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1 month agoWilliam Byron did not have the ending to 2022 that he expected but does start eighth at Phoenix on Sunday. The No 24 Hendrick Motorsports Racing car has enjoyed far from a dull season. Also, Byron does have three top-ten results in his previous seven appearances on the mile-long course. Weather will not be an issue on Sunday which is a plus. Maybe there will be a bit of sun glare. One thing is certain. Byron might not lead a lot of laps. In his last seven races, he has led just 0.5% of them at Phoenix.--Chris Wassel - RotoBallerSource: NASCAR.com
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1 month agoDeath, taxes, and Kevin Harvick finishing in the top ten at Phoenix are certainties in life. The Stewart-Haas Racing has done so 18 straight times. His 6.7 average finish is the best of all active drivers on the mile-long track. He has led 6.9% of the laps in the past seven races. Harvick's No. 4 car begins seventh on Sunday. Most forget Harvick was third after Stage 2 in March before a restart and an unlucky caution dropped him back to sixth. It is hard to count out the driver here as he knows this course so well. --Chris Wassel - RotoBallerSource: NASCAR.com
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1 month agoWay back in March, Chase Briscoe showed he had the closing speed and acceleration to win at Phoenix. Could it happen again? The Stewart-Haas Racing car started sixth and led 101 laps on his way to victory lane. There is little question the Next-Gen car favors a driver that takes risks like Briscoe. Everything is set up for Briscoe to contend again on the track. He starts in third this time. There are two Ford cars in front of him (Logano and Blaney) that should help. Finally, he has mastered the low-line that one needs to in order to have success on the mile-long track. --Chris Wassel - RotoBallerSource: NASCAR.com
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1 month agoRyan Blaney has been so close all year to winning a race. Despite that, the Team Penske Ford has a bagel next to the wins column. Blaney starts outside of Row 1 next to teammate Joey Logano on Sunday at Phoenix. The No. 12 car was leading after Stage 2 in March but settled for a consecutive fourth-place finish. It feels like Blaney has been "right there" a lot this year. That appears likely to be the case again on Sunday. Also in that race, Blaney led 143 laps in all. The question is can he finish what he starts? That question has been a dogged one all year long. --Chris Wassel - RotoBallerSource: NASCAR.com
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1 month agoKyle Larson will be wondering what might have been for a long time. Larson is still in the Owners Title chase on Sunday. Plus, the Hendrick Motorsports Racing driver begins fourth with eyes on crashing the party and winning the race. Larson won last November on the mile-long track to win his first NASCAR Championship. Engine problems derailed his chances in March. Late-run speed in the Next-Gen has been a bit of a mixed bag for the Chevy. However, over the last few weeks, the No. 5 car has looked more and more like the 2021 version that won ten times. The win at Homestead and near-win at Martinsville have Larson on the right track for 2023.--Chris Wassel - RotoBallerSource: NASCAR.com
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1 month agoRoss Chastain and his TrackHouse Racing car begins Sunday from 25th at Phoenix Raceway. Chastain was out of the "Championship Four" until he throttled the gas and wall surfed his way past Denny Hamlin in the playoff standings. What will he do this Sunday? Likely, Chastain will need a little help getting to the front. Does he get that help? That's another big question. Chastain showed in March that he can move up quickly on the track. The No. 1 Chevy started 17th and wound up in second by the end of the race. Chastain has a bigger challenge on Sunday with much more on the line. --Chris Wassel - RotoBallerSource: NASCAR.com
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1 month agoChristopher Bell starts from Phoenix in the 17th position. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver knows a bit about coming from a little off the front. He has done it twice to win at Charlotte then Martinsville. The No. 22 car has one of the best pit crews in the business and if anyone can move up the field, it will be Bell. Bell has two top-ten results in his previous five appearances. He has not led a lap at Phoenix but was sixth in March after one stage. Then problems arose and Bell dropped to the back. He ended up 26th. This race is for the championship. Bell can find the speed once more. --Chris Wassel - RotoBallerSource: NASCAR.com
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1 month agoChase Elliott has been here the last couple of seasons. The Hendrick Motorsports Racing driver starts fifth on Sunday from Phoenix Raceway. Elliott won the race in 2020 to win his first NASCAR Cup Championship. The No. 9 car has led 17.8% of the laps over the previous seven races. Only Joey Logano (19.4%) has led a higher percentage. Elliott was in the race in March with stage results of third and second before having issues late and winding up 11th. He even led 50 laps. In four of the past five races at Phoenix, Elliott has led at least 50 laps. With an average finish of 5.8 in his last five appearances, expect the 2020 champ to be a factor.--Chris Wassel - RotoBallerSource: NASCAR.com
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1 month agoJoey Logano and his Team Penske racing car will start from the pole for Phoenix on Sunday afternoon. Logano is one of the "championship four" and has historical success on the mile-long track. That includes six top-ten results in the past seven races, a win in early 2020, and a near-win last March. However, in the Next-Gen car, the No. 22 did not factor in this year's version. He led a few laps but mostly stayed around 8th-10th place. Logano will need to be able to stay at the front. Starting from the pole helps but only for so long. If the car can stay in it until the final stage, Logano has a chance. --Chris Wassel - RotoBallerSource: NASCAR.com
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1 month agoKevin Harvick and his Stewart-Haas Ford will start eighth on Sunday at the Xfinity 500 in Martinsville. Harvick has not led a single lap in his previous seven appearances on the short 0.526-mile track. Expecting a win here is probably a tall order but he was in the top ten after both stages in April. Harvick fell back to 14th eventually because of a little bad luck. He is kind of a wildcard not so much from a winning standpoint but possibly from a drafting standpoint. Expect Harvick to be a factor in this race from tactics more than results. --Chris Wassel - RotoBallerSource: NASCAR.com
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1 month agoBrad Keselowski has been racing better of late and qualified sixth for the Xfinity 500 on Saturday afternoon from Martinsville. Keselowski has an average finish of 9.1 with a win and five top-five results in his past seven races on the 0.526-mile track. He has led 13.3% of the laps recently as well. Keselowski's car was not the same as it is now. The spring race saw him fade from ninth to 17th. Now his Ford could be more of a factor later in the race. His fifth-place finish at Homestead last week opened a lot of eyes, along with positive place differential in his last several NASCAR events. Keselowski could factor into the mix on Sunday.--Chris Wassel - RotoBallerSource: NASCAR.com
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1 month agoDaniel Suarez and his No. 99 TrackHouse Racing car could be pivotal in the NASCAR Championship chase. Why? Suarez qualified seventh for the race at Martinsville on Sunday. Just two spots behind him is his teammate, Ross Chastain. As points and even stage points are critical, will team politics come into play? It seems likely at this juncture. Both Chevy cars are quite fast and remember that Chastain finished in fifth during the Spring race. While Suarez had all sorts of issues with his car, that does not seem to be the case this time around. Their overall speed with the Next-Gen car could help both drivers finish well on Sunday.--Chris Wassel - RotoBallerSource: NASCAR.com
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1 month agoStarting too far back in the pack could be a problem for William Byron at Martinsville. He qualified 25th for the Xfinity 500 on Sunday afternoon. Byron has not started this far back since 2019. He did not finish inside the top-20 either time in those scenarios. The hope is that Byron can win like he did in the Spring. The problem is the No. 24 Chevy began the race in fifth. Adding a two in front of that ones digit is not good. However, while Byron will not lead 212 laps this time around, his car should have to speed to get near the front. The questions will be when and can he get or stay there without incident. If Byron manages that, he may defend his position on the bubble for Phoenix.--Chris Wassel - RotoBallerSource: NASCAR.com
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1 month agoChristopher Bell got one miracle at the ROVAL in Charlotte. Could it happen again on Sunday at Martinsville? Never say never as anything is possible but Bell is 33 points out of the fourth spot currently held by William Byron. Bell starts 20th on Sunday but did have a fourth and a ninth in the stages before issues with the car plagued him late. If he carries enough speed, Bell can move up the field. Winning the race is a tall order here but the Joe Gibbs Racing driver could find himself in position at least. That is all the No. 20 driver can hope for.--Chris Wassel - RotoBallerSource: NASCAR.com
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1 month agoJoey Logano is the only driver of the eight remaining in contention to have zero to worry about. Logano's win earlier in segment number there ensured him of racing in Phoenix with the chance for a championship. The Team Penske driver qualified 12th for Sunday's Xfinity 500. He is the only active driver to have six top-ten results in his last seven races on the 0.526-mile track. Logano did not lead a single lap in the Spring but battled his way up to second place. His No. 22 Ford is fast enough but again there are no worries.--Chris Wassel - RotoBallerSource: NASCAR.com
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