The NASCAR drivers and crews head to the desert for the United Rentals Work United 500 at Phoenix Raceway, aka The House Harvick Built.
Fantasy NASCAR: United Rentals Work United 500
Well, I hope none of you went Ford-heavy in last week’s race since the Hendrick Motorsports drivers, sans Chase Elliott, exerted their dominance for 241 of the 271 laps and finished 1-2-3. William Byron won both stages and took the lead away from Kyle Larson, who looked poised to cruise to victory before a late restart.
This week we turn our attention to Phoenix and, well, Kevin Harvick. There are stats of dominance, and then there are Harvick’s NINE wins at Phoenix Raceway. Whatever it is that makes him feel at home on this racetrack, something certainly does. Maybe he has a favorite pillow at a local hotel. No idea, but you can be sure we’re going to start off with him.
Phoenix Raceway is our first 1-mile intermediate track. The D-shaped tri-oval features eight and nine-degree banking in Turns 1 and 2 with 10 and 11-degree banking in Turns 2 and 3. This track features the high speeds of longer tri-ovals within the confines of what could be a short track. The driver who led the most laps during the race has won here 67% of the time in the last five years.
Here is a look at the drivers with better odds of crossing the finish line first. These are the ones you might want to focus on first in season-long formats.
**Reminder that a perfect driver rating is 150.**
The Top Picks
Kevin Harvick (#4 Ford) Driver Rating 109.1
In case you missed it above, Kevin Harvick has won at this track nine times. Perhaps even more impressive, he has finished in the Top 5 a whopping 19 times in his 40 races here. (Okay, that’s not more impressive, but still.) How about this one: He has finished outside the Top 10 only ELEVEN times. These are not normal stats. Considering he is retiring at the end of the year, I can’t imagine there will be a shortage of people cheering for him at the United Rentals 500. Considering his dominance, I can’t imagine there will be a shortage of DFS lineup makers cheering for him either.
Joey Logano (#22 Ford) Driver Rating 120.2
If you’d told me last week when I wrote the preview that Logano would be the only DNF at Vegas, I wouldn’t have believed it. Similar story here, as he has the highest driver rating among active drivers over the past six races. Logano is no slouch in Phoenix, having won here three times with eight Top 5 finishes in 28 races. He will be hard to leave out of lineups again this weekend.
Kyle Larson (#5 Chevrolet) Driver Rating 102.3
Larson would have won in Vegas last week except for a caution with three laps left. And, as it often does, the restarts proved to be his downfall in overtime when he was unable to hold off his teammate. But his car was fast. When he did get the lead, he ran away from the field in a big hurry. He has a lot of momentum and comes into the weekend with the third-best odds to win the United Rentals 500.
Wouldn’t Bet Against Them
Denny Hamlin (#11 Toyota) Driver Rating 97.5
Hamlin also ran extremely well in Vegas, running near the front of the race almost the entire day before the restart sent him back to 11th. His average finish in Phoenix over 35 career races is 10.5, and he has two wins at the track as well. On a shorter intermediate track featuring speed, Hamlin is typically a good play.
Kyle Busch (#8 Chevrolet) Driver Rating 93.5
I made it a lot of words into this preview without bringing up Kyle Busch this week, a refreshing change for everyone, I’m sure. Busch also boasts three victories in Phoenix and comes in right behind Hamlin in average finish at 10.6. He never really seemed to get going and finished a disappointing 14th. (He did take home the truck race trophy.) I can see him pushing to the front of the United Rentals 500.
William Byron (#24 Chevrolet) Driver Rating 93.3
Byron is on the same trajectory that he looked to be on last year when he dominated a few races early in the season. He took the lead from Logano early and then ran away with it until Stage 3. Byron can shine on 1-mile intermediate tracks, and we know his car is fast. I have no interest in betting against him at this point.
One driver jumps out at me as solid, lower-rostered fantasy options for this weekend. And another driver jumps out to me as amazingly good but still in a drought.
Chase Briscoe (#14 Ford) Driver Rating 90.7
Briscoe has a whole four career races in Phoenix, which is certainly not enough to declare him the next Harvick on the track or anything. The caveat here is that he has finished in the Top 5 twice and won once. He’s your middle-of-the-road-salary sleeper for the United Rentals 500.
Ryan Blaney (#12 Ford) Driver Rating 105.9
Blaney isn’t a sleeper, of course. He has the second-best odds of winning the race outright and will cost a pretty penny to put him in your lineup. Phoenix is such a perfect encapsulation of the current Ryan Blaney fantasy conundrum. He has led a ton of laps, has the fourth-best driver rating, has five finishes in the Top 5 over the course of 14 career races, and his average finish is 12.6. And yet, he has no wins here. His highest finish is second. For so much of 2022, I joked about him always being a bridesmaid but never a bride. Three races into 2023, and this pattern hasn’t changed. I don’t know whether to bet on him or against him, so I’ll just suggest we see where he sits when the green flag waves and decide then. <shrug emoji>
I’ll be back Sunday morning with my DFS picks and other thoughts regarding the United Rentals Work United 500. Between now and then, don’t hesitate to hit me up on Twitter at @thewonkypenguin with any questions, thoughts, or funny GIFs.