After a superspeedway race, a road course race, and two intermediate events, the 5th race of the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season is at a flat track, as we head to the 1-mile flat oval in Phoenix for Sunday’s Instacart 500. Phoenix typically provides some decent racing and with 312 laps we usually get two or three dominators. Last spring, we had four dominators in the race, but that’s not really the norm. All eyes will be on Brad Keselowski and Kyle Larson as we start this race here on Sunday but there are plenty of contenders starting inside the top 10 that can get up there and lead laps in the Instacart 500.
For the second week in a row, the previous winner is going to be starting 2nd, as Kyle Larson will roll off the grid on Sunday from the front row alongside pole sitter Brad Keselowski. You can click here to see the Instacart 500 Starting Lineup. One thing to note here is Phoenix has been won by a driver starting 6th or better in four of the last five races, with Joey Logano being the exception, as he started 13th in this race last season and won it. And yes, Chase Elliott technically started in the rear last fall, but his official starting position was 1st (ha!).
*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 race day.*
My Algorithm Predicted Finishing Order was posted earlier today and you can check it out by clicking here! Also, if you enjoy the FREE NASCAR content on this site and everything it has to offer, consider supporting by donating here.
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Slingshot Fantasy Auto Contest Picks for Phoenix
Kevin Harvick ($12,500) – I refuse to throw Kevin Harvick into the “Risky” category this weekend even though that’s what a lot of people are referring to him as. Here’s the deal: Phoenix is one of Harvick’s best race tracks on the circuit, and we really shouldn’t be too concerned about Stewart-Haas’ lack of speed unless they come out super flat here this weekend. The fact of the matter is that under any “normal” circumstances, Harvick starting 18th at Phoenix would be the biggest no-brainer play in place differential Fantasy NASCAR. He has nine wins here, no finish worse than 9th since 2013, and could probably drive Timmy Hill’s 2018 Toyota to a 15th-place finish here if he tried.
Joey Logano ($11,400) – Joey Logano is one of the four drivers that my algorithm has as the main contenders here at Phoenix on Sunday, and with a price tag of just $11,400 and a starting position of 9th, that obviously makes him a very safe pick in the Slingshot Fantasy Auto Contest with plenty of upside. On flat tracks last season, Logano had the best average running position, the best average finish, and led the 2nd-most laps. Here at Phoenix, he has four straight top 10 finishes and has led 60+ laps in each of the last three events.
Aric Almirola ($9,800) – Again, I just can’t put Aric Almirola into the “risky” category this weekend. As I said in the video, this all comes down to whether or not you trust Stewart-Haas Racing to get their setups right this weekend. From a pure game strategy perspective, Almirola is an excellent pick. He starts 32nd, which gives him major place differential upside, and this #10 Ford was one of the strongest mid-tier options on the flat tracks last season, with an average running position of 13.1–which was 14th-best in the series–and an average finish of 12.7 (11th-best).
Tyler Reddick ($9,100) – I love Tyler Reddick this weekend, but he comes with a bit of risk in Fantasy NASCAR because, well, it’s Tyler Reddick. But if you remember back to this Phoenix race one year ago, this #8 Chevrolet had legitimate top 10, if not top 5 speed, and Reddick kept that speed through the flat tracks for most of the year, as I pointed out in my Preview article for the week. Reddick starts 23rd here at Phoenix on Sunday and will be a great pick in the Slingshot Fantasy Auto Contest if he can come away with a top 10 finish.
Christopher Bell ($8,800) – This #20 Toyota looked really solid at Las Vegas once again last weekend, and I think Christopher Bell could end up surprising people here at Phoenix on Sunday. Will he end up on my Slingshot roster? Highly doubtful. But I could understand taking a shot with him if you want to be very off-sequence with the rest of the people playing this game. Also, for general Fantasy NASCAR, I think Bell is a great off-sequence play as well. The Joe Gibbs Racing Toyotas have always been strong here at Phoenix, and in his Leavine Family Racing car last year, Bell was able to rank decently in Green Flag Speed at the flat tracks, particularly 10th-fastest at Loudon and 14th-fastest at Richmond. The best part, though? CBell has Kyle Busch’s old crew chief, Adam Stevens, who has guided Rowdy to top 3 finishes in five of the last six Phoenix races.
J.J. Yeley ($5,800) – Want to fit four studs into your Slingshot lineup and need that super-cheap play to complete the five-driver team? J.J. Yeley honestly isn’t an awful option. He’s running the #53 car for Rick Ware Racing this weekend, and while there is always equipment concerns with a Rick Ware car, Yeley always gets the most out of his equipment whenever he finishes the race. Here at Phoenix, Yeley has ended up 30th, 26th, and 29th in his last three attempts driving various Rick Ware race cars, and he also came home 29th at New Hampshire last year.
“Race Winner” Pick = Kyle Larson – My algorithm has Kyle Larson projected as the winner of Sunday’s race, but it’s really close between the top 4 in the Power Index, as Brad Keselowski, Chase Elliott, and Joey Logano all have a great chance, too. I’m going to roll with Larson, though, because of how strong he was here in his Chip Ganassi equipment (average finish of 4.7 over the last two years at Phoenix). Now with his Hendrick car, Larson should be that much better. We saw Chase Elliott dominate here in the desert last fall and Larson could easily do the same thing this weekend. Also, I wrote him up as a great betting value at 10-to-1 earlier this week, so I have to stick with him!