We get to the first short track of the year where the sport took its giant turning point last season in crowning the fan-favorite Chase Elliott as champion. Last week’s amazing race at Vegas saw great battles upfront and gave a continuation to the immense parody that we’ve seen so far this season.

Phoenix has a lot of guys that are near dominant here, and it makes it hard to believe that we’re going to continue to get guys who we’re not used to seeing win races end up in victory lane. I said that last week too, so, take that for what you will. While Larson is probably going to become a common sight with the checkered flag, it still counts as a surprise in my book.

But Denny Hamlin, Chase Elliott, Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano, and Brad Keselowski are all really good here and it’s hard to imagine one of them not winning today. Obviously, I hope I’m wrong but until I see it with my own eyes, I’m not going to believe we’ll be gifted with another pleasant surprise by the racing gods. They’ve already spoiled us so much this season.

Favorite: Kyle Busch

I’m calling for a Kyle Busch resurgence this week. I think that it’s only a matter of time before he shakes off his bad juju from last season and after a top-five last week I think that this team could be poised to get their first win of the year. 

Busch has a great record here as the second-winningest current driver only behind Harvick. If it wasn’t for Harvick and SHR’s struggles to start the year, I’d probably have to at least consider putting him here. Busch will be a player come to the end of this race even if he isn’t dominant and can maybe find a way to steal a win in a controversial way that we’re all accustomed to from Rowdy.

Dark Horse: Erik Jones

When Jones entered the Cup series with Furniture Row Motorsports this was one of his better tracks with 2 top tens his rookie year. After joining Joe Gibbs Racing it seemed like his luck was hit or miss. He either got a top ten or barely got a top thirty. This still remains a track that I think suits him well.

This #43-team got a top fifteen with Bubba Wallace last season and Erik Jones has had more success here so I’m betting on a solid run. This team is also coming off of a top ten finish at Las Vegas so hopefully some positive momentum will also help.

Fantasy:

High-End Picks:

  1. Denny Hamlin – $9,900
  2. Kyle Larson – $9,600
  3. Kyle Busch – $10,800
  4. Chase Elliott – $11,500
  5. Joey Logano – $11,100

Mid-tier Picks:

  1. William Byron – $8,300
  2. Kurt Busch – $7,700
  3. Matt DiBenedetto – $8,500
  4. Christopher Bell: $8,100
  5. Erik Jones – $7,000

Low-End Picks:

  1. Chris Buescher – $6,400
  2. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – $5,500
  3. Michael McDowell – $6,200
  4. Daniel Suarez – $5,900
  5. Ryan Newman – $6,600

There’s not a lot of ways you can go wrong near the top of the board. Every guy I listed is a favorite to win tomorrow. I don’t think there is a wrong way to go with any of these names but I would be wary of Kevin Harvick. While he is probably the greatest of all-time at Pheonix, his team doesn’t seem to be in the position to win yet, but that could change this week. I would just be cautious about putting a lot of money on him.

I would stay away from Aric Almirola and Alex Bowman who are both expensive and not worth the price. Almirola is looking poised to have a bad year and Alex Bowman is not good at Pheonix despite it being his home track. On the other side of that, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to look into adding Ryan Blaney into your lineup. It’s a strong track for him and he’s at a decent price this week.

Kurt Busch and William Byron are the strongest plays this week of all the guys who are kind of in that middle range price-wise. They each have strong runs here and both are running well in 2021. 

A sleeper to watch out for is obviously Erik Jones for the reasons listed above. You may also want to go bargain bin shopping with guys like Daniel Suarez and Ricky Stenhouse. They both have solid starts here, but more importantly, they are cheap and you could bolster your line-up with bigger money guys and let them round-up your line-up.

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