Camping World 500 Preview: Harvick's House

Camping World 500 Preview: Harvick's House

This article is part of our Weekly Preview series.

After consecutive weeks of racing on cookie cutter ovals, we turn to a track of a completely different configuration. This oval is anything but a "cookie cutter." This week NASCAR's top racing series stops at one of the more unique tracks on the circuit, Phoenix International Raceway. The track at Avondale, Arizona is an irregular "D-shaped" oval with very flat banking in the corners of nine to 11 degrees. The straights are completely flat, and very fast as they carry off into the sweeping corners. This oval is completely different than Daytona, Atlanta and Las Vegas. Phoenix boasts the high speeds that borders on intermediate ovals with the close confines of short track racing as well. As we have witnessed in the last several years, Kevin Harvick has turned this venue into his "house" and he's completely dominated the field the last few seasons at this oval. Coming off a couple disappointing misses of victory lane it would seem that the driver of the No. 4 Ford will be hungry to continue his dominance at the track also known as the Desert Jewel.

Since we are making our first stop of the season in the Arizona desert this week, we can only really look back on past statistics for Phoenix International Raceway. This style of racing is a big departure from the intermediate ovals and Daytona that we've spent the first three weeks of the season competing on. At this point we're tracking trends, but the change of racing style

After consecutive weeks of racing on cookie cutter ovals, we turn to a track of a completely different configuration. This oval is anything but a "cookie cutter." This week NASCAR's top racing series stops at one of the more unique tracks on the circuit, Phoenix International Raceway. The track at Avondale, Arizona is an irregular "D-shaped" oval with very flat banking in the corners of nine to 11 degrees. The straights are completely flat, and very fast as they carry off into the sweeping corners. This oval is completely different than Daytona, Atlanta and Las Vegas. Phoenix boasts the high speeds that borders on intermediate ovals with the close confines of short track racing as well. As we have witnessed in the last several years, Kevin Harvick has turned this venue into his "house" and he's completely dominated the field the last few seasons at this oval. Coming off a couple disappointing misses of victory lane it would seem that the driver of the No. 4 Ford will be hungry to continue his dominance at the track also known as the Desert Jewel.

Since we are making our first stop of the season in the Arizona desert this week, we can only really look back on past statistics for Phoenix International Raceway. This style of racing is a big departure from the intermediate ovals and Daytona that we've spent the first three weeks of the season competing on. At this point we're tracking trends, but the change of racing style this week demands that we visit the historical numbers with some emphasis. The recent loop statistics at PIR will be the most important data we will examine this week. The historical trends at the Phoenix oval are as important as anywhere in the Monster Energy Cup Series schedule. The loop stats in the table below cover the last 12 years or 24 races at Phoenix International Raceway.

DRIVERAVG FINISHQUALITY PASSESFASTEST LAPSLAPS LEDLAPS IN TOP 15RATING
Jimmie Johnson9.16376939056,217111.2
Kevin Harvick8.75327631,4846,061110.7
Chase Elliott8.555320631103.9
Kyle Busch12.96603085855,85198.4
Kurt Busch12.85563525215,56398.3
Denny Hamlin10.94992584455,05995.6
Brad Keselowski14.63782351193,19392.4
Joey Logano13.23151442143,40892.4
Matt Kenseth16.15242062084,81789.0
Dale Earnhardt Jr.16.53882742593,79688.7
Kyle Larson13.21381501,07687.5
Ryan Newman17.061199994,65886.1
Martin Truex Jr.17.94451831014,18684.5
Ryan Blaney9.0350042483.8
Erik Jones19.0111019183.1
Kasey Kahne18.2464197553,89780.7
Jamie McMurray18.6344114312,92077.2
A.J. Allmendinger17.225543172,01576.5
Clint Bowyer19.436995223,11475.8
Aric Almirola17.71711401,28872.6

With Harvick's victory in this event one year ago, the veteran driver has now won eight-career races at PIR, and five of the last seven. Harvick's victory in last spring's Good Sam 500 was nothing short of awesome. The Stewart Haas Racing star took control in the latter stages of the race and led 139 laps to put the exclamation point on his win. If Harvick's new manufacturer, Ford, hopes to start a string of dominance at Phoenix International Raceway, their hopes will largely ride with Harvick. Joey Logano will also carry that baton for Ford. The Penske Racing star put on a great performance in the series' last visit to PIR last November. Logano got the breaks late into that event and racked up his first-career win at the Desert Jewel. In all this talk about Ford let's not forget about Chevrolet. Chevy young guns Chase Elliott and Kyle Larson will be forces to be reckoned with this weekend. Neither of the two has yet to visit victory lane at PIR, but Larson has been very close with a strong third-place finish at the Phoenix oval last November and riding a string of consecutive runner-up finishes coming into this weekend.

Elliott has been nothing short of amazing since the season started at Daytona, and each week he's been racing at the front and contending for the win. Neither of these youngsters have the Phoenix resume to inspire thoughts of fantasy racing glory, but you had better mark them down in your lineup inclusion list this Sunday. Without any doubt the No. 24 and No. 42 Chevrolets will factor in the outcome of this event. The Joe Gibbs Racing camp should be well represented in this race as well. Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth have all won at this Arizona short track. Hamlin was the last to pull the victory (2012), though it's been Busch who's been the closest to winning there since and really the most impressive of the trio in the last three starts at PIR. We don't see the JGR drivers as major threats to win, but they should be well represented in the Top 5 and Top 10 Sunday afternoon. We'll highlight the teams mentioned above, and some others who will be vying for the win at Phoenix International Raceway in the Camping World 500k.

The Contenders - Drivers in the hunt for the win

Kevin Harvick –
Phoenix International Raceway is one of Harvick's top statistical ovals. He's an eight-time winner at the facility, including five of the last seven events at PIR. He leads all drivers in the series in laps led at this oval during the last 12 seasons, so clearly Harvick possesses a gift at this one-mile short track. The veteran driver's No. 4 team at Stewart Haas Racing has gotten off to a shaky start this season and is coming off a blown tire and DNF at the Las Vegas oval last week, so this is a very important visit to PIR. In this event one year ago, Harvick started 18th on the grid, plowed his way through the field, led a whopping 139 laps and collected his eighth-career victory at the Arizona oval. The driver of the No. 4 Ford will be focused like a laser beam this Sunday afternoon and looking to reverse some recent bad luck.

Joey Logano –
The driver of the No. 22 Ford has maintained a strong resume at the one-mile Arizona oval since moving from Gibbs to Penske, and it's only getting better with time. Logano has a string of six Top-10 finishes in his last seven starts at the raceway, including last fall's Can-AM 500 where he cruised to his first victory at Phoenix International Raceway. Logano has led over 200 laps in his last seven starts at the desert short track. With Top-3 finishes in two of his last three starts at PIR, it's clear that the No. 22 team has this oval dialed-in. Logano has been strong out of the gates this early-season, so victory number one of the campaign could likely occur in Sunday's Camping World 500k.

Kyle Busch –
The Joe Gibbs Racing star is looking to put his eventful and unpleasant Las Vegas outing behind him coming to Phoenix this weekend. Busch was in the running for a Top-5 finish at LVMS when his run-in with Joey Logano occurred sending him spinning into pit lane on the final lap. While Busch has only one-career victory at this oval, it by no means diminishes his value here. Were it not for Harvick's dominance in recent seasons, Busch would likely have more Phoenix trophies in his trophy case. With 15-career Top-10 finishes in 23 starts, he checks in at a dazzling 65-percent rate. Busch's last three starts at the Arizona short track have netted fourth-, fourth- and second-place finishes. If Harvick stumbles this weekend, it could be the driver of the No. 18 Toyota who capitalizes.

Kyle Larson –
With Larson it's less about historical trends and more about what he's done of late. The Chip Ganassi Racing driver has exploded out of the gates this season with a pair of runner-up finishes the last two weeks on the cookie cutter ovals of Atlanta and Las Vegas. Larson rides into the Desert Jewel second overall in the driver point standings and looking to capture his first win of the season. As for the Phoenix oval, his body of work is decent (two Top 10s in six starts, average finish 13.2) but it's his last visit to the Arizona desert that grabs out attention. Last November Larson qualified on the outside pole, raced up front the entire event and finished third in the Can-AM 500. The current momentum of this driver and team cannot be underscored enough.

Solid Plays - Drivers who are near locks for the top 10 with an outside shot at winning

Chase Elliott –
Elliott has just two Phoenix starts to his credit from his rookie season last year, but they were pretty good outings. He finished eighth in his Phoenix debut in this event one year ago, and he returned in the fall to qualify third on the starting grid and finish ninth in the Good Sam 500. The No. 24 Chevrolet has been awfully impressive out of the gates this season. Elliott had a strong car for Speedweeks at Daytona, and he's been racing among the leaders each of the last two weeks at Atlanta and Las Vegas. We see Elliott carrying this momentum into PIR this Sunday afternoon. Given the data he and crew chief Alan Gustafson collected last year at this one-mile oval, a Top-10 finish seems very much a lock.

Kurt Busch –
Busch has been one of the more consistent finishers in the Monster Energy Cup Series at the Phoenix oval over the years. He rides a five-race Top-10 streak at the oval into this weekend's event. The Stewart Haas Racing star is a one-time winner at PIR, and he cracks the Top 10 at a strong 61-percent rate. That percentage has actually been elevated the past few seasons as Busch has been visiting the Top 10 here at a 78-percent clip since the 2012 season. The driver of the No. 41 Ford collected sixth- and fifth-place finishes at PIR last season. Busch is looking to rebound from his poor Las Vegas performance and he's visiting one of his better ovals this weekend. Busch is a rock-solid fantasy start for the Camping World 500k.

Brad Keselowski –
The championship standings leader comes to Phoenix to continue the pursuit of a second Cup championship in 2017. The Penske Racing star will be making his 16th-career start at this flat Arizona oval this weekend. While his career numbers are lacking a win, Keselowski's recent stats at this oval have been gradually improving. That leads us to be very optimistic that the driver of the No. 2 Ford likes the newer configuration of this track. Four of his last six trips to Phoenix International Raceway have yielded Top-10 finishes. That has elevated Keselowski's Top-10 rate at this one-mile oval to 47-percent. The bonus scoop on this veteran driver is that he's red hot coming to PIR this weekend. The No. 2 Ford has been world class fast since Speedweeks at Daytona, and Keselowski has been a Top-5 finisher each of the last two races.

Denny Hamlin –
Hamlin has been one of the best short track drivers in the series the last several seasons. The driver of the No. 11 Toyota has one victory at Phoenix, which came in this race five years ago. Hamlin cracks the Top 5 in better than 44-percent of his starts at PIR. The Joe Gibbs Racing star has led close to 450 laps for his career at Phoenix, and he's usually no worse than a Top-10 finisher. Hamlin has not had the best start to the season, but he circled the wagons at Las Vegas last week with a strong sixth-place finish. He comes to Phoenix International Raceway looking to continue building on that momentum as we head into the short track portion of the spring schedule. He should crack the Top 10 in Sunday's Camping World 500k.

Sleepers - Drivers with good history at Phoenix who can provide a solid finish

Martin Truex Jr. –
Our Las Vegas winner rides a tidal wave of momentum into Arizona this week. However, his career stats aren't that strong at Phoenix International Raceway. Truex has seven-career Top 10s in 22 starts (32-percent) at PIR, and most of those came earlier in his career. The Furniture Row Racing driver does have one Top-10 finish in his last four trips to the Arizona desert, so expectations are that Truex will rebound this weekend. He won't be the strong fantasy racing start that he was at Las Vegas last weekend, but current momentum should carry him through. The driver of the No. 78 Toyota has proven to be very flexible over the last couple seasons, and he should display that again in this 312-lap battle.

Jimmie Johnson –
The Hendrick Motorsports star has incredible stats at the Phoenix oval. Johnson is a four-time winner at PIR and that is second only to Kevin Harvick among the Monster Energy Cup Series. He won the pole position here for the third time in 2015 and he has 19-career Top-10 finishes at the desert track. Johnson's miniscule 9.0-career average finish at Phoenix International Raceway shows the excellence and consistency that the Hendrick Motorsports star shows each time we visit this flat oval. The current struggles of the No. 48 team warrant the downgrade to the sleepers list this week, but the upside of Johnson at this particular oval can't be overstated.

Clint Bowyer –
Bowyer was once a pretty steady performer at the Desert Jewel, but those were the days when he was racing for Richard Childress. During his stints with Michael Waltrip Racing and last year with HScott Motorsports, the veteran driver struggled at this one-mile oval. Bowyer has a new lease of his NASCAR life since moving to Stewart Haas Racing. He picked up his first Top-10 finish with that team this past week at Las Vegas. The driver of the No. 14 Ford is actually a very good short track driver and we should see that skill Sunday afternoon at PIR. Bowyer is getting better each week, and now is the time to fit him into your fantasy lineups in weekly leagues before others catch on.

Kasey Kahne –
The surprise driver of the season so far has been Kahne and his No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports team. He has started the campaign with a pair of Top-10 finishes and he rides into Phoenix an impressive ninth overall in the championship point standings. Kahne sports one career victory and eight Top-10 finishes at the Avondale oval. While he hasn't had major success at this facility recently, his latest impression at PIR was pretty decent. Kahne peddled the No. 5 Chevrolet to a steady 13th-place finish in last November's Good Sam 500. Given the momentum of this driver and team right now, we expect that to be the floor this Sunday afternoon, and more likely an even better performance is in store.

Jamie McMurray –
The driver of the No. 1 Chevrolet struggled for years at the flat oval outside of Phoenix, but McMurray has come on strong later in his career and begun posting good finishes at this facility. He failed to crack the Top 10 in his first 10 visits to PIR, but has rallied to crack the Top 10 twice in his last six visits. When McMurray isn't finishing in the Top 10, he's not far outside it. He's generally coming home in the middle-teens to 20th since the 2013 season. In McMurray's last start at PIR he qualified ninth and finished 11th in last November's Can-AM 500. Chip Ganassi Racing has a strong program right now and this veteran driver is off to a good start to this season. McMurray should keep it rolling this Sunday afternoon at the Desert Jewel.

Ryan Blaney –
Blaney only has two-career starts at this flat short track. Both came last season and they were impressive performances. The Wood Brothers Racing driver posted 10th- and eighth-place finishes at Phoenix International Raceway and those were no fluke performances. The young driver qualified well and raced up front for the entirety of both of those events. Blaney has started this season well and his No. 21 Ford is pretty fast each week. With Top-10 finishes in two of the first three races of the season, he comes to Arizona a surprising sixth in the driver standings. We look for the current hot streak of Blaney and this team to continue this weekend. He makes a safe and strong fantasy racing play in the Camping World 500k.

Slow Down - Drivers to avoid this week

Dale Earnhardt Jr. –
With finishes of 37th-, 30th- and 16th-place to start the season, Earnhardt seems to be struggling to find his groove again after the long layoff last year. This wasn't totally unexpected and some rust is not surprising at all considering that this veteran driver missed the last half of last season with a physical ailment. Earnhardt hopes to rebound at PIR this Sunday afternoon. He's had lots of success at the Phoenix oval over the years. With three wins, nine Top-5 and 14 Top-10 finishes, this is one of his more successful ovals outside the superspeedway circuit. Considering how poor Earnhardt was at Atlanta and Las Vegas, we believe it's a good idea to keep him benched for the time being.

Danica Patrick –
PIR ranks in this driver's bottom five tracks on the circuit. Patrick has nine-career starts at this oval with three Top-20 and three finishes outside the Top-30. Her last start resulted in a 29th-place finish in last November's Good Sam 500. The average line resides around 26.3 for an average finish. Patrick is not likely excited about this trip to Phoenix International Raceway. The biggest part of her problem has been qualifying here. With most of her starts here outside of 30th-place on the starting grid, Patrick is in the hole before the green flag even waves. She enters the weekend 30th in the driver point standings, so things haven't exactly gotten off to a smooth start this season for the No. 10 SHR team.

Austin Dillon –
Outside of a ninth-place finish in this event one year ago, things have not been so good for Dillon and the No. 3 team at Phoenix. Now with six-career starts under his belt at this flat short track, he has the lone Top 10 to show for to this point. The other finishes have been a mishmash of efforts mostly outside the Top 20. With an average finish across the six starts of 24.2, we don't expect any major reversals for the No. 3 Chevrolet team this weekend. In fact, Dillon is struggling a bit coming to Phoenix. He had a great car at Atlanta, but a bad battery robbed him of a good finish there. Last week at Las Vegas Dillon was subpar at best with a 25th-place finish. This driver and team just don't inspire any confidence for this event at the Phoenix oval.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. –
The Roush Fenway Racing driver is reeling a bit after his poor Las Vegas performance. Stenhouse rolls into Arizona 29th in the driver standings after his 33rd-place finish in last Sunday's Kobalt Tools 400. Phoenix International Raceway certainly hasn't been a "go to" track for the young driver. Stenhouse has no Top-10 finishes in eight-career starts at the oval, and he has DNF'd in two of his last three starts at the facility. He's seen his average finish balloon to 22.0. Stenhouse is a streak driver and right now he's stone cold. It's best to stay away from any fantasy racing expectations with the No. 17 team this weekend.

Want to Read More?
Subscribe to RotoWire to see the full article.

We reserve some of our best content for our paid subscribers. Plus, if you choose to subscribe you can discuss this article with the author and the rest of the RotoWire community.

Get Instant Access To This Article Get Access To This Article
RotoWire Community
Join Our Subscriber-Only NASCAR Chat
Chat with our writers and other RotoWire NASCAR fans for all the pre-game info and in-game banter.
Join The Discussion
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mark Taylor
Taylor is RotoWire's senior NASCAR writer. A nine-time FSWA finalist, Taylor was named the Racing Writer of the Year in 2008, 2009, 2010, 2016 and 2017. He is also a military historian, focused specifically on World War II and the U.S. Navy's efforts in the Pacific.
Wurth 400 Preview: The Monster Mile
Wurth 400 Preview: The Monster Mile
NASCAR Barometer: Tyler Reddick Dodges Trouble to Win at Talladega
NASCAR Barometer: Tyler Reddick Dodges Trouble to Win at Talladega
F1 and NASCAR DFS: PrizePicks selections for the Chinese Grand Prix and GEICO 500
F1 and NASCAR DFS: PrizePicks selections for the Chinese Grand Prix and GEICO 500
NASCAR DFS: GEICO 500
NASCAR DFS: GEICO 500