The NASCAR Monster Energy Cup series stays out West this week as it makes its first of two stops this year at ISM Raceway in Phoenix for the TicketGuardian 500. The 312-lap event is one of only four Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series events measured in kilometers rather than miles or laps (along with the fall Phoenix race and both road course events). Check back for the latest NASCAR odds before making your TicketGuardian 500 betting pick.
2018 TicketGuardian 500 Betting Preview & Prediction
When: Sunday, 3:30 p.m.
Where: Phoenix Raceway
Expect Kevin Harvick to be among the opening betting favorites for this race. For one thing, Harvick has won the past two races in the series this year, first at Atlanta and then last week Sunday’s Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas – a 1.5-mile track like Atlanta. Harvick finished 2.906 seconds ahead of runner-up and Las Vegas native Kyle Busch. Harvick led 214 of 267 laps to win the Pennzoil 400. He led 181 of 325 laps the week before in winning Atlanta, giving him a combined 395 laps led in the past two races.
“These last two weeks, we’ve just hit on everything we needed to,” said Harvick. “My [team has] done their homework on a number of things. Just really proud of everybody.”
Harvick was so dominant in his wins at Atlanta and Vegas that team co-owner Tony Stewart said the team had the luxury of working on extras.
“On a day like today [and at Atlanta] when Kevin has cars that are driving the way he wants to drive like that, he can really pick apart what it is he needs to be even that much better. It’s kind of a luxury to be in that spot, and I think when you get in that mode where things are clicking along, it does make you more dangerous because you’re able to really fine-tune and find things that you need to make it that much better.”
How Well Has Harvick Done in His Career?
Harvick won for the 39th time in the Monster Energy Series and the 100th time over all three of NASCAR’s national touring series combined. He is tied with Tim Flock and Matt Kenseth for 19th on the all-time Cup victory list and third among active drivers. The driver of the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford also took the series lead by three points over second-place Joey Logano. Harvick has already matched his Cup win total from last season in three races. Since Atlanta moved to the second slot of the Cup schedule in 2015, no one has led as many laps in the first three races in a season as Harvick with 395 this year.
Harvick explained that its improved form is down to becoming more comfortable running with Ford machinery, having switched from Chevrolet for 2017.
“These guys at Stewart Haas Racing have worked on Chevrolets for a long time [2002-16], and that’s the only car that they knew,” he said. “So learning the nuances of a different manufacturer and, I think as you look at the second year for us, last year when we put the engine in the car, none of the steering components worked.”
Harvick’s effort led another solid day for Ford teams, which placed six drivers among the top 10 at Las Vegas. Included in that mix were all three Team Penske entries, with pole-starter Ryan Blaney, Brad Keselowski and Logano filling out fifth through seventh in the final rundown. Ford teams also hold the top three spots in the Monster Energy Series standings, with Harvick, Logano and Blaney sitting 1-2-3 after three races.
Meanwhile, Harvick holds the series record for most wins at Phoenix with four, doing so in 2006, 2014, 2015 and ’16. The defending champion, however, is Ryan Newman. Staying out on old tires for a two-lap overtime run at Phoenix Raceway, Newman pulled away when eventual fourth-place finisher Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (who stayed out during the final caution) and runner-up Kyle Larson (who pitted for two tires) got together in the first corner after the final restart on Lap 313.
How Well Has Ryan Newman Done Recently?
Newman’s 18th career victory was his second at Phoenix but his first since he won the Brickyard 400 on July 28, 2013, driving for Stewart-Haas Racing. The win was RCR’s first since Harvick took the checkered flag on Nov. 10, 2013 at Phoenix before departing for Stewart-Haas the following year.
Defending points champion Martin Truex has never won in Phoenix, but he finished 11th and third in the two races last year and has eight career top-10 finishes at the ISM Raceway. Truex has gone more than three races without a victory just once since his Quaker State 400 win last July.
Seven-time points champion Jimmie Jonson is a former winner at Phoenix (2008) but he’s really struggling this season. After multiple pre-race inspection failures forced him to start from the rear and cost him his car chief in Las Vegas he nearly went two laps down in the first segment of the race. He mustered a 12th-place result but still does not have a top 10 or lead lap finish after three races, and he hasn’t led a single lap.
Chevrolets have dominated at Phoenix with 10 victories. The last non-Chevy to win this race was Carl Edwards in a Ford in 2013. Hendrick Motorsports and Stewart-Haas Racing each lead with four wins.
Expert TicketGuardian 500 Betting Prediction
Really no reason to bet against Harvick right now – although the smarter wager is on a Top-5 finish.