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While the final race of the west coast swing takes place in a subtropical desert climate, there are still weather concerns. One reason is that the Xfinity Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway came to a stop due to snow. Fortunately for the Cup Series teams, the forecast calls for ideal NASCAR weather with temperatures in the mid-70s and only a 1% chance of rain.
Ryan Blaney, the driver of the No. 12 Team Penske Ford Mustang, will embrace the weather as he leads the field to the green flag after winning the Busch Light Pole. Denny Hamlin will join him on the front row after posting the second-fastest time in qualifying at 27.200 seconds.
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The starting order continues with William Byron and Christopher Bell on the second row; Aric Almirola and Chase Briscoe on the third row; Kyle Larson and Austin Cindric on the fourth row; and Alex Bowman and Joey Logano on the fifth row. The race at Phoenix continues Cindric’s streak of starting in the top 10, which includes a Pole Award of his own at Auto Club Speedway.
A Phoenix Expert Has a Difficult Starting Position
While Almirola and Briscoe will represent Stewart-Haas Racing on the third row of the starting lineup, another member of the organization will start near the middle of the pack. Kevin Harvick will begin the race on the eighth row next to 23XI Racing’s Kurt Busch.
Harvick is the leader at Phoenix in wins among active drivers. He has made nine trips to Victory Lane in his Cup Series career, including a season sweep in 2006 and 2014. Harvick has the goal of winning for the 10th time at the one-mile track, but he will have to navigate his way through the field while avoiding incidents.
Even if Harvick can’t reach Victory Lane at Phoenix Raceway, he will have an opportunity to post his 18th consecutive top-10 finish at the one-mile track. Harvick could also match two members of the Hall of Fame.
Seven-time champions Richard Petty and the late Dale Earnhardt both posted 18 consecutive top-10 finishes at North Wilkesboro Speedway, setting the single-track mark. Adding another top-10 finish of his own would put Harvick into an elite company.
Hamlin Will Have a Chance to Rebound in Phoenix
The starting position on the front row will be crucial for Hamlin as he attempts to rebound from a difficult start to the season. He has posted two DNFs in the first three races while failing to crack the top 10.
Hamlin’s attempt to win his fourth Daytona 500 came to an early end after a massive wreck involving Harrison Burton, William Byron, and Ross Chastain. Similarly, his trip to Las Vegas Motor Speedway ended after he had a shifting problem that broke the transaxle.
Hamlin is currently 30th in points after the struggles early in the season, but he will have an opportunity to stack points while battling Blaney and the other top drivers in the Cup Series. He will attempt to turn his season around at a track where he has 33 starts, only one DNF, an average finish of 10.5, and two previous wins, including the playoff race in 2019.