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The NASCAR playoffs are coming to a close. Only two more races left in the season. The Monster Energy Cup Series travels west to race in the Can-Am 500 at Phoenix Raceway to finish the 3rd round of the playoffs. Eight drivers are competing for four spots in the Homestead Speedway final where a NASCAR champion will be crowned. Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick have clinched their tickets to the finals with wins at Martinsville and Texas respectively. With the points that he has accumulated over the season by winning races and stages, I think that Martin Truex Jr. is safe for the final. Former Champion Jimmie Johnson however, is last in points, and needs a win to qualify for the final.
Phoenix Raceway is a short flat track(a 1-mile, low banked tri-oval) similar to Richmond. Track position will be very important for this race. In the Phoenix March race, Ryan Newman gambled with an aggressive pit strategy, and held off hard charging opponents on older tires to seal the win. Desperate playoff teams may take similar routes to move up for that coveted track position.
My Top 5 Drivers for the Can-Am 500
Kyle Busch($11,100): Even though Kyle Busch is all set for the final at Homestead, he is not resting on his laurels. He had the fastest speed in the last practice and will start 8th on Sunday. It is hard to pass at Phoenix, so Kyle Busch will be difficult to pass near the front with his elite car. In his last four races at Phoenix, his worst finish was 4th place.
Kevin Harvick($10,000): Like Kyle Busch, Harvick is all set for the final race at Homestead by winning last week at Texas for his first win ever at that track. Harvick is the most dominant driver at Phoenix with a 2.8 average finish in his last five races, while winning the March 2015 and March 2016 races. Harvick may be the team to beat with his recent momentum and with having the fastest car in the second and third practices. He starts 6th on Sunday.
Kyle Larson($10,200): Larson was so close to winning the March 2017 race at Phoenix as he dominated that race. He ran out of laps to catch race leader Ryan Newman on his older tires. Larson needed one more lap, as he fell short at the end. Larson has some bad luck in the last round of the playoffs and was shockingly eliminated, so look for him to bounce back in this race as he starts third on Sunday.
Denny Hamlin($8,900): Hamlin ranked the highest in my practice rankings for this race as he has performed well in each of the practice sessions and the qualifying session. He needs a win to qualify for the Homestead final for a chance to win that elusive championship. He performs well at Phoenix as he has four Top 10’s in his last four races. He won the March 2012 race at this track.
Chase Elliott($9,300): Elliott is a young and talented driver, and probably the hungriest to win. He has come so close to winning his first race many times, and was recently taken out by Denny Hamlin while leading at Martinsville which lead to a post race argument. Elliott had the fastest car in the first practice and needs to win to qualify for the next round of the playoffs as he is short on points. In his only three races at this track, he has finished in the Top 10 twice.
Ryan Newman($7,100): Newman is a savvy veteran who has a reputation for being “tough to pass”. He won the March race with an aggressive pit strategy at the end of the race deciding to stay out on older tires for the final few laps. The tough veteran held off a hard charging Kyle Larson to capture the win and punch his ticket to the playoffs. He is a decent bargain at $7,100.
Aric Amirola($6,100): Looking at Fantasy Point per Dollar(FP/$), Amirola ranks 4th overall for the season behind elite drivers Martin Truex Jr, Kyle Busch, and Kyle Larson. Usually priced between $6,000 to $6,500, he provides the best bang for your fantasy NASCAR buck especially over most drivers in the $7,000 range. He provides the needed salary relief to be able to fit multiple elite drivers into your lineup.
Mike McDowell($5,800): Another great fantasy value is McDowell, who is 10th overall in Fantasy Points per Dollar. He will consistently provide you with 19 to 25 fantasy points which is very respectable for his price range. Paired with Amirola, you can setup a “Stars and Scrubs” lineup with McDowell and some expensive elite drivers like Harvick and Kyle Busch.