March 10, 2015
By Micah Roberts
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Are you kidding me with Kevin Harvick? This guy is on some kind of major roll right now and things will get only tougher for the rest of the NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers as Harvick goes to his best track, Phoenix, this weekend.
All Harvick has done after winning his first Sprint Cup title in 2014 is finish second-place in the first two races of 2015 and then win his first Las Vegas Cup race on Sunday. If we go back to the final three races of 2014, Harvick has finished first or second in six straight races now. He's won in four of his last nine starts.
And now he goes to Phoenix where he's won six times over his career including the last three races there and four of the last five. How do you bet anyone else this week? The only problem with betting Harvick is that the sports books know all this past history as well and you'll be lucky to get 7/2 odds (Bet $100 to win $350).
So let's see if we can make a case for anyone else and to begin with we'll take a look at Jimmie Johnson who will be the second choice to win at 5/1 odds.
All Johnson has done at Phoenix is win four times and average a 7.7 finish which is tops in the series. The only problem with Johnson is that his last Phoenix win was 2009. He's gone 10 races there without winning -- his longest Phoenix drought.
Carl Edwards is the only driver other than Harvick to win at Phoenix over the past five races there. In addition to his 2013 win, he also won in 2010 and has a 12.2 average finish. The problem with Edwards is that he's yet to have a top-10 in three starts in his first year with Joe Gibbs Racing. Because of his past history, you'll only get 12 to-1 odds him which isn't attractive enough considering his slow start to 2015.
Another driver having an awful time of it thus far has been Jeff Gordon who is currently 29th in points. He's had a great car in all three races so far, but has had every kind of bad luck imaginable. On Saturday at Las Vegas, his pole winning car was struck by Danica Patrick in practice and he was forced into a back-up car which had to start from the rear. He's had 32 starts at Phoenix and captured two wins and an 11th-place average finish. His car will be good once again and at 10-to-1 odds, he's an attractive wager. But the bad luck part of his season looms large and might have a few bettors shy away from him at the bet window.
Denny Hamlin also has a career average of 11th-place at Phoenix in his 19 career starts, which includes a win in 2012. Hamlin's best type of tracks over his career has been the flat variety and Phoenix is about as flat as they get. He's had four top-5 finishes in his last six Phoenix starts. He presents good value at 12-to-1 odds.
Brad Keselowski hasn't won at Phoenix before but he did win on similar flat tracks at Richmond and New Hampshire last year. He's finished sixth or better in five of his last six Phoenix starts.
The driver that will probably give Harvick his most competition is Keselowski's Penske Racing teammate Joey Logano who had his best season of racing at Phoenix last year with a fourth and sixth-place finish. Logano has the look of a being a force all season long and he should find himself with his third top-5 finish of the season, and maybe his first win on the track.
The only driver to have top-5 finishes in all three races this season besides Harvick has been Dale Earnhardt Jr., who will get 8-to-1 odds this week. He won at Phoenix in the 2003 and 2004 season and is on a run of finishing eigth or better in his past four starts there, including runner-up in this race last season.
A driver everyopne can't help but root for is Martin Truex Jr. who has shown extraordinary power in the first three races of 2015 and currently sits fifth in points. It's rare to see a single car team have success in NASCAR and it's even rarer to see a team have any success when their garage isn't in Charlotte -- Furniture Row Racing is based out of Denver. If including the two non-points races at Daytona, Truex Jr. has finished eighth or better in all five races, including runner-up at Las Vegas Sunday. His best run at Phoenix was fifth-place in 2009.
Top-5 Finish Prediction:
1) #4 Kevin Harvick (7/2)
2) #22 Joey Logano (8/1)
3) #88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. (8/1)
4) #48 Jimmie Johnson (5/1)
5) #11 Denny Hamlin (12/1)