Picking a winner of any NASCAR race is a crapshoot these days with the incredible parity the sport is experiencing. There have been four different winners in four NASCAR races so far this season, including three legitimate upsets.
But we nailed the winner last week, picking Kyle Larson to win the NASCAR race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Larson came through, dominating the Pennzoil 400 for his first win with Hendrick Motorsports.
Larson was expected to be a contender at Las Vegas, a track that has produced numerous NASCAR winners over the years with no dominant driver emerging. His is record on 1.5-mile tracks and the fact that he had finished second at Las Vegas twice made him a good gamble.
The NASCAR race at Phoenix presents a different challenge because only a handful of NASCAR's top stars have won there over the years. Kevin Harvick has dominated the flat, 1-mile track, winning nine races at Phoenix, including four straight and six of eight from 2012-2016.
Also Read: NASCAR at Phoenix schedule
Joey Logano and Chase Elliott snapped Harvick's streak last year, with Logano winning in March and Elliott taking the championship race in November.
Will someone new take the checkered flag in the desert this year? Or will Harvick get back to his winning ways?
Favorites in NASCAR race at Las Vegas
Harvick has not won at Phoenix in the last two years, but he led 67 laps and finished second in this race last year. He still has to be the overwhelming favorite after winning a series-high nine races last year and with his record at the track. He is anxious to return to victory lane after a disappointing 20th-place finish last week at Las Vegas.
Other winners among active NASCAR drivers include Kyle Busch (three wins), Denny Hamlin (two), Logano (two), and Elliott last year. Any of those drivers could win again. Also keep an eye on Brad Keselowski, who has not won at Phoenix but will start on the pole and finished second there in November.
Also Read: NASCAR odds at Phoenix
Who will be the top challengers at Phoenix?
Don't bet against Larson making it two in a row. He could break out in a big way now that he has his first win with an elite Hendrick Motorsports team. Larson has five top-five finishes at Phoenix, including a runnerup in 2017 and fourth-place finishes in each of his last two races.
Ryan Blaney could also be a factor. He finished sixth there in November, and finished third in both races in 2019. Blaney, who has gotten off to a tough start this season, bounced back with a seventh-place finish last week at Las Vegas.
Who is a NASCAR wild card pick at Phoenix?
Matt DiBenedetto and Aric Almirola both need a strong finish in the worst way. Both have gotten off to rough starts with DiBenedetto 30th in points and Almirola 28th. Both have run well at Phoenix before and have similar stats, with each finishing eighth and 13th in the last two races in the desert.
Also keep an eye on another Hendrick driver. William Byron won at Homestead two weeks ago and has finished ninth and 10th, respectively, in his last two races at Phoenix. Another driver to watch his Cole Custer, Harvick's teammate at Stewart-Haas Racing. He finished ninth and Phoenix last year and, like Almirola, could be a sneaky pick.
Who are the dark horses at Phoenix?
Don't count out 43-year-old Ryan Newman. Newman has 18 years wins and seven of them have come on short, flat tracks, including two at Phoenix. Newman, who still races as aggressviely as anyone, can still steal a win anywhere.
NASCAR at Phoenix Predictions
- Chase Elliott
- Ryan Blaney
- Denny Hamlin
- Kyle Larson
- Kevin Harvick