NASCAR came down on Kevin Harvick and his team after the Texas race, the #4 car failing post-race inspection. That led to suspensions galore, a loss of points, and revocation of “guaranteed” status for the Championship race. Happy and his team are now re-inserted into the pool of seven chasing one of three vacant seats on a flight to Homestead. Joey Logano — self-proclaimed favorite — is the only one locked in. Today they do battle at ISM Raceway in Avondale, AZ; a track completely renovated ($178 million, completed earlier this month) and sold out.
Here’s what to look for:
-The aforementioned Kevin Harvick — he just drives the cars — will do the best he can to rebound from last week’s gut-punch. Good news, the last time he was in the papers for a major infraction he bounced right back with a dominating win..at Phoenix! Yes, the same thing happened earlier this year with a back window issue at Las Vegas, and the #4 went right back to Victory Lane the very next week. At Phoenix. He’s started that quest the best possible way, P1 on Pole day.
–Chase Elliott will start outside Harvick, and has his eyes set on his first Championship race berth. This is one of his best tracks, but he’ll probably need to do better than the 2nd and 3rd he’s logged here recently. The “Big 3” currently occupy the last three spots (based on points), so a “win and you’re in” scenario seems most likely. While not a definite, getting in on points is a much rockier road.
–Martin Truex Jr. will be one to watch, still simmering a bit (downgraded from “fuming”) following the finish at Martinsville. He seems incredibly focused, and is actually in a pretty good position. He’s got history on his side as well, a 3rd last year and a 5th in the Spring. A total of 34 points (3rd place without Stage point support) would launch the #78 team to Homestead regardless of what anyone else does.
–Matt Kenseth won this race last year with Joe Gibbs Racing, and it feels sooo long ago. Hard to believe how much things can change in a simple calendar change. Nevertheless, he took that car to the Winner’s Circle, and he’s fully capable of doing it again. While the equipment may not be up to snuff, it should be noted that Roush-Fenway teammate Ricky Stenhouse Jr. is starting 3rd, so the speed is there.
–Alex Bowman has had some success out this way. He’s started 1st and 4th in his last two races here, the finish of those a 6th and 13th respectively. He rolls off 5th later today in what could be another great run for the #88 team.
Coverage of the race starts on NBC at 2:30pm, green flag scheduled for 2:35pm.
Some may think of this race as an “eleventh hour” dash for some, but 100 years ago today, “eleventh hour” had a completely different meaning. On 11/11/1918 at 11am, an Armistice with Germany went into effect, ending the major hostilities of World War I. Today we remember those who came before us way back when, and those who are currently serving to keep us safe all around the world. Be sure to thank a veteran today as they put it all on the line (past and present tense) to protect us, our way of life, and the many freedoms we enjoy.