon)

Course: ISM Raceway opened in 1964. It runs at 1 mile low bank asphalt track with turns curving between 8-11 degrees. Home to the TicketGuardian 500 and CanAm 500 later in the playoffs, the desert is surrounded by Estrella Mountains. The introduction of a dog-leg coupled with bumping up the angle slightly on two turns to allow for more side by side racing due to the speed around the turns and multi-grooves.

Power Rankings

1) Kevin Harvick (1st selection this year). I’ll be honest, he won back to back races for the 5th time in his career and he’s NEVER won three in a row. Given that I was inclined NOT to pick him; however, guess who has the most wins at ISM Raceway…yup Kevin Harvick (8). Plus his car just seems so much faster than every other one right now.

2) Kyle Larson (1st selection this year). 2nd last year, 12th in 2016 and 10th in 2015. This season he’s been improving with each race – 19th at Daytona, 9th at Atlanta and 3rd last week at Las Vegas. I think he is the most legitimate option to stop Kevin Harvick’s current win streak.

3) Ryan Newman (1st selection this year).. Last year’s winner here was not as lucky in 2016, he had an accident that took him out of the race where he finished in last place just 50 laps in. In 2015 he finished 3rd so by outside appearances he should be a strong play here. I’m cautious as he’s been up and down this season with an 8th place finish at Daytona, 22nd at Atlanta and 11th last week at Las Vegas. I’m leaning 65/35 on him being a top 5 finisher but there are reasons to be guarded.

4) Erik Jones (1st selection this year). He finished 8th here last year and he finished 8th last week in Las Vegas. Ergo he finishes 8th this week? Joe Gibbs racing has been interesting this season as Erik Jones, Kyle Busch, Daniel Suarez and Denny Hamlin have had a handful of top 5 finishes but also a handful of bottom 5 finishes too.

5) Ricky Stenhouse Jr (1st selection this year). He’s not having the best start to 2018 NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series. 29th at Daytona and he’s finished outside the top 10 in the last two tournaments. He finished 12 here in 2015, a wreck took him out of the 2016 race 161 laps in and last year he finished 4th. Roush Fenway racing is improving.

2018 Stats

Favorites: Avg Finish 7th (18th percentile)

High Risk/High Reward 22nd (59th percentile)

Dark Horse: 22nd (59th percentile)

Poll

More likely to win at Phoenix?

This poll is closed

  • 75%
    Harvick, Truex Jr, Keslowski or Busch
    (3 votes)
  • 25%
    The Field
    (1 vote)
4 votes total Vote Now