NASCAR Fantasy Fusion: Phoenix

The news going into last weekend's race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway was all about Chase Elliott's surgery for a fractured tibia sustained during a snowboarding accident in Colorado. Josh Berry of JRM filled in, finishing 29th in his first Next Gen ride. By the end of the weekend, teammate William Byron and the Hendrick Motorsports camp as a whole stole the headlines with a dominant win by William and a 1-2-3 finish with drivers Kyle Larson and Alex Bowman. The Las Vegas finish is the third 1-2-3 finish for the organization. It was William's fifth career win in his 183rd start. The Hendrick team led a combined 241 of the 271 laps completed (88.9%), with William chalking up a remarkable 176 laps led.

This Week's Pick Strategy:
Last week's winner William Byron is a bit dangerous to the field as he comes into the race with both momentum and a pretty respectable record at Phoenix Raceway. William has 10 career starts here, posting five Top 5s. My take is that we'll get a new winner at Phoenix and that it will come from a veteran driver who runs consistently well here. Load up your rosters will veteran Phoenix elites and for good measure sprinkle in some younger drivers who love to shift.

Drivers with Most Top 10s (Last 5 Years):

By Race
Kevin Harvick - 5
Both with 4 -Kyle Busch and Joey Logano
All with 3 - Chase Elliott, Aric Almirola, Denny Hamlin, Kyle Larson, Ryan Blaney, and Martin Truex Jr.
By Track
Kevin Harvick -10
Kyle Busch - 8
All with 7 - Denny Hamlin, Kyle Larson, Joey Logano, and Ryan Blaney 
Martin Truex Jr. - 6 

Recent Pole Winners:
2022 Ryan Blaney
2021 Brad Keselowski (Set by metric qualifying)
2020 Chase Elliott
2019 Ryan Blaney

Last Year's Race Winner: Chase Briscoe

The Likely Suspects:
My Phoenix go-tos include Ryan Blaney, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, Joey Logano, Denny Hamlin, and Kyle Larson.   
My 2 Cents: This race will be a good indicator of whether drivers like Ryan Blaney, Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin, and Martin Truex Jr. have what it takes to make strong runs to the Playoffs. Ryan Blaney and Denny Hamlin in particular have something to prove at a track where they've historically been strong. My no-brainer pick this week is Kevin Harvick. My next picks are Ryan Blaney, Denny Hamlin, Martin Truex Jr., and Kyle Busch. I will complete my roster with A.J. Allmendinger and Todd Gilliland.  

My Final Four: Ryan Blaney, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, and A.J. Allmendinger.
Second-Look Driver: This week's sleeper pick is Daniel Suarez. Trackhouse Racing has gotten off to another great start this season. Although teammate Ross Chastain tops the current driver standings and finished runner-up to Chase Briscoe at this race last year, I'm giving the edge to Daniel, who goes into this weekend's race fourth in the driver standings. Daniel has made 12 series starts at Phoenix, and earned three Top 10s. Daniel has strong potential to make some noise on Sunday.
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 (17), Toyota (seven), Dodge (four) and Pontiac (four).
  • A total of 29 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. First on the grid has produced eight wins, while third-place starters have scored seven.
  • Eight of the 28 Phoenix Raceway Cup Series winners are active this weekend: Kevin Harvick with nine, followed by Kyle Busch and Joey Logano with three wins each, Denny Hamlin with two. Chase Briscoe, Kyle Larson, Martin Truex Jr., and Chase Elliott, each have 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 in second-place finishes at Phoenix Raceway with four.
  • Kevin Harvick leads the series in Top 5 finishes at Phoenix Raceway with 19 and Top 10s with 29, as well as average finishing position among active drivers with an 8.650. With 40 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 1:35 p.m. ET on Saturday, March 11th and your final picks by 2:30 p.m. ET on Sunday, March 12th. (Don't forget to set your clocks ahead one hour for Daylight Saving Time (in most places)!)

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: Phoenix NASCAR Fantasy Fusion: Phoenix Reviewed by Carol D'Agostino on Friday, March 10, 2023 Rating: 5