More racing from the West is in store this week as drivers take to Arizona and the Phoenix Raceway. It will be 312 laps of wild racing as cars are free to move just about anywhere they want on the low-banked tri-oval. You’ll see many instances of three, and even four-wide at times. Last season’s race was decided by a green-white-checkered finish. What is in store for us in what has already been an exciting start to the 2021 campaign? Hopefully, it will be another entertaining day of stock car racing.
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Here are some of my favorite plays from this week’s contests. Scoring in these contests is based on finishing positions inside the Top 20 with 20 points awarded to first place. An additional 0.1 points are tacked on for each lap led. Below are some picks to help you get started in your MKF contests.
More Or Less
Kevin Harvick More Than 18.5 Fantasy Points
I understand your trepidation. We’ve been burned by Kevin Harvick before. Last week in fact when I suggested you put your chips in on his finishing with over 17.5 points. Of course, that’s the thing about sports. Once you think you have done all the research and made your informed prediction, real life happens. It happened to Harvick in the worst way as he watched his pole position dissolve into a 20th-place finish. We go back to the well this week because the tour moves to the Phoenix Raceway, a track Harvick basically owns.
He boasts the record for the most wins by a driver on the track with nine. He’s started his engines on the low-banked tri-oval in Arizona 36 times. Of those, 18 of them he finished inside the Top 5. This week, despite his strong start to the season, the NASCAR algorithm has him starting from the 18th spot. He’ll have to work his way through the field to end the day among the first two drivers. If anyone can do it though, it’s Harvick.
Back in November of 2012, his #29 car started the day 19th in the field. He ended that day taking home the checkered flag. Expect the #4 team to address their issues from last weekend and come out charging. Harvick will turn it around in Phoenix and get back to the front of the pack.
Denny Hamlin Less Than 16.5 Fantasy Points
The 2021 season has been kind to Denny Hamlin. His worst finish of the season was his 11th place effort at Homestead. The matchup this week against the Phoenix Raceway brings a mixed bag of results for the driver of the #11 Toyota. Only four of the last 10 times he’s raced this track has he secured the fourth place finish he’d need to cash this prop. Last Spring here, he suffered a disappointing 20th place showing.
It might stand to reason given his hot start, Hamlin should be in line to cross the finish line in at least fourth place. Although, as we witnessed last week with Kevin Harvick, anything can and will happen, even to the frontrunners. He starts from the third spot on Sunday. It’s something he did three times in a row recently. Of those, only one time did he register a finish that would cash this prop. You can anticipate a good run this week, but it’s more likely he’ll enjoy a Top-10 day rather than a Top-5.
Martin Truex Jr. More Fantasy Points Than Joey Logano (+0.5)
Early on, Martin Truex Jr. has managed to improve race over race. After a rough Daytona 500, he managed to settle down enough to post two top-10 finishes in the last two races. This week he will try to keep that momentum rolling on a track that hasn’t treated him the best over the course of his career. Last spring, he absorbed a bump from Aric Almirola shortly after a restart with 30 laps to go. That push sent him into the back of Jimmy Johnson and ultimately into the wall. At the time, he was in sixth place. The crash caused him to finish in 32nd that day. Despite that, he’s managed to post Top-10 finishes in five of the last seven times he’s run this track. He should do it again this week.
As for Joey Logano, he went on to win that race last spring. He restarted third before the crash, then held off Kevin Harvick several laps later to win in overtime. It was his first win in Phoenix since 2016. It was also his fourth Top-10 finish in a row in Arizona. What ultimately is driving this train is the fact that Truex will start four positions higher than Logano, and has a better than average change to hang on or even improve on that position. Something has the #19 Toyota jumping these last few weeks and it doesn’t look like it’s slowing down. Truex has managed to outfinish Logano in the last two races and has covered this spread in doing so. It will happen again this week.
Denny Hamlin (+1.5) More Fantasy Points Than Chase Elliot
We’ve already discussed Hamlin’s potential coming into Phoenix on Sunday. He’s likely to garner a Top-10 finish as he’s done four out of the last six times he’s been on this track. So, the fact you’re getting a full position and five led laps of a head start here, means Elliot will have to have one helluva day to top Hamlin. So far this season, this has not been the case. Hamlin has topped Elliot’s finishing position in every race but the Daytona 500.
This extends into historical finishes in Arizona as well. Since Elliot’s first race at the Phoenix Raceway in 2016, Hamlin has out finished Elliot by at least two positions six out of 10 times. He’s already got a three-position lead at the green flag, all he’ll have to do is maintain it until the end to cash this prop.