Loading scores...
Aric Almirola
Getty Images
NASCAR Fantasy Live Preview

Fantasy Live: Bluegreen Vacations 500k

by Dan Beaver
Updated On: November 9, 2019, 2:35 pm ET

Next year when we get to Phoenix in the fall it will be with the goal of crowning a champion. If you don’t think that is going to change the way drivers and teams approach the ISM Raceway 500 at Ingenuity Sun Media Raceway, think again. Teams not currently in playoff contention will be working on a new book of setups. So will Martin Truex Jr. and Kevin Harvick since they are locked in to the Championship Round.

The other six playoff contenders? Well, they’ll just be trying to survive with enough points to get to Homestead-Miami Speedway with a shot at the championship.

ISM is a rhythm track. Along with New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Richmond Raceway, and Martinsville Speedway this is a course type on which drivers have to find the groove early in a run and replicate that line over and over. Three drivers have been perfect on this track type in 2019. Joining Harvick, Truex, and Denny Hamlin are two others – Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski – with top-10s in all but one race.

Two of the playoff drivers have been so good at Ingenuity Sun Media Raceway in the past several years that deciding who to start in that level is fairly easy. Yes, Harvick and Busch can get into trouble but it’s just as likely to happen in the final segment when they cannot be swapped out anyway. For that reason, the garage this week should be a non-playoff driver because that group is bound to be more volatile.


Playoff: Kevin Harvick
From 2012 through spring 2016, Harvick won six times at Phoenix and finished second on two other occasions in nine starts. That kind of domination of a track had not been seen since the Glory Days – if even then – when there were only a handful of competitive drivers each week. Harvick’s grip on the track has softened in the last six attempts, but he has not let go entirely with a perfect record of top-10s and an average finish of 5.0. Kevin looked like the Harvick of old last week and that should carry forward.

Playoff: Kyle Busch
It’s possible that Busch has picked up where Harvick left off at ISM Raceway. Since the track was flipped and reconfigured, he has two wins and a second in the last three races. Stretching back to fall 2015, he had an eight-race streak of Phoenix results seventh or better. He can be frustrating when he loses his composure, but when he keeps his cool he is capable of threatening for the win.

Non-Playoff: Aric Almirola
Almirola is improving on every track, including ISM Raceway. From 2012 through spring 2017 he had a handful of mid-teens finishes and one top-10. His average in those 11 races was 16.0. In fall 2017 Almirola finished ninth and he hasn’t been outside the top 10 since. His last two efforts, last fall and this spring, netted fourth-place finishes and his four-race average is 6.0. If he wants to give Busch a hard time this week, he’s going to have to tune the car to run in the top five – and frankly, that is a great motivator.

Non-Playoff: Erik Jones
Jones did not get the finish we expected last week on a track that has been extremely kind to him recently. He finished 10th, but that is only half the story. Most importantly, he did not make any mistakes and was consistent throughout the race. His strong run on the fast 1.5-miler should have restored some confidence and should contribute to a better run at Phoenix than he has had in recent seasons. Jones’ last two efforts have landed outside the top 15, but in three races prior he had one top-five and a sweep of the top 10.

Garage Pick

Playoff: Chase Elliott
It’s now or never. The team let Elliott down at Martinsville Speedway with a mechanical issues; he let the team down in Texas Motor Speedway with a single-car accident. They both need to step up and make it right for one another and his fan base. If that happens, he could challenge for a win like he did in fall 2017. Elliott has only two top-fives in seven attempts at this track (28.6%), but he has a top-15 percentage of 85.7% that is second only to Harvick and Busch in the last 18 races at Phoenix. Desire should make up for the lack of top-fives.

Non-Playoff: Kurt Busch
Busch is a renewed driver in more ways than one. With last week’s announcement that he will have a home at Chip Ganassi Racing for at least two years, he went out and earned a sixth straight top-10 on that track. All season he has been one of the most consistent drivers and that is exactly who fantasy players need in the garage if one of the faster, but less predictable pick runs into trouble early in the race. From 2014 through 2016 Busch had five straight Phoenix top-10s. He has not been as strong since, but he does have a pair of top-10s in the last three races.

Red Flag

Joey Logano
Logano simply has not been very strong at Phoenix in recent years. He won the fall 2016 race, but spent the next two seasons outside the top 10 with only one top-15 to his credit. He finished 10th this spring, but he was not overly impressive in route to the checkers. This week Logano is going to be looking over his shoulder as often as he looks through the windshield. He’ll try not to lose points – and that is not a good way to gain them.

Stage Wins This Year (16 drivers)
Kyle Busch (11), Joey Logano (10), Martin Truex Jr. (8), Kevin Harvick (6), Chase Elliott (5), Kyle Larson (5), Denny Hamlin (5), Brad Keselowski (4), Kurt Busch (3), Ryan Blaney (2), Austin Dillon (2), Ty Dillon (2), William Byron (2), Aric Almirola (2), Jimmie Johnson (1), and Clint Bowyer (1).

Segment wins and points at ISM
(10 segments to date)

Driver

Segment
Points

Segments
earning
points

Segment
Wins

Kyle Busch

71

10

3

Kyle Larson

52

7

1

Chase Elliott

50

9

2

Denny Hamlin

42

6

1

Brad Keselowski

42

6

 

Kevin Harvick

41

8

 

Martin Truex Jr.

34

6

 

Ryan Blaney

29

5

1

Joey Logano

23

4

1

Erik Jones

20

5

 

Matt Kenseth

16

2

 

Jimmie Johnson

15

4

 

Jamie McMurray

15

3

 

Kurt Busch

14

3

1

Ryan Newman

12

4

 

Clint Bowyer

11

3

 

Austin Dillon

10

3

 

Aric Almirola

10

2

 

Alex Bowman

9

2

 

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

8

1

 

Daniel Suarez

7

1

 

Michael McDowell

6

1

 

William Byron

5

2

 

Ty Dillon

5

1

 

Kasey Kahne

2

1

 

Dale Earnhardt Jr.

1

1

 

 

 

 

Dan Beaver

Dan Beaver has been covering fantasy NASCAR for more than 15 years with a little help from his >600,000 record database. He can be found on Twitter @FantasyRace.