The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series moves to Phoenix International Raceway for the second race of the 2012 season, the Subway Fresh Fit 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, March 4, 2012; 3:00 p.m./et.
Weather: Sunny with a high around 82; wind out of the E at 4 mph. There is a ZERO 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, Jeff Gordon and now Kasey Kahne have won eight of the last 10 races atPIR. Any member of Hendrick’s impressive stable of drivers are an option to win 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.
44 cars will attempt to qualify for 43 spots. Cars not in the top 35 in the final 2011 owner points will have to qualify based on speed. Starting positions 1-43 are determined during qualifying on Saturday, March 3 at 2:35 pm/et.
Fantasy Cheat Sheet:
No. 48 Jimmie Johnson: Johnson has 14 top 10 finishes in 18 career starts atPIR. With wins in four of the past nine races at the track, he is the obvious pick to bounce-back from his disastrous trip to Daytona.
No. 14 Tony Stewart: Smoke has finished inside the top 15 in nine of the past 13 races atPIR. He had the best car on the track last November and we love his chances this weekend.
No. 99 Carl Edwards: Edwards won the 2010 fall race at PIR and has finished in the top 11 in 11 of the past 14 Phoenix races. He is a great pick this weekend.
No. 24 Jeff Gordon: Gordon won last year’s spring race and has 19 top 10 finishes in 26 career starts atPIR. We look for him to be very strong again this weekend.
No. 39 Ryan Newman: Newman was awesome the past four Phoenix races. He should bring the same car to Sunday’s race and will be fast again.
6 to 10
No. 18 Kyle Busch: Rowdy has been one of the top drivers the past seven years at Phoenix. We look for him to have a bigger impact on Sunday’s race than he did during the Daytona 500.
No. 29 Kevin Harvick: Harvick has led 317 laps in the past 12 races atPIRincluding wins in both the 2006 races. He is good bet to crack the top 10.
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. 17 Matt Kenseth: Mr. Daytona has finished inside the top six in five of the last 12 races
atPIR. He will be in the lead-pack all day.
No. 5 Kasey Kahne: Kahne, won at Phoenix last November. In his new Hendrick sled he should have plenty of speed to make a run again this visit to the desert.
11 to 20
No. 16 Greg Biffle: Biffle has led 349 laps in the past 14 races atPIR. He should have the No. 16 ride inside the top 15 this weekend.
No. 31 JeffBurton: Burtonhas been awesome atPIRduring his career. He has two wins and has cracked the top 15 in 19 of 22 starts. He is a great choice.
No. 2 Brad Keselowski: Keselowski has three top 20 finishes in four career starts at PIR. He should finish just inside the top 15 this weekend.
No. 22 A.J. Allmendinger: Allmendinger has been a factor in three of the last four races at PIR. He is worth using again this weekend.
No. 20 Joey Logano: Logano cracked the top 11in three of his last four starts at PIR. He is a decent pick this weekend.
No. 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Junior has had mixed results his past few visits to the desert. He isn’t worth gambling on this weekend.
No. 15 Clint Bowyer: Bowyer has averaged a 15th place finish at Phoenix the past seven years. He should take the checkers right around his average.
No. 55 Mark Martin: Martin has finished inside the top 20 in his last 29 starts atPIR. He won the spring race in 2009 and will be worth using again this weekend.
No. 51 Kurt Busch: Busch usually brings a very fast sled toPIR. He had a rough night at Daytona, but will be in the mix for a top 15 finish this weekend.
No. 42 Juan Pablo Montoya: Wow! Is all we have to say about Montoya’s trip to Daytona. We are thankful everyone made it through the incident without major injury. He has cracked the top 20 in eight of the past nine races atPIR andshould finish just outside the top 15 this weekend.
21 to 30
No. 56 Martin Truex Jr.: Truex Jr. has finished in the top 22 in 11 of his 12 career starts atPIR. Another strong finish is expected.
No. 27 Paul Menard: Menard has cracked top 30 in all 10 of his career starts atPIR. We like him to continue the streak.
No. 9 Marcos Ambrose: Ambrose has cracked the top 22 in all seven of his career starts atPIR. He is a great value option.
No. 43 Aric Almirola: Almirola finished 30th in his only trip to PIR. He should finish in a similar spot this trip to Phoenix.
No. 47 Bobby Labonte: Labonte has five top 10 finishes in the past 15 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. 10 David Reutimann: Rudy moves to the No. 10 car for Sunday’s race. He finished sixth last November at PIR and could be a decent sleeper choice.
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. 34 David Ragan: Ragan has averaged just a 27th 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 seven years at Phoenix. He shouldn’t have a problem cracking the top 30 on Sunday.
No. 78 Regan Smith: Smith has had a few top 25 finishes at PIR. He is barely worth using in the deepest leagues.
No. 36 Dave Blaney
No. 83 Landon Cassill
No. 7 Robby Gordon
No. 38 David Gilliland
No. 93 Travis Kvapil
No. 33 Brendon Gaughan
No. 30 David Stremme
No. 32 Terry Labonte
No. 49 J.J. Yeley
No. 23 Scott Riggs
No. 87 Joe Nemechek
No. 55 Michael McDowell
No. 26 Josh Wise
No. 37 Tommy Hill
1. Jimmie Johnson
2. Tony Stewart
3. Carl Edwards
4. Jeff Gordon
1. Paul Menard
2. Marcos Ambrose
Bust of the Week:
Dale Earnhardt Jr.