By Jordan McAbee
Ouch. That’s all I have to say about the Las Vegas race. Not only did Matt Kenseth ruin a bunch of Fantasy NASCAR rosters, but the broken axle on Brian Vickers’ car did as well. Like I always say, though, you just have to move on when it comes to these fantasy racing games we play. Luckily for us, we’ve got a race at Phoenix up next, which is a track that tends to be incredibly predictable. You probably won’t see much change from the favorites early on in the week to the favorites on race day.
Being a predictable race is good in one aspect, but at the same time it doesn’t allow for us to gain a whole lot of points on the competition. If you had a bad week at Las Vegas, keep this in mind: you don’t need to make up all of the lost points right away! Don’t try to get cute with your picks this week. There are certain tracks where that is possible, but not Phoenix. Just go with who’s good in the desert and move on to the next race.
Yahoo! A Group Picks for Phoenix
Kevin Harvick (8 starts remaining) – This isn’t even an option. If you don’t have Kevin Harvick on your Yahoo! this week, please stop wasting your time with this fantasy game and do something else. The word “dominant” doesn’t even begin to describe Kevin Harvick at Phoenix. He’s better than any other driver even thought about being here. He has won five of the last seven events here, and should have won last fall, too. He finished 2nd that race to Dale Earnhardt, Jr. thanks to the rain. Also, Harvick was fighting for his Chase life and was able to get to the final round on points, so I’d venture to guess that he wasn’t going as hard as he could that day. Harvick has led more laps in his last four Phoenix starts than any driver has led in their career at this track (except Jimmie Johnson).
Joey Logano (9 starts remaining) – Honestly, with this roster spot I’m just going for some qualifying bonus points. It would take Kevin Harvick breaking his leg for me not to start him at Phoenix, and even then I would still probably roll with him. Joey Logano is a great option for qualifying points at most tracks and Phoenix is no exception. He has started 4th or better in four of the last five races here at Phoenix, and in all five of those events he has finished inside the top 10. He came home 3rd in the fall race here last season, which was a career-best for Joey. His teammate Brad Keselowski has also qualified very well here at Phoenix as of late, and don’t forget about Kurt Busch, who has been a qualifying machine as of late. As of right now I’m leaning Logano but I might go with Kurt.
Yahoo! B Group Picks for Phoenix
Austin Dillon (8 starts remaining) – Run ’em while they’re hot! Austin Dillon capped off a really strong weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway with a 5th-place finish on Sunday, giving him an average finish of 8.3 through the first three races of the 2016 Sprint Cup season. Getting that kind of value out of a B Group driver is incredible, and we should continue trying to capitalize on it until Austin fizzles out. In this Phoenix race last season, Dillon posted a career-best 15th-place finish, and I’d say he’s poised to post another career-best here on Sunday. I missed out on taking Austin Dillon last weekend but I won’t make the same mistake twice.
Ryan Newman (8 starts remaining) – I didn’t quite get the finish I wanted out of Ryan Newman at Las Vegas, but I’ll take a 13th-place start save most of the time. Now we’re at Phoenix, which is a flat track that really plays into The Rocketman’s strengths. In the last five races in the desert, Newman has never ended up worse than 11th, and he has finished inside that mark in ten of the last twelve overall. Newman ran 3rd in this race one year ago and if we could get another top 5 effort out of him this weekend I would jump for joy.
Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. (9 starts remaining) – Yeah, I’m digging deep here, but I like the other B Group guys I have so I don’t feel like this is too big of a risk. The sleeper pick of the week for Phoenix is Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. I really like what this team is doing in 2016 and, as I said before, it’s best to run these mid-tier guys while they’re hot. Stenhouse came home 10th a couple of weeks ago at Atlanta and then followed that up with a solid 12th-place running at Las Vegas. Now we’re at Phoenix where he has been incredibly consistent for much of his Sprint Cup career; in six career starts here, Stenhouse has finished between 12th and 18th in all but one of them. I remember back when Ricky was in the Nationwide Series he really liked the flat tracks. The Roush-Fenway Fords look to have improved by quite a bit from one year ago, so it will be interesting to see how they look at Phoenix this weekend.
Jamie McMurray (9 starts remaining) – Phoenix is one of those tracks that typically allows us to run some drivers in the B Group other than the “heavy hitters,” and I’m perfectly okay with that. Jamie McMurray had a great run in this race last year, starting 2nd and finishing 3rd, and he followed that up with a 15th-place run in the fall. That makes it four straight finishes of 15th or better for McMurray in the desert, and if I can get that kind of finish while saving a Truex or Edwards start, I’m okay with it.
Note: Martin Truex, Jr. will be without crew chief Cole Pearn this weekend due to suspension, and he has posted just two top 10 finishes in his last seven starts at Phoenix. This is an excellent time to give the ‘ol #78 Toyota a break and go with some other drivers. As you can see, I’m also leaving Carl Edwards off, who has just one top 10 finish in the last five Phoenix races.
Yahoo! C Group Picks for Phoenix
Man, Chase Elliott and Brian Vickers really killed a lot of rosters at Las Vegas–mine included. Both of them had good runs going (more so Elliott), too. Oh, well. It’s hard to bet against the rookies right now, especially since Ryan Blaney came home 6th at Las Vegas last week. The downside is that neither Elliott or Blaney has made a Sprint Cup start here at Phoenix, although the former ended up 7th in both Xfinity races here last season. I’m going for max points this week so right now I’m leaning toward putting both Chase Elliott and Ryan Blaney on my Yahoo! roster in the C Group.