THE LEFT TURN
NASCAR heads for Phoenix for the Ticket Guardian 500
This week the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series heads to the ISM speedway in Avondale, Arizona for their second stop on NASCAR's West Coast swing. This track breaks the sequence of high-banked cookie cutter mile and a half tracks we have seen at Atlanta and Vegas over the past couple of weeks. While by definition this track is listed as a mile and a half, it has many characteristics that are aligned with a short track. The biggest area to watch around is the front straightaway. This part of the speedway will be where a lot of the passes will be made as there is a major elevation change that goes all the way to the inside retaining wall, so look for three and four wide racing around here all throughout the day.
Last week, defending champion Joey Logano held off his teammate Brad Keselowski for his first win in 2019. The race was met with mixed reviews by the NASCAR community. Overall, it was a relatively calm race. For the first time since 2002, there were zero on-track accidents and the only cautions we saw were for the stage breaks. In the weeks building before the race, many fans were told that the racing was going to be close and tightly bunched and there was going to be three wide racing and it would be just like we see on the plate tracks at Daytona and Talladega, so when it wasn't many fans were disenfranchised with how everything went down. But when it was all said and done it wasn't a bad race, there was another near photo finish with Keselowski and Logano, and there was plenty of passing all around the race track. Above all the field was much closer than they were last year around this time. Yes. It's true that it didn't live up to the hype but overall it was a good quality race. I look forward to see them run this package at tracks like Auto Club and Indianapolis.
The driver that I have winning this week is Erik Jones. Now in his third year and a win under his belt, Erik has shown major signs that he will be a championship contender. He finished third at Daytona and then backed it up with a seventh place finish at Atlanta. Even though last week was a bit of a let down for him as he finished 13th, this week he goes to a place where he shines; in fact he has the fifth highest average finish here among all active drivers. Another facet of his success here is his ability to qualify well, he has an 8.8 average starting position and with how important qualifying has been this year, I believe that this will only help him more. Look for Jones to surprise some folks this week and claim his second career victory come Sunday.
One of the dark-horse drivers this week has to be Ryan Newman. He comes to the track where he claimed his last victory in 2017 and while a lot has changed since then including where he drives, the Rocket-man is easily one of the most experienced drivers in the field. It's no secret that it has been a dark time for Roush-Fenway racing but after Newman finished in the top 15 at Atlanta and Stenhouse Jr finished seventh last week at Vegas, it would appear that Jack Roush and his team are trending upward. When the checkered flag falls, Ryan may not win but I really believe that he will get a good finish and I look forward to seeing him wheel the Oscar Meyer Ford Mustang to a top ten.
(All stats and information used in this article is brought to you by the good folks at driveraverages.com and Racing-Reference.com the best website for all NASCAR stats).