NASCAR Ticket Guardian 500 – Harvick Looking to Complete Three-Peat
While Austin Dillon won the prestigious Daytona 500 to kick off the official 2018 NASCAR Monster Energy season, since then, it’s been all about veteran Kevin Harvick. Two weeks ago, the 42-year-old Harvick, driving the Stewart-Hass No. 4 car, pretty much blew away the field to win the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at the Atlanta Motor Speedway and last weekend, he was just as dominant in beating out Kyle Busch – and everyone else on the newer asphalt at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in the Pennzoil 400. Now, he’s looking to win three consecutive races for the first time in his career when he takes to the oval at IMS Speedway, formerly known as Phoenix International Raceway on the flat 1-mile layout he’s won on a track record eight times.
Just 4️⃣ points separate the top three drivers heading into our #TicketGuardian500! 👀
Will @KevinHarvick continue his dominance and remain #1 after his March 11th trip to ISM Raceway? pic.twitter.com/FYoM0kADYy
— ISM Raceway (@ISMRaceway) March 5, 2018
In winning his second straight race and his second at the 1.5-mile track, Harvick finished 2.906 seconds ahead of runner-up and Las Vegas native Kyle Busch. Third-place finisher Kyle Larson was more than 13 seconds back. Paul Menard in ninth-place was the last driver on the lead lap.
“As you look at the last two weeks and our 1.5-mile program in general, it has been really good since I started here at SHR,” said Harvick, a Bakersfield, California, native. “They put a lot of effort into everything we do from every standpoint to get these cars going like they are. It’s great to win on the West Coast for me.”
Harvick led 214 of 267 laps, which is most ever by a Las Vegas winner. His fastest lap was more than .4 seconds better than the fastest lap posted by anyone else. Harvick won the first two stages of the race with relative ease, picking up two Playoff points in the process.
Now, he’s the big favorite to win again this coming weekend.
What: Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series at Phoenix
When: Sunday, Mar 11, 2018, at 2:30 PM ET
Where: Phoenix Raceway
Odds to Win the Ticket Guardian 500
- Kevin Harvick +200
- Kyle Busch +550
- Kyle Larson +750
- Martin Truex Jr. +850
- Brad Keselowski +850
- Denny Hamlin +950
- Chase Elliott +950
- Joey Logano +1350
- Ryan Blaney +2000
- Erik Jones +2250
- Jimmie Johnson +2750
- Alex Bowman +4400
- Clint Bowyer +4400
- Kurt Busch +4400
- Aric Almirola +4400
- Ryan Newman +5500
- Jamie McMurray +8800
- Daniel Suarez +8800
- Ricky Stenhouse Jr. +10000
- Paul Menard +10000
- Austin Dillon +20000
- William Byron +20000
- Darrell Wallace Jr. +30000
- Kasey Kahne +50000
- Trevor Bayne +50000
- Ty Dillon +50000
- Chris Buescher +100000
- Michael McDowell +100000
- AJ Allmendinger +100000
While Harvick is the undeniable favorite to win this weekend as a +200 pick, you should know that there are a couple of factors working against him as well. First, he’s never won three consecutive races in his career. Also, his eight Cup wins at Phoenix were all in a Chevrolet. Last year, his first in a Ford, was the first time with no Phoenix wins after five straight seasons of recording at least one win there. Last but not least, Harvick didn’t win in his Ford on any of the two other tracks similar to the 1-mile flat layout at New Hampshire and the 3/4-mile flat layout at Richmond. That’s six races on three tracks he’s loved his entire career and he only led 11 total laps.
Now, for a bit of history at Phoenix. No driver has more wins in Phoenix that Harvick’s career eight victories. Veteran and future Hall of Famer Jimmie Johnson has the most Top 5 finishes with 14. Former NASCAR star Mark Martin has both, the most Top 10s (21) and most Top 20s (32).
Ryan Newman is offering some value as a whopping +5500 pick, seeing as how he won in Phoenix last spring while now retired former star Matt Kenseth won in the fall.
I love the value that Joey Logano is offering a +1350 pick that won here in the fall of 2016. Logano is currently sitting atop the NASCAR standings after finishing fourth at Daytona, sixth in Atlanta and seventh in Las Vegas. I also like 2017 NASCAR champion Martin Truex Jr. who, after finishing 18t at Daytona, has finished fifth and fourth respectively in the ATL and Vegas.
You’ve also got to like the value that Ryan Blaney is offering heading into this event. he’s second in the NASCAR standings after finishing seventh at Daytona, 12th in Atlanta and fifth last week in Vegas.
Kyle Busch has finished seventh and second the last two weeks while Kyle Larson has finished ninth and third over the same two events. After an uninspiring 32n place finishes at Daytona, Brad Keselowski has finished second and sixth the last two weeks while Erik Jones has finished 11th and eighth.
Veteran Denny Hamlin could also be a good pick as a +950 selection seeing as how he won here in the spring of 2012 and is currently ranked eighth in the Monster Energy NASCAR standings.
“I’m obviously looking forward to Phoenix after a disappointing finish in Vegas,” Hamlin said of his 17th-place finish last week. “It was an unforced error that ultimately cost us out there, but it’s behind us, and I’m ready to move forward. Our team has high hopes for this weekend (at Phoenix), and I think we can get back into the top-five where we started this season.”
I like Martin Truex Jr. to get the win this week, followed closely by Joey Logano, Ryan Blaney, Harvick and Kyle Larson. My longshot pick to upset the entire field is Ryan Newman.
Top-5 Finish Prediction
1) #78 Martin Truex Jr.
2) #22 Joey Logano
3) #12 Ryan Blaney
4) 4 Kevin Harvick
5) #42 Kyle Larson