Race: FanShield 500
Date: March 8th @ 3:30pm EST
Venue: Phoenix Raceway (Formerly known as ISM Raceway until January 3rd 2020).
2019 Winner: Kyle Busch (3:04:05)
Phoenix Raceway opened in 1964. It runs at 1 mile low bank asphalt track with turns curving between 8-11 degrees. Home to the FanShield 500 and Bluegreen Vacations 500 later in the playoffs, the desert is surrounded by Estrella Mountains. The tri-oval formation is a shape similar to Talladega, Daytona, and to a much lesser degree Poconos. 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.
Kyle Busch (second selection this year) — He surprised me at California last week with his second place finish. I figured he would be top 15 but didn’t think he would sneak up that high. He seemed to understand in his post-race comments that he came out favorably due to some pitstops late in the race among some of his fellow racers. This week, he comes to Phoenix where he has been a top five finisher the last four years and winner last year.
Kevin Harvick (first selection this year) — There is one racer who has finished in the top 10 each race this season. This very same racer also has four consecutive years of top seven finishes here including a win in 2018.
High Risk/High Reward
Alex Bowman (second selection this year) — Alex has only finished in the top ten at Phoenix once over the last four years. This is about as close to a home track as he has (Tucson being about 100 miles away). Over the course of three races this year he started 24th at a wreck filled Daytona, improved to 14th at Las Vegas last week and was absolutely dominant in his 2nd NASCAR victory at California last week.
Martin Truex Jr (second selection this year) — His last six races at Phoenix have yielded four top six finishes and the other two were still inside the top 15. I’m more nervous about his start to this season with three straight finishes outside the top 12. He aired his frustrations last week against his teammates and pit crew, let’s see if that provides a boost this week.
The Dark Horse
Matt DiBenedetto (first selection this year) — He has finished in the top 20 each race so far this year. He only did this during the 2019 regular season once (Daytona mid-season – Watkins Glen). In the playoffs, he finished in the top 20 the last five straight races. He is slowly turning a corner here. His 13th place finish last year during the playoffs is the ONLY time he has finished in the top 20 at Phoenix, that is a bit concerning.
Fun Fact: Jeff Gordon snapped a 66 race winless streak here in 2011, two years later Carl Edwards snapped a 70 race winless streak here.
Favorite: Avg Finish 16th (41st Percent)
High Risk/High Reward: Avg Finish 18th (44th Percent)
Dark Horse: Avg Finish 12th (31st Percent)