The Chase for the Sprint Cup Series moves to Phoenix International Raceway for the Can-Am 500, the penultimate race of the 2016 season. Over the past few seasons the flat track at Avondale has been ruled by Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick ($10,600), who has five checkered flags over the past six races. Harvick has eight wins overall at the track in 27 starts with 12 Top 5s, 16 Top 10s and 1,484 laps led with a 10.3 Average-Finish Position (AFP). According to NASCAR’s Loop Data Harvick has a 147.0 Driver Rating with 994 laps led over the past five races while running 99.2 percent of his laps inside the Top 15. Harvick will go off from the sixth position and is an absolutely must-start DFS option based on his dominance at PIR.
Hendrick Motorsports driver Alex Bowman ($6,900) is on the pole in the No. 88 Chevrolet, starting in place of the injured Dale Earnhardt Jr. (concussion). Bowman has shown some signs of life over his past three starts, finishing seventh at Kansas and 13th in Texas, posting 34 fastest laps over his past four outings. Since he’ll be going off from Row 1, Bowman is a solid No. 5 or 6 DFS roster option. Bowman’s teammate Jimmie Johnson ($9,700) isn’t in the Top 10 in Driver Rating over the past five stops in Phoenix, but he leads all drivers with a 7.9 AFP in 26 career starts with four wins, 15 Top 5s and 19 Top 10s with 977 laps led. Johnson’s teammate Kasey Kahne ($8,000) is also a decent mid-tier DFS option with a win, eight Top 10s and 14 Top 20s with a 17.9 AFP in 24 career starts.
Chevrolet has won six straight races at PIR, and 18 of the past 22 in Arizona, but that shouldn’t dissuade you from using Fords or Toyotas. Penske Racing’s Joey Logano ($10,200) checks in second in Driver Rating at 111.1 over the past five starts at Phoenix, leading 123 laps with 92.3 percent of his laps turned inside the Top 15. The laps led is second to only Harvick. Logano’s teammate, Brad Keselowski ($9,500) has a 103.2 Driver Rating over the past five Phoenix starts, leading 59 laps while running 88.4 percent of his laps inside the Top 15. Neither driver has a win in Phoenix, but Logano has a 14.0 AFP and Kes checks in at 14.6.
Joe Gibbs Racing’s Matt Kenseth ($9,300) goes off from the 10th spot in the lineup. He has a win, six Top 5s and 11 Top 10s with a 16.3 AFP in 27 career starts at PIR. Denny Hamlin ($9,900) has a win with 10 Top 5 finishes in 22 career starts with an 11.1 AFP. Since he is going off from the fifth position he is a decent option in GPPs. The best bet from the JGR stable might be Carl Edwards ($9,100), especially for Fantasy points per dollar spent. He starts from the 11th position as he looks for his third career win at the track. In 24 career starts he has an 11.8 AFP while posting 20 Top 20s with 452 laps led.
Chip Ganassi Racing’s Kyle Larson ($8,900) looks to finish the season on a high note. He was sixth at Talladega, 14th in Martinsville and 15th at Texas, posting 23 fastest laps over the past two races. In five career Cup starts at Phoenix he has four Top 20s with a respectable 15.2 AFP. He has never finished lower than 21st, so he isn’t a bad middle of the roster option. Larson’s teammate, Jamie McMurray ($7,900), is also a solid DFS play. Jamie Mac goes off from the ninth spot, as he looks for his 16th Top 20 in 27 starts at the track.
Richard Childress Racing’s Ryan Newman ($7,800) is often overlooked by DFS owners for whatever reason, but he is rather consistent. He is working on a streak of eight straight Top 20s, including a 10th-place showing at Texas last week. He has a win with nine Top 5s and 19 Top 20s in 28 career starts with a 17.9 AFP. As a No. 4 or 5 DFS option you can certainly do worse. He will start from the 15th position.
Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kurt Busch ($8,400) ranks eighth in Driver Rating over the past five stops at PIR, running 89.2 percent of his laps inside the Top 15 despite the fact he has no laps led during the span. He ha a win, 16 Top 10s and 750 laps led in 27 career starts at the track, so the elder Busch is a solid DFS option at a cut-rate price for a championship contender. Busch goes off from the 12th spot.
Furniture Row Racing’s Martin Truex Jr. ($9,800) is in a backup car and will start from the back of the field after clapping the wall in practice. MTJ has had his issues in Phoenix over the years, posting a 16.8 AFP in 21 career starts with no wins and just one Top 5, finishing outside of the Top 10 in two-thirds of his starts. He is a very risky DFS option based on his overall struggles and the fact he is in a backup ride.
ON THE DOWN LOW
As far as the lower-priced options are concerned, there is plenty of good picks for a high-low DFS lineup strategy.
Rookie Ryan Blaney ($7,700) is on a roll heading into the final two weeks of the season, posting four straight Top 20s. He was solid with a 12th-place finish at the AAA Texas 500 last week, turning in seven fastest laps. He posted a 10th-place finish in his first Cup start in Phoenix back in the spring, so he is a solid No. 4 or 5 DFS option.
Richard Petty Motorsports driver Aric Almirola ($6,700) is a low-priced option with some upside. He is averaging a 15.0 AFP over the past three outings, and he has nine Top 20 finishes in 11 career starts with a 17.3 AFP. JTG Dougherty’s A.J. Allmendinger ($7,400) is another solid low-priced option as he rolls in with four straight Top 20 finishes, including three Top 10s. Allmendinger has 11 Top 20 finishes in 14 career starts at PIR with a solid 17.2 AFP. Almirola goes off from the 27th spot, and he could pile up plenty of Place Differential points if he simply hits his averages.
Childress driver Paul Menard ($6,600) is averaging a 21.5 AFP over his past four starts, and he has similar numbers in 19 career starts at Phoenix. He has two Top 10s and seven Top 20s with a 22.0 AFP at the flat track. Menard starts from the 20th spot.
There are a couple of ultra-low priced rookie drivers to use if you want to use four high-priced drivers and a mid-tier option on your roster. D.J. Kennington ($4,800) will drive the No. 55 Chevy for Premium Motorsports, and he goes off from the 39th position. He is a bit of an unknown quantity, but his inclusion will allow you to stack the rest of your lineup. Rookie Gray Gaulding ($4,700) finished 39th at Martinsville in his Sprint Cup debut, and now he makes his second start from the 37th position.