Commentary

The Good Bad Ugly - Subway Fresh Fit 500

Updated: April 10, 2008, 11:01 PM ET
By Mark Garrow | Jayski.com

Mark Garrow provides driver trends for Saturday's Subway Fresh Fit 500 at Phoenix International Raceway.

• Biffle has eight starts here with two top-5s and an average finish of 17.4 and one DNF.
• It seems to be feast or famine at Phoenix for Biffle. Last year, he was second in the spring and 17th in the fall. I think he's top-15 material this week and I ranked several drivers around his fantasy value higher. I also didn't like the way Biffle looked in finishing 20th at Martinsville, another flat track.

• Blaney has made 10 Cup Series starts at the 1-mile high-banked oval during his career. The veteran driver has started as high as fifth (2002) and finished as high as seventh (2002).
• He has scored two top-10 finishes in Cup Series competition at the raceway.

• Bowyer has five starts here with one top-5 and an average finish of 18.6.
• Bowyer ranks seventh among drivers ranked by NASCAR in laps spent in the top 15 this season. He also ranks 11th in average running position.
• His best finish at Phoenix so far is 11th. Bowyer is going to finish in the top 10 as he has the past four races. That's why I've got him ranked eighth this week. He might even lead some laps.

• In 17 starts at Phoenix International Raceway (PIR), Burton boasts two wins, five top-5s and eight top-10 finishes.
• Jeff Burton is the only driver who has completed every lap thus far this season.
• After finishing 13th and eighth last season at Phoenix, Burton will perform much better than that this weekend. His worst finish all season is 13th and he's been in the top 10 in five straight races with three top-5s and a win. His average finish over the past five races is fifth and I've got him ranked fifth.

• In 10 career starts here, Busch has recorded one win (April 2005), two top-5 finishes and five top-10s. He has an average finish of 13.4. He's finished all but three possible laps in Phoenix.
• He started sixth and finished 18th in last April's race, while he started ninth and finished 12th at PIR last November.
• Busch's average finish at Phoenix is pretty sporty, but he hasn't run that way lately. Average finish this season is worse than 18th and he looked terrible finishing 33rd at Martinsville. I have him ranked 17th.

• Kyle Busch earned a victory in the fall race at Phoenix during his rookie year of 2005. He also has one pole at Phoenix.
• His flat-track performances have not been nearly as good as the ones on the banked tracks. I've got Busch ranked ninth, but I don't think there's any way he winds up in the top five.

• Patrick Carpentier has qualified for Saturday's race.
• He qualified 24th and finished 33rd last fall at Phoenix. This will be the first time he's been to a racetrack for a second time. This could help him in qualifying and the race.

• In 11 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts at Phoenix International Raceway, Junior has won twice and recorded four top-5 finishes and five top-10s. He has led 310 laps.
• I've got Dale Jr. ranked sixth this week, which is where he finished at Martinsville. As I look at how this race might play out, I can't see him finishing in the top five, but I can see him hovering around fifth to seventh all night and grabbing his sixth top-10 in the opening eight races. Throw out the crash at California that wasn't his fault and Dale Jr. is averaging a finish just over sixth. A terrible day is the 12th place at Texas, his worst finish outside of California.

• In seven starts this season, Edwards has accumulated three wins, three top-5s and four top-10 finishes.
• Edwards will make his eighth Cup start at Phoenix this weekend. In his previous seven starts, Edwards has accumulated two top-5s and four top-10s.
• In the fall race at Phoenix, Edwards captured the pole for the race. He dominated early, leading 87 laps before the engine expired on his No. 99 Ford at Lap 125.
• He's superman on the banked tracks but a mere mortal on the flat ones. I have him ranked 11th this week. He was ninth at Martinsville and I can see him finishing eighth to 12th at Phoenix.

• In 18 starts here, Elliott has four top-5s and a win, with an average finish of 21.7 and one DNF.

• Franchitti has qualified for Saturday's race.
• Franchitti is driving Chassis No. 804. This car most recently carried Franchitti and team to a 22nd-place finish at Martinsville Speedway (started 43rd). It is also the same car the team tested at PIR last month. This should help him this weekend.

• Gilliland has an average starting position of 28.3 and an average finish of 26.3 at Phoenix. He has completed 99.5 percent of the possible laps.
• Gilliland tested at Phoenix, and if you combine that with the 24th at Martinsville, I can picture a Gilliland top-25 finish when this one is over. Don't expect much more than that.

• Along with the victory here last year, Gordon has posted eight top-5s and 15 top-10s with an 8.3 average finish. He has only one finish worse than 17th.
• Gordon has destroyed a bunch of fantasy teams so far with three finishes of 35th or worse. Of course, he also has three top-5 finishes to go along with that. He was pitiful at Texas, but he won't be at Phoenix. I've ranked him third with a chance to win, like he did here last spring, and he certainly is top-5 material.

• Gordon owns top-10 finishes at PIR in 2001 and 2005. He has an average finish here of 28.1 with three DNFs.
• Robby is on a downward curve. In the past six races, he has a 10th-place finish and five finishes from 25th to 40th. He finished both Phoenix races 24th last season and that is about where he should run this Saturday night.

• In five starts at Phoenix, Hamlin has recorded one pole and two top-three finishes. He also led 70 laps a year ago at Phoenix.
• Hamlin will be racing the same car that he finished third with at Phoenix last year, and sixth at Bristol this year.
• I think Denny has a chance to win and I have him ranked second. He's averaged a fourth-place finish the past three races, which included a win at Martinsville. He'll lead laps and finish no worse than fifth.

• In 10 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts at PIR, Harvick has two wins and three top-5s and five top-10s, including a sixth-place finish in the car he's driving Saturday.
• Additionally, the 32-year-old driver has a 15.7 starting average and a 13.2 finishing average at Phoenix. He has completed all but 17 laps, and has the second-most laps in the top 15 in the desert.
• He's been nice and steady. Harvick has finished in the top 10 in four straight races at Phoenix with a 10th and sixth one year ago. I can see that kind of finish again, which is why I have him ranked seventh.

• Hornish Jr. has a total of three short-track starts in NASCAR Cup Series competition with an average start of 19.6 and an average finish of 29th.
• Like at Texas, Hornish has plenty of IRL experience at Phoenix. It didn't help at Texas and won't at Phoenix either.

• In nine Cup Series starts at Phoenix International Raceway, Johnson has completed all 2,811 laps of competition. He has collected one win (Nov. 2007), four top-5s and seven top-10 finishes. His average finish is 6.6.
• Johnson is also driving a car that has never finished outside the top five.
• Jimmie's beginning to find the groove again. He was a rock-solid fourth at Martinsville. I can see that again at Phoenix and that's why I have him ranked fourth. Oh, by the way, he is coming off a runner-up run at Texas.

• In seven starts here, Kahne has three top-10s, a top-5 and an average finish of 19.0 with one DNF. In 2006, he finished sixth and seventh at Phoenix, but disappointed last year in finishing 31st and 40th.
• I'm not giving Kasey Kahne much love this week. I've got him ranked 21st. He was 31st and 40th at Phoenix last season. He'll be better because his GEM cars are better, but I could see a top-20 finish, not a top-15.

• This weekend's race at Phoenix will mark Kenseth's 12th at the 1-mile Arizona track. In his previous starts, he has achieved one win, five top-5s and six top-10 finishes. His average finish is 17th.
• People might think I'm out of my mind ranking Kenseth 15th after he place fifth and third the past two races at Phoenix. He didn't look that great in the Martinsville race either.

• Kvapil has an average starting position of 31.5, and an average finish of 25.2 at Phoenix. Kvapil has completed 1,170 of 1,248 career laps at Phoenix (93.8 percent). His best career finish is 10th.
• Kvapil was 18th at Martinsville. And I expect no more than a top-20 this weekend, though he did test at Phoenix, which could help.

• Labonte has 18 starts here with nine top-10s, three top-5s, an average finish of 16.2 and one DNF.
• Labonte has led 65 laps and has completed 96.9 percent of the total possible laps.
• I see Bobby rebounding a little bit this week and I've raised him in my rankings this week to 16th. I can see him finishing from 13th to 20th Saturday night.

• Martin has finished inside the top 10 in 64 percent (14) of his Phoenix Cup races. Martin has led the most laps at Phoenix (608), including 137 in the past three races. Martin is tied for the most top-5s at Phoenix (8) and his 14 top-10 finishes are the second most.
• DEI and Martin are not matching up that well yet. Losing crew chief Ryan Pemberton before the season started hurt. He's been in the top 10 only twice in his five races this season and his average finish is worse than 18th. Aric Almirola drove this car at Martinsville and hit everything he saw moving. Martin will be more careful and I can see him finishing somewhere between ninth to 14th. His ranking is 14th.

• McDowell is making his first Cup Series start at Phoenix this weekend. He does have one Nationwide start, finishing 14th.

• Phoenix International Raceway is the only track where McMurray has yet to post a top-10 finish. His best career finish at the 1-mile speedway came in November of 2003, when McMurray finished 12th.
• With his back to the wall, McMurray has looked pretty strong at Martinsville and Texas. He's moving slowly up my rankings, but if he can run at Phoenix the way he did at Martinsville, I may just believe the positive mojo is coming back for the Missouri driver. I'm not convinced yet.

• Casey Mears recorded his best NASCAR Sprint Cup Series finish at Phoenix International Raceway last November when he took 13th.
• Based on his seventh-place finish at Martinsville, I have Casey ranked 10th. That might strike some as overly optimistic, but the Hendrick Motorsports flat-track program is great and I can see Mears running in the top 10 at Phoenix, something he has never done before. He will run better than his previous best of 13th, which came last fall.

• Menard qualified for both races here last year, finishing 25th and 22nd, respectively.
• You might want to take a look at Menard. He's a great value if he can come through with a 16th-place finish like he did at Martinsville. He was also in the top 20 at Texas. He was in the top 25 in both Phoenix races last year and is much better now.

• Montoya and the No. 42 team participated in the two-day NASCAR sanctioned test at PIR on Monday, March 3 and Tuesday, March 4. Montoya's 27.385-second lap on Day 2 was the quickest lap posted during the two-day open testing session. He also ran the third-quickest time of the entire testing session on Monday morning when he drove around the 1-mile track in 27.454 seconds.
• Montoya raced at PIR twice last season, his rookie year. The team struggled in the April event in 2007, finishing 33rd after qualifying 36th, but improved for the fall event where Montoya qualified 14th and finished the race in 17th place.
• Like Martinsville, Phoenix is a track where you have to charge the corners with heavy braking, which plays to the strengths of Montoya. He's been basically a top-15 car in the past four races and was 17th at Phoenix last fall. I can see Montoya finishing 14th to 17th.

• "Front Row" Joe has qualified for Saturday's race.
• Nemechek has 17 starts here with one top-10 with an average finish of 23.5 and one DNF.

• Newman has three top-5 finishes in 11 starts at the 1-mile oval to go with three poles.
• The team tested the No. 12 Alltel Dodge Charger serving as the primary race car at Phoenix in March. This car also was the backup car at Martinsville Speedway earlier this year.
• I wasn't impressed with the way Newman ran at Martinsville, where he finished 19th. I think he runs in the top 15 at Arizona, not top 10. He won't be as bad as his spring 2007 Phoenix finish (38th) or as good as the fall finish (fifth).

• Ragan visited Phoenix International Raceway twice in 2007 with his best Cup result being a 32nd-place finish in the fall race.
• He's another guy under the radar whom I like and he's just getting better. He was 11th at Martinsville and I can see him finishing somewhere around that at Phoenix. Forget about the two disasters last year on this 1-mile track.

• Reutimann has qualified for Saturday's race.
• Reutimann has one Sprint Cup start to his credit at Phoenix, in April 2007, where he started from 32nd and finished 25th.
• His streak right now is to run decent and then finish bad. Until this team can give him a car that is bulletproof it's probably safe to stay away from Mr. Reutimann.

• In six starts here, Riggs has a career-best finish of 14th with an average finish of 28.7 and one DNF.
• Riggs, who was 22nd in the spring Phoenix race a year ago, could finish a little bit better this time around. Keep an eye on how he qualifies. If he's up near the front, give him some serious consideration.

• Has made 12 starts at the 1-mile oval earning one top-10 (2002) and three top-15s. He's been running at the end at every race, completing 3,609 of 3,747 laps (96.3 percent).
• Has led two races for a total of 17 laps.
• 15th at Martinsville, I see Sadler as top-20 material at Phoenix. He's been very inconsistent this year with an average finish of 20.7.

• Sauter has replaced Jeremy Mayfield in the No. 70 car this weekend. He has qualified for Saturday's race.
• In five starts here, Sauter has two top-10s with an average finish of 22.2 and two DNFs. He finish ninth in the 2007 Phoenix spring race.
• Take a very hard look at this guy for Phoenix. Remember though, it could wind up being only a one-race deal. He was rock solid for this team last season at Phoenix with two finishes averaging out to 12th. And he came from the back in the first one and started up front in the second.

• Skinner has qualified for Saturday's race.
• Skinner has seven starts here with a career-best finish of 11th and an average finish of 21.3 and one DNF.

• Regan Smith is making his first Cup Series start at Phoenix this weekend. This will make him a driver to avoid on the tricky track.

• Sorenson has four starts at PIR, averaging a 29th-place starting position and a 26th-place finish. His best finish is 15th last April.
• Sorenson and the No. 41 Target crew tested at PIR in March during the open two-day NASCAR test. Sorenson posted the fifth-quickest time of the test at a speed of 130.976 mph and lapped the 1-mile track in 27.486 seconds during the first day's morning session. He'll be racing the car he tested.
• He hasn't finished inside the top 30 in the past four races so I dropped him out of my top-30 rankings. This team appears to be unraveling. The harder they try the worse it gets.

• Stewart has 12 starts here with eight top-10s, six top-5s and a win, with an average finish of 9.4. Stewart has failed to complete only seven laps here and has led 293.
• I like Tony so much this week that I ranked him No. 1 with a bullet. He was fifth at Martinsville and will run better at Phoenix, an adopted home track that he has a billion laps on in various racing machines. And yes billion is a little over, but you get the idea.

• Truex has four starts here with one top-10 and an average finish of 15.2. He has failed to complete only two laps and has led 72 here. Truex finished seventh here last fall.
• I've got Truex ranked 12th this week and I can see him finishing from eighth to 13th. Should be decent, but not great.

• In seven starts here, Vickers has one top-5 and an average finish of 15.3.
• Vickers did not qualify for either Phoenix race last year, but he doesn't have that worry this weekend.
• Pencil him in for maybe a top-20. This has been a pretty good track for him, but he hasn't set the world on fire lately.

• He will start in his 21st race at the 1-mile track. His best PIR start is 11th (Nov. 6, 1988 and Nov. 1, 1992) and best finish is second (April 23, 2005). Waltrip has earned two top-5s, four top-10s and 10 top-25 finishes.

• Yeley has four starts here with a career-best finish of 14th and an average finish of 20.8.
• Best finish so far is 25th and other finishes have been downright ugly. This is a track where he has a lot of prior racing experience so a top-20 might be in order. He's an extremely risky pick, but 15th to 20th would be a nice finish. You've got to have the heart, though, of a riverboat gambler to put him on your team.

Mark Garrow covers fantasy racing for ESPN.com.

Mark Garrow

Fantasy Racing
Mark Garrow covers fantasy racing for ESPN.com.