Mar 3, 2019; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver Kyle Busch (18) during the Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

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NASCAR TicketGuardian 500 preview

”The Last Lap with Seth Dunlap”
March 08, 2019 - 8:04 pm
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By: Tim Zimmer, WWL NACAR columnist

Last week at Las Vegas Motor Speedway we saw the second Penske driver, Joey Logano, in victory lane for 2019 season. Heading into this week, we continue our stay in the desert as drivers will take on the one mile track of ISM Raceway in Phoenix, Arizona.

The TicketGuardian 500 features 312 laps, but it’s the one of just four races that is measured by kilometers. Hence the 500 (kilometers) in title. Historically this race track has been dominated by two drivers of late, Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch. 

We’ll start off with “Cactus King” himself Kevin Harvick. The #4 car has not only excelled in the March race at ISM Raceway, he’s been dominating. Harvick has won four of the last five races here in March and has totaled 625 laps led in that timespan. Even more impressive, he’s finished top-6 at ISM eleven straight times which includes the November race. Going back further to 2010, and it’s fifteen of the last seventeen races including seven victories.

While you would think with those numbers, the #4 would be the hands on favorite for this weekend. Well the #18 of Kyle Busch have been just as impressive. Busch doesn’t have nearly as many wins here as Harvick, but does have a better average finish in the last seven races. The #18 has finished top-4 six of the last seven races at ISM and won the last time they were here for the 2018 playoffs in November. With that, he’s averaging a 3.2 finish in that timespan while leading 435 total laps.

When the Vegas bookmaker odds opened up earlier this week both drivers were (7/2) co-favorites with Harvick slightly now the favorite at (5/2) as of Friday. These two drivers don’t give you much value as far as betting goes, but I’ll give you a few names that could make some noise Sunday and potentially steal a win from the Big 2.

A track like Phoenix is similar to the other 1-mile tracks like Dover and New Hampshire. Looking at who’s excelled at those speedways will also be a big key in picking a winner. The clear cut team that’s had the most success has been the Toyota’s of Joe Gibbs Racing. Now with Martin Truex Jr on their team, the Toyotas lead all teams in laps led since 2017 and have a combined nineteen top-5 finishes between the four drivers. So looking at a driver like Martin Truex Jr or Denny Hamlin could be beneficial when trying to find value.

Another driver who has finished extremely well at one mile tracks is the Hendrick #9 car of Chase Elliott. Chase picked up a win in last year’s playoffs at Dover International Speedway and finished 3rd place last year in Phoenix. The Chevrolets haven’t shown much with the new package this season, but with the right track Elliott could contend up front Sunday.

Fantasy Drivers and “Best Bets”

Last week Logano was my #2 driver and ended up in victory lane. That now makes us 3/3 with the winner included in our Top 5 drivers. Hopefully, we can continue that trend this week with our #1 driver.

5) Erik Jones: I don’t expect Jones to finish in victory lane this Sunday, but it’s not out the realm of possibility. Like I mentioned earlier, the Toyotas have looked really good one the 1-mile tracks. In the two TicketGuardian 500s, Jones has an 8th and 9th place finish here. His best finish ever (4th) at ISM Raceway was the November race of this rookie season. Expect Jones to run up front in the pack for most of the day and come away with a solid finish. He’s definitely a solid play in fantasy. Odds: (25/1)

4) Chase Elliott: It’s hard to put a Chevrolet on the list considering their performance this season, but Elliott has something going when it comes to Phoenix.  If Chase wants to start his breakout season, like most experts predict, Sunday’s race is a good place to start. I could see Elliott leading a few laps and finishing anywhere between 1st-6th place. Odds: (10/1)

3) Martin Truex Jr: Truex is known for him dominance on the 1.5 mile tracks, but he’s been the best finisher when it comes to the one mile. Although he doesn’t have any wins, he leads all drivers with eight top 5’s in eleven races including three poles and 496 laps led. If you’re going to fade Harvick and Kyle Busch this weekend, I’d go with the #19 of Truex. Odds (10/1)

2) Kevin Harvick: I could put Harvick at 1a and 1b here, but decided to put him at #2 only because of this year’s momentum. The #4 car has looked good this season, but he just hasn’t looked great. Last year, Harvick swept the Atlanta, Las Vegas and Phoenix races, so far in 2019 he’s finished with back to back 4th place results. Odds: (5/2)

1) Kyle Busch: If there is one driver that’s due for a win this season its Kyle Busch. The #18 has already finished 2nd, 3rd and 6th place in the three races in 2019. He had the fastest car last week in Vegas, but a speeding penalty set him back finishing 3rd. I’ll take his track history and momentum this week and predict he’ll be the 4th winner of the 2019 season.  Odds: Best Bet (7/2)

You can catch the TicketGuardian 500 this Sunday on FOX at 2:30pm Central Time. You can follow Tim on Twitter for more NASCAR updates at @timzim1613

 

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