Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 9:54 AM
NASCAR FanShield 500 Picks, Betting Preview and Predictions
NASCAR Cup Series
FanShield 500 Betting Picks
Date: Sunday, March 8, 2020
Venue: Phoenix Raceway
Television-Time: FOX, 3:30 p.m. ET
Sunday’s FanShield 500 at Phoenix Raceway’s flat 1-mile layout will be the fourth race of the season and final of a three-race west coast swing, but perhaps most importantly it’ll be the debut of the new race package that will be used in 14 races this season on smaller tracks and road courses featuring engines with 750 horsepower.
Last season, Joe Gibbs Racing won nine of the 14 races led by Martin Truex Jr. with five of the wins. They had an edge but now all will be starting from scratch even though the new package is similar to the one used in 2018. The height of the spoiler and front splitter have been dramatically reduced which takes away downforce and puts the skill of the driver more to the forefront.
What the new race package does is put oddsmakers and bettors in an area of the unknown as far as creating proper odds and finding value to wager on before dissecting both of Friday's practices.
The Westgate Las Vegas Superbook is banking on the Gibbs’ Toyotas being out in front of the curve again with this race package because they made them the top-3 favorites. The JGR engines certainly were the best and they still have those, but the set-up and balance requirements for maximum speed are still up in the air.
2020 FanShield 500 Odds to Win
Top Betting Favorites for FanShield 500
- Kyle Busch: +350
- Martin Truex Jr.: +450
- Denny Hamlin: +600
- Kevin Harvick: +600
- Joey Logano: +1200
- Brad Keselowski: +1200
- Chase Elliott: +1200
- Ryan Blaney: +1200
- Kyle Larson: +1800
- Alex Bowman: +1800
- William Byron: +2500
- Jimmie Johnson: +2500
Bet Now (IN, NJ, PA & WV only)
Odds Subject to Change (T&C's Apply, 21+)
What if Stewart-Haas Racing or Team Penske has things figured out the best, or maybe Hendrick Motorsports continues its upward trend. Throughout Hendrick’s history, they were always the best for the first month or two using new packages until others caught up. They appear to be very good with the 550 HP package that looked the best in both of its races at Las Vegas and Fontana. Maybe they’re dialed in here as well.
Another Phoenix attribute to consider for creating a proper driver rating is considering the repave of the track between the two 2018 races. Three races have been raced on it since and JGR has won all three, two by Kyle Busch who is the favorite this week.
But let’s not forget about the master of Phoenix who may get a boost with a Back to the Future move with the new package that resembles the old package.
FanShield 500 - Betting Analysis and Strategies
Kevin Harvick is the all-time leader at Phoenix with wins (9), top-fives (17), Top-10s (23), and laps led (1,595), but he’s yet to win since the track was resurfaced. His last win there was the spring of 2018, the last race with the old surface. In the three races since, he’s been fifth, twice, and ninth.
“I felt like last year, with that particular rules package, we definitely weren’t as good as we had been in the past,” Harvick said. “I think with the 2018 package, I think we were in the game. It’s been a great racetrack for us as we’ve gone through the years and a place that we go to expect a win. And I don’t see that any different, no matter what the rules package is, the expectations from our side are the same and that’s to go there and have a chance to win. And we didn’t do that last year, but the expectations didn’t change.”
Last season, Harvick didn’t even lead a lap between the two races which coupled with the new surface is part of the reason he’s not favored this week and is listed at 6/1 odds to win. Perhaps the new package, similar to what they ran in 2018 -- the last time he won at Phoenix -- is reason enough to suggest he’s ready to dominate there again. You know he wants that 10th career win at one track badly.
Kyle Busch has multiple wins in all levels of NASCAR and scored his first Phoenix Cup win as a rookie for Hendrick Motorsports in the fall of 2005, which incidentally was the race bother Kurt Busch got suspended from and later fired by Roush Racing before the race for suspicion of driving under the influence near the track. Kurt Busch won his only Cup race at Phoenix in the spring of 2005.
Kyle Busch won the first race after the repave in the fall of 2018 and won again last spring. Two different races packages, and both on the new surface. He’s been fourth or better in seven of the last eight Phoenix starts and his worst finish over that span was seventh. No wins in the first three races, and he’s pissed about it.
Denny Hamlin would win last fall in a do-or-die situation at Phoenix during the playoffs and made the Championship 4 because of it. Last season Hamlin had top-fives in 12 of the 14 races using the race packages for the type of tracks. He’s a two-time winner at Phoenix with a 10th-place average finish in 29 starts, 13 top-fives and 821 laps led. His best career tracks have always been flat and the new package may allow his skills on them to be even more pronounced.
Truex Jr. has never won at Phoenix, but he’s been sixth or better in four of his last five starts. He was runner-up in this race last season.
Jimmie Johnson is a four-time Phoenix winner, but his last came in 2009. His last top-five came in 2015, but I’m betting his car will be competitive. I didn’t take the 25/1 odds to win, but driver match-ups are on the horizon. I’ve been impressed by Johnson’s first three races in the two other race packages with his tenacity. He’s racing harder than I’ve ever seen him. It’s the final season and he’s not going to let the last two winless seasons be the lasting image of a career with 83 wins and seven Cup titles.
Another Hendrick driver to pay attention to during practices is Chase Elliott listed at 12/1 odds. He’s been dominant at times at Phoenix, although his last three starts on the new surface were not up to his standards.
The new package figures to make cars loose and the best driver of a loose car might be Kyle Larson with his dirt track skills. Since the new surface was laid down, Larson has been third, sixth, and fourth last fall. His best finish was second-place in 2017. He’s listed at 18/1 odds and offers the best value among all drivers, or at least that was my perception when I scanned through the odds.
I also gave a couple of 40/1 long shots a long look with SHR drivers Clint Bowyer and Aric Almirola.
“Phoenix is just a fast short track,” said Almirola. “Ever since the repave, it races like a mile-and-a-half, which is different from a Richmond, Martinsville, or Bristol-type of short track. It’s a fun race and I always look forward to heading out West to Phoenix.”
Almirola is 40/1 to win this week and a decent look considering he’s had his best career Phoenix races of fourth, twice, since the repave. For me, when adjusting ratings, I still group Phoenix with Richmond and New Hampshire due to similar distances and being relatively flat.
Sunday’s race will be a prelude to all the races using this race package and pave the way for early betting at upcoming places like Martinsville and Bristol, but it will also give us a glimpse of what the Championship 4 will look like as Phoenix closes out the 2020 season instead of Homestead-Miami Speedway.
“If there ever was a track that we needed to move our championship to it’s got to be Phoenix,” said Bowyer. “Look at the fan base. It’s grown since I’ve been in the sport. Phoenix is a great opportunity to hold a championship race and I’m looking forward to going to it.”
FanShield 500 Picks - Top-Five Finish Prediction:
1) #18 Kyle Busch (7/2)
2) #11 Denny Hamlin (6/1)
3) #9 Chase Elliott (12/1)
4) #19 Martin Truex Jr. (6/1)
5) #12 Ryan Blaney (12/1)
Bet Now (IN, NJ, PA & WV only)
Odds Subject to Change (T&C's Apply, 21+)