Saturday, March 12, 2016

Final Phoenix Driver Ratings: 2016 Good Sam 500

Kurt Busch last won at Phoenix in 2005.
LAS VEGAS -- The Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota's came out flexing their muscles at Phoenix during Friday's qualifying putting all five of its drivers in the first four rows, with Kyle Busch leading a trio of them in the first three slots. However, when Saturday's final two practices ran, it was obvious that JGR wasn't the team to beat in Sunday's Sam Good 500.

Just as has been the case for the last two years of racing at Phoenix International Raceway's one-mile flat layout, Stewart Haas Racing has the car to beat, but it's not Kevin Harvick this time, it's Kurt Busch who dominated both of Saturday's practices.

Harvick still deserves to be the favorite based on winning five of the past seven Phoenix races and using a chassis this week that led 224 of 312 laps there last fall. This same car also finished second three times and third in another 2015 race. Yes, Harvick is going to be real good Sunday, but Kurt Busch might be just as good and he also starts fourth where Harvick starts 19th. Harvick's last four Phoenix wins were from a 13th or better starting spot.

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Micah Roberts' Top-10 Rated NASCAR Drivers
Good Sam 500
Phoenix International Raceway
Sunday, March 13, 2016 - 12:46 pm (PT)    

Rating     Driver       Odds                     Practice 1             Qualified       Practice 2        Practice 3
 1. Kurt Busch 10/1                      1st                  4th            1st                 2nd 
2005 spring winner (perfect driver rating); fastest 10-consecutive lap average during practice 2.
 2. Kevin Harvick 9/4                   5th               18th            2nd               1st  
Track record seven-time winner; using chassis that won at Phoenix last March -- also second three times
 3. Kyle Busch 8/1                        8th                  1st           19th                3rd
2005 fall winner, fourth in November; five of 39 (12.8%) past Phoenix winners started on pole.
 4. Carl Edwards 12/1                  6th                 2nd            3rd               15th
Two-time winner (2010, 2013); second-fastest 10 consecutive lap average during practice 2.
 5. Denny Hamlin 20/1               2nd                 3rd           18th              11th 
2012 winner with third-best 11.4 average in 21 starts; flat tracks his best types over career.
 6. Jimmie Johnson 8/1              9th                 5th            11th              13th  
Fourt-time winner, the last in 2009; track record 15 top-fives and 7.7 average finish in 25 starts.
 7. Martin Truex Jr. 15/1             4th                 8th            4th                 8th 
Only one top-five finish in 20 starts - 17th-place average, but his Phoenix car never looked as good.
 8. Dale Earnhardt Jr. 17/2       24th               26th            6th               14th
Three-time winner, including last fall (rain shortened); eighth or better in five of past six starts
 9. Kasey Kahne 30/1                 22nd              24th            7th                 6th 
2011 fall winner; went to a back-up engine (starts from rear) and it was outstanding in final practice.
10. Joey Logano 8/1                     3rd                  9th            9th                 9th 
Tied career-best with third last fall; has been ninth or better in past five Phoenix starts

Note: The best handicapping tool for this race is to refer to 2015 results from the six races on flat tracks at Phoenix, Richmond and New Hampshire.

Odds courtesy of the William Hill sports books.

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

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