This weekend at the ISM Raceway in Phoenix is the first where we won’t have a NASCAR tripleheader. The first three weeks saw all three of NASCAR’s top divisions race at the same track on the same race weekend. This week, the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series drivers headed back east while the XFINITY Series teams and Cup teams stayed out west and will take to the 1.022-mile Arizona track.
Saturday’s DC Solar 200 (4 p.m. ET/FOX/MRN/SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) will be the fourth XFINITY Series race of the season. So far, Cup drivers are two-for-three including winning two straight. Will we see a third consecutive XFINITY Series race won by a Cup driver or will Phoenix produce an XFINITY Series regular winning like they did in both races a year ago?
Here are my top five to watch.
How can he not be the driver to beat? While he surprisingly struggled last weekend in Vegas, he’s not likely going to see that happen again at Phoenix. He has a series leading 10 victories and nine poles on the west valley track. He’s won six of the last 10 XFINITY Series races at Phoenix including scoring eight straight top four finishes. In fact, his last seven starts have seen him finish either first or second. In those seven races, he’s led at least 100 laps too.
So, his No. 18 Toyota has to be THE favorite on Saturday.
I’d watch out for Busch’s Joe Gibbs Racing teammate this weekend too. Bell has two straight top three finishes on the season (3rd in Atlanta, 2nd in Las Vegas) and finished fourth at Phoenix in last Fall’s XFINITY Series race. He’s also made two career Truck Series starts on the oval, finishing seventh and eighth respectively. In his eighth place run, he started from the pole and led 90 laps.
His No. 20 Toyota will be a threat Saturday too.
It’s been a while since Keselowski has won an XFINITY Series race, but that could change on Saturday. He’s scored five straight top 10’s in XFINITY Series competition at Phoenix and has nine top 10’s in his last 10 starts on the track. Also, in his last 15 XFINITY Series starts as a whole at Phoenix, he’s finished in the top 10 in 13 of them. He has three top three finishes in his last five Phoenix starts including the 2014 win.
Can he take the No. 22 Ford to victory lane in his first XFINITY Series start of the year?
The winless streak is still going for Sadler, but the finishes aren’t tapering off. It’s been 42 races since Sadler last won a race. But, he’s been in the Championship 4 in each of the last two years though. Plus, despite not winning so far this season, he’s the only driver to complete 100-percent of all the laps and has three straight top five finishes to start the year off.
Not a bad start if you ask me.
Plus, Sadler has made 37 career starts in Phoenix, 19 in Cup and 18 in XFINITY. He has nine top 10 finishes including a win in 2012 where he led 26 laps that day.
His No. 1 Chevrolet will be a factor too.
The defending race winner of the spring Phoenix event comes in at No. 5 on this list. He’s been very strong in his No. 7 Chevrolet this season so far racking up finishes of sixth and third respectively the last two weeks. But, at Phoenix, he’s been very strong as of late. He has six straight top 10 finishes, five of which inside the top five in fact.
I would be shocked if Allgaier isn’t battling for the win on Saturday.