By Walker Polivka
The NASCAR Cup Series wraps up its season today with the NASCAR Cup Series Championship at Phoenix Raceway. Read on below to see our prediction for who will win the race, as well as our top 10, dark horse, and driver to fade predictions.
Driver to Fade: Ricky Stenhouse Jr.- Stenhouse has had a quiet 2022, with just 1 top 5 and 5 top 10’s on the campaign. Phoenix has not been his strongest track of late either, finishing outside the top 20 in 6 of his last 9 starts here. Stenhouse has had little success on short tracks this season, finishing outside the top 20 at every track less than a mile in length other than Dover, where he had his his best finish of the season with a runner-up showing. Stenhouse had little pace in Practice and Qualifying and we predict his struggles will continue as he finishes outside the top 20 yet again today.
Dark Horse: AJ Allmendinger- Running a part-time Cup Series schedule in 2022, The Dinger had made the most of his opportunities, with 3 top 5’s and 8 top 10’s in 17 starts, including a career best 6 straight top 10 finishes at one point. Allmendinger has had middling results at Phoenix in his Cup career, with 2 top 10’s and 14 top 20’s in 20 career starts. Allmendinger showed solid speed in Practice and Qualifying and will start today’s race in the 16th position. A win is unlikely, but one more top 15 finish is certainly within reach.
Top 10: Kevin Harvick- Mr. Phoenix himself, Harvick is the best driver to ever take the track at Phoenix, with 9 wins, 18 top 5’s, 28 top 10’s, 35 top 20’s, and 1,663 laps led in 39 career starts. 2022 has been a year of resurgence for Harvick, with 2 wins, 8 top 5’s, and 16 top 10’s, ending a 65 race winless streak along the way. History is on the line for Harvick today, as he currently has finished in the top 10 at Phoenix in each of the last 18 races, which is tied with Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt Sr. for most consecutive top 10’s at a single track. Harvick ran great in Practice and Qualifying and will start today’s race in 7th position. We predict that The Closer will close the deal and set a new NASCAR record with a 19th straight top 10 finish at Phoenix today.
Winner: Ross Chastain- Fresh off of his Hail Melon move on the last lap at Martinsville last week, Chastain is one of the hottest drivers on the track right now, with 3 straight top 5 finishes, including runner-up finishes at Las Vegas and Homestead-Miami. Chastain is having a career year, with 2 wins, 14 top 5’s, and 20 top 10’s. Chastain was fast here the last go-around, finishing runner-up at Phoenix back in the spring. Chastain was the fastest in Practice and had solid pace throughout, but struggled in Qualifying and will start today’s race in the 25th position. Chastain has shown what he is capable of when his back is against the wall and we predict that he will work his way forward and smash some watermelons in Victory Lane as he picks up the win and his first career championship!