Cup Series preview: Phoenix

Photo via Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

The time has finally come to determine the Monster Energy Cup Series Championship 4 for Homestead-Miami Speedway next Sunday. The Bluegreen Vacations 500 will take place this afternoon in front of a soldout crowd at ISM Raceway. Kyle Busch, Joey Logano, Denny Hamlin, Kyle Larson, Ryan Blaney, and Chase Elliott will all be fighting for hopes of securing the last two spots available to keep their title hopes alive.

All eight playoff drivers will be starting inside the top ten with everyone except Blaney(10th) claiming the first seven spots. Busch is on the pole today with Logano starting on the front row with him. Hamlin will be starting third and the battle between Logano and him will be the one to watch today as these two sit fourth and fifth in the playoff standings, not to mention that these two were involved in a scuffle just two weeks ago at Martinsville.

Martin Truex Jr.(starting 4th) and Kevin Harvick(starting 7th) have already clinched their spots in the Championship 4 with wins at Martinsville and Texas respectively. All they have to do is to avoid any trouble so that they do not lose momentum on the way to Homestead.

Kyle Larson rolls off fifth and has had a fairly solid weekend that should give him the confidence to compete for a victory today.

Obviously, all eyes are on Chase Elliott today as he must win today to clinch his spot at Homestead. After a mechanical issue at Martinsville and a crash at Texas, Elliott has his back against the wall and will look to redeem himself after he gave away the Phoenix semifinal race last year. Last year, Elliott dominated a majority of the final stage and on one of the final pit stops, he was caught speeding on pit road. He was shuffled to the middle of the pack and would later be involved in a wreck with Hamlin and Kurt Busch to eliminate him from Homestead.

The guy that no one is talking about this weekend is Ryan Blaney. Blaney nearly won here back in March before being passed by Kyle Busch but he once again has a blazing fast car that was second-quickest in final practice. Blaney will look to shock the NASCAR world today as he starts 10th.

When it comes to the on-track product, dirty air will play a major role as it has always done this year. In March, this race became a one-lane track and it was nearly impossible for cars to pass. Green flag passes were down 20 percent in March compared to March of 2018. Could it change today? Maybe, but do not get your hopes up. The best thing you can do as a fan of this sport watching a race at a track where passing is difficult is to set the bar low so that you can only be surprised by the great action that could happen.

I am going with Kyle Busch to win today. He is the obvious pick with winning the last two Cup races here and will have the clean air advantage starting on the pole. Like I said before, the story to watch today is Logano versus Hamlin as both drivers sit on the cusp of the playoff cutline. My dark horse pick is Ryan Blaney. I think a lot of people are overlooking his performance here back in March but I believe he will sneak his way into winning contention towards the end of this race.

Stages are 75-75-162 with a fuel window around 80 laps. You can watch today’s race on NBC at 2:30 pm ET. Who do you think locks in the final two spots for Homestead?




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