Saturday, March 14, 2015

Brad Keselowski has best shot of beating Kevin Harvick at Phoenix

Could the Penkse duo have something for Harvick on Sunday?
Kevin Harvick came into the week as the overwhelming favorite to expand upon his record setting six wins at Phoenix International Raceway in Sunday's 500 and after all the practices and qualifying have been run, he's given no indication to believe he won't win again, which would be his fourth straight on the track. However, between a teammate and a couple of Penske Racing drivers, Harvick may have more competition than anticipated.

The Stewart-Haas teammate that has the look of being a contender to derail the Harvick-Phoenix Express isn't Tony Stewart, or Danica Patrick, but rather Kurt Busch who makes his 2015 season debut after serving a NASCAR mandated suspension. Busch laid down the fastest lap during Saturday's first practice session and then came back during Happy Hour with the third fastest lap. Busch's only Phoenix win came in the spring of 2005, and ironically he was suspended by his then-car owner Jack Roush for the final two races of the season that began with Phoenix.

Busch should be fast in the race, but the question is whether or not he's 100 percent welcomed back by all his colleagues? If in a split-second decision making process by a driver trying to pass him, is the first response to punt him or race him clean? Who knows, but it's something to consider when wagering. However, you can forget about his 40-to-1 odds as part of the field. Consider getting 20-to-1 lucky when betting re-opens.

The most likely contender to stop Harvick from winning again at Phoenix is Brad Keselowski who tweeted out Friday night that "effort equals results" and he sure put in a lot of effort Saturday during practices. In the early session he had the second fastest lap overall and the fastest 10-consecutive lap average. In the final session he had seventh fastest lap while running 55 total laps to lead all drivers. Needless to say, he's put in the 'effort' and looks to have his best shot at winning his first Phoenix race.

Keselowski also gets high marks for Sunday's race because of his past history which has seen him finish sixth or better in five of his past six Phoenix starts, as well as winning at similar flat tracks such as New Hampshire and Phoenix last season. If there was one driver to feel confident about on Sunday to take over Harvick's victory lane celebration in the Estrella Mountains, it would be Keselowski. His teammate Joey Logano should be almost as good as he's still looking for his first career Phoenix win as well.

As for Harvick's practices, it's easy to take for granted what he did because everyone expected him to be a beast Saturday. All he did was have the third fastest lap in the morning and came back with the fastest lap in the afternoon. He's also starting from the pole. If Harvick were to win on Sunday, he'd be the fifth driver to win from the pole at Phoenix.

In addition to everything that looks stout for Harvick at Phoenix over the past two days, he's also got momentum which includes a 2014 Championship and finishing second or better in his past six starts overall --four wins in his last nine races. He's well deserving of being the massive favorite, but Keselowski isn't as far behind as anticipated when the week began.

Read More Here..............Final Driver Ratings

Micah Roberts, a former Las Vegas sports book director, has been setting NASCAR odds since 1994 and covers all sports with a gaming spin. Follow him on twitter @MicahRoberts7

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