The 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season continues today with the Ruoff Mortgage 500 at Phoenix Raceway. Read on below to see my prediction for who will win the race, as well as my top 10, dark horse, and driver to fade predictions.
Winner: William Byron- Coming off of a top 5 finish last week in Las Vegas, Byron has not been a major threat to win in past Phoenix starts, as he has 4 top 10’s in 8 starts, with a best finish of 8th coming in the Spring race last season. Byron has been bad fast all week, having the fastest 5 lap and 10 lap average speeds and having top 5 speed on the 15, 20, and 25 lap average speeds, as well as overall average speed. Past results are often an indicator of how a driver will fare, but I expect Byron to run up front all race and close the door late if there is a late caution. William Byron is going to make it a West Coast Sweep for Hendrick Motorsports by winning today’s race!
Top 10: Kevin Harvick- Harvick may be in a bit of a slump, but he is still Mr. Phoenix, with 9 wins in 38 career starts at the track and he has had 17 consecutive top 10’s at Phoenix dating back to 2013. Harvick showed some speed in Practice and I expect that he will progressively get better as the race goes on. He may not have race winning speed, but Harvick will keep his incredible top 10 streak alive today.
Dark Horse: Bubba Wallace- Wallace has had an up and down season so far, finishing 2nd in the Daytona 500, 19th at the Wise Power 400, and 25th at the Pennzoil 400 presented by Jiffy Lube. Wallace is looking to put together a solid run at Phoenix Raceway, where he has had some solid runs in the past. In 8 career Phoenix starts, Wallace has 1 top 10 and 4 top 20 finishes. Wallace showed some speed in Practice, ranking inside the top 15 in 5 lap average speed, 10 lap average speed, and overall average speed. A win is unlikely, but I predict that Wallace will bring home a solid 15 showing by race end.
Driver to Fade: Corey LaJoie- LaJoie has gotten off to a surprisingly fast start in 2022, with 2 top 15 finishes through 3 races. Nonetheless, Phoenix Raceway is arguably LaJoie’s worst track on the schedule. In 9 career starts, LaJoie has never even had a top 20 finish at Phoenix Raceway, with a best finish of 26th coming back in the Spring 2019 race. LaJoie was consistently slow throughout Practice yesterday and I expect that to continue in today’s race. LaJoie is a guarantee to finish outside the top 20.