Here are your drivers to watch at Phoenix this Sunday during The Profit on CNBC 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup series race.
I am a huge and lifelong NASCAR fan, so this season, I am going to do my best to bring you one of these posts every Tuesday before the race. The format of these might evolve throughout the season, but we’ll give them a try, and I look forward to bringing you all NASCAR coverage. It’s how I cut my teeth on motorsports way back when I was just a preschooler.
Phoenix International Raceway is located in Avondale, Arizona. It’s a one-mile D-shaped tri-oval race track that has been open since 1964. Its banking ranges from 3 to 12 degrees, so it’s a relatively flat circuit. Since 2004, it has played host to two NASCAR races (one at night, which the track installed lights just to host this race). PIR is both the second and the second-to-last stop on the NASCAR Sprint Cup schedule. That’s some symmetry I can get behind. The Sprint Cup series has raced at PIR since 1988.
In 2011, the track was reconfigured. The front stretch was widened to 62 feet (~18.9 meters), pit lane was refinished with concrete stalls, variable banking was installed in the corners to allow for two racing lines, and the dog leg curve (between turns 2 and 3) was pushed out 95 feet (~28.95 meters) and the turning radius was tightened.
Drivers to Watch This Weekend
Here are my picks for the drivers to watch out for this weekend at the race, in no particular order.
Kevin Harvick – #4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS
- Harvick has four wins at Phoenix, seven top five finishes, and 11 top 10s.
- His average finish is 12.3
- His driver rating at PIR is 101.3 – second best of all active drivers.
- He’s spent 4,334 laps in the top 15 at the track, fourth-most of active drivers (and 76.1% of his total laps run on the circuit.
Carl Edwards – #99 Subway Ford Fusion
- Edwards has two wins, seven top fives, 11 top 10s, and three poles at Phoenix.
- Like Harvick, his average finish is 12.3
- Third-best 100.0 driver rating
- 3,865 laps spent in the top 15
Jeff Gordon – #24 Pepsi Max Chevrolet SS
- Two wins, 10 top fives, 20 top 10s, and three poles.
- An average finish of 11.5
- Driver rating of 99.4 – fourth best.
- 4,563 laps in the top 15 – second most of all active drivers.
Jimmie Johnson – #48 Lowe’s Chevrolet SS
- Four wins, 14 top fives, 17 top 10s, and two poles.
- Average finish of 6.3
- A series-best driver rating of 116.7
- 5,009 laps in the top 15 (88%), best of all active drivers.
Phoenix International Raceway Trivia
- Seven of the 35 races run at PIR have been won from the front row. Qualifying is key here.
- 17 of 35 races have been won from a top 10 starting position
- Ryan Newman has more poles at Phoenix than anyone else, with four.
- Eight drivers have won more than once at the track, they are: Jimmie Johnson (4), Kevin Harvick (4), Davey Allison (2), Jeff Burton (2), Dale Earnhardt, Jr. (2), Jeff Gordon (2), Carl Edwards (2), and Mark Martin (2).
My Wild Card Pick
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. – #88 National Guard Chevrolet SS
Now, I know that as a Gordon fan, it’s almost sacrilege for me to praise Junior for anything, but hear me out on this. He’s got two wins at the track, and he’s coming hot off his Daytona 500 win last week. Not only that, but he’s got the best equipment in the business, and a crew chief in Letarte who seems dead set on winning anything and everything in his last year. Who knows, this could be his year. Time will tell. I think Junior Nation will have something to cheer about by the end of the weekend, though.