Fantasy NASCAR Predictions: Phoenix – Subway Fresh Fit 500 (Post Qualifying, Post Happy Hour)

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Phoenix Is Still Jimmie's House

After a long, tiring, and exciting speedweeks in Daytona, the Sprint Cup Series has made the trek across the country to Phoenix for this year's Subway Fresh Fit 500. After this race last season, in case you forgot, Phoenix International Raceway was completely repaved and somewhat reshaped, so some teams may not have a full grasp on this track yet. In the fall race last year (the only event on this new surface thus far) qualifying looked to be of some importance, with 7 of the top 11 qualifiers also finishing there. You can take that for what it's worth. Mark Martin won the pole for Sunday's race, and the full starting lineup can be found by clicking here. In case you want to check out the average practice speeds for the two sessions held on Friday, you can do so by clicking here. That post also includes ten-lap averages.

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Final Top Fifteen Ranking For The Subway Fresh Fit 500:

1. Jimmie Johnson - Starts 4th - Yahoo! Fantasy A Group
**Risk Factor: Virtually No Risk**

What better way to overcome a penalty than come to one of your best tracks and dominate? That's exactly what I expect of this #48 team on Sunday in the desert. Jimmie Johnson's record at Phoenix is borderline ridiculous (seventeen starts, 4 wins, fourteen top 10s) and he has one of the best cars in the field. Johnson's Chevy was 14th on the average speed chart but don't let that worry you: he was 2nd in terms of ten-lap average in Happy Hour, and now that Kasey Kahne (the most recent winner here) is with Hendrick, you know that Johnson will have all the inside notes that KK used last fall. His average finish at Phoenix is 5.4--need I say more?

2. Tony Stewart - Starts 2nd - Yahoo! Fantasy A Group
**Risk Factor: Low Risk**

It looks like Smoke is picking up right where he left off in November now that the series is onto the normal race tracks. Surprisingly, Stewart was near the top of the average speed chart, which means you know he has a good car. He was also right behind Jimmie in ten-lap average during Happy Hour. I love picking Tony when he starts up front on the flat tracks and this week is no different. He may no dominate for most of the race like he did here in November, but expect a really strong run out of the Stewart-Haas Chevys on Sunday. Smoke finished 7th in this race last season.

3. Kasey Kahne - Starts 10th - Yahoo! Fantasy B Group
**Risk Factor: Medium Risk**

Kasey's record isn't great here (19.1 average finish in fifteen career starts) but he is the most recent (and only) winner at this "new Phoenix" and he should have even more power under the hood than he did last fall. As far as practice was concerned, Kahne was at the top of the board in both major categories that I look at: average speed and ten-lap average. He got loose in qualifying or else he would be starting in the top five on Sunday (which is also where he should end up). In this race last season, Kahne finished 6th, and he has notched five top 15 finishes in the last seven events in the desert.

4. Kevin Harvick - Starts 8th - Yahoo! Fantasy A Group
**Risk Factor: Medium Risk**

I was a little leery with my 6th-place ranking of "Happy" Harvick in my Fantasy Preview earlier this week, but the past couple days have re-assured me that Harvick has a great Chevy for the Subway Fresh Fit 500. When he starts near the front, you should know by now that the #29 will be good. Kevin was 4th on the average speed chart and ended up 6th in terms of ten-lap average during Happy Hour. He was the second-best driver on the flat tracks in 2011 and does have two victories at this track, both of them coming from his 2006 campaign. Harvick has two top 6 finishes in the last three Phoenix events and he should make that three for four after Sunday. As I'm writing this, Kevin is dominating the Nationwide race.

5. Ryan Newman - Starts 6th - Yahoo! Fantasy B Group
**Risk Factor: Medium Risk**

Normally, when it comes to flat tracks, Ryan Newman is going to be placed it the "Low Risk" category in my mind. However, there are a couple of things keeping me from doing that this week in Phoenix: one, Newman's average finish on this one-mile race track is 18.6, which makes it, statistically, his sixth-worst track on the circuit. And two, this is a back-up car that "The Rocketman" is piloting. His primary car in the weekend looked like it could take the pole and dominate the race on Sunday, but this Chevy doesn't quite have that speed. I still think Newman is a top 5 car for Sunday, though, which is where he has finished in each of the last four Phoenix events.

6. Kyle Busch - Starts 12th - Yahoo! Fantasy A Group
**Risk Factor: Medium Risk**

Kyle looks to have a good Toyota underneath him (10th on the average speed chart) and he ranked 4th on the ten-lap average chart during Happy Hour. He's the best driver in the sport, so don't worry about the eleven cars Kyle has to pass to get to the front on Sunday. I'm sure Busch will lead at least one lap in the Subway Fresh Fit 500. Don't forget that Kyle drove from the back of the pack to 3rd in the November race here last season before blowing an engine. He finished 2nd in this race last season and should challenge for a top 5 by the end of the race on Sunday.

7. Greg Biffle - Starts 7th - Yahoo! Fantasy B Group
**Risk Factor: High Risk**

The Biff has just five top 10s in sixteen career starts at Phoenix International Raceway, but he has been very consistent overall, with just three finishes outside of the top 20 here. He's never won here, but Biffle does have two runner-up finishes in the desert to his name (in 2005 and 2007). The #16 will roll off the grid in 7th on Sunday and it wouldn't surprise me one bit if Greg ended up right around there at the end, either. On the average speed chart, Biffle ranked 9th, but he was terrible in terms of ten-lap average. Also, it looks to me like the Roush-Fenway camp is struggling like crazy this weekend, which is the reason Biffle is "High Risk" for the Subway Fresh Fit 500. Pick him if you want--I know Biffle will be on a couple of my rosters.

8. Mark Martin - Starts 1st - Yahoo! Fantasy B Group
**Risk Factor: Low Risk**

I didn’t have much faith in Mark “The Kid” Martin going into the race weekend, but that has completely changed now. In fact, two of the three Toyotas in the Michael Waltrip Racing stable look pretty good to me, and at least one of those three will be sprinkled throughout my rosters on Sunday. Martin has made 30 starts at Phoenix and has finished in the top 10 in nineteen of them, including two victories (most recently in 2009). In the last sixteen races at Phoenix, Mark hasn’t finished worse than 16th but I wouldn’t expect anything near that on Sunday. This team looks primed to grab a second top 10 to start the 2012 season and maybe even more. The #55 ended up 12th on the average speed chart and Martin had the fifth-best ten-lap average in Happy Hour. When Mark uses words such as "awesome" and "really good" to describe his car, watch out.

9. Denny Hamlin - Starts 13th - Yahoo! Fantasy A Group
**Risk Factor: Medium Risk**

Although this team struggled mightily on the flat tracks in 2011, Denny still knows how to get around them and Phoenix is no exception (11.6 average finish here--fifth-best in the series). He has finished either 11th or 12th in each of the last three races in the desert and has just one finish outside of the top 20 in the last eleven races at Phoenix. In terms of his car's speed, Hamlin was 19th on the average speed chart and wound up 12th out of 22 cars in ten-lap average during Happy Hour. I like how this team has ran here in recent years, though, and I see a good running coming out of Denny (and the entire Gibbs organization, for that matter) on Sunday in Phoenix.

10. Jeff Burton - Starts 11th - Yahoo! Fantasy B Group
**Risk Factor: Medium Risk**

I'm generally not very high on Jeff Burton, but this week--although he isn't blazing fast--his Chevy looks to have consistent speed along with the rest of the Childress cars (except Gaughan...). Couple that with the fact that Burton ended 2011 on a hot streak, carried that into Daytona and got a top 5, and I think it will extend into the race in the desert on Sunday as well. In the November race here, Burton finished 4th after starting 14th, his thirteenth top 10 in twenty-five starts. Burton ended up 13th on the ten-lap average chart in Happy Hour, and I think he'll run strong all day and finish with a solid top 10 or top 15 on Sunday.

11. Joey Logano - Starts 9th - Yahoo! Fantasy B Group
**Risk Factor: Medium Risk**

You may still have a sour taste in your mouth about "Sliced Bread" from last season, but I hope for your fantasy team's sake that you get over that soon. This year, I think, will be a make-or-break season for Joey, and he got it off to a good start last week in Daytona. At this one-mile track, Logano has gone a little under-the-radar: in six career starts at Phoenix, Logano has an average finish of 16.5 and has three finishes of 11th or better. He qualified 6th in this race last season before blowing an engine and finishing 33rd. Logano was 13th on the average speed chart and he should run in the teens all day. By the end of the race on Sunday, I could see Joey challenging for a top 10--if his engine holds up.

12. Carl Edwards - Starts 24th - Yahoo! Fantasy A Group
**Risk Factor: Medium Risk**

Cousin Carl was my favorite heading into the week, but with the way this team has struggled, I'm not sure he's going to be on a single one of my rosters come Sunday. The #99 was pretty high on the average speed chart (5th), but if you paid attention to that last season, Edwards is up there pretty much week in and week out. Carl didn't run ten consecutive laps in either practice session, which is a huge red flag for me. You can't overlook the fact that he has had the best car (or at least top 3) in the last three Phoenix races, though. If you play Fantasy Live, Edwards will be a great pick if he comes up through the field on Sunday.

13. A.J. Allmendinger - Starts 15th - Yahoo! Fantasy B Group
**Risk Factor: Medium Risk**

The Dinger has a solid average finish here over his seven starts (16th), and he's on a streak of two top 10s in the desert, but he's really disappointing me this weekend and I almost didn't have him ranked at all. The #22 Dodge was 24th on the average speed chart and all A.J. could muster in Happy Hour was a ten-lap average that was 16th out of 22. He starts in the teens, though, and this team has found success at Phoenix recently with Kurt Busch. Heck, maybe Allmendinger was just sandbagging throughout both practices on Friday. I guess we'll find out soon enough.

14. Jeff Gordon - Starts 30th - Yahoo! Fantasy A Group
**Risk Factor: Medium Risk**

I had real high hopes for Mr. Gordon in my Fantasy Preview on Wednesday, but as of now I'm real close to avoiding him all together. He showed nothing to me during practice (21st on the average speed chart) except one fast lap and his surprising 7th-place rank on the ten-lap average board in Happy Hour. Jeff was the best flat track racer in the series last season (in my mind, anyway) but his struggles thus far this weekend--qualifying 30th, for example--have given me flashbacks to this team's major struggles in the fall race here. There are too many better options than Gordon this week, who I think will struggle to finish top 15.

15. Juan Montoya - Starts 5th - Yahoo! Fantasy B Group
**Risk Factor: Medium Risk**

I'm giving Mr. Fireball this ranking due to the fact that he's starting up front and last season I relied heavily on how drivers ran at Indianapolis to try and determine how they would be at the new Phoenix. Montoya ended up 2nd on the average speed chart, but that was probably due to the limited number of laps he ran during the two practice sessions. With that being said, Juan's record at Phoenix overall hasn't been too terrible: in ten career starts in the desert, JPM has just two finishes outside of the top 20, and he finished 15th here last fall. I'll pencil the Colombian in for a teens finish on Sunday.

Those To Avoid For The Subway Fresh Fit 500:

Clint Bowyer - In case you don't read my Fantasy Preview at, I had Bowyer on my "Avoid" list on Wednesday and (obviously) nothing has changed. He laid down a fast lap in Happy Hour but there's really nothing behind that because it was a qualifying run. His average speedranking was 18th and Clint wound up 21st out of 22 drivers in Happy Hour in terms of ten-lap average. Bowyer has had a couple of good runs in the desert but that doesn't hide the fact that he has just two top 5s in thirteen career starts.

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. - Although NASCAR's Golden Boy has two victories at Phoenix International Raceway, his overall record here is dismal at best. In 19 career starts in the desert, Junior has notched just 8 top 10s and an average finish of 18.3--not the kind of numbers I'm looking for. This team continued to struggle on the new Phoenix track in practice (Earnhardt was 30th on the average speed chart) and they didn't even make a run of at least ten consecutive laps in either practice, which is a huge red flag for me. The rest of the Hendrick cars look alright, though, so maybe the #88 was sandbagging in practice. You never know, I guess, but I wouldn't bank on that.

Regan Smith - If you got some bonus points from him for qualifying this week, good job. But I'd highly advise you against starting him for the race on Sunday. Smith qualifies real well at Phoenix but when it comes to racing, it's quite the opposite. For more details, check out my Fantasy Preview from earlier this week.  Regan is near the end of that article.

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Comment by Tombo on March 4, 2012 at 1:43am

good stuff man!!

i like that "as im writing this,harvick is dominating the nationwide race",that he was until late caution mixed things up.thats what could very well happen tomorrow.who will take 2 tires ,who takes 4?

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