After predicting last week’s winner at Texas Motor Speedway, Jake Ernst is looking to make it back-to-back wins this Sunday at ISM Raceway.
Location: Phoenix (ISM) Raceway
Date & Time: Sunday, November 10th at 2:30pm (ET)
TV Channel: NBC and NBC Sports Network
Race Sponsor: Bluegreen Vacations
With his win at Texas Motor Speedway on Sunday, Kevin Harvick locked himself into the final round of the NASCAR playoffs, which will take place next Sunday Nov. 17th at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The veteran was absolutely brilliant on Sunday, leading 119 of the possible 334 laps in the AAA Texas 500, earning his fourth win of the season and the 49th overall in his career.
Harvick is already secured into the championship race and has a bit of momentum heading into Phoenix, which by the way, is one of the track’s that he excels at year-after-year.
There’s Nobody Better When It Comes To ISM Raceway
It’s extremely hard to believe just how strong Kevin Harvick has been at Phoenix throughout his career but luckily for us, stats don’t lie.
With 33 races under his belt at ISM Raceway, the 43-year-old has an average finish of 9.30 and has finished inside the top-10 on 21 separate occasions, including 14 of his last 15 races at the 1.022-mile track. With eight-career wins and having led laps in 10 of his last 15 races at Phoenix, Harvick finds it quite easy to navigate to the front of the pack.
“Away from my local short track, we ventured here [Phoenix] because it was close to home,” said Harvick. “Growing up on the West Coast, going to Phoenix was kind of your big race of the year.”NASCAR.com
It’s by-far his best track on the schedule and while he’s already locked into the next round at Homestead, I don’t expect him to hold back whatsoever on Sunday. Being secured into the championship race provides Harvick and his team the opportunity to play a bit of an alternative strategy than the rest of his competition. He could decide to play Sunday’s race a bit risky, beginning different pit strategies than the rest of the pack or experimenting with two or four-tire pit stops. This could ultimately result in Harvick dictating when each team decides to come in for fuel or tires, which should have all-eyes on the No. 4 team this week.
He’s won seven of the last 14 races at Phoenix, including four-straight from 2013-2015. Momentum is on his side after his win at Texas and there’s no track on the schedule that Harvick has a better chance to win at. He’s a must-bet for Sunday.
Three-Peat At Phoenix?
Kyle Busch is currently in the midst of one of the longest winless streaks of his 16-year career, with his last win in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series coming in June at the Tricky Triangle (Pocono). Despite not seeing victory lane in over five months, Busch has been quite consistent throughout the season and luckily for him, he currently sits +22 points above the playoff cutoff line, trailing just Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr., who are already locked into the final round of the NASCAR postseason.
In his last 11 races at ISM Raceway, the veteran has finished inside the top-10 all but once, including seven top-5’s, and barring any major setbacks in this week’s race at Phoenix, Busch should have no problem advancing beyond this week and into the Championship Four. With all of the success that he and his team have endured at ISM in recent years, he should have no problem finishing inside the top-10 and playing the penultimate race of the season conservatively, but I envision Busch being quite anxious for his long-awaited fifth win of the season.
Don’t let me forget to mention, Busch has won the last two races that Phoenix has hosted and has led 100+ laps in four of his last five races at the track. I expect him to be very strong on Sunday, leading numerous laps and eventually competing for a win. Busch wants another victory in 2019 and with just Phoenix and Homestead remaining on the schedule, he’s running out of opportunities.
A Must-Win Scenario
In 2014, Kevin Harvick entered Phoenix in eighth (last place) in the standings in the penultimate round of the playoffs and it was virtually a win-or-go-home race for the driver of the No. 4 Busch Light Ford. Harvick led 264 of the possible 312 laps and went on to win the race, punching his ticket to the Championship Round at Homestead-Miami, an exact scenario that Chase Elliott will be facing this Sunday.
Sitting in eighth place and being -78 points from fourth place, he will have to win at Phoenix to have a chance to advance to his first-ever championship race.
It’s a small seven-race sample size for the 23-year-old driver of the No. 9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet but in those seven races, Elliott has finished inside the top-10 in an impressive four instances. He has a second and third-place finish on his resume and has led laps in three of those races. Much like some other tracks, Elliott seems to have no problem getting to the front, it’s just a matter of staying there until the checkered flag drops.