Practice is finished, the starting lineup has been set, and now we just have to line these cars up and go racing on Sunday afternoon. The Season Finale 500 from Phoenix is scheduled to start around 3:34 pm ET and after 312 laps (or more) are completed, we’ll have a new Cup Series champion crowned. It’s been a great 2021 season and I hope you’ve had a great year on this site and playing this Slingshot Fantasy Auto Contest. Now let’s finish the season strong!!
Remember: NASCAR doesn’t award Stage points to the Championship 4 drivers, but in this game every eligible driver will accumulate Stage points as normal. All scoring this weekend is the same as it’s been all year.
*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.*
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Slingshot Fantasy Auto Contest Picks for the Xfinity 500 at Martinsville
Denny Hamlin ($12,400) – The Championship Four drivers have a good chance of running 1-2-3-4 on Sunday afternoon, so picking any of those guys not starting inside the top 5 is a good strategy in the Slingshot Fantasy Auto Contest because of the slight place differential potential. In other words, Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex, Jr. this weekend. As far as Hamlin goes, he’s finished top 5 in four of the last five Phoenix races and he starts 6th in the season finale on Sunday. The #11 Toyota wasn’t stellar in practice on Friday, but it was fast enough, and Hamlin has the best average running position and 2nd-best average finish on similar tracks to Phoenix this year. Dennis has scored the 2nd-most Slingshot fantasy points this season and should be able to come away with another great score here on Sunday.
Martin Truex, Jr. ($12,300) – I don’t think you can pass up Martin Truex, Jr. this weekend. He starts 12th because the #19 Toyota has lacked short run speed since they unloaded it. But as far as long run speed, Truex was one of the best in practice on Friday, and that’s what it’s going to take to be really good during the race on Sunday. Truex won the Phoenix race here back in March of this season and this team brought the exact same car to race with on Sunday. I don’t know if MTJ can complete the season sweet and grab his second Cup title this weekend, but I’d be surprised if he didn’t finish top 5. He has won two of the four races on shorter, flat tracks this season (excluding Martinsville, although he also won there this year).
Joey Logano ($11,600) – In practice on Friday, the Penske cars came to play. They may have whiffed (big time) at Martinsville last week, but if any three of these guys were still contending for a Championship, I think they’d have a decent chance at taking it. As far as Logano goes, he was technically the slowest of the three, but that doesn’t really concern me. History has shown that when two of the three teammates have speed in practice, most of the time the other one has similar speed during the race. Logano led 143 laps here at Phoenix back in the March race and has finished inside the top 3 in each of the last three races here. He’s also finished inside the top 5 in all four similar shorter, flat track races this season. Logano starts 10th for the Season Finale 500 so he has a little bit of place differential potential as well.
Kyle Larson ($12,600) – There are only two minor reasons why Kyle Larson is a little risky in the Slingshot Fantasy Auto Contest this weekend. First: he’s starting on the pole, so he can’t get any positive place differential points. And two: the #5 Chevrolet fell off a ton on the long run during practice on Friday. Now, with that being said, I don’t think we’ll see Larson fall off like that in the race, especially since his teammate, Chase Elliott, had great long run speed, but it’s still a little concerning. The short run speed is definitely there in this #5 Chevrolet, as evidenced by his super fast qualifying lap, and if Cliff Daniels can have somewhat similar speed to that on the long run on Sunday, we could see an absolute domination by Larson as he grabs his 10th win of the season and the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series Championship.
Ryan Blaney ($10,600) – Ryan Blaney looks to have a race-contending car this weekend. The #12 Ford was super fast off of the truck, posting the 7th-fastest lap in practice while also ranking best in 10-lap average and 3rd-fastest in 15-lap average. As far as Phoenix goes specifically, Young Ryan Blaney finished 3rd in both races here in 2019, but don’t forget that that rules package was significantly different than what the teams are racing now. Still, Blaney’s last two Phoenix starts have ended with 10th- and 6th-place finishes, and it wouldn’t be overly surprising to see him run top 5 on Sunday. He starts 4th, though, which adds to the risk in picking him in this game.
Alex Bowman ($10,400) – Fresh off of his 4th win of the season, Alex Bowman heads into the season finale race with a 14th-place starting spot, which would usually make one of the Hendrick Motorsports drivers a great Slingshot pick due to the place differential potential. Just be careful, though. For whatever reason, Alex Bowman has just not figured Phoenix Raceway out, except for the 2016 race when he dominated it and finished 6th. Since then, Bowman has no finish better than 13th here, and has just four top 10 Stage finishes as well (in 14 chances). With that being said, Bowman did win at Richmond earlier this year–which is a track very similar to Phoenix–and obviously is coming off of a great Martinsville race, which is another short, flat track (although quite different than Phoenix).
“Race Winner” Pick = Chase Elliott – The algorithm says Chase is going to repeat as Champion on Sunday, so I’m just going to roll with that as my race winner pick. He’s obviously the defending winner of this race and has finished 5th, 1st, and 7th in the last three Phoenix races. In practice on Friday, the #9 Chevrolet had good short run and long run speed, ranking 3rd-fastest in 10-lap average and 2nd-fastest in 15-lap average.