NASCAR Fantasy Fusion: Shriners Children's 500 at Phoenix

It was fun seeing Kyle Larson and Tyler Reddick experiment with racing lines in the closing laps of last Sunday's race at Las Vegas. For a while there it looked like Tyler was going to catch Kyle, but he just ran out of laps. Kyle's win was a dominant one and it's come so early in the season that it should worry the field, especially since Kyle's record at Phoenix isn't too shabby. He has the fifth-best average finish with one win, eight Top 5s, 12 Top 10s, and two poles. Can Kyle go back to back? Stay tuned.

This Week's Pick Strategy:
Sunday's race will debut NASCAR's new rules package for short tracks and road courses. Six teams got to test out the package last December at Phoenix Raceway, but nothing beats actually racing it. It should be interesting to see if any new names pop up at the top of the pylon as a result. Or, perhaps the six teams that were part of the two-day test will have the upper hand. The six drivers who participated were Chase Briscoe, Chris Buescher, Christopher Bell, Ryan Blaney, Erik Jones, and Kyle Larson. 
I will be looking at raw speed from practice and cross reference those with the drivers who tested the new rules package. Drivers were shifting last year. If shifting comes up again in practice and qualifying, I will add in drivers who love to shift, say like Chase Briscoe. 

Drivers with Most Top 10s (Last 5 Years):
By Race
All with 4 - Joey Logano, Kyle Busch, Kyle Larson, and Ryan Blaney
William Byron - 3 
By Track
Ryan Blaney -9
Kyle Larson - 8
All with 7 - Joey Logano, Denny Hamlin, and Kyle Busch
Both with 6 - William Byron and Martin Truex Jr.  

Recent Pole Winners:
2023 Kyle Larson
2022 Ryan Blaney
2021 Brad Keselowski (Set by metric qualifying)
2020 Chase Elliott
2019 Ryan Blaney

Last Year's Race Winner: William Byron

The Likely Suspects: My Phoenix go-tos include Kyle Larson, Ryan Blaney, William Byron, Kyle Busch, Joey Logano, Denny Hamlin, and Martin Truex Jr.  
My 2 Cents: My no-brainer pick this week is Ryan Blaney. My next picks are William Byron, Ross Chastain, Tyler Reddick, Michael McDowell, and Josh Berry. I will complete my roster with Chase Briscoe and Carson Hocevar.  

My Final Four: Ryan Blaney, Ross Chastain, Tyler Reddick, and Chase Briscoe.
Second-Look Driver: This week's sleeper pick is Ross Chastain. Ross is the most recent winner at Phoenix Raceway, earning his first career victory (2023 Championship Race) at the 1-mile track back in November. In his nine starts at Phoenix Raceway in addition to his win, Ross has earned three Top 5s and three Top 10s for an average finish of 15.7. He has gotten off to a great start this season. Ross currently sits in fifth place in the driver's standings, five points behind William Byron and three points ahead of Kyle Busch. Will he get to smash a watermelon on the start-finish line on Sunday? Stay tuned.
Points to Ponder:
  • Kyle Busch (2006, 2012, 2016, 2019) leads the NASCAR Cup Series in poles at Phoenix Raceway with four.
  • Five different manufacturers have won at least one pole in the NASCAR Cup Series at Phoenix Raceway, led by Chevrolet with 21 poles, followed by Ford (17).
  • A total of 23 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 two most prolific starting positions, producing more winners (eight each) than any other on the starting grid. 
  • 11 of the 55 (20%) NASCAR Cup Series races at Phoenix Raceway have been won from the front row: eight from the pole  or first starting position, and three from the second starting position.
  • Nine of the 30 Phoenix Raceway Cup Series winners are active this weekend: Kyle Busch and Joey Logano have three wins each, Denny Hamlin has two, and Ross Chastain, William Byron, Chase Briscoe, Kyle Larson, Martin Truex Jr., and Chase Elliott, each have one victory. 
  • Kyle Busch leads all active NASCAR Cup Series drivers in second-place finishes at Phoenix Raceway with four and in Top 10s with 26, and is also the lap leader at Phoenix with 1,190 laps led out of 11,349 laps completed (10%).
  • Denny Hamlin leads all active drivers in Top 5 finishes at Phoenix with 16 as well average finishing position at Phoenix Raceway with an 10.811.
Remember, if you're playing Driver Group Game, make your initial picks by 1:10 p.m. ET on Saturday, March 9th, and your final picks by 3:30 p.m. ET on Sunday, March 10th. (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 17 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: Shriners Children's 500 at Phoenix NASCAR Fantasy Fusion: Shriners Children's 500 at Phoenix Reviewed by Carol D'Agostino on Thursday, March 07, 2024 Rating: 5