There is an old saying in NASCAR that says it's not about where you start, but where you finish. At Phoenix International Raceway, starting up front has a direct correlation to going to Victory Lane. Nine of the last 11 races at the track have been won by a driver starting inside the top 10, and no driver starting outside the top 20 has won a race during the stretch.
The statistic is bad news for several big names, including defending race winner Jeff Gordon, last week's winner Matt Kenseth and championship favorite Carl Edwards. All three drivers qualified 24th or worse, and even though all three drivers are former winners at Phoenix, the numbers say that their chances of getting to Victory Lane are next to nothing. Granted, qualifying outside the top 20 doesn't eliminate them from having a decent afternoon, but depending on the fantasy format, picking a driver with little chance of winning doesn't make much sense.
Fortunately for fantasy owners, there are several intriguing options that did qualify near the front. Mark Martin and Tony Stewart will share the front row, and Jimmie Johnson will start in the top five, as well. Johnson (5.4) and Martin (9.5) own the two best average finishes at Phoenix, and Johnson is a four-time winner. Meanwhile, Stewart finished in the top 10 in both races at PIR last season, leading the most laps and finishing third in the fall.
Dropping back a bit further, Ryan Newman and Kasey Kahne are a couple of other top-10 qualifiers for owners to target. Newman has reeled off four straight top-five finishes at the track, and Kahne won the fall event last year. Kahne's stock receives an added boost because Sunday will mark his first start at PIR with Hendrick Motorsports. Seven of the last 10 races at Phoenix have been won by an HMS driver.
About Brian Polking
Racing has been part of Brian's life ever since he can remember, and he spent his childhood at dirt tracks throughout Ohio and Kentucky watching his father race. NASCAR naturally became his favorite sport, and he has been following the Cup, Nationwide and Truck Series for most of his life. Brian majored in journalism and economics at Ohio State University and becoming a sports writer has always been his dream. Although he has covered everything from minor league baseball to the NCAA tournament, his passion has always been NASCAR. Brian has served as a NASCAR writer for a variety of sites, eventually becoming head editor of the NASCAR section for Fanball.com. His knowledge of NASCAR comes from his life-long love of racing, and he tries to add a personal touch to every article he writes. Brian is always up for talking NASCAR with anyone that wants to. Brian joined KFFL's team in 2011.
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