Subway Fresh Fit 500: Green-White-Checkers
After a monster Daytona weekend for NASCAR (both on the track and in the ratings), the Sprint Cup circuit travels west to Arizona for the Subway Fresh Fit 500. This track is notorious for high tempers and great racing in the past couple of years. This year, the track will host the first event for NASCAR's new "Gen 6" car at a non-restrictor plate raceway.
Green Flag: Potential bounce back week for Harvick
After a disappointing Daytona 500, Harvick could be in for a huge rebound this weekend. Phoenix was by far his best track last year, with a win this past November and a second place finish one year ago. Harvick is one of those drivers you really need to watch out for at all times. He will be looking to be extremely aggressive at a track that has been great to him in the past.
White Flag: Watch out for Denny Hamlin
Hamlin followed the same pattern as Harvick last year, just in reverse order. He won the Phoenix race back last March while coming in second in the fall race. As I mentioned earlier, the new Gen 6 could spoil the fun for both drivers this weekend. When you introduce a new car to the circuit, results could be turned upside down. Another sport equivalent would be if the NBA decided to implement a "four-point" basketball line on the court. That change would completely revamp the game of basketball much like this new car is redefining how teams prepare for races. With all that being said, Hamlin and Harvick are extremely comfortable and understand how to race Phoenix. If the race style stays somewhat similar to how its been in the past, those two should be hanging around the top-ten all Sunday long.
Checkered Flag: Jimmie Johnson, Hendrick Motorsports are very strong at Phoenix
The best possible position you can be in as a driver is going to a racetrack that you've had very good results at just after you've won. Johnson has won four times in his career in Arizona, which is the most of any active drivers. In fact, the four current Hendrick Motorsports drivers have nine combined wins at this upcoming track. With that kind of combination of experience and confidence, the Hendrick cars are in the best position of any other teams this weekend. They have a won under their belt in the new "Gen 6" car and they have past results to back up their team.
Winner: Jimmie Johnson
I know it may sound boring, but I'm going with Jimmie Johnson this weekend. I'm always the most confident in a driver who I think has the best handle of the new car. When you combine past experience, a win with the new car design, and a great team, you'll be very hard to beat. I understand that Phoenix is a much different track than Daytona, and some would say I can't judge someone's handle of the new car based on a restrictor-plate track. When you're telling me you have a confident driver and their crew chief is Chad Kanus, I'll take my chances on back to back wins.
Driver to Watch: Kevin Harvick
I also think Kevin Harvick will have a nice bounce back weekend like I mentioned before. When you win two qualifying races for the Daytona 500 and not win the actual race, you're a little angry. I expect him to use that energy to have a nice top-five finish.
Dark Horse: Mark Martin
Keep your eye on the Michael Waltrip Racing driver this weekend. Martin has run extremely well throughout his career at Phoenix and that experience could pay off this Sunday.
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