2016 Good Sam 500 Preview

Pack a Kevin Harvick lawn chair, Busch beer, Kevin Harvick swag and head to Kevin Harvick hill…I mean rattlesnake hill because NASCAR is coming to the Valley of the Harvick…I mean Sun.

This week, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads to Kevin Harvick Raceway…I mean Phoenix International Raceway in Kevin Harvick, Arizona…I mean Avondale Arizona for the Kevin Harvick 500…I mean Good Sam 500. This 499.2 km (312 mi) feature on the 1.6 km (1 mi) oval is the fourth race of the 2016 season and second of the three-race West Coast Swing.

Opened in 1964, Phoenix has played host to mostly open-wheel racing. In 1988, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series ran its first race at the one-mile oval. Alan Kulwicki scored his first career victory that day. Since then, the deed to the track has practically belonged to one Kevin Michael Harvick.

Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/Getty Images
Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/Getty Images

Let’s stop beating around the bush. We all know that the driver of the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet is the odds-on favorite to win Sunday at 6/1 (Vegas Insider).

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He has seven wins, 11 top-fives and 15 top-10s in 26 starts.

In those seven wins, he led 10, 252, 15, 70, 224, 264 and 224 laps. That’s a mean average of just over 151 laps.

This means he doesn’t just win at Phoenix, he flat out dominates. Even in the rain-shortened race last November where he finished runner-up, he lead 143 of the 219 laps.

I expect more of the same this Sunday with Harvick taking the lead early and never letting go until he takes the checkered flag.

Photo Credit: Robert Laberge/NASCAR via Getty Images
Photo Credit: Robert Laberge/NASCAR via Getty Images

If by some chance Harvick isn’t the driver to beat on Sunday and he is, the next driver to watch would be Jimmie Kenneth Johnson.

Now the driver of the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet hasn’t been too shabby when it comes to Phoenix. In fact, his 7.7 average finish tops the 10.6 of Harvick. He’s also finished in the top-five and top-10 more than Harvick.

From late 2007 to the end of 2009, Johnson owned the deed to the track. Since the changeover from the COT to the Gen-6, his record at the track has been…marginal at best. In the last six races, he’s led just 46 laps total. He’s been rather consistent with an average finish of 11th.

So while I can expect a good run from Johnson, I doubt he’ll have anything to prevent Harvick from winning.

Photo Credit: Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Photo Credit: Christian Petersen/Getty Images

I would say the driver with the best chance to unseat Harvick as the ruler of Phoenix is one Joseph Thomas Logano.

Since making the jump to Team Penske, the driver of the No. 22 Ford has had an average finish of 9.3 which also bests Harvick’s average.

The key for Logano to win Sunday will be simply this; Keep Harvick Behind! The only chance he, and everyone else by extension, has of winning Sunday is if they keep the No. 4 as far away from the lead as possible. If he can, he’s the best non-Harvick choice for scoring the victory on Sunday.

Tune in this Sunday to see who takes home the trophy. Coverage of the Good Sam 500 begins Sunday at 3 p.m. on FOX. If you can’t watch, tune into the radio broadcast on MRN and/or SiriusXM (subscription required for the latter).

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My name is Tucker White. I'm currently majoring in journalism at the University of Tennessee. I started getting into NASCAR around 1998 and started following the sport full-time in 2001. I live and breathe everything related to NASCAR. I also have a burning passion for all things auto racing. I've been following Formula 1 since 2011 and am slowing getting into IndyCar. I do my best to keep up with the World Endurance Championship. But at the end of the day, NASCAR is my primary beat. Being both a native of Knoxville, Tennessee and a student at UT, I'm naturally a die-hard Tennessee Volunteers fan. Especially when it comes to Tennessee Volunteers football. While I'll never stop being one, it can be the most heart-wrenching thing ever. Since 2005, this team has delivered more than its fair share of heartbreaking moments and inhuman frustration. I've stuck with the Vols from the best of times - 1998 National Champions - to the worst of times - 2005 to present - because I know that it'll make it all so worth it when the mighty Vols finally return to the top of the college football landscape. In the last few years, I started to really get into baseball. This past season, I decided to pledge my sporting allegiance to the Atlanta Braves. It didn't turn out too well as they finished 67-95 and finished fourth in the NL East. I do see great potential with the young roster and they might be a force to be reckoned with in the coming years.

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