Sunday’s FanShield 500 winner should tell us a lot about 13 similar races that follow this season. The NASCAR Cup Series race is at Phoenix Raceway, and will be the first of 14 contests that will be utilizing the new rules package. Cars will feature engines with 750 horsepower and a reduced-downforce package, including a smaller spoiler.
The package for the FanShield 500 is similar to ones used in 2018. Bubba Wallace told reporters he definitely gets a feeling of déjà vu.
“It takes you back to the 2018 feel,” Wallace said. “We were really good in the race. I struggled throughout practice the first time I was here in a Cup car. We looked at the data and I wasn’t carrying enough brake. It puts the feel back into the driver’s hands. So, I think it’s good.”
Should gamblers look back to the 2018 result when making their picks for Sunday’s Fan Shield 500? We take a look at some drivers who should do well, and others that probably won’t.
Drivers to Back
Kyle Busch 7/2
There’s good reason for Busch to be the favorite here. He is the defending champion and also won a fall race in 2018 with a rules package that is similar to one being used this weekend.
Busch and Joe Gibbs Racing could have a big weekend at the FanShield 500, and he told reporters the track is one of his favorites.
“I look forward to Phoenix, it’s always fun and a good place for us,” Busch said. “Lately, we’ve been able to really pick up on some things that help us there that have made us better there the last few times, and now this package is different. I think that will lend itself back into a couple years ago I guess.”
Denny Hamlin 6/1
Busch’s teammate won the fall race at Phoenix Raceway and is usually strong at 1-mile tracks. He did tell reporters, though, that there is a learning curve with the new rules package.
“It’s been so long since we’ve come back year after year, and things have been the same,” Hamlin said. “It’s once again different this year and then we’re kind of reverting back to ’18, you can look at data, but it still takes so long as a driver to change your discipline back to what it was with this rules package.”
Kyle Larson 18/1
Larson is a good pick for anyone looking for a solid long shot. Larson has top-10 finishes at Daytona and Las Vegas, and has five, top-six finishes in his last seven starts at Phoenix Raceway.
Last year, he finished sixth in this race and was fourth in Phoenix in the fall. Larson has won at other 1-mile tracks, so it wouldn’t be a reach picking him here.
Drivers to Avoid
Kevin Harvick 6/1
Harvick won this race in 2018, and logic would dictate that he should be in the mix this year, but he hasn’t won at this track since it was resurfaced. He even expressed some doubt about how he did with the new rules package.
“I felt like last year, with that particular rules package, we definitely weren’t as good as we had been in the past,” Harvick said. “I think with the 2018 package, I think we were in the game. It’s been a great racetrack for us as we’ve gone through the years and a place that we go to expect a win.”
Martin Truex Jr. 9/2
The FanShield 500 might be the place where Truex comes out of his slump, but we aren’t willing to risk our bankroll on that happening. The odds just aren’t good enough.
Truex finished 32nd at Daytona, 20th at Las Vegas, and 14th at Fontana. The improvement is in encouraging, but let’s wait for a race or two before we put our money down on him.