The Setup – Season Finale 500
By Tyler Miller

The final race of the NASCAR Cup season is this Sunday at Phoenix Raceway. Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski, Denny Hamlin, and Chase Elliott will compete for the NASCAR Championship. Thirty-five other drivers are racing to end their season on a high note as we head into the short offseason before the 2021 Daytona 500. The Championship Four will start in positions 1-4 with Chase Elliott and Joey Logano on the front row. While Kevin Harvick missed out on the Championship Four, his record at Phoenix cannot be ignored. The key to this race will be finding the right mid-tier and low end value to play the championship four drivers we believe can lead the most laps and win the race. Let’s get started.

Race Distance: 312 Laps (500k) Stage 1 ends on lap 75, Stage 2 ends on lap 190.
Lineup Lock 3:00 pm Sunday

Spring Winner: Joey Logano (Started 13th)
Spring Pole Sitter: Kurt Busch (Finished 6th)
Last year’s winner: (Spring/Fall) Kyle Busch (4th)/ Denny Hamlin (3rd)
Last year’s pole sitter: Ryan Blaney (Finished 3rd)/ Kyle Busch (Finished 2nd)

Prior race winners:
2018 Fall: Kyle Busch (6th)
2018 Spring: Kevin Harvick (10th)
2017 Fall: Matt Kenseth (7th)
2017 Spring: Ryan Newman (22nd)

Martinsville Recap:
What went right?

Martinsville went really well. Combining Keselowski, Truex, and Chase Elliott worked really well given some of the unforeseen circumstances surrounding that race. The combination of those three drivers led 366 of the 500 laps at Martinsville. While Truex had a disappointing finish, Chase Elliott was the key to cashing along with Bubba Wallace and Corey LaJoie who were solid value plays to round out the lineup.

My Fan Duel lineup ended up as Truex, Keselowski, Elliott, LaJoie, and Wallace scoring 420 and cashing in all contests including a 3rd place finish in the NAS Gas Pedal.

My Draft Kings lineup ended up as Truex, Keselowski, Bowman, Wallace, LaJoie, and Yeley scoring 238.25 and lost money overall.

What went wrong?
Not being able to fit Elliott with Truex and Keselowski cost me on Draft Kings. Bowman was a solid play, but you really needed Elliott to cash. In the DK $4k Rainbow Warrior I failed to cash but was only two drivers off of the winning lineup (Truex, Elliott, Logano, Wallace, LaJoie, and Yeley).
Other wrongs included being too high on Jimmie Johnson, JJ Yeley was ok as a value play but Timmy Hill scored a few more points on Fan Duel. Overall, it was a profitable race and now we move on to the grand finale.

What Vegas thinks (Opening lines via MGM)
Non-championship contender Kevin Harvick is the favorite to win at 7-2. Championship Four drivers Hamlin and Elliott are 5-2 followed by Team Penske teammates Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano.
Kevin Harvick 7-2
Denny Hamlin 5-1
Chase Elliott 5-1
Brad Keselowski 11-2
Joey Logano 13-2
Kyle Busch 8-1
Martin Truex Jr. 11-1
Ryan Blaney 16-1

Driver Ratings at Phoenix:
1. Kevin Harvick 111.2
2. Chase Elliott 105.3
3. Kyle Busch 104.9
4. Jimmie Johnson 104.4
5. Denny Hamlin 97.7
6. Kurt Busch 94.6
7. Brad Keselowski 93.8
8. Joey Logano 91.4
9. Matt Kenseth 89.1
10. Martin Truex Jr. 88.6
11. Ryan Blaney 87.4
12. Ryan Newman 85.7
13. Erik Jones 84.1
14. William Byron 79.9
15. Tyler Reddick 79.1

Average Running Position
1. Kevin Harvick 8.231
2. Chase Elliott 8.930
3. Kyle Busch 9.527
4. Jimmie Johnson 9.724
5. Kurt Busch 11.276
6. Denny Hamlin 11.487
7. Brad Keselowski 12.179
8. Joey Logano 12.205
9. Ryan Blaney 12.869
10. Erik Jones 13.269
11. William Byron 13.665
12. Tyler Reddick 13.668
13. Cole Custer 14.098
14. Martin Truex Jr. 14.172
15. Matt Kenseth 14.456

Laps Led
1. Kevin Harvick 1662 (17.2% of laps run)
2. Kyle Busch 1190 (12.7)
3. Jimmie Johnson 909 (9.4)
4. Denny Hamlin 820 (8.8)
5. Kurt Busch 584 (6.2)
6. Joey Logano 449 (6.3)
7. Matt Kenseth 270 (3.3)
8. Chase Elliott 249 (8.8)
9. Brad Keselowski 248 (3.6)
10. Alex Bowman 194 (6.4)
11. Ryan Newman 128 (1.4)
12. Martin Truex Jr. 123 (1.4)
13. Ryan Blaney 108 (3.8)

Spring Top 10:
1. Joey Logano
2. Kevin Harvick
3. Kyle Busch
4. Kyle Larson
5. Clint Bowyer
6. Kurt Busch
7. Chase Elliott
8. Aric Almirola
9. Cole Custer
10. William Byron

2019 Fall Top 10:
1. Denny Hamlin
2. Kyle Busch
3. Ryan Blaney
4. Kyle Larson
5. Kevin Harvick
6. Martin Truex Jr.
7. Erik Jones
8. Clint Bowyer
9. Joey Logano
10. Brad Keselowski

2019 Spring Top 10:
1. Kyle Busch
2. Martin Truex Jr.
3. Ryan Blaney
4. Aric Almirola
5. Denny Hamlin
6. Kyle Larson
7. Kurt Busch
8. Jimmie Johnson
9. Kevin Harvick
10. Joey Logano

2018 Fall Top 10:
1. Kyle Busch
2. Brad Keselowski
3. Kyle Larson
4. Aric Almirola
5. Kevin Harvick
6. Jamie McMurray
7. Matt Kenseth
8. Autin Dillon
9. William Byron
10. Bubba Wallace

Championship Four Drivers: Choosing the right combination of Championship Four drivers will be key on Sunday. There is an argument to be made for all four which I’ll quickly summarize: Chase Elliott has the most momentum after a dominating race at Martinsville last week. Brad Keselowski dominated Richmond earlier this year which is a similar track with the same tires that they will be racing at Phoenix. If you remember, Keselowski didn’t do a burnout after his Richmond win because he wanted to keep everything in tact to take that car to Phoenix. Joey Logano led 60 laps and won at Phoenix in March, Denny Hamlin led 143 laps and won at Phoenix last fall. I like riding the momentum of Chase Elliott ($12,500/10,600) on Sunday. I would rank Logano ($13,300/10,000) second, Keselowski ($13,500/10,800) a close third and Hamlin ($13,000/10,300) a distant fourth.

Kevin Harvick ($12,300/11,100) No matter what you do with the Championship Four, I think you need to lock in Kevin Harvick. Harvick is starting 11th and has dominated this race track in his career. Harvick has 9 wins at Phoenix which includes a stretch of 7 out of 8 races between the fall of 2012 and the spring of 2016. Taking a closer look, Harvick had a string of top 2 finishes in 8 out of 9 races from the spring of 2012 through the spring of 2016. His only non-top-two finish in that stretch was 13th in the spring of 2013. That’s the last time Harvick finished outside the top 10 at Phoenix, SEVEN YEARS AGO. Harvick has had some bad luck in his last two races (Texas and Martinsville) but this is a layup, especially on Fan Duel where he is priced down compared to the Championship Four.

Kyle Busch ($12,000/9,600) Harvick’s impressive record at Phoenix is nearly matched by Kyle Busch. Kyle has top three finishes at Phoenix in 7 of his last 8 races which includes two wins. Kyle’s last five finishes at Phoenix are as follow: 2, 1, 1, 2, 3. Starting 8th and priced down, I like Kyle Busch a lot on Sunday.

Clint Bowyer ($9,600/7,900) Clint Bowyer has a solid record at Phoenix since moving from MWR to SHR in 2017. Bowyer crashed in the fall race of 2018 but otherwise has been in the top 15 since coming to SHR including a 5th in the spring and an 8th in this race one year ago. Bowyer’s price looks good, but starting 9th gives Bowyer limited potential for differential points. I do like him as a top candidate for a top 10 finish for under 10k.

Kurt Busch ($10,800/8,800) The older of the Busch brothers has had solid finishes at Phoneix since occupying the 1 car at Ganassi. Kurt’s last three races at Phoneix included finishes of 7, 11, and 6. Overall, this has been one of Kurt’s better tracks in his career with 20 top 10s in 35 starts.

Chris Buescher ($6,700/7,200) I think a lot of people will look to Jimmie Johnson and William Byron for a big differential day, but I like Chris Buescher better than both of those options. Buescher is starting 31st and has top 20 finishes in each of his last four races at Phoenix.

Ty Dillon ($6,000/6,000) Ty Dillon is going to be massively overlooked because of his 22nd place starting position, but I think he can improve his position Sunday and be a great DFS play. Ty has some positive momentum coming out of Martinsville with a 16th place finish last week. As far as I know, Ty does not have a ride lined up for next season, so he is very much racing for his job, as is his crew chief and pit crew. Ty Dillon finished top 20 in 7 out of 9 career races at Phoenix including the last four in a row.

Ryan Preece ($5,500/5,800) If you need another mid-tier value player to round out your lineup I like Ryan Preece, specifically over the other guys who are similarly priced and all starting around each other. Preece is starting 24th, and in 4 career races at Phoenix he has improved his finish each race (37, 34, 26, and 18). Preece also finished 20th at Richmond which I mentioned is a similar track but more importantly had the exact same tire combination as what they will race at Phoenix this weekend.

In my opinion, I like picking one of the championship four drivers and pairing them with Harvick and Kyle Busch. It’s likely the championship four drivers will run up front for the entire race so it’s going to be key to pick the right driver. Due to pricing differences, I like playing Harvick and Kyle Busch with your favorite championship four driver (I spell out my ranking of the four above). The salary relief with Harvick and Kyle allows you to play two mid-tier drivers without having to hope for a 30th place finish from someone at the bottom of the pricing barrel.

Good luck to all our subscribers in the final race of what was a memorable 2020 season.

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