The NASCAR Cup Series rolls to the final stop of its early season three-event West coast swing Sunday with the running of the FanShield 500 at Phoenix Raceway. And just like last the event Sunday at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., the reigning series champion – Kyle Busch – goes into the weekend wearing the label of favorite.
And it seems only a matter of time before the champ finds his way back to victory lane.
Kyle Busch Back-to-Back in Phoenix?
After struggling in the first two events of the season Busch [7-2] got back on his game last week at Fontana, finishing second to Alex Bowman.
“Guys are doing all they can, I know along with everybody at [Toyota Racing Development],” Busch said Sunday after his runner-up finish at Auto Club Speedway. “I appreciate all the hard work. We just have to get a little bit better. We finished the end of last year so strong, I don’t know what we’re missing here. Obviously, it’s a little bit of something here and maybe a little bit of something in a few different areas.”
Kyle Busch goes to Phoenix as the defending event winner with a streak of positive runs at the tricky one-mile layout. He has finished first or second in the last four Cup Series events in Phoenix. Over the last nine events at the track dating back to 2015, Kyle Busch has finished fourth or better eight times with a worst finish during that span of seventh.
Kevin Harvick 2nd Favorite
While Busch’s run of recent success at Phoenix stands out, Kevin Harvick (5-1) has been the most successful active driver overall in the dessert with nine career victories at the track. His last victory at the track came in this event two years ago. Harvick was not a fan of the rules package in place last year at Phoenix, but is optimistic going to this weekend with NASCAR returning to the old technical setup that was in place in 2018 for the track.
“I felt like last year, with that particular rules package, we definitely weren’t as good as we had been in the past,” Harvick said. “With the … [rules package used now], I think we were in the game. It’s been a great race track for us as we’ve gone through the years and a place that we go to expect a win. And I don’t see that any different, no matter what the rules package is, the expectations from our side are the same and that’s to go there and have a chance to win.”
In 34 career events at Phoenix, Harvick has an average finish of 9.2 and is the only active series regular with an average finish below 10th at the track.
Like Harvick, Martin Truex Jr. (9-2) is optimistic that a return to the 2018 rules package will spell success after some early season struggles for the Joe Gibbs Racing driver and Busch teammate.
“It’s been kind of a decent track for us over the years,” Truex said. “I felt like, since the repave [in 2018], it’s taken a little bit for us to get our arms around it. I feel like we’re getting better there and that’s a good thing. We’ve had some good runs there the last couple years. Last fall, I felt like we were about the closest we’ve been in a few years at least to having a shot. With the new rules going back a few years, we ran well there in 2018, so hopefully we can expand on that and find some more speed there.”
Larson – Outside Bet
If you’re looking for a bit more value with your sports betting, Kyle Larson (20-1) looks to be an interesting pick for Phoenix. Larson finished fourth, sixth and third in his last three starts respectively at Phoenix and over his last seven starts he has four finishes of fourth or better.