NASCAR Fantasy Fusion: Ruoff Mortgage 500 at Phoenix


Kevin Harvick used to be the driver to beat at Phoenix Raceway. Kevin became the ninth different driver to win nine or more times at a single track in the NASCAR Cup Series when he won in 2018. This weekend, he can attempt to become just the sixth driver to win 10 or more races at a single track in the NASCAR Cup Series with a win this weekend. That is, if the Hendrick Motorsports teams cool down. They've won literally half of the last 44 points-paying Cup races stretching back to 2020. A team has never won 23 races in a 45-race stretch in the modern era. Stay tuned.
This Week's Pick Strategy: 
Selecting fantasy picks for a track that, until last season, played host to the cut-off race deciding the final championship contenders can be a bit tricky. The competition is so challenging at the Cup level that this race has been cutthroat. For that reason, when I am picking this week I will look at the pure stats, which will no doubt be loaded with those final four drivers, as well as the drivers who weren't in the championship hunt but who always seemed to be on the verge of playing spoiler. My final metric will be the momentum drivers from this season's first four races who also run well at Phoenix.

Drivers with Most Top 10s (Last 5 Years):
By Race
Kevin Harvick -5
All with 4 - Kyle Larson, Kyle Busch, and Denny Hamlin 
All with 3 - Chase Elliott, Aric Almirola, Joey Logano, Martin Truex Jr., and Kurt Busch

By Track
Kevin Harvick - 10
Kyle Busch - 8
All with 7 - Kyle Larson, Martin Truex Jr., and Denny Hamlin 
All with 6 - Brad Keselowski, Aric Almirola, and Chase Elliott 

Recent Pole Winners:
2021 Brad Keselowski (Set by metric qualifying)
2020 Chase Elliott
2019 Ryan Blaney

Last Year's Race Winner: Martin Truex Jr.

The Likely Suspects:
My Phoenix elites include Chase Elliott, Martin Truex Jr., Kevin Harvick, Kyle Larson, Kyle Busch,  Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, and Aric Almirola.   
My 2 Cents: The last six races at Phoenix have been won by different drivers: Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano, Chase Elliott, Martin Truex Jr., and Kyle Larson. We may see a repeat this year, unless of course our rookie drivers have something to say about it. My no-brainer pick this week is Chase Elliott. My next picks are Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski, and Kurt Busch. I will complete my roster with Michael McDowell and Corey Lajoie

Second-Look Driver: This week's sleeper pick for the win is Aric Almirola. Aric's consistency at Phoenix has been impressive. In his last eight starts there, he has earned five Top-10 finishes – two of those being Top 4s. He’s also led 33 laps. His most recent finish was sixth at the 2021 season finale. Oh and it doesn't hurt that he has momentum on his side. Aric is the only Cup Series driver with three consecutive Top 10s in the first three races of the season.
My Final Four: Chase Elliott, Aric Almirola, Joey Logano, and Michael McDowell.
Points to Ponder:
  • Five different manufacturers have won at least one pole in the NASCAR Cup Series at Phoenix Raceway, led by Chevrolet with 19 poles; followed by Ford (15), Toyota (seven), Dodge (four) and Pontiac (four).
  • A total of 22 different positions on the starting grid have produced winners in the NASCAR Cup Series at Phoenix Raceway. The first and third starting positions are the most prolific, producing more winners (seven each) than any other position on the grid.
  • Eight of the 27 Phoenix Raceway Cup Series winners are active this weekend: Kevin Harvick with nine, followed by Kyle Busch with three, Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin with two each, and Kyle Larson, Martin Truex Jr., Chase Elliott, and Kurt Busch, each with one victory.
  • Kevin Harvick's nine victories include the 2006 sweep, 2012 Playoff race, 2013 Playoff race, 2014 sweep, 2015 Spring race, 2016 Spring race, 2018 Spring race).
  • Kyle Busch leads all active NASCAR Cup Series drivers with four second-place finishes at Phoenix Raceway.
  • Kevin Harvick leads the series in Top 5 finishes at Phoenix Raceway with 18 and Top 10s with 27, as well as average finishing position among active drivers with a 8.816. With 38 starts, Harvick also leads the series in laps led at Phoenix Raceway with 1,663.

Remember, if you're playing Driver Group Game, make your initial picks by 8 a.m. EST on Saturday, March 12th and your final picks by 3:30 p.m. EDT on Sunday, March 13th. (Don't forget the time change to Daylight Savings Time!)

Enjoy the race!
Carol D'Agostino has been playing Fantasy NASCAR for 16 years. She launched  NASCAR Fantasy Fusion for Skirts & Scuffs in October 2011. Each week, Carol pores through statistics and combs through her personal notebooks to arm fans with analysis and picking strategies that will leave their friends wondering how they got so smart. Carol also does race coverage for Skirts & Scuffs at Richmond Raceway and occasionally at her home track, Dover International Speedway. She is also part of the distinguished NASCAR Expert Picks panel at formerly called Fantasy Racing Cheat Sheet.

When she isn’t wielding her fantasy-racing superpowers, you’ll find Carol hammering out a news release or creating a marketing strategy at a small niche public relations firm she founded called Purple Cat or executing downtown revitalization projects for a small town on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.

NASCAR Fantasy Fusion: Ruoff Mortgage 500 at Phoenix NASCAR Fantasy Fusion: Ruoff Mortgage 500 at Phoenix Reviewed by Carol D'Agostino on Friday, March 11, 2022 Rating: 5