This weekend, all three NASCAR national touring series will head west to Phoenix Raceway, and for the last time, drivers will be eliminated from the playoffs in each series.
Highlighting the weekend will be the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. Eight drivers remain in the playoffs in the series, and for Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, and Martin Truex, Jr., they know they will race for a championship in Miami in just over one week’s time. Five other drivers – Brad Keselowski, Denny Hamlin, Ryan Blaney, Chase Elliott, and Jimmie Johnson – will all clash in battle for the final open spot to compete for a championship.
It would be silly to leave out any of the playoff competitors out of this list of drivers to watch, so you’ll want to watch all eight of them, particularly the five who have not secured spots in the championship-deciding round.
Kevin Harvick will always be a contender at Phoenix. With eight career wins at Phoenix, including four in a row from 2013 to 2015, Harvick’s team has made the desert track into their personal playground. Knowing that he’s already a part of the finale race at Homestead, Harvick can go for broke this weekend for his third win of the year, and it would certainly give the no. 4 team momentum going into Homestead.
In 2014, Chase Elliott left Phoenix Raceway in the NASCAR Xfinity Series having clinched the championship. With a win this weekend for the young superstar, he can secure a chance to race for the biggest championship of his life. Without a single career win, Chase Elliott will have to earn his first this weekend at Phoenix, where he finished 12th in the spring. Elliott came so close at Martinsville to winning, a track that requires speed on the straightaways and heavy braking into the corners, very similar to Phoenix. With a win, Elliott would solidify his spot in the championship race of the playoffs.
It’s been a long time since Kyle Busch saw victory lane at Phoenix – 2005 was his first and only win at the desert track in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. However, this year has been a successful year for Busch on tracks which he’s not typically known for winning on, like Pocono. He won Martinsville to lock his spot into the championship four, but with his most recent Phoenix finish of third, Busch won’t just be hungry for M&M’s at this weekend’s event.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
This weekend marks another big event for 14-time most popular driver Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Of course, this marks his final start at Phoenix Raceway in his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup series career. It also marks the two-year anniversary of his 26th and most recent win. He had a fast car in the spring practices, but the race was not as good as he had hoped. With very little success at Homestead, this could very well be Earnhardt’s last chance to find victory lane, so expect to see an aggressive strategy from team no. 88.
Nearly every time Daniel Suarez returns to a track he raced at once before, he betters his previous finish. In the spring, Suarez ran a quiet, but very strong race, ultimately finishing seventh, and there isn’t much room to improve without being a contender for the win. With the Joe Gibbs Racing power under his hood, don’t overlook Suarez to be the fourth first-time winner in the series this season.