Last Updated: 2018-03-07
It may have a new sponsor, but not much has changed at Phoenix International Raceway as we look ahead to this week’s TicketGuardian 500. The name of the race has changed and the track is now ISM Raceway, but we head into this weekend’s event with a red-hot Kevin Harvick looking for his third straight win on the season at a track that he is supremely comfortable at when it comes to racing.
This is the first of two stops for the Monster Energy Cup Series at the track in Avondale, Arizona, with the second coming this November for the Can-Am 500. This weekend’s race will have a new sponsor for the fifth straight year, as the TicketGuardian 500 serves as the fourth race of the NASCAR season. This one-mile dogleg oval track is undergoing some renovations around the racing surface, with some new seating arrangements and other things to make fans more comfortable. There have been a few minor changes to the racing surface, with the start/finish line between Turn 1 and the dogleg and some reconfiguration of the pit areas and the pit entrance. Drivers will have to familiarize themselves with these modifications during their qualifying runs, but it shouldn’t change the race all that much.
(edit: next paragraph updated after posting)
NASCAR’s new scoring system certainly is interesting. Kevin Harvick has two wins already, which means he’ll be in the playoffs. Prior to NASCAR’s announcement, Harvick had 135 points and led Joey Logano by three points. He was 31st at Daytona, but led the most laps at both Atlanta and Las Vegas in his wins and won two stages at LVS. Now, however, Harvick has had points taken away for violations at Las Vegas and sits 17 points behind Logano. Logano has finished in the top seven in all three races. Ryan Blaney is third with 131 points. Martin Truex Jr. is fourth and Kyle Busch is tied for fifth with Kyle Larson. Brad Keselowski and Denny Hamlin are just outside the top five. Austin Dillon has the other win, so his ticket is likely punched for the playoffs as well, unless we have more than 16 different drivers with a win.
How good has Kevin Harvick been at ISM Raceway? Well, he is a +200 favorite this week per the oddsmakers at 5Dimes Sportsbook. Harvick has eight care victories in the races in Avondale and has led over 1,200 laps in his Cup Series career at this track. For good measure, Harvick hasn’t finished lower than sixth at Phoenix since 2013, when he was 13th in this early race. He has four wins in the fall race, four in this race, and five other top-five finishes. Harvick only had one win last season. This is his second year in a Ford for Stewart-Haas Racing and things seem to be clicking for him and his team. There isn’t much value in a +200 shot in a NASCAR race, but it is really hard to argue with what Harvick has done at this track.
Kyle Busch is a distant second favorite on the board at +550. Busch was second last week at Las Vegas, but it would have taken an appearance from William H. Macy as The Cooler to stop Harvick from winning. Busch likes racing in the desert as well, even though he hasn’t won at Phoenix very often. In fact, he only has one win at Phoenix way back during his first full season in 2005. He does have back-to-back top-five finishes here and had a run of four straight before finishing seventh last year. Busch got off to a pretty slow start last season, so he is ahead of that pace, but it would be a little bit surprising to see him grab this win. With wins in 2013 and 2014 at Auto Club Speedway, look for him next week.
Kyle Larson is +750, but Larson’s best performances have mostly come on bigger tracks. This is a one-mile track and he had three of his wins on two-mile tracks last year. He certainly has the ability to win anywhere, but he only has two top-five finishes in eight career starts at Phoenix. Similarly, the +850 crowd of Martin Truex Jr. and Brad Keselowski is tough to back. Truex was third in the fall race last year, but that was his first top-five at Phoenix since 2009 and just the second of his career. Keselowski is winless here and only has one top-five finish at Phoenix since 2014.
Denny Hamlin only has one win at Phoenix in his career, but he is a decent value grab at +950. Hamlin has been in the top 10 here in five of the last eight races and led the most laps in last year’s fall race, but finished 35th. Hamlin runs very well in restrictor plate races and won at New Hampshire and Darlington last year, which are intermediate tracks. He likes the tighter racing conditions and he could very well be a winner in this one.
This race started back in 2005 and Chevy vehicles have won 10 of the 13 spring races at Phoenix. A lot of that has to do with Kevin Harvick, who has four of them, but Ryan Newman has a couple and he is a decent long shot grab at +5500 this week. To go along with his two wins, Newman also has eight other top-five finishes at this track in his career, which dates back to 2000. At the very least, he’s worth a look for a top-five prop when those come out closer to race day.
Coverage of the TicketGuardian 500 will be on Fox with a 3:30 p.m. ET start time on Sunday.
Odds as of March 7, 4 p.m. ET:
Kevin Harvick +200
Kyle Busch +550
Kyle Larson +750
Martin Truex Jr +850
Brad Keselowski +850
Denny Hamlin +950
Chase Elliott +950
Joey Logano +1350
Ryan Blaney +2000
Erik Jones +2250
Jimmie Johnson +2750
Alex Bowman +4400
Clint Bowyer +4400
Kurt Busch +4400
Aric Almirola +4400
Ryan Newman +5500
Jamie McMurray +8800
Daniel Suarez +8800
Ricky Stenhouse Jr +10000
Paul Menard +10000
Austin Dillon +20000
William Byron +20000
Darrell Wallace Jr +30000
Kasey Kahne +50000
Trevor Bayne +50000
Ty Dillon +50000
Chris Buescher +100000
Michael McDowell +100000
AJ Allmendinger +100000
-END OF 2018 PREVIEW-
The Camping World 500 is the next race on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series calendar and sometimes it’s fair to wonder why they even have it. Kevin Harvick is going for his fourth straight win at his favorite track and the #4 Ford is a massive favorite to take down his fifth career victory at Phoenix International Raceway in Avondale, Arizona. This is the fourth of 36 races scheduled for the 2017 NASCAR season and the one that is likely to have the least surprising outcome.
Things seem to be going pretty well with NASCAR this year. The new scoring format has already helped out some drivers that otherwise would have been left with a sour taste in their mouths. Last week, however, it didn’t really matter. Martin Truex Jr. basically went wire-to-wire on the 1.5-mile track in Las Vegas by winning both stages and the overall race. Truex was going off at +1200 and was tipped as one of our longer shot drivers last week, so hopefully you were able to jump on that one. Keep Truex in mind on ever 1.5-mile track.
This week’s is a one-mile race with 500 laps around the asphalt track. Phoenix is also the host site for the Can-Am 500, which is the final race in the Round of 8 in the NASCAR playoffs. The swing through the west continues next week at Auto Club Speedway before the drivers attempt to come east and hope for decent weather at Martinsville.
Brad Keselowski is the points leader with 132 points. He hasn’t won any of the first two stages of a race yet this season, but he has consistently been near the top to accumulate points. Keselowski won two weeks ago at Atlanta. He has 132 points. Kyle Larson is second with 131 points, including back-to-back second-place finishes. He was another guy we tipped at +1500 last week. Chase Elliott has a Duel win and back-to-back top-five finishes to have 129 points. Last week’s clean sweep winner, Martin Truex Jr., is fourth with 127 points. Joey Logano has four top-10 finishes and stands aklone in fifth with 119 points. Daytona 500 winner Kurt Busch is seventh. Second Daytona duel winner Denny Hamlin is 15th. Reigning champion Jimmie Johnson is 18th, one spot ahead of Kyle Busch.
As mentioned, this week’s favorite at 5Dimes Sportsbook is Kevin Harvick and he’s all the way down at +250. Normally, we see Cup Series favorites lined in the +400 or +450 range. Not this week. Not at Phoenix. Harvick owns eight career wins on this track and has led over 1,200 laps at the Cup Series level in races at Phoenix. Harvick has won three straight Camping World 500s. He’s also run really well this season. He got into trouble last week at Las Vegas and finished 38th, but he led the most laps in the Daytona 500 and at Atlanta. He won three of the four stages, but finished 22nd and ninth at the end of the race. Harvick was 13th in 2013, his last Camping World 500 with Richard Childress Racing, but he was second and fourth prior to that. In terms of the fall race at Phoenix, Harvick’s last five finishes are fourth, second, first, first, and first. He’s simply dominant here.
Kyle Busch checks in at +800 this week and stands as the second favorite. Kyle Busch hasn’t had much luck this season. He won the first stage of the Daytona 500, but wound up 38th. His best finish is 12th in the first Daytona duel and has hasn’t cracked the top 15 in a full-length race. Last week’s 22nd-place result in his hometown had to be pretty devastating. Busch was ninth in 2014 in this race. He missed the 2015 version with an injury, but he was fourth last year and had the pole position. He has back-to-back top-five finishes in the fall race at PIR. Last season, Busch opened with four consecutive top-five finishes. A little bit of desperation might set in this week with the slow start, especially after frustrations boiled over last week when Busch got into a mix-up with Joey Logano’s pit crew.
Points leader Brad Keselowski and Team Penske teammate Joey Logano are both lined at +850 this week. Neither driver has won this race, which is one of the newer ones on the circuit. Its inaugural running was in 2005. Keselowski hasn’t won here in his career, but he’s had some good finishes. Last year he was 29th, but prior to that, he was sixth, third, fourth, and fifth in a four-year span. Keslowski is another driver that seems to do really well on 1.5-mile tracks, so this may not be the spot for him. Logano won the fall race in Phoenix last year for his first career win on this track. He’s finished 18th, eighth, and fourth in this race over the last three year, but has four straight top 10s, including a win and a third in the fall race. If you’re going to look at one of these two guys this week, Logano is probably the one to pick.
Jimmie Johnson is +1000 and this has been a good track for him. Over the course of his career, Johnson has 14 top-five finishes at Phoenix. His lone win in this race came back in 2008. He’s a three-time winner of the fall race. Another guy that could be worth consideration this week is Dale Earnhardt Jr. Junior has three wins in the fall race in his career and has three top-five finishes over his last four starts in this race. He’s a great restrictor plate racer and these short tracks give him a chance to race in traffic, which he is very adept at doing. He has five top-five finishes at Martinsville, a half-mile track, over the last six years and a win. Tighter tracks are good for Earnhardt. He’s still trying to get back into rhythm after missing half of last season with a concussion, but he could be a good look for a small position to win at +1350 and a top-five prop bet.
Coverage of the Camping World 500 will be on Fox with a start time of 3:30 p.m. ET on Sunday afternoon.
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