We’re down to the final two races in the NASCAR season. Jimmie Johnson and Brad Keselowski have dominated the Chase and if you’ve chosen them in your leagues you’re probably sitting pretty right now.
Unfortunately, I got burned by not picking them last week and it’ll take a major comeback for me to win at this point. But stranger things have happened.
The Sprint Cup series has visited the Phoenix International Raceway every year since 1988. Johnson is statistically the best driver, but if you need to make some headway for a final push to the lead you might want to try one of these three other guys in the start em’ list.
Also, try not to go backwards by starting any of the drivers on my park em list.
Johnson is hot right now. He’s won the last two poles and races in consecutive weekends and holds a seven point lead going into this weekend’s race in Phoenix. Oh and by the way, he’s the best driver to ever race around the one-mile oval in Phoenix.
Out of 18 career starts, Johnson has a series-high four wins. He also has 12 top fives and 15 top 10′s. It’s remarkable that his worst finish came in a 15th place effort out of 15 races. That’s going to put a lot of pressure on Keselowski.
Johnson has a series-best average running position, driver rating, fastest laps run, average green flag speed, and series-high laps in the top 15. He also ranks second in quality passes, only because he spends so much time up front that there’s no one to pass much of the time.
If you’re looking for a favorite to win, it’s definitely Johnson.
“Smoke” dominated this race last year but couldn’t capitalize by winning. He still finished top five as Phoenix helped propel him to the championship last season.
In 21 career starts, Stewart has won there once including eight top fives, and 11 top 10′s. He ranks second in average running position, driver rating, and average green flag speed.
Stewart is eighth in the standings and his title hopes are all but gone. That’s why I would be scared to park Stewart as he has nothing to race for other than a win.
Kahne has always run well in Phoenix. He has experience here dating all the way back to his USAC days. Kahne also is the defending champion in this race and was solid all weekend there last fall.
Don’t let Kahne’s lack of good finishes at PIR scare you. He has a win and knows how to run well around the one-mile circuit. If you’re looking for a sleeper to get back in a fantasy title hunt, go with Kahne.
Hamlin has been strong at Phoenix in the past. He won here in March and knows he needs a solid finish to close out the year strong. He’s all but eliminated himself from title contention the past couple of weeks so I think he turns the season back around Sunday.
In 14 career Phoenix races, Hamlin has one win, six top fives and seven top 10′s. He’s usually very fast and that’s a big key as starting up front is needed to be in contention.
He may scare some people with his back luck over the past couple races, but I can see a similar set up this weekend as he had in March. Plus, his crew chief Darian Grubb is great at Phoenix.
Phoenix isn’t one of Menard’s strongest tracks. He’s made 11 starts and has finished in the top 10 only once. With the season winding down, don’t count on Menard to do much this weekend.
It’s been an extremely disappointing season for EGR. With the announcement they’re moving to Hendrick engines next year I would suspect they pretty much threw the towel for the remainder of this season. McMurray hasn’t run well at Phoenix either and mix in the flux of the engine circumstances I don’t think he will do much this weekend.
In 18 career races, McMurray has only cracked the top five once and top 10 two times. Don’t expect much out of the No. 1 camp this weekend.
You would think Phoenix would be a track Mears would be good at, but it hasn’t been. He’s made 16 career starts and has yet to finish in the top 10. He hasn’t been running very well towards the end of this season so I wouldn’t touch Mears Sunday.
Ragan also doesn’t run well at Phoenix. Like Menard, he’s made 11 starts and only cracked the top 10 once. He had good equipment too in all 11 tries and an average finish of 26th won’t get the job done.
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