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AdvoCare 500 at Phoenix 

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Sunday 3pm ESPN

I’m not sure what part of 334 laps at a 1 mile track makes this the AdvoCare 500 but let’s try and forget about that. There are obviously big things at stake this week. Jimmie Johnson is starting on the pole with a rich history at Phoenix, while Matt Kenseth is starting back in 14th at a track he has largely struggled at in the past. Can he overcome another tough track for him and put himself into a position to win the championship next week, or will Johnson open things up a bit?

Stay Away From

Clint Bowyer 12-1

This may feel like good odds for Bowyer, but how well would you feel about taking him at 12-1 to win if I told you in 16 races at Phoenix Bowyer’s average finish is 16.94? What if I told you he had just two top 5’s in those 16 races and just six top 10’s and eight top 20’s? Do you still feel good about 12-1?

Kasey Kahne 12-1

Piggybacking on the Bowyer stats… do you feel good about getting 12-1 for a guy that has an average finish of 19.06 in 18 races, which is good for just 26th in the active driver rankings at Phoenix? What about if he had just three top 5’s and six top 10’s?

Best Bets

Jimmie Johnson +350

The obvious pick once again this week. However I am not making the obvious pick even though when I started writing this I had every intention of doing just that. While it’s certainly possible the #48 will pin from the pole I just have a hunch we will see someone else in victory lane this week. But make no mistake Johnson will be up front all day long. He will likely lead the most laps as well. His four wins at Phoenix weren’t by mistake. He has the best average finish and has led the most laps at Phoenix among active guys, including 21 more laps led in 13 less Phoenix starts than the guy with the second best average finish, Mark Martin.

Kyle Busch 5-1

Here is how good Johnson and Kenseth have been… In the Chase Kyle has finishes of 2nd, 2nd, 5th, 34th, 5th, 5th, 15th, and 13th. He has earned a bonus point for leading at least a lap in every race except Loudon where he finished 2nd. If you were to change that 34th place finish at Kansas into a 10th place finish that would give Kyle an extra 24 points towards the championship which would have him still trailing Johnson by 28 points. Despite racing rather well he has still been outclassed by Johnson and Kenseth. But this week he could get his first win in the Chase. He has won here before and is starting on row 2. You know he is going to be gunning for wins in these last two races.

Kevin Harvick 10-1

Only Johnson has more wins at Phoenix among active drivers than Kevin Harvick’s three wins. Tomorrow he will he starting inside the top 10 at a track he has conquered in the past. In the last five Phoenix races only Denny Hamlin has a better average finish than Harvick’s 7.8. We could be headed for another race in which we see “The Closer” at his best. Look for a solid top 10 run all day and maybe even a late push to the lead.

Jeff Gordon 12-1

You know Jeff will come out with a fire in his belly after following up his win at Martinsville with a 38th place finish at Texas. Starting 5th at a track where he has two wins and an average finish of 11.38, good for fourth among active drivers, is a great start to a rebound week. 12-1 is great value for a guy with one thing on his mind; win.

Dale Jr. 20-1

What incredible value here. How the hell can a guy backed so heavily by the public be 20-1 this week? Jr. has run exceptionally well since starting the Chase with a finish of 35th at Chicagoland. His only finish outside the top 10 was a 15th place finish at Charlotte. Since that Charlotte race he has two runner up finishes and an 8th place finish at Martinsville. He looks to keep the momentum going this week as he starts 11th at a track he has won at twice before.

Best Value Bets

Jeff Burton 100-1

For the third straight week Burton is my best value bet at 100-1. He is racing for a job and the schedule has helped him run well. The end of the season has some tracks Burton has been good at in the past and Phoenix is no exception. He has won here twice before and has the 7th best average finish among active drivers. Burton probably won’t win, but if you want to root for an outsider that could net you some big money, or at least provide some added excitement, this is your guy.

My Pick

Matt Kenseth 4-1

Jimmie Johnson is the easy pick, but I think Kenseth is the right pick. While he has won here once before, back in 2002, he has in large part struggled at Phoenix. So why would I be picking him? Because he put himself in a position to win the 2013 championship by exceeding expectations at tracks he has been historically poor at. So while Jimmie should win, Kenseth will once again overcome history and put himself into position to win this thing at Homestead next week.


Saturday, November 9, 2013

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