NASCAR is currently in the midst of its annual West Coast swing, with this Sunday marking the halfway point of the three-race stretch when the series visits ISM Raceway (formerly Phoenix International Speedway.) We have already seen our fair share of action this weekend, as two cup series regulars tried to reenact the “Rocky” movie series after qualifying on Friday.
Seeing that temperatures will easily eclipse 100 degrees in the cars this Sunday, it may be a safe bet to assume that tensions will rise as fast as the scorching temps. Who will let their emotions get the best of them? And who will stay cool under the extreme conditions and collect a strong finish?
Owning 45 wins and 338 top-ten finishes in his illustrious career at NASCAR’s highest level, Kevin Harvick has proven to be one of the best wheelmen in his generation. A whopping nine wins and 16 top-five finishes at the one mile, low-banked track make him a sure-fire favorite on sunday.
Harvick’s nine wins are the most of any driver ever at ISM and he also holds the record for most laps led at Phoenix with 1595. It would be an unwise decision to pick against any driver who has finished in the top five in half of their career starts at any track, Harvick is no exception.
Another week, another Kyle Busch appearance on this list. After dominating yet another Xfinity Series race, the younger Busch has bigger fish to fry tomorrow. Busch is the reigning winner of the 2018 Can Am 500, and has won at Phoenix twice in the Monster Energy Cup Series and a stunning 11 times in NASCAR’s minor league circuit.
A massive 19 top-ten finishes go with his two career wins in the desert, and while Busch may not be the favorite for Sunday, he is certainly a sure-fire bet to have a solid night and possibly crack the top three in the standings. He comes into the fourth race of the season only six points out of third and 12 out of the lead.
When the Middletown, Connecticut native first debuted full time in the major series of NASCAR in 2009, the searing temperatures out west were a far cry from the snowy and mild climate of the Northeast. Nevertheless Logano has adjusted quite well in the west, with wins at Las Vegas and right here at ISM.
The winner of the 2016 Phoenix fall race will be looking for his second checkered flag Sunday afternoon. With two wins in the XFINITY series here as well, NASCAR’s reigning champion certainly has as good of a shot as any to compile his second win of the 2019 season and increase his points lead over Harvick.
“Rocket Man’’ holds the record for most poles here with four. Newman is currently in the midst of a 71-race losing streak, as his last win came in a fuel mileage strategy race at this very track in 2017. Newman has won at the former “Jeff Gordon Speedway” twice and he needs a strong run to overcome his mediocre start and get his season pointed in the right direction.
Newman is starting in the middle of the pack at the 18th position, but with a strong setup in pre-race trim, he should have no problem weaving his way through traffic by the time everything is all said and done.
At first glance, this may seem like a confusing pick for a driver who has mostly been very mediocre in his early cup-series career. Suarez and Michael McDowell have been the buzz in the garage after a brawl that resulted in both drivers being summoned to the NASCAR hauler.
In my years of watching NASCAR, the best driver is the angry one who drives with a passion and refuses to mail it in. Suarez has ran here four times and in half of those starts has complied two top-ten finishes, including a strong eighth place finish in 2018. I look for Suarez to channel his anger into a strong run on Sunday that may result in his first ever cup-series win. Talk about a way to change the narrative of a weekend.