Team Penskeâs Ryan Blaney will start from the pole position for Sundayâs TicketGuardian 500 (3:30 p.m. ET on FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Does he merit a spot in your lineup? Weâve dissected the numbers to offer a suggested lineup worthy of your Fantasy Live consideration as you make roster decisions.
RJ Kraftâs Fantasy Live lineup for race-day at Phoenix:
1. Kyle Busch
2. Kevin Harvick
3. Ryan Blaney
4. Denny Hamlin
5. Chase Elliott
Garage: Brad Keselowski
Analysis: I started this week looking to save the Team Penske drivers for races where the rules package is more pronounced â think 1.5-to-2-mile tracks â but like Special Agent LeRoy Jethro Gibbsâ Rule #51 â sometimes youâre wrong. The Penske group looked too strong in practice and Iâd be risking more not playing some of them. That decision puts Blaney and Keselowski in my lineup over William Byron and Aric Almirola. Blaney won the pole and had top-seven 10-lap averages in both Saturday practices. Heâs qualified well here in the past and not produced, which is why I am sticking his teammate Keselowski in the garage to guard against that happening again. Keselowski has a good history here and, along with Busch and Harvick, makes up the class of the field here this weekend.
Busch and Harvick are the two best at this track and nothing Iâve seen this weekend has dissuaded me from that thought. Both look good on the 10-lap run and over longer runs.
This is a shorter race in the Cup ranks based on mileage so I am going to play the early track position game and take two drivers starting in the top five with solid Phoenix histories in Hamlin and Elliott. Elliott has two top-three finishes in his last three starts here and Hamlin has five top 10s in his last seven starts here. I didnât love Elliottâs 10-lap averages, but I like the track position heâll start with. Among the drivers I debated for my final spots: Almirola, Kurt Busch and Byron.
Iâm taking Kyle Busch to win Stage 1 with Harvick winning Stage 2 and Busch winning the race â the winner selection is heavily influenced by my props plays. I took Busch to finish higher than Harvick and want to stay true to that on my race-winner pick in Fantasy Live. But really itâs a toss-up between both of them.
Each week in this space, weâll also highlight two Props Challenge items for players.
1. Five of the last six winners at ISM Raceway have started outside the top five. Will Sundayâs race winner start outside the top five? Iâm saying no on this one, even though as the question says, recent history has shown that the winner is more likely to come from outside the top five. The risk in saying no is you are essentially betting against Kevin Harvick â starting eighth â and at Phoenix that is a tough sell since he has nine wins there. Why am I essentially going against him on this question? Itâs because three of the four strongest cars this weekend based on practices â Ryan Blaney, Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski (Harvick is the other of the four) â will start in the top five. I like the odds that one of those three will win on Sunday.
2. Fresh off a sixth-place result at Las Vegas, does Ricky Stenhouse Jr. finish in the top 10 at ISM Raceway? Iâm going no here as well. Stenhouse finished outside the top 10 in all three practices and his 10-lap average times in Saturdayâs practices were outside the the top 15. Add in his two finishes outside the top 20 at the 1-mile track last year and five finishes outside the top 20 in his last seven starts here and history suggests another top 10 isnât in the cards for Stenhouse.