The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series is in Phoenix, Arizona this weekend for the TicketGuardian 500 at ISM Raceway. Personally, the races here at Phoenix are some of my favorite to watch, but from a Fantasy NASCAR perspective they can be difficult to handicap. That’s because this is a 1-mile short track, so the drivers that are most successful will be the ones that can find the correct balance between short- and long-run speed on Sunday. This can be difficult to determine based on practice speeds alone, but the good news is that we see a lot of familiar faces up front each time we stop at this track. As always with Slingshot Fantasy Auto, starting position is important due to the place differential fantasy points, and you can find the full starting lineup for the TicketGuardian 500 by clicking here.
*Please note: the picks and suggestions below are my opinions and strategy for the Slingshot Fantasy Auto Contest. These are not meant to sway your thinking in any way, but rather give you insight into the drivers I am most likely to pick on Sunday.*
Slingshot Fantasy Auto Picks for Phoenix
Kevin Harvick ($12,900) – Before I get into the specifics of my Harvick pick, first let’s talk about a different driver: Kyle Larson ($11,800). Larson will start from back in 31st on Sunday, and because of that’s he’s likely to be the most-picked driver in Slingshot Fantasy Auto. That’s why I don’t mind going against him. Don’t get me wrong, Larson is a great pick for place differential points, but what if something goes wrong? Additionally, Larson’s #42 Chevrolet hasn’t handled well in traffic this season, so that could be come an issue on Sunday as well. Instead, I don’t mind paying up for Kevin Harvick, or even Kyle Busch ($13,000), who are both masters at this race track and likely to get 15-20 Stage fantasy points on Sunday. As far as the debate between Harvick and Kyle Busch, I don’t think you can go wrong with either. I personally think the #4 Ford has better long-run speed, but Rowdy is more likely to lead the most laps. Take your pick.
Aric Almirola ($11,000) – Aric Almirola has a really strong race car this weekend, as evidenced by his 3rd-best ten-lap average during Saturday’s final practice session here at Phoenix. Add in the fact that Almirola has finished 4th, 7th, and 9th in the last three races here, and I’m liking that Fantasy NASCAR pick even more. And what about the last six Cup Series races overall? Aric is 5th-best with an average finish of 11.3. And I’m sold. Almirola is priced a little high in Slingshot Fantasy Auto this weekend, but that’s just another reason I like him: his ownership should be relatively low, but this guy could easily pull off a top 5 finish. He also starts back in 14th, so there’s place differential potential is there as well.
Clint Bowyer ($10,600) – The Stewart-Haas train keeps on chugging. I’m not in love with the Clint Bowyer pick for Sunday, but sometimes you just have to go with the value play. At only $10,600 and a starting position of 26th, Clint has the chance of putting up a ton of fantasy points for his price point on Sunday. He’s nowhere near great here at ISM Raceway, but three finishes of 13th or better in the last four races is above-average, and Bowyer actually looked decent on the speed charts this weekend, posting the 10th- and 7th-best ten-lap averages on Saturday. As far as my lineup goes, I might switch out Bowyer for Erik Jones ($10,800) but as of now I’m rolling with the #14 Ford.
Daniel Suarez ($9,500) – I guess I’m rolling with the entire Stewart-Haas fleet this weekend. As far as Daniel Suarez goes, he qualified back in 28th for Sunday’s TicketGuardian 500 thanks to that little incident with Michael McDowell on Friday (which turned into a bigger incident). Anyway, Suarez is an interesting driver to look at when it comes to Phoenix and Richmond, mainly because he doesn’t usually race the best here. With that being said, more often than not, Daniel is finished in the top third of the field by the end of it. In the last two spring races here at ISM Raceway, Suarez has came away with top 10 finishes, and even though he barely showed top 15 speed during this weekend’s practice sessions, the #41 Ford is much better than its 28th-place starting spot. I’ll take those place differential points and cross my fingers for some of Suarez’s late-race heroics once again.
David Ragan ($5,800) – One thing you could do this weekend is go with a more central approach when it comes to your drivers so you don’t have to pick a guy like David Ragan. However, I’m not electing to do that this weekend, and at $5,800, Ragan could end up being a pretty decent value pick on Sunday. He’s finished 24th or better in three of the last four Phoenix races, and with a starting position of 29th for Sunday’s TicketGuardian 500, there’s room for place differential points there (as well as not too catastrophic of a score if he wrecks). I think Ragan will be a top 25 car on Sunday