Last Updated: 2019-03-06
It’s Phoenix, which means that Kevin Harvick is going to win and we don’t have to bother with a race this weekend. The TicketGuardian 500 is this week’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series event at ISM Raceway in Avondale, Arizona and it is already the fourth race of the 2019 season.
So far, we’ve seen a lot of interesting developments, as the only difference in the rules package last week was pack racing in the middle of the field, as the best cars clearly stood out, as they always have. Of course the Daytona 500 was a mess. It seems like status quo, even though NASCAR officials are looking for anything but status quo.
With that, we look at this weekend’s TicketGuardian 500. Odds come from 5Dimes Sportsbook and can be seen on the right for desktop viewers and down below the comment box for mobile viewers.
Down in the Desert
This is the first of two stops at ISM Raceway in the suburbs of Phoenix. The Can-Am 500 will come later this year as the second-to-last race, just in front of the Ford EcoBoost 400 at Miami-Homestead. Capacity has been reduced from 51,000 to 42,000 for this race. The only other change is that IndyCar will not be racing at ISM this year because of subpar racing and poor attendance.
This is a 1.022-mile dogleg oval with varying degrees of banking in the turns. Turn 1 is eight degrees and Turn 2 is somewhere between eight degrees and nine degrees. Turns 3 and 4 are banked a little bit sharper with between 10 and 11 degrees of tilt.
Well, as I said, it’s Kevin Harvick at Phoenix, so nobody else needs to show up. Harvick is the +275 favorite. He does have some competition on the betting board from Kyle Busch, who is lined at +375. After that, you have to go all the way down to +750 to find Brad Keselowski and down to +850 to find Joey Logano.
Everybody else is at least +1150 or greater a few days out from the race. There were some track changes to the race back in 2017, but everybody has settled in with those with two races last year, so there shouldn’t be any surprises in that regard.
“Ford” The Win
Ford looks to be the dominant manufacturer this season. Toyota has taken some steps back over the last year and four races, as Kyle Busch has been the only consistent contender. We used to regularly see Martin Truex Jr. lined with the Harvicks and Busches of the world, but he’s back amongst the rest of the pack these days.
Including the Duels and the Clash, Ford has taken the win in four of the six events so far. Denny Hamlin has Toyota’s only win and it came in the Daytona 500 after The Big One wiped out 40 percent of the field late in the race. In two unshackled races, Ford has wins from Keselowski and Logano. Harvick and Logano won their Duels. Ford was in position to win the Daytona 500 with Ryan Blaney, but he got caught up in all the shenanigans of the race.
The only consistent hope for Chevy so far has been Kyle Larson. He led the most laps and won Stage 1 at Atlanta, but has zero top-five finishes to his name. Kurt Busch does have two top-five finishes, but he hasn’t been much more than a token threat.
Clean It Up
In a way, we can consider the Clash and the Duels as NASCAR’s version of Spring Training or preseason, but there have been some boneheaded mistakes thus far. Pit speeding has been an issue for several drivers, including Kyle Busch, and pit crews are still working to find a groove. Penalties and crashes on pit road have really hurt several teams in the early going.
As the season goes along, things will get smoother for all involved and the rules package will not be a topic of conversation. Still, as we head into the fourth race of the season, there are a lot of things that teams need to clean up.
Well, this conversation begins and ends with Harvick. Harvick has five wins in the late-winter/spring race at Phoenix, including four of the last five. His first four came with a Chevy and his most recent one in 2018 came with his current Ford. For good measure, Harvick has four wins in the fall race, although, he hasn’t won that one since 2014.
Kyle Busch won last year’s November race, but has never won this race. It hasn’t been from lack of effort. Busch has three straight top-five finishes in this race and has led the most laps each of the last two years. He’s finished in the top five in three of the last four fall races as well, including last year’s win.
Phoenix has not been quite as kind to Brad Keselowski, who was 15th last year. He was fifth in 2017 and his last top-five finish prior to that was 2014. He was the runner-up in the fall race last year, but the track does run a little bit differently in November than it does in March. Last week’s Las Vegas winner, Joey Logano, has not had much success at Phoenix. His only top-five finish in this race came back in 2014. He did win here in the fall of 2016.
Kyle Larson has three top-five finishes here, with two in the fall. He was 18th last year, but second two years ago. Larson hasn’t won a race since Richmond back in 2017, though, so he needs to show some better form before he is worthy of a bet.
The price is only +275 on Harvick, but he has to be your top choice this week, and maybe even a two-unit play. Fords look dominant this season and this is a dominant track for Harvick. Also, given the recent form here, Busch at +375 is the only other play I’d be excited to make.
The only winners aside from Harvick and Busch at Phoenix dating back to 2009 are Carl Edwards, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Joey Logano, Matt Kenseth, Ryan Newman, Denny Hamlin, and Jeff Gordon. Four of those guys have since retired. Maybe Newman is your long shot Busch Ice beer money bet at +11500. He’s a Ford driver at least.
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