The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series moves to Phoenix International Raceway for the 35th race of the 2011 season, the Kobalt Tools 500(k). Brian Brown took a look at past performances, season trends, and spoke with NASCAR contacts to predict how the field should finish on Sunday.
When: Sunday, November 13, 2011; 3:15 p.m./et.
Weather: Showers with a high around 62; wind out of the S at 8 mph. There is a 30 percent change of precipitation on Sunday.
The Track: Phoenix International Raceway
PIRis a relatively flat (11 and nine degree banking in the corners) one mile oval. Hendrick Motorsports driver's Mark Martin, Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon have won seven of the last nine races atPIR. Carl Edwards won the fall race in 2010, Kevin Harvick dominated both races in 2006 and the Busch Brothers won both races at the track in 2005. All six are options this weekend.
Key to Race: Which Hendrick Driver will win?
Hendrick Motorsports has dominatedPIRthe past few years. We anticipate all drivers from the Big H Stable will be fast. Roush-Fenway will also bring some quality cars to the race to challenge Hendrick's dominance atPhoenix.
46 cars will attempt to qualify for 43 spots. Cars not in the top 35 in the 2011 owners points will have to qualify based on speed. Starting positions 1-43 are determined during qualifying on Saturday, November 12 at 1:40 pm/et.
Fantasy Cheat Sheet:
No. 48 Jimmie Johnson: Johnson has 14 top 10 finishes in 17 career starts atPIR. With wins in four of the past eight races at the track, he is the obvious pick to win.
No. 24 Jeff Gordon: Gordon won this year’s spring race and has 19 top 10 finishes in 25 career starts atPIR. We look for him to be very strong again this weekend.
No. 14 Tony Stewart: Smoke has finished inside the top 15 in eight of the past 12 races atPIR. With the way he has driven during the chase we love his chances.
No. 99 Carl Edwards: Edwards won last year’s fall race at PIR and has finished in the top 11 in 10 of the past 13 Phoenix races. He is a great pick this weekend.
No. 39 Ryan Newman: Newman was awesome the past three Phoenix races. He should bring the same car to Sunday’s race and will be fast again.
6 to 10
No. 29 Kevin Harvick: Harvick has led 317 laps in the past 11 races atPIRincluding wins in both the 2006 races. He is good bet to crack the top five.
No. 11 Denny Hamlin: Hamlin has been very successful atPIRduring his career. We like him to make the top 10 and with luck crack the top five.
No. 18 Kyle Busch: Rowdy’s 2011 season has turned into a train wreck. Use him at your own risk. He is currently the definition of high-risk/high-reward.
No. 17 Matt Kenseth: Kenseth has finished inside the top six in five of the last 11 races
atPIR. He will be in the lead-pack all day.
No. 22 Kurt Busch: Busch usually brings a very fast sled toPIR. He will be in the mix to win.
11 to 20
No. 16 Greg Biffle: Biffle has led 349 laps in the past 13 races atPIR. He should have the No. 16 ride inside the top 15 this weekend.
No. 5 Mark Martin: Martin has finished inside the top 20 in his last 28 starts atPIR. He won the spring race in 2009 and will be very fast again this weekend.
No. 20 Joey Logano: Logano cracked the top 10 in both races at PIR last year, but he was terrible this spring. He is a just a decent pick this weekend.
No. 31 JeffBurton: Burtonhas been awesome atPIRduring his career. He has two wins and has cracked the top 15 in 18 of 21 starts. He is a great choice.
No. 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Junior has had mixed results his past few visits to the desert. He isn’t barely worth gambling on this weekend.
No. 42 Juan Pablo Montoya: Montoya has cracked the top 20 in seven of the past eight races atPIR. He should finish just outside the top 10 this weekend.
No. 33 Clint Bowyer: Bowyer has averaged a 16th place finish at Phoenix the past six years. He should take the checkers right around his average.
No. 2 Brad Keselowski: Keselowski has two top 20 finishes in three career starts at PIR. He should finish just inside the top 20 this weekend.
No. 56 Martin Truex Jr.: Truex Jr. has finished in the top 22 in 10 of his 11 career starts atPIR. Another strong finish is expected.
No. 27 Paul Menard: Menard has cracked top 30 in all nine of his career starts atPIR. We like him to continue the streak.
21 to 30
No. 9 Marcos Ambrose: Ambrose has cracked the top 22 in all six of his career starts atPIR. He is a great value option.
No. 43 A.J. Allmendinger: Allmendinger has been a factor in two of the last three races at PIR. He is worth using again this weekend.
No. 4 Kasey Kahne: Kahne has averaged just a 21st place finish the past 12 races atPIR. He is a risky pick.
No. 47 Bobby Labonte: Labonte has five top 10 finishes in the past 14 races at Phoenix, but that was racing for better funded teams. He won’t have enough horses this weekend to be anything but a sleeper pick.
No. 00 David Reutimann: Rudy struggled the past three races at PIR. He will just miss the top 20 this trip to the blue walled speedway.
No. 1 Jamie McMurray: PIRhas been a tough place for Jamie Mac's to get around during most of his career. This isn’t the weekend to take a chance on him.
No. 83 Brian Vickers: Vickers hasn’t cracked the top 15 at PIR since 2006. This isn’t a great weekend to use him.
No. 6 David Ragan: Ragan has averaged just a 26th place finish during his career at PIR. He isn’t much of an option.
No. 13 Casey Mears: Mears has averaged a 24th place finish the past six years at Phoenix. He shouldn’t have a problem cracking the top 30 on Sunday.
No. 78 Regan Smith: Smith has had a few decent runs at PIR. He is worth using in the deepest leagues.
No. 34 David Gilliland
No. 38 J.J. Yeley
No. 36 Geoff Bodine
No. 32 Mike Bliss
No. 51 Landon Cassill
No. 30 David Stremme
No. 7 Robby Gordon
No. 71 Andy Lally
No. 55 Travis Kvapil
No. 87 Joe Nemechek
No. 66 Michael McDowell
No. 46 Scott Speed
No. 23 Scott Riggs
No. 35 Dave Blaney
No. 84 Cole Whitt
No. 37 TBD
1. Jimmie Johnson
2. Jeff Gordon
3. Tony Stewart
4. Carl Edwards
- Ryan Newman
2. Jeff Burton
Bust of the Week: