Race: Quicken Loans Race for Heroes 500
Date: Sunday November 15, 2015
Track: Phoenix International Raceway
Time: 2:30 pm ET
by Virginia Vroom, NASCAR Handicapper, Predictem.com
So, I found it pretty amusing after Jimmie Johnson took his 5th win of the season that the NASCAR reporters felt the need to emphasize it’s been a 20-race losing streak broken for him! Let me think about this: This is still Johnson’s FIFTH win of the season. We’d think that he hadn’t won in years the way the announcers were playing it. I suppose when you are comparing relative to Johnson’s typical domination, this year has been an anomaly at best, with his already being eliminated for any sort of championship hopes. Regardless, Johnson pulled off a late-race pass to Brad Keselowski who did nothing short of dominate the race in order to win. Keselowski, noticeably frustrated, still provided a very solid interview, admitting that Johnson’s car was just that much better than his at the end of the race.
Of course, Keselowski is going to be frustrated. He had an opportunity to almost certainly punch his ticket to Homestead and was unable to do it. Much like Logano, who suffered a catastrophic loss at Martinsville due to Matt Kenseth’s temper-tantrum, Keselowski will almost definitely need a win to make it to Homestead. These guys have this weekend at Phoenix to make it happen. Unfortunately, Kevin Harvick is known to pretty much dominate this track. With the foolishness that’s already been pulled so far during the Chase, I would dare to say that something will go awry this weekend as the drivers race their last races to secure a spot at Homestead.
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Phoenix is notorious for its blue walls. The one mile track is home to two Sprint Cup races each year. The track itself has quite a variation in banking throughout. Turns 1 and 2 have 10-11 degree banking. Turns 3 and 4 have 8-9 degree banking. The backstretch varies between 8 and 10 degrees. There’s also a portion of the track known as the dogleg. This portion is designed much like 1 and 2 with 10-11 degree banking. Finally, the frontstretch has the most minimal banking here at only 3 degrees. Last weekend’s race at Texas saw quite the battle against tires, to the point where there was a Goodyear official being interviewed early in the race to explain the potential reasons Goodyear was not at fault for all of the blowouts. Perhaps drivers learned something and set their cars up to handle the tires better this weekend. This track is much smaller, though, with much lower speeds than we saw at Texas. Drivers top out around 130-140 here on a good day while racing. Qualifying speeds are clearly much higher, but the racing speeds aren’t nearly the 200mph+ that we saw at Texas. Track position is everything here. It’s a difficult track to pass on and we also see traffic becoming a problem here as well seeing as it’s only a 1 mile track.
Overall, you’d honestly be pretty brazen to go against Kevin Harvick this weekend. As the winner of the last 4 consecutive races here and 5 races altogether, he’s absolutely the driver to beat. Unfortunately for the rest of the championship contenders, Harvick will likely punch his ticket to Homestead this weekend, leaving everyone else in the dust. Most of the drivers left in the Chase need to win. There’s going to be a lot of tempers flowing and some pretty crazy driving and strategies from the teams if I had to guess. This is the last shot to get into the last segment, which is Homestead. Not that Harvick can’t win his way in, but even if he has troubles, he’s proven that he’s smart enough to move on by other means. Sorry, NASCAR. Not sorry. Harvick pulled a quick one and maintained his position in the Chase by some rather shady circumstances. NASCAR may not call him out, but I sure will. Regardless, here’s the rundown of your potential winners this weekend as we head to Phoenix:
My Pick to Win: Kevin Harvick
Middle of the Road Pick: Jamie McMurray
Dark Horse Prediction: Erik Jones
Although I’m disappointed that the 20 team is even allowed on the track after the stunt that Kenseth pulled, I’m glad that Erik Jones is getting an opportunity to race. This kid has talent. He’s run against and beaten Kyle Busch in the lower series. Overall, he’s definitely stronger than any of the veteran dark horse contenders. Jamie McMurray finished 2nd in his last race here and is, overall, very strong at these shorter flat tracks. Look for this team to really step up this weekend and potentially contend for a win. These non-Chase drivers are making it difficult for the Chasers to punch their tickets. Let’s see where the points stand after Jimmie Johnson’s win at Texas.
Here are your current top 8 after last week’s race:
1. Kevin Harvick
2. Kyle Busch
3. Kevin Harvick
4. Martin Truex Jr.
5. Carl Edwards
6. Brad Keselowski
7. Kurt Busch
8. Joey Logano
This Chase has really been a surprise, from Jimmie Johnson being knocked out early to Joey Logano on his way to 4 straight wins and now really being all but forgotten going into the last 2 races of the season. The top 4 drivers are within 6 points of each other. Edwards is 13 points behind and Logano is 69 points behind. The guys from 5th on back really have a lot of driving to do. They also need to hope for some issues for those top 4 contenders because there’s not a lot out there stopping those guys. Stay tuned for the last race to lock up our final Chase grid before heading into Homestead! Bet the Quicken Loans 500 for FREE by taking advantage of a giant 50% bonus up to $1000 FREE at MyBookie!