I’m more excited about this race then I have been in the history of racing at Pheonix. This has never been a favorite of mine to watch personally, but with this race being a precursor to the championship race, it has me excited to see what everyone is going to put on the line.
Ford and Chevy continue to have the upper hand against Toyota. It looks like this could be an inconsistent year for the Joe Gibbs camp, though I’m sure they will rummage up a few wins. Looking at practice and qualifying Hendrick Motorsports looks like the team to beat with Elliott leading the charge. You can never count Kevin Harvick out at Pheonix though.
I’ll give three drivers names, and each will be classified differently. A Favorite, who is a big name driver who is my favorite to win. A Dark Horse, a driver who would be considered an underdog but has just as much chance as anyone to win. Lastly, a Longshot, a driver who nobody would ever guess would even be contending. Guys who are generally running in the twenties each week.
Favorite: Chase Elliott
Winning the pole and looking strong in practice gives off the impression that he’s going to be the car to beat during the race. Harvick and Blaney might give him a run for his money but if Elliott can keep luck on his side he seems poised to win his first race of the year.
While his stats at Pheonix are up and down, to say the least with 8 starts and only 4 top tens, he has finished 2nd and 3rd at the track. It seems like a near-lock as long as Harvick doesn’t come out swinging. The 9-car seems like it could be dominant for the entirety of the race.
Dark Horse: Erik Jones
Toyota hasn’t been strong, but Jones has looked good in practice and qualifying. On top of that, he runs well here with 4 top tens in 7 starts. With Jones’ seat starting to get a little warm, I think he might enter desperation mode this year and join the trend of a few drivers finally breaking out.
With him being in a Toyota it makes me reluctant to pick him as a winning candidate. I don’t think he’ll have the car to beat, but if a few things can go his way, I think he has the ability to outlast Elliott or Harvick.
Longshot: Aric Almirola
Is it fair to put a guy driving Stewart-Hass Racing equipment in the longshot category? If their name is Aric Almirola then yes. He has yet to be able to show any kind of ability to win on anything other than a superspeedway, but he runs well at Pheonix and has finished in the top ten 3 times in his last 4 starts since joining SHR.
The car has been running in the top ten in practice and qualifying so it seems like if he was going to pull some talent out of himself this would be a good week.