Coop’s Phoenix Race Preview
Kevin Harvick is on a role winning the last two races in dominating fashion leading 395 of 592 laps between the two races. This week we are racing at ISM Raceway or Integrated Screen Management if you were wondering which use to be called Phoenix International Raceway (PIR). ISM has invested millions of dollars into this track making it the future of what we will most likely see at other racetracks. I highly suggest you check out there website to see what there plans are to make the experience of going to a race modernized (www.ismraceway.com). ISM is a one mile flat track consisting of 312 laps broken into three segments of 75/75/162 laps. This will be the last race at ISM using the current layout as when we come back at the end of the year for the second to last race of the year the start/finish line will be on the opposite side of the track.
I will be straight up with you at the beginning, this is a very tough track to predict and for that reason I will limit my ownership on drivers. Last week I had 75% Harvick ownership and even as good as he has been at Phoenix in the past I will not approach that number. So why is this a hard race to predict? First, it’s the first flat track race of the year and while we have history and we have a good idea of which drivers perform well on flats tracks and who doesn’t things change during the off-season which can affect history. Second, strategy during the race as well as at the end of the race can affect the outcome. It’s not uncommon to see drivers short pit, take two tires, or play gas strategy at Phoenix. Finally, Phoenix typically has a higher attrition rate as we have a tendency to see several single to two-three car incidents. Just last year alone we saw drivers like Kyle Larson, Matt Kenseth, Jimmie Johnson, Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano crash out or have engine issues between the two races.
LAPS LED and FASTEST LAPS
This week we will be looking for two to three dominators based off the info from the last six races at Phoenix. In five of six races the pole sitter has led between 44 and 224 laps with two of those races over 193 laps while two times the pole sitter has led 44 or less. Out of the last six races the pole sitter has led at least 75 laps four times so the pole sitter has done fairly well recently leading laps. In only one race did we have anyone outside the T10 starting positions lead any significant laps so you need to target drivers starting in the T10 as your dominators. I said this was a hard race to predict and as you will see below it’s not uncommon to see the drivers starting 7th-10th become the dominators which throws another wrinkle in this race as typically the drivers starting 7th-10th don’t draw high ownership as it is a starting position that doesn’t offer much upside. Looking at the info below I wouldn’t start my teams with only one dominator because even in the races were 193 or more laps were led by one driver we saw at least one other driver lead 50+ laps. You will need a mixture of 2-3 dominator lineups and the three dominator lineups will be interesting as the dominators are expensive and in order to fit three you will need to punt two drivers.
312 Laps equals 78 dominator points available
280 Fastest Laps equals 140 fastest laps points available as avg is around 40 caution laps
Kyle Busch led 114 laps 55 fastest laps started 9th finished 3rd
Chase Elliot led 106 laps 53 fastest laps started 7th finished 12th
Joey Logano led 82 laps 18 fastest laps started 1st finished 31st
Five other drivers recorded fastest laps between 16-33
Denny Hamlin led 193 laps 51 fastest laps started 2nd finished 35th
Matt Kenseth led 62 laps 49 fastest laps started 7th finished 1st
Chase Elliot led 34 laps 16 fastest laps started 4th finished 2nd
Six other drivers recorded fastest laps between 15-31
2016 Spring Race
Kevin Harvick led 139 laps 76 fastest laps started 18th finished 1st
Dale Earnhardt Jr led 34 laps 62 fastest laps started 26th finished 5th
Carl Edwards led 65 laps fastest laps 39 started 2nd finished 2nd
Kyle Busch led 75 laps fastest laps 34 started 1st finished 4th
Three drivers recorded fastest laps between 12-16
2016 Fall Race
Alex Bowman led 194 laps 58 fastest laps started 1st finished 6th
Joey Logano led 58 laps 18 fastest laps started 4th finished 1st
Matt Kenseth led 55 laps 26 fastest laps started 10th finished 21st
2015 Spring Race
Kevin Harvick led 224 laps 113 fastest laps started 1st finished 1st
Brad Keselowski led 52 laps 47 fastest laps started 6th finished 6th
Joey Logano led 35 laps 15 fastest laps started 2nd finished 6th
Two other drivers recorded fastest laps of 27 and 11
2015 Fall Race
This was a shortened race due to weather. Only had two cautions, not typical for Phoenix.
Kevin Harvick led 143 laps 45 fastest laps started 8th finished 2nd
Jimmie Johnson led 44 laps 22 fastest laps started 1st finished 5th
Dale Earnhardt Jr led 22 laps 10 fastest laps started 3rd finished 1st
Five other drivers recorded fastest laps of 10 or more
PRACTICE and PIT STOPS
This week we have two practices on Saturday and I will be looking at the second practice of the day as being more important than the first as the time will be most similar to when the race is actually happening. Make sure you are looking at 10 lap speeds as the single lap is pretty irrelevant this week. In the pits we still are seeing issues with the air gun as NASCAR continues to work on improvements while playing down the issue. Nascar’s stance so far is there were issues with air guns last year, you just didn’t hear about it as often because the teams provided there own air guns. It will be interesting to see how the air gun issue plays out throughout the year but due to the randomness of the issue it could affect any driver at anytime. In case you are wondering each set of air guns is assigned it’s own number and there is a random draw by teams to determine which set you receive. As far as the pit stops themselves they continue to improve but we continue to see anywhere from a half a second to two second differential between the best teams. Unfortunately I have found no info on pit stop times this year and can only go by results that are shown on TV which is very few as they typically only show the leaders.
Martin Truex is starting on the pole and should garner some high ownership. If you look at the practice speeds from Friday as well as the qualifying laps Truex was around a 6th place car. Personally, I feel Truex ran the perfect lap hitting all his spots during the final qualifying round. Practice will be important tomorrow to see what kind of car Truex has as I feel he has a 4th-6th place car based off what I saw today. The question is does Truex lead 5 laps before relinquishing the lead or 45 laps. Right now I think Truex is in a position to potentially fade or go 10% on him as I can see him garnering 25-35% ownership.
Kyle Larson is one of my three favorite drivers and I think he has one of the two best cars as he was consistently in the top two in practice and qualifying rounds on Friday. We know Larson has a fast car on single and short laps but we will need to see what type of car Larson shows up with Saturday during practice. Larson has a history of not being a long run specialist as he is aggressive with his car but one thing that plays to his advantage this weekend is the tires don’t wear nearly as quickly at ISM as other tracks.
Chase Elliott is my other favorite driver as he has shown times similar to Larson on Friday. I feel more confident in Elliott having a better long run car than Larson while Larson has the short run car that is better. Elliott ran very well at ISM last year and was in position to get that first win but Matt Kenseth had other ideas. If I had to pick one driver to win this weekend it would be Elliott. I can very easily vision a race that is dominated by Elliott and Larson.
Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin will have there work cut out for them this weekend as they will need to pass some good drivers with better cars in order to lead laps. Both are capable of this as there pit crew can help them gain spots and then they will need there car along with there driving skills to get them there. Personally I don’t see both of them getting this accomplished but I would not be surprised to see one of them get this done. It’s a fine line with both of them because if neither leads laps then neither will pay off there salary and if you faded them or went well underweight on them you will be in a good position. Right now they are the two drivers I am struggling with the most as to what to do with them.
I like Alex Bowman as a sneaky pick this weekend and he is actually my third favorite driver this weekend. As you saw above Bowman has led laps at ISM before in the same car he is driving now which has always been solid on flat tracks. Bowman grew up in this area and has driven often on this track as well as seeing many races at ISM. When you look at the names that Bowman is sandwiched in between I feel his ownership will be the lowest. Bowman is only 7.9k and if he can lead 40-50 laps and get 10-20 fastest laps and maintain a T6 finish he will score enough points to pay his salary plus more.
PLACE DIFFERENTIAL DRIVERS
Brad Keselowski is starting 25th and will be the number one owned place differential driver this weekend. Keselowski has the ability to finish in the T10 or better and what I like more is Keselowski is a driver that is not afraid to use strategy with tires, gas or pit strategy which could lead to him leading some laps.
Ricky Stenhouse will be the other chalk place differential driver this weekend as he starts 29th. I will have my share of Stenhouse this weekend but he does scare me as this is a track that creates attrition and Stenhouse is not one to shy away from being over aggressive. Stenhouse did not have a good Friday as he put his main car in the wall early and will be starting from the rear with his backup. I will be watching his practice times as this is a track were you can go down a lap quickly which would put a cap on the place differential points Stenhouse can accumulate.
Kurt Busch is someone who I feel will be overowned due to his name and were he is starting this weekend, 23rd. Busch didn’t have a good Friday and his car is not showing a overwhelming amount of speed. Busch will need to have some impressive practice runs on Saturday if he wants to end up in my lineups. I feel there are other drivers priced around Busch or cheaper than him that have more upside as I feel Busch will need a T10 in order to pay off his salary of 8.6k. Aric Almirola was in a similar situation last weekend but remember he started farther back than what Busch is this weekend so the Stewart Haas team has shown that they can make the proper adjustments to get there cars turned around.
I will be watching Jimmie Johnson very close in practice on Saturday as I feel he could end up being a sneaky play this weekend. Johnson came out and had the fastest lap in round one of qualifying but ended up 17th in round two which makes me wonder if Johnson had one perfect lap like I feel Truex did. Johnson has shown success at ISM over his career as well as Hendrick in general but he will need a T5 finish with some fastest laps or even laps led to pay off. I feel Johnson will be much lower owned due to being sandwiched in between Keselowski and Kurt Busch as far as pricing goes while starting farther forward than them, plus Johnson has been horrendous to start the season.
SALARY SAVER DRIVERS
Kasey Kahne will be one of the highest owned drivers for salary saver reasons but he is lacking speed this weekend. Kahne will need attrition and a T20 finish in order to pay off. If Kahne doesn’t get the speed needed during practice on Saturday I don’t see him moving up very much at all. At this point I will probably be underweight on Kahne.
Michael McDowell doesn’t have great history at flat tracks as he is a much better super speedway driver. I don’t have high hopes for McDowell to finish T20 but due to attrition he could possibly get close to that position. The key for McDowell will be staying on the lead lap so he can gain those place differential positions but if McDowell goes down a lap early he could be in the 29-31st place position most of the day. If it were not for his salary I would not be playing him.
Jeffrey Earnhardt and Ross Chastain start rear end of the field this weekend and I will have some sprinkles of them due to there salary along with the attrition that we have seen at ISM in the past. If feel that if either of them get a T30 finish they will pay off there salary and you just need to have the correct higher salaried point accumulating drivers paired with them.
Corey Lajoie and Matt Dibenedetto are the same as the two drivers above but come with less upside but if we see attrition that doesn’t involve them they could end up in the T25 which would pay off there cheap salary. I will have lower ownership on these two drivers than the two above.
OTHER THOUGHTS PLUS LOW OWNED GPP PLAYS
Kevin Harvick has dominated this track over the last several years although he has not led one single lap in three of the past four races at ISM. DK has priced Harvick up this weekend due to his history and recent success and he earned a 10th place starting position. Harvick doesn’t appear to have the dominant car that he has had the past two weekends and it will be tough for him to lead laps as he will need to pass several good cars in order to get there. If Harvick finishes fifth and doesn’t lead laps he will not be worth his price. I am sure Harvick will draw a good amount of ownership, especially from the casual player but I am leaning toward a fade right now.
Ty Dillon had good finishes last year on flat tracks and should garner his highest ownership we have seen on him all year. My problem with Dillon is he has had bad cars in every race this year and he has shown absolutely no speed all year and that continued today. I will need to dig a little deeper before playing Dillon to see what kind of speeds he was showing last year at this time.
Jamie McMurray could be a sneaky play this weekend. I don’t think McMurray will lead any laps but he appears to have a strong car that can maintain his starting position and possibly gain a spot or two. I feel McMurray will be low owned this weekend and if he maintains his starting position for his salary he will be a good play.
I really think that either Daniel Suarez or William Byron will end up in the T10 this weekend. Hendrick has been solid at ISM in the past and Byron appears to have his best car of the year and he is showing better speeds than previous weeks. I expect Byron to go low owned and if he can maintain his starting position he will accumulate more points than most drivers or possibly all drivers priced below him and end up being like Paul Menard last weekend. Suarez has been solid at flat tracks over his short career and like Byron will be underowned and if he can hit a T10 or better at 7.4k he should pay off nicely for you.
That is all for this week, make sure you check up on practice on Saturday as well as twitter feeds of the drivers so you can try to gain some advantages this week. Good luck to everyone. Thanks