Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series at Phoenix - Ticket Guardian 500 Preview

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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

RaceRace WinnerPole Sitter
Fall 2017Matt KensethRyan Blaney
Spring 2017Ryan NewmanJoey Logano
Fall 2016Joey LoganoAlex Bowman
Spring 2016Kevin HarvickKyle Busch
Fall 2015Dale 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.

The Favorite

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!

Author: @chops316
Editor: @ats-david


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Good write up. I need to start following NASCAR again. I haven't paid close attention in almost 15 years.


Today would be a good day to start again. Since Harvick hasn't shown he can win this race in a Ford yet a lot of teams have a legitimate shot at winning. Thanks for the comment.

Thanks for the post nice information. If you like racing go to the Chili Bowl next year if you want to see exciting wheel to wheel racing!


I haven't been to a midget car race in a long time. These races sure can get crazy. Sometimes it's nice to see cars flying around on good old fashioned dirt. Thanks for the comment.

First post is NASCAR, huh? Just kidding! Don't know a whole lot about NASCAR but Harvick, Busch, or Lagano is who I'd bet on. On a side note, what kind of race name is the "Ticket Guardian 500"????


A stupid race name. Most sponsored names are dumb. My home track Pocono Raceway avoided sponsored names for a long time, sticking to the Pennsylvania 500 and the Pocono 500 for their races. Since the track owner passed away a few years ago though they started getting sponsors for the naming rights. Last year I attended the Go Bowling 400. Oh well. Thanks for the comment.

I never understood the lure of Nascar- I dunno, maybe I'm missing something. To me its just good ol' 'Murica doing what it does best- well next to war that is- CONSUME. Massive brainwashing of the people to convince them to buy products, goods, and services. It's a sales and marketing extravaganza, but it isn't packaged like that. Nope. It's all about the "Feel Good" stories about bros helping out bros, using the amazing power of Twitter and Tide, you know, to wash out those hard to rid of stains. I wonder how many ads we gonna see for the armed services?


I think it hard for people to get into racing unless they grew up with the sport. Most non fans ask me how can I get excited watching cars go around in a circle. There's a whole lot more to it than that, but If it doesn't interest you initially you're not going to delve into the details. That's OK, we don't all have to enjoy the same things.

Of course Nascar is often criticized for it's blatant commercialism. The league doesn't generate nearly the same amount of television dollars as the other major sports, so they had to acquire funding by other means. Personally I feel every sport is over commercialized, some are just a little more subtle about it. I try to ignore the ads myself and just enjoy the competition. Thanks for your comment.


Hey - maybe we’ll have a @brospn logo on one of the cars in the near future!


If I hear Dibenedetto gets stuck for sponsorship again I'll let you know. ;)


Thank you bijoy.

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nicely done, @chops316!!


Thank you Beth.

Well done...


Thanks BigP.

nice to see the network up and running, great post


Thanks collegefootball. Can't wait for you to start up again this fall.

Woohoo! First post @brospn :)
I am so excited for upcoming posts.
Waiting for Tuesday....


It is exciting that we are starting a real sports network here. A lot of planning going on right now to cover a variety of sports here in the U.S. and internationally too.


Good luck to all of you :)
I will be tuned for any news regarding football/soccer specially....