NASCAR Pre Race Media: Sunday’s Phoenix Race Preview/Favorites

TRACK: Phoenix Raceway (1 mile oval) DISTANCE: 312 Laps – STAGE 1: 75 Laps, Stage 2: 115 Laps, FINAL STAGE 122 LAPS, 312 Miles)

Starting Lineup

Favorites – Can Harvick Get 10th Phoenix Win?

Kyle Busch 

This may be one of his best tracks now. “Rowdy” enters Phoenix with 10 top seven finishes including nine of them being in the top four in his last 11 tries. In 2018 and again in 2019, he was first or second in both events. He finished third in this very race last year.

Martin Truex Jr.

He’s never won at Phoenix before and quite frankly, until he joined Joe Gibbs Racing, he never was much of a threat there either. But, Truex, has since finished third in the Fall of 2017, fifth in the spring race of 2018, runner-up in the spring race of 2019 and sixth and 10th respectively in his last two November starts. That makes his a viable “favorite.” He enters with two straight top six results.

Kevin Harvick 

The proverbial “king of the desert” has been astounding in Phoenix. Since 2012, Harvick has seven wins alone to go along with 10 top two finishes (18 tries). Furthermore, Harvick has finished worse than seventh just twice in those 18 starts too. His last eight spring race finishes are – second, 13th, first, first, first, sixth, first, ninth and second respectively. His only deterrent is, he hasn’t won with this new configuration.

Denny Hamlin 

The Joe Gibbs Racing driver has eight top 10 finishes in his last 10 starts in the desert. Hamlin, has three top five finishes in his last four Phoenix starts as well a three top fives in four races run in 2021 so far too.

Joey Logano

You need to use him now. Logano, didn’t used to be among the ones to beat at Phoenix but over his last four starts, he has four consecutive top 10 finishes including a win in this very race last year and a third last November.

Race Preview

NASCAR wraps up their mini west coast swing on Sunday for the annual spring stop to the Phoenix Raceway. This will mark the first “short track” of the season as I know Phoenix isn’t necessarily a short track in being 1-mile in length, but it sure races like one.

This race will be a measuring stick about who looks good and who needs to improve as we head back east. See, come Sunday evening, we would have raced on a superspeedway, a road course, two 1.5-mile tracks and now a 1-mile oval.

Chase Elliott will look to backup his Phoenix win and championship to go along with that from last November but will have a mad dash to the checkered from the Joe Gibbs Racing foursome and Kevin Harvick. Can either of the Team Penske trio of drivers contend? They had arguably the best cars on 750 tracks last season.

With four races down and four different winners, we’re thinking playoffs already this weekend just as we will when we return this fall too.

Of Note

This will mark the 50th Cup race ever at Phoenix.

Key Stat

The eventual winner at Phoenix during the stage era has scored stage points every time minus one – Ryan Newman in 2017 didn’t score stage points in the second stage. In fact, just three times has the race winner actually even won a stage. Still, 14 straight times has the race winner finished in the top seven in each stage run. If you want to win on Sunday, you better finish in the top seven in both stages.

They Said It

“For me, Phoenix is a great example,” said Kevin Harvick. “You look back at the first race last year, and we had a chance to win the race and had the best car (finished second, led 67 laps). Then we go back for the second race and things didn’t go our way because it’s not what you expected (finished seventh, led no laps). That’s just part of what we do.

“You guys, sometimes, see the results and look at it and say, ‘Oh, he’s gonna be this or that.’ Really, it’s just the same. It’s really no different. As you get into the meetings on Monday, the conversations may be different. But it’s the same routine week after week for me.”

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