Coming into Sunday with one last opportunity in which to qualify himself into the Championship Four and 26 points below cutoff, Chase Elliott was not prepared to leave anything to chance, as he was pretty much going to have to win in order to punch his ticket to Phoenix. In the end, there would be no doubt who was the dominant driver. Keeping in mind that Elliott would finish more than six seconds ahead of runner-up driver Ryan Blaney. Rounding out the top six included Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski, Kurt Busch, and Alex Bowman.
We expected a few surprises at Martinsville (but I’m not sure many were expecting what we got). Coming into the event Kevin Harvick, seemed to be in a good spot sitting 41 points above the cutline. However, as we know with Martinsville, no lead is safe. As the race got deeper, Harvick’s point advantage would continue to shrink. In fact, at one point, he would drop 17 points below the cutoff. By the tail end of the event, it would finally come down to a three-car scrap involving Harvick, Denny Hamlin, and Keselowski.
With one lap left remaining and only needing to overtake Kyle Busch in order to qualify himself. Harvick would try one last-ditch effort attempting an unsuccessful slide job on the No.18 driver (officially eliminating him from title contention). The Championship field for Sunday is now complete, with Keselowski, Logano, Hamlin, and Elliott having each secured one of the four-driver slots. Of those four drivers, only Elliott and Hamlin have yet to earn themselves a Cup Series title.
After 17 straight years of running the title race at Homestead-Miami Speedway, NASCAR made the decision to move the event to Phoenix Raceway in Avondale, Arizona, for 2020. It’s a 1-mile, low banked tri-oval track, and what makes this a unique race for fans is it’s hillside spectating. Dubbed as the Rattlesnake hill, you must climb up a 150-foot slope in order to reach the top.
Elliott won the pole for Sunday and will be placed opposite Logano. So without further ado, let’s delve into the driver options for this upcoming cup series event. I’ve broken down the selections between high salary, mid-range, and value play. Best of luck to everyone with their lineups this weekend.
Joey Logano (13,300 FD 10,000 DK)
Logano hit the ground running at Martinsville, staying competitive through a majority of the event before closing it out with a top-three result. Full credit to Logano, regardless of having secured the only spot in the final four (he did not rest on his laurels). Looking at Phoenix, it was here in March that he worked himself back from a loose tire penalty, eventually knocking off Harvick for the overtime win.
I expect Logano to bring that same grit and determination this weekend as he looks to add to his first series title. Having secured himself a very favorable starting position, look for him to be a steady threat to lead numerous laps. Keep in mind the No. 22 driver has led at least 60 or more laps in the past two visits.
Kevin Harvick (12,300 FD 11,100 DK)
It goes without saying, Harvick must still be kicking himself right now. Having missed out on competing for a title at Phoenix. A track in which he has feasted over the past seven years. Consider that over the past 15 visits to the desert, Harvick has racked up six victories and two runner-up finishes. Additionally, he tops all current drivers at Phoenix in laps led (with more than 1,600 in total).
The fact he was able to run top six at this event, a month after switching over to Ford, speaks his consistency. Harvick should come out like gangbusters and give the championship trio a serious run for their money. Given all that has happened over the past week, he still has plenty of incentive in which to put on a great showing.
Aric Almirola (9,800 FD 7,800 DK)
You look at Almirola’s numbers over the past six visits to the desert, and they have been quite convincing. Consider that over that half-dozen races, Almirola fell outside the top nine on just one occasion. On top of that, he has an average track finish of 14.89 at Phoenix. Which ranks as tops among all series tracks for him.
With Almirola slated to come 10th off the line, he could challenge for a top-five role. Almirola has shown on numerous occasions at Phoenix, he is good at fighting inside the top ten throughout the event. Keep in mind he racked up 14 stage points at the Phoenix race in March.
Chris Buescher (6,700 FD 7,200 DK)
After suffering a crash out last Sunday, Buescher now gets Phoenix. Keep in mind that Buescher has not dropped outside the top 18 in his previous four visits to the track. Serviceable numbers to be sure. With Buescher slated to come off the line in the 31st position, it should give him ample opportunity to pick up numerous bonus points. I do believe finishing among the top 21 drivers is certainly feasible. This would offer you sound value as you look to fill out the back end of your roster.
Ryan Preece (5,500 FD 5,800 DK)
For a majority of the regular season, it proved to be a struggle. However, since hitting the playoffs, Preece has been getting his cars into competitive positions. Keep in mind that seven of the last eight races have resulted in a top 19 or better result. This included a pair of top 10’s at Bristol and Talladega. That’s a pretty solid turn around, considering he did not pick up a single top 10 in the regular season. Preece will be set to start in the 24th position. Another top 18 run would be useful production at that price. Given his contract situation, he’s going to need to finish out the year on a solid note.
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Good work Dale!
You keep me interested from across the pond. Good man!
Cheers mate appreciate it.