The Chase for the Sprint Cup Series season readies for the penultimate race at Phoenix International Raceway for the Can-Am 500. Hendrick Motorsports driver Jimmie Johnson ($9,700) and Joe Gibbs Racing’s Carl Edwards ($9,100) are through to next weekend’s final race at Homestead-Miami Speedway, but the final two championship spots remain up for grabs. That means there should be some outstanding racing on the flat track in Avondale this weekend, with six drivers vying for those final two spots in the Championship Four. Chevrolet drivers will be good Fantasy targets this weekend, as that manufacturer has six consecutive victories, and 18 wins in the past 22 races, on the flat track in Phoenix.
Just because Johnson is through to the Championship Four at HMS, do not think for a second he is taking the week off. In fact, outside of Harvick, Johnson has been the most dominant driver at the flat track in Phoenix. In 26 career starts he has four wins, 15 Top 5s and 19 Top 10s with 977 laps led, and his 7.9 AFP in those 26 races is better than everyone. As far Edwards, he has a 102.3 Driver Rating over the past five Phoenix stops, leading 66 laps while running 87.7 percent of his laps inside the Top 15. Edwards has a pair of wins and one-third of his 24 career starts resulting in Top 5 finishes. His 11.8 AFP makes him an attractive DFS play.
Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick ($10,600) remains alive for a spot in the final four, and he has to like his chances. Harvick won the Good Sam 500 in March at PIR, and he has won five of the past six races in Phoenix, and six of the past eight. His 147.0 Driver Rating and 994 laps led at Phoenix over the past five starts is simply amazing, and he is an obvious must-start in all Fantasy formats. He has also run a ridiculous 99.2 percent of his laps inside the Top 15 over the past five starts at Phoenix. For whatever reason, the No. 4 is heads and tails better than any other team on the flat track in Arizona, and you cannot afford not to use him unless you have exhausted all of your eligible starts in Yahoo! Sports.
(DraftKings.com salaries in parentheses)
Harvick’s teammate, Kurt Busch ($8,400), is also mathematically alive for the championship still, and he has had decent showings at Phoenix over the years. Over the past five PIR races, the elder Busch has a 101.0 Driver Rating while running 89.2 percent of his laps inside the Top 15. Busch has 16 Top 10s in 27 career starts at the track with a 13.4 AFP. As a mid-tier DFS selection he is a nice play. His boss, Tony Stewart ($7,500), makes his final appearance at Phoenix, at least as a full-time driver. Smoke has one win, eight Top 5s, and 12 Top 10s in 27 career starts with a 14.0 AFP, which is eighth-best among drivers with at least two career starts at the track, so he is a nice sleeper in his final go-around.
Johnson’s teammate, rookie Chase Elliott ($8,700) fell short in his pursuit of a championship as a rookie, but he is still a driver to be reckoned with down the stretch. In his first-career Cup race in Phoenix in the Good Sam 500 in March, Elliott steered his No. 24 Chevy to an eighth-place showing, although he failed to lead any laps. He has proven to be a very quick study and Fantasy force, even with limited knowledge of certain tracks and types.
Wood Brothers driver Ryan Blaney ($7,700), a fellow rookie, fared well like Elliott in his first go-around at Texas in the Cup series. Blaney scored a 10th-place finish in the March race, and he is working on a streak of four straight Top 20 finishes, including a 12th at Texas last week. Blaney has quietly been finishing the season strong, and you might not have to share him with many other DFS players.
Edwards isn’t the only car from the JGR stable to pay mind to this weekend. Denny Hamlin ($9,900) doesn’t appear on the Top 10 list in Driver Rating over the past five stops in Phoenix, but he has had success in the past. He has a win and 10 Top 5s with 441 laps led in 22 starts, posting an 11.0 Average-Finish Position (AFP). Matt Kenseth ($9,300) ranks 10th with a 97.2 Driver Rating over the past five stops in Arizona, running 92.7 percent of his laps inside the Top 15. He has a win with 19 Top 20 finishes in 27 career starts, posting a 16.3 AFP. He won’t do you wrong at PIR as a No. 2 or 3 driver option. Kyle Busch ($10,400) isn’t quite the same as Harvick in terms of sure-thing status despite a similar price tag. He is the JGR driver to fade, as his salary is high, but results nearly identical to the others with a much cheaper DFS salary.
Penske Racing’s Joey Logano ($10,200) hasn’t had the wins, but he has been very consistent in the past five races at PIR. He is second in Driver Rating at 111.1, leading 123 laps while turning 92.3 percent of his laps inside the Top 15. Eight of his 15 starts have resulted in Top 10 finishes, and he is a steady DFS option despite his lack of wins at PIR. Brad Keselowski ($9,500) has 14 career starts at Phoenix, with no wins. However, half of his starts have resulted in Top 10 finishes, posting a 14.6 AFP overall. He is also a solid No. 2 driver, and his Fantasy points per dollar spent is better than Logano.
On the cheap, Richard Childress Racing’s Ryan Newman ($7,800) posted his 10th Top 10 in 34 starts this season with a good showing at Texas last weekend. He is 17th or better in six straight races, including a pair of Top 10s. He has won at Phoenix before, and he has nine Top 5s and 11 Top 10s in 28 career runs at PIR, posting a respectable 17.9. JTG Daugherty driver A.J. Allmendinger ($7,400) is also a solid low-priced option, as he has four straight Top 20 finishes. In 14 career starts at Phoenix, he has 11 Top 20 finishes with a 17.2 AFP, so look for Allmendinger to stretch his Top 20 streak to five straight.
If you need to save even more, Richard Petty Motorsports driver Aric Almirola ($6,700) is a safe play as a No. 5 or 6 option. He has a 15.0 AFP over his past three starts, including a Top 10 at Talladega, and the driver of the No. 43 machine has nine Top 20 finishes in 11 career starts at Phoenix. And if you’re really in a pinch, rookie Gray Gaulding ($4,700) is back behind the wheel of the No. 30 car for The Motorsports Group. He was a dismal 39th in his Cup debut at Martinsville, but he will save you plenty of salary to load up on high-priced studs in your first three or four roster spots.
NASCAR FANTASY LINEUPS FOR PHOENIX
|No.||Driver||DraftKings Salary||No.||Driver||Fantasy Live Salary||No.||Yahoo! Sports Driver|
|1||Kevin Harvick||$10,600||1||Kevin Harvick||$27.75||1||Kevin Harvick|
|2||Jimmie Johnson||$9,700||2||Joey Logano||$27.50||2||Carl Edwards|
|3||Carl Edwards||$9,100||3||Ryan Blaney||$16.75||3||A.J. Allmendinger|
|4||Kurt Busch||$8,400||4||A.J. Allmendinger||$16.25||4||Chase Elliott|
|5||A.J. Allmendinger||$7,400||5||Casey Mears||$8.25|