Congratulations to Kevin Harvick who punched his ticket to the championship race with his win at Texas this past weekend. Now he and Martin Truex Jr. are guaranteed to be in the championship race and the other two spots are still open with one race remaining in the third round. So, six drivers are going for two spots this week and that means no more Mr. Nice Guy this weekend.
BLUEGREEN VACATIONS 500
This week the series heads to the ISM Raceway in Phoenix, AZ for the running of the Bluegreen Vacations 500. This one-mile, low-banked, tri-oval track is going to have some fireworks in it with those two playoff spots for the championship race up for grabs. This is going to be a no holds barred type of race and you are sure to see some bumpers getting banged around pretty good. These drivers know they are going to need to go and some of them have to win this race to advance while there are others who can still get in on points. Stage points and the race win will be hotly contested this weekend.
Kyle Busch: I am going to pick Kyle to break his small winless streak and make sure he has a shot at the championship this weekend. He has won the last two races here and has finished in the top five in seven of his last eight Phoenix starts. This is where he makes his money and you know he doesn’t care who he has to move to get the job done. He has lead over a hundred laps in four of his last five starts here and will be considered the driver to beat.
Kevin Harvick: Kevin has won seven of his last fourteen starts at this track and by him winning again this weekend he might be able to keep someone the likes of Kyle Busch from making the championship race. His only non top ten finish in his last fifteen starts here was a thirteenth place finish. That tells me he is going to be a contender once again this weekend and will have a say in who the other two drivers are that will make the championship.
Chase Elliott: Chase needs to win this race if he wants to make the championship. He has finished second and third here recently, so we know he can get the job done. The problem is that he is going to be under tremendous pressure and any mistake will end his hopes of making the championship. He hasn’t run well the past two weeks and this is going to be a tall task for him to pull off.
Denny Hamlin: Denny’s only win here came back in the 2012 season. He has been running very well on this type of track this year and he could come away with a victory to cement his spot in the championship. Once again though, any mistake can take you right out of contention because the track is so short. Speeding in the pits will relegate you at least one lap down and you could end up fighting your way back on the lead lap and it might take the whole race to get there.
Kyle Larson: Kyle has a second and two third place finishes here in his last six starts. He is another driver who almost has to win this race if he wants a shot at a championship. He could still point his way in with stage points and something bad happening to some of the drivers ahead of him on points, but the only sure way to get there is to win this race.
Ryan Blaney: Ryan is in a similar situation as Larson and that’s the bad new. The good news is that Ryan lead ninety-four laps and finished third here in March of this year. That should give this team some confidence heading into this weekend, but there will still be a lot of pressure on this young driver also this weekend. He is prone to making mistakes as we saw with him trying to get onto pit road at Talladega and almost driving of the jack this past week in Texas.
Joey Logano: The good news for this team is right now they are currently in the championship race. The bad news is they haven’t run very well at Phoenix since winning this race in 2016. Since that time he has had two accidents and only one top ten finish. He is going to try and score some stage points and stay out of trouble if his car isn’t handling flawlessly early in this race and hope he can hang on to his points lead.
Martin Truex Jr.: Martin finished runner-up to Kyle in the spring race this year and has finished in the top five in three of his last four starts here. He has also won three races on other flat tracks this season and won’t have any pressure on him whatsoever this weekend. I look for him to have another good run on this track and just enjoy tuning up for the race at Homestead.
Aric Almirola: Aric never had a top ten here in his career until four races ago and since then he has gotten better every time he runs here. He finished fourth in each of his last two starts here and even lead twenty-six laps in the spring race here. Aric isn’t someone I think of much on these flat tracks, but he has shown that he can do it this year and he is my dark horse this weekend.
Brad Keselowski: Brad finished second in this race last year and is looking to just have a good run and maybe pick up a win this weekend as he gets ready for next season. He has struggled a bit lately on all types of tracks and I think they are in the process of trying to figure some things out for next year. I still think this is the type of track where they can hit on their setup early and be a contender.
DRIVER GROUP GAME FANTASY NASCAR PICKS FOR ISM RACEWAY
Driver Group Game Group A
- Kyle Busch
- Kevin Harvick
Driver Group Game Group B
- Ryan Blaney
- Aric Almirola
- Kurt Busch
- Ryan Newman
Driver Group Game Group C
- Matt DiBenedetto
- Chris Buescher
MY TOP-5 OVERALL AT ISM RACEWAY
- Kyle Busch
- Kevin Harvick
- Martin Truex Jr.
- Aric Almirola
- Denny Hamlin
Dark Horse: Aric Almirola
Stay Away From: Joey Logano
Big 18: Ryan Newman