Saturday, November 8, 2014

Final Phoenix Practice Notes: 2014 Quicken Loans 500

Will Harvick feel Chase pressure of having best car Sunday?
LAS VEGAS - Based on everything witnessed during Saturday’s final practice session at Phoenix International Speedway, it looks as though we might get a great concluding episode of the Eliminator Round as two of the major players in last weeks Texas brawl showed they are the drivers to beat in Sunday’s Quicken Loans 500.

Kevin Harvick shoved Brad Keselowski into the pit road brawl last week, and it’s quite possible we’ll see one or the other doing some shoving for the win this week. Based on what happens with the other six Chase drivers, these two could in a situation where both have know they have to win to get in, and with two headstrong drivers who refuse to lose, it’s a great recipe for fireworks during and after the race.

Keselowski is seventh in points, 17-points out of first-place, while Harvick is in last place, 18-points out and it sets up beautifully for a fantastic finish because both have the best cars at Phoenix.

Harvick had the fastest lap during the morning session and was second fastest during happy hour, but what makes him even a bigger favorite to win is that he had the best 10-consecutive lap averages in both sessions. Keselowski was second in that category in the first session.

The other edge Harvick has over Keselowski is past history. Harvick has five career wins at Phoenix -- including the last two, while Keselowski has never won there, but did have a career best third-place in the spring race. Harvick is using a chassis that won at Darlington while Keselowski is using a 39th-place Atlanta car.

Where Keselowski makes up ground on Harvick is in the set-up, where Penske Racing has proven to better on these type of flat tracks over the long haul. Harvick won at Phoenix, but when including four races from New Hampshire and Richmond into the mix, a Penske driver won all four, and all four of those races also were run more recently than the last Phoenix race.

If any other driver had to go through the abuse Keselowski has taken in the garage this week from his colleagues, they may think again before making daring moves anytime soon. But this kid don’t rattle, and he’s going to keep trying to win at all costs no matter what champion comes charging at him. If it comes down to Keselowski versus Harvick for the win, It might be uncomfortable position for Harvick if leading knowing the bump is coming, and on most accounts because of Harvick’s role as instigator last week, he might be owed one.

While Jeff Gordon and Keselowski battling for the win would be great television, Harvick-Keselowski has more flair because each are bulldogs and each are fighting for their Chase lives. Win and you’re in. Finish second, and the season is most likely over.

Six of the remaining eight Chase drivers finished 12th or better during happy hour, while the other two -- Ryan Newman and Carl Edwards -- weren‘t so sharp. Newman was 19th while Edwards was 21st.

After looking at all the cars and seeing where they stand in points, it's not looking like Newman and Edwards will advance. I think Logano, Hamlin and Gordon will run smart races, with Kenseth fighting for a top-5 position and gaining positions, which leaves us with Harvick and Keselowski battling for the win and a birth. Harvick's car gives him the edge over Keselowski, and my final four at Homestead is Hamlin, Logano, Gordon and Harvick.

Even if Keselowski doesn't win or advance, like him or not, I think we'll all agree that this first Chase elimination experience wouldn't have been nearly as fun without him. He really should win an Emmy for his role.

Read More Here....Final Driver Ratings

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