Red hot Kevin Harvick returns to the Ticket Guardian 500 this week where he is favored to win his third consecutive race. Harvick is a 2/1 pick at ISM Raceway in Avondale, Arizona, where he has won eight previous times.
Kyle Busch is next at 5/1, followed by Kyle Larson at 11/2.
Martin Truex Jr., who has the pole, is listed at 8/1, as are Brad Keselowski and Denny Hamlin.
The winner of last week’s event in Las Vegas and the prior week in Atlanta, Harvick is trying to win three in a row for the first time in his career. He has won back-to-back races five times.
“These last two weeks, we’ve just hit on everything we needed to,” he said. “My team’s done their homework on a number of things. Just really proud of everybody.”
Harvick’s success at ISM Raceway (previously known as the Phoenix Raceway) came in a Chevrolet. Last year was the first time the 42-year-old was in a Ford and not only did he not win, he didn’t lead for a single lap. In the second race of the year in the fall at Avondale, he failed to lead at any time.
His current car is well-suited for the 1.5-mile intermediate oval tracks, like the ones at Las Vegas and Atlanta, but it has struggled at the one-mile flat tracks. In addition to ISM Raceway, he failed to win at the 1-mile flat layout at New Hampshire and the three-quarter-mile flat layout at Richmond, Virginia.
Can Harvick break the streak at this type of layout? If he can’t, who would be the pick to claim the fourth NASCAR race of the season?
Watch the video of Harvick on this same track in 2015 at the Good Sam 500, which he won in one of the tightest finishes ever recorded.
Road to Victory Lane
Denny Hamlin had a third and fourth in the first two weeks of the season, but finished 17th last week in Las Vegas. The 38-year-old is ready to rebound at a track he finished first at in 2012.
“It was an unforced error that ultimately cost us out there, but it’s behind us, and I’m ready to move forward,” he said about Las Vegas. “Our team has high hopes for this weekend and I think we can get back into the top-five where we started this season.”
Also ready to get back to the winner’s circle is Truex Jr., who is the defending champion of the Monster Energy Cup Championship. He comes into the week with two top 5 finishes.
The only problem is both of those drivers have Toyota cars, which along with Fords, have not fared well at the Phoenix-area speedway. The car that has dominated has been the Chevys and that would seem to favor Larson.
He finished second here last year and was third at Las Vegas last week. He has been dubbed the most aggressive driver in the sport and the 25-year-old got some recent praise from former driver Jeff Gordon.
“He’s constantly trying to find more speed, push the limits, find the edge,” he said.