Jimmie Johnson (average finish 1.83): It's tough to imagine how anyone could have a more dominating stretch at any track than Johnson has had at Phoenix. Check this: over the last six races, his finishes have been 3, 1, 4, 1, 1, 1. That's astounding, and that's part of the reason he's been able to put a hammerlock on the Chase at this point every season. Thing is, he's now working from behind. How's that going to work?
Denny Hamlin (average finish 10.5): Hamlin's numbers are inflated by an unfortunate 30th-place finish this spring, a race he ran with a knee on which he'd just had surgery, a race where he said he was in more pain "than I can tell you." Before that, he'd run off four straight top-six finishes. So while he's not as dominant as Johnson, he's by no means a chump at Phoenix either.
Kevin Harvick (average finish 16.5): Harvick has two victories at Phoenix, but they both came in 2006. Since then, he hasn't distinguished himself. But then, as this year has shown, Harvick is a different cat. He needs to beat either Johnson or Hamlin to give himself a fighting chance in Homestead, but the way those two guys are running, this is the most critical race of the season for the 29 team.
So there you have it, one definitive contender, one solid pick and one better-step-it-up challenger. Who's your pick for this weekend?
- Phoenix International Raceway