Victory Lane – Bluegreen Vacations 500
By Tyler Miller – @rickybobby_jr
There are two races to go in the 2019 NASCAR season! Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. are locked into the championship 4 at Homestead Miami Speedway next week. The final two spots will be decided at Phoenix between Kyle Busch, Joey Logano, Denny Hamlin, Ryan Blaney, Kyle Larson, and Chase Elliott. Going into the race, Busch and Logano are in on points, but if any of those six drivers win the race, they automatically advance. Kyle Busch won the pole over Joey Logano, Hamlin, Truex, and Larson round out the top 5 starting positions.
Phoenix is a short race, only 312 laps around the 1 mile track. The first two stages are very short, only 75 laps each. I think the cars that start up front will stay up front and it will be difficult to find anyone who races their way up through the field. Since Phoenix is a 1 mile track, I like playing a few more tournament lineups than usual. I’ve included more drivers to give you options when playing multiple lineups. Let’s get started!
Denny Hamlin ($13,500/10,600) Denny Hamlin had a shot to advance to Championship 4 at Martinsville and it didn’t work out. After a disastrous race at Texas, Hamlin appears to have the fastest car at Phoenix (fastest in 10, 15, and 20 lap average speed in final practice). Can Hamlin and his pit crew keep him up front, lead laps and win the race to advance? I think he will be a top 5 play at Phoenix.
Martin Truex Jr. ($14,500/11,200) Martin Truex Jr. finished 2nd at Phoenix in the spring and has a strong car this weekend. Truex ran top 10 speeds in final practice, but Truex never seems to be at the top of the practice sheet, even when he ends up dominating a race like he did at Martinsville. From the 4th starting position, I think Truex could lead a lot of laps and win the race. I really like pairing Truex and Hamlin in DFS lineups on Sunday.
Kevin Harvick ($14,000/11,500) Kevin Harvick’s history at Phoenix speaks for itself. The best driver rating, second best average running position, the most laps led among active drivers and 9 wins. Harvick ran top 5 practice speeds in final practice. I like Harvick to have a good day on Sunday, but I like Hamlin and Truex a little bit more.
Joey Logano ($11,500/9,900) Starting second, I think Logano will be overlooked in DFS lineups on Sunday. Logano showed very consistent top 5 speeds in final practice on Friday. He is a little bit risky as I could see him finishing the race in the back half of the top 10, good enough to advance to Miami, but not scoring enough DFS points. I think Logano leans more toward a tournament play, but I think he could be considered in all contests on Sunday.
Chase Elliott ($12,500/10,2000) Chase Elliott topped the board in single lap speed during final practice. His 5, 10, 15, and 20 lap average speeds were all between 6th and 7th fastest. Qualifying 6th, I think Elliott, like Logano, may get overlooked on Sunday. The fear with building a lineup around Elliott or Logano is that one of the Gibbs cars leads 200+ laps and win the race and Logano or Elliott finish 5th or 6th and don’t score enough points to cash.
Ryan Blaney ($12,000/9,400) Blaney’s car showed strong speed over longer runs in final practice. He was fastest in 25 and 30 consecutive lap speed (not many cars ran 30 consecutive laps). He was 4th in 5 lap average, 3rd in 10 and 15 lap, and 2nd in 20 lap average speed behind Denny Hamlin. I like Blaney to advance his position by a handful of spots as he starts the race 10th.
Matt DiBenedetto ($6,000/7,300) DiBenedetto is a lock button for me this weekend. Starting 16th, I think DiBenedetto easily has a top 10 car if everything goes smoothly on track and on pit road. DiBenedetto had the fastest 5 lap average and the 2nd fastest 10 and 15 lap speeds in final practice. I think DiBenedetto can run inside the top 10 for most of the day and finish somewhere in the 6th-8th position, making him a lock at his salary.
Kurt Busch ($9,500/8,700) I think Kurt Busch can run well at Phoenix, but I don’t see him advancing much beyond his starting position. That being said, he is a solid candidate for a top 10 finish for under 10k in salary. Kurt ran 10-12th in consecutive lap speeds in final practice. If he would have qualified somewhere between 14th and 16th I would be much more interested in him, but I think there is a risk for some negative differential points, so I would proceed with caution.
Clint Bowyer (9,000/8,900) I like Clint Bowyer for the same reasons as Kurt Busch, but he has a lower salary, ran faster speeds in final practice, and starts the race 13th. I think Bowyer is a better play at this salary and I like him to finish inside the top 10.
Jimmie Johnson ($7,800/7,900) This is a tournament play only, but I think Jimmie Johnson has potential to score a lot of DFS points from his 22nd starting position. Johnson has a strong track record at Phoenix with the 2nd best driver rating, 3rd best average running position, over 900 laps led, 4 wins, 15 top 5s, and 21 top 10s in 32 races. Johnson finished 8th in the spring and anything close to an 8th place finish on Sunday would make him a great DFS play. His practice speeds were not good, 28th in single lap speed and 27th in 5 lap average. Johnson did not run 10 consecutive laps in a practice where the majority of drivers ran at least 15 consecutive laps. I think overall the Chevy’s are the slowest of the manufacturers at Phoenix. I think the Toyotas have the most speed with the Fords of Kevin Harvick, Ryan Blaney, and Joey Logano close behind.
Austin Dillon ($6,500/6,800) Austin Dillon ran 5 and 10 lap average speeds good enough for 14th and 13th in final practice and qualified 28th. I think Austin can easily improve his starting position by 10 or more, run inside the top 20 and finish around 15th which would make him a great play at his salary. I think this is a lower risk alternative to Matt DiBenedetto with about the same ceiling. I think Austin Dillon should be strongly considered in all contests on Sunday.
John Hunter Nemechek ($3,000/5,300) John Hunter Nemechek made his cup series debut at Texas Motor Speedway last weekend. I’ve liked this kid since he started racing trucks back in 2013/2014. I wish I would have played him instead of Corey Lajoie last week as Nemechek ran on the lead lap for most of the race and finished 21st in his first 500 mile race. Phoenix is a much shorter race, and Nemechek has experience running an Xfinity car with 2 top 10 finishes in 2 races. Starting 26th, I think Nemechek can run safely in the mid-20s and finish the race 1-2 laps down, maybe on the lead lap if cautions fall at the right time late in the race. At $3k on Fan Duel, I think this is the right driver to make lineups fit together.
I think the right build for this race is starting three playoff drivers with DiBenedetto and John Hunter Nemechek. The choice is in using 3 of the following: Truex, Hamlin, Harvick, Logano, and Blaney. Truex, Hamlin, and Blaney fit together in a lineup. Truex Hamlin, and Harvick do not, unless you were to move down from Nemechek to someone like Reed Sorenson or JJ Yeley. I wouldn’t feel good about doing that in cash, but in a multi-lineup environment I think that is something I would consider. Obviously I didn’t write up the pole sitter, Kyle Busch. Kyle should be considered in a few lineups if you are playing multiple entries in case he leads a lot of laps early and ends up winning the race, but I like Hamlin, Truex, and Harvick (in that order) ahead of Kyle Busch.
Good luck to all our subscribers this weekend!
Tyler Miller is a lifelong NASCAR enthusiast who spent five years as a producer on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio (2008-2013). Upon meeting his wife in Washington DC, Tyler became an Army spouse and left his career to move all over the country and help raise their two children. Tyler holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sport Communication and Electronic Media Production from Ashland University and is currently pursuing a Masters’ of Science degree in Marketing: Sports Marketing and Media, from Liberty University.