Now that Daytona is at long last behind us, it's time to get on with the rest of the season. That can be difficult to do at times because of what Daytona means to the sport and especially this year with all of the bizarre happenings there such as dryer fires and tweets all of sudden becoming intricate parts of that Monday night/Tuesday morning in Daytona.
So on to the desert we go at Phoenix at 3 p.m. Sunday afternoon on FOX. The last time we were there in the next to last Chase for the Championship race, all the buzz was about Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards as well as it should have been. One thing when making picks for Phoenix, is that last fall's race was the first on a completely refurbished track, so how drivers did then may be more of an indication of future success than what they did in previous races.
So here goes:
1) Kasey Kahne - Yes, he's on a different and presumably better team, so it's hard not to pick the winner of last fall's race again.
2) Carl Edwards - He avoided disaster at Daytona to finish eighth and now he can get on with business. He was second in the fall race here last year.
3) Tony Stewart - He has always raced well at Phoenix and was third in the fall race here last year. I would not be surprised to see him in Victory Lane this week.
4) Jimmie Johnson - Ok, Ok, I know the track is different but Johnson's numbers at Phoenix just can't be ignored. He's got four wins here and an average finish of 5.4. To paraphrase the late Dale Earnhardt, it doesn't matter whose crew chiefin' this guy can still drive.
5) Kyle Busch - He's got one win here and has run 3,601 laps in the top 15 at Phoenix, the second most to Johnson. He seemed to hold his cool at Daytona, so let's go for two weeks in a row.
Shoulda, woulda coulda but didn't pick - Kevin Harvick. He's got a knack for not running in the top 10 and then all of sudden, there he is with 20 to go challenging for the lead. I wouldn't be surprised if that happens this week, but I can't pick the whole field to win here.
We're all about accountability, so here's a look at how my Daytona picks worked out. My hindsight grade is C for Daytona.
Tony Stewart - Finished 16th. Avoided the big wrecks, but could never work his way to the front.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. - Finished 2nd. He still hasn't won in 130 races (for those of you snoring at home), but he was behind two Ford teammates in Matt Kenseth and Greg Biffle, and in front of Denny Hamlin's Toyota on the last lap. So, no help to be found.
Kyle Busch - Finished 17th. Much like Stewart, avoided the bad stuff, but seemed to get trapped in the pack late in the race.
Jimmie Johnson - Finished 42nd. He got caught in a wreck on the second lap. He was probably home in bed before the 500 ended.
Carl Edwards - Finished 8th. He rallied late after having to goto the back with 40 laps to go because one of the windshield tear-offs was removed during the red flag.
The early stats:
1 top five
1 top 10
We gotta do better this week.
Until next time