Ticket Guardian 500
ISM Raceway at Phoenix
Sunday March 11th, 3:30 p.m. EST on FOX
1 Mile Flat Track
Weather forecast : Mostly cloudy, high of 79°
Previous Five Winners and Pole Sitters
|Race||Race Winner||Pole Sitter|
|Fall 2017||Matt Kenseth||Ryan Blaney|
|Spring 2017||Ryan Newman||Joey Logano|
|Fall 2016||Joey Logano||Alex Bowman|
|Spring 2016||Kevin Harvick||Kyle Busch|
|Fall 2015||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||Jimmie Johnson|
The Monster Energy Nascar Cup Series returns to the desert this Sunday with the Ticket Guardian 500 at ISM Raceway in Phoenix. The red-hot No. 4 car of Kevin Harvick leads the pack of 37 cars entered into the event.
Harvick took the checkered flag at the two previous races in Atlanta and Las Vegas. He'll be shooting for three straight victories on Sunday, something he has never accomplished in his career. At first glance Phoenix seems to be the perfect track for Harvick to achieve this feat. He is the track record-holder in both wins (8) and laps led (1484).
However, those records were set while driving a Chevrolet. Last season was Harvick's first driving a Ford for Stewart-Haas Racing. He had respectable finishes of 5th and 6th in the two Phoenix races last year, but he failed to lead a single lap in either race. Harvick also failed to dominate similar flat tracks in New Hampshire and Richmond. The past two weeks, the No. 4 team proved it can win on the cookie cutter tracks. We'll see if they can build on this momentum and regain their former mastery of Phoenix.
Other Drivers to Watch
In 2017 the Toyota's of Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) were the best cars on the flat tracks, winning three out of the last four races. JGR fields four strong contenders for this Sunday's race. Recently retired Matt Kenseth won at Phoenix last fall. His former teammate, Erik Jones, who finished 4th at Phoenix in the fall, is now driving the No. 20 car Kenseth took to victory lane. Kyle Busch led the most laps at Phoenix last spring on his way to a 3rd place finish. Daniel Suarez has finished 12th or better in five of his last six flat track races. Denny Hamlin led a race-high 193 laps in the fall Phoenix race until Chase Elliott handed out some revenge over their Martinsville incident.
Speaking of Chase Elliot, the driver of the Hendrick Motorsports (HMS) No. 9 Chevrolet has been impressive at Phoenix in his young career. He has three top-seven finishes in four career starts, including a 2nd place finish last fall. It wouldn't be surprising to see Elliott capture his first career Monster Energy Cup victory this week.
Don't sleep on his HMS teammate Alex Bowman either. This season Bowman has taken over the reigns of the No. 88 Chevrolet from Dale Earnhardt Jr. Junior's last career victory came here in 2015. In 2016 Bowman substituted for an injured Earnhardt at Phoenix, taking the pole and leading 194 laps on his way to a 6th place finish.
At this stage of his career, Martin Truex Jr. is a contender at every track. The defending Monster Energy Cup champion has some momentum with back-to-back top-five finishes and he took 3rd place at Phoenix last fall. Kyle Larson is another driver who is a contender at nearly every track. Larson fell victim to a blown engine his last time out in Phoenix, but he recorded top-five finishes in his previous two races here.
Whoever comes out on top, it should be an exciting day of Nascar action.
Feel Good Story of the Week
Matt Dibenedetto, driver of the No. 32 Ford, lost his sponsorship for the Ticket Guardian 500 earlier in the week. So he did what young people do in 2018 - he reached out to his Twitter followers to see if anyone could connect him with a business interested in sponsoring him. Within 10 minutes(!), Denny Hamlin offered to chip in $5,000. Darrell Waltrip and Kevin Harvick quickly followed suit, each offering $5,000.
These financial commitments, along with the publicity they generated, helped secure three new sponsors for Dibenedetto this week : Zynga Poker, Enlisted Nine Fight Company, and Pit Stops for Hope. Now he will enter the race with a fully sponsored car. Nascar has a long history of drivers and teams helping each other with money, people, and equipment in their times of need. It's nice to see in an ever-changing sports landscape that some traditions hold true.
Enjoy the Race!
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