For the first time ever, the Phoenix Raceway hosts the NASCAR championship round. With dwindling championship eligible drivers left, Phoenix is a spot that you can see a non playoff driver reach victory lane in fact. It’s never happened in the Championship 4 era that a non championship eligible driver has won the season finale, but those last six years have been at a different track (Homestead-Miami Speedway) too. While it’s still rare to occur, don’t count this out from not happening on Sunday afternoon. Since 2015, a non playoff driver has won this race twice in the last five years. Dale Earnhardt Jr. did so in 2015 while Matt Kenseth did it in 2017.
If so, who will steal a win?
Kevin Harvick remarkably isn’t championship eligible anymore. He has nine Phoenix wins including 10 top two finishes, one of which being back in March 8, in his last 17 starts in the desert. He’s also won nine times this season as well.
Kyle Busch is great at Phoenix and finally won a couple races ago in Texas. He has two top five finishes in his last three starts on the season and six top seven finishes in the nine playoff races run.
Ryan Blaney has five top seven finishes in his last six starts in 2020 and was third in both races in 2019.
Alex Bowman is hot and has nine top 10 finishes in his last 11 starts on the season including three straight in the top six.
That opens the door up for a non playoff winner then.
Jimmie Johnson went 16 of his 18 starts at Phoenix between 2005 and 2011 with a top five finish. He had four wins from 2007 though 2009 and was fourth in his other start that he didn’t win at. He’s a factor.
Aric Almirola will be too. His last five Phoenix finishes are ninth, seventh, fourth, fourth and eighth respectively.
Erik Jones could be a factor as well. Jones, has three top 10 finishes in six Phoenix tries.
You can’t leave out Kurt Busch. He won the spring race at Phoenix in 2015 and has eight top 10 finishes in his last 11 starts in the desert including a sixth place run in the spring race.