Commentary

You heard it here first: Truex will win at Phoenix

The Eliminator: Phoenix

Updated: November 7, 2008, 1:49 PM ET
By Matthew Willis | ESPN.com

Shorter days, colder nights, and all the races are down south or out west.

Sounds like our time together is growing short. But don't be wistful; there are about two full Eliminator columns remaining … well, actually like 1-15/16. This column is well under way.

The main reason you shouldn't be upset, though, is that there are only a few months until next season. So The Eliminator will go into hibernation for a while -- emerging only for eggnog, Jets football and New Year's Eve celebrations -- and will see you for the Daytona 500.

What am I talking about? There's plenty of season left to go, and Carl Edwards showed at Texas that this one is far from over. Jimmie Johnson can clinch by averaging a seventh-place finish the rest of the way, but there's a lot that can happen. Check out the following list -- complete with bullet points:

  • A blown engine.
  • A blown tire.
  • A case of vapor lock.
  • Forgetting to set alarm, Johnson sleeps through race.
  • Johnson leaves NASCAR to attempt to make the roster of the Oklahoma City Thunder.
  • An injury from practicing a Carl Edwards-esque backflip.
  • Rick Hendrick decides to go with a rotating stable of Sauters instead of Johnson for the last two races.
  • Johnson decides to put a Cubs decal on his car.
  • For the season finale, Johnson mistakenly goes to Miami of Ohio.
  • Johnson gets fired after refusing to shave his sideburns, a la Don Mattingly in the softball episode of "The Simpsons."

Those were fun, but let's get down to business. America looks to me, The Eliminator, to give you a winner using the finest in NASCAR streaks, stats and trends, and I shan't disappoint. But first …

Trivia break! Carl Edwards made up some major ground at Texas, but he has more work to do at Phoenix and Homestead. What's his best career finish at each of those tracks? (Hint: It's the same at both places.)

First of all, break out the Bowtie Brigade. That's because Chevrolets have won six in a row at Phoenix, including the last two by Jimmie Johnson. Johnson is just one of the 15 Chevrolet drivers to move on. Some might argue that I'm showing manufacturer bias, but facts are facts, people.

OK, let's look at what those Chevys have done recently at Phoenix. That's because 11 of the past 12 Phoenix winners had put up a top-10 finish in their previous Phoenix race. That takes out former Phoenix winners Kevin Harvick and Jeff Gordon, along with seven others, which leaves six.

Let's look at another flat track, to match up with Phoenix. Maybe set them up for a nice dinner sometime. No pressure, just allowing them to meet other tracks. What am I talking about? Anyway, 14 of the past 15 Phoenix winners had finished no worse than 11th in their last previous trip to New Hampshire. That's good enough for me to take out another two, leaving four.

Time to end this and let everybody go home or off to read another ESPN.com column. The past five Phoenix winners had been no worse than eighth in the previous Cup race. Johnson, Burton, Earnhardt? They don't meet this criterion, so they're gone.

Trivia break! Edwards has never finished better than fourth at Phoenix or Homestead. He's going to need more than that to overtake the 48 for the championship.

Enough of these Chasers winning races -- time for a new face in Victory Lane. That's why The Eliminator is taking Martin Truex Jr. this weekend. Remember, the numbers don't lie.

Eliminator breakdown
  1. Chevrolet has won the past six races at Phoenix (29 drivers eliminated, 15 remaining).
    Drivers eliminated: AJ Allmendinger, Marcos Ambrose, Greg Biffle, Dave Blaney, Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards, Bill Elliott, David Gilliland, Robby Gordon, Denny Hamlin, Sam Hornish Jr., Kasey Kahne, Matt Kenseth, Travis Kvapil, Bobby Labonte, Jamie McMurray, Juan Pablo Montoya, Ryan Newman, Kyle Petty, David Ragan, David Reutimann, Elliott Sadler, Ken Schrader, Reed Sorenson, Scott Speed, Tony Stewart, Brian Vickers, Michael Waltrip.

  2. Eleven of the past 12 Phoenix winners had finished in the top 10 in the previous Phoenix race (nine drivers eliminated, six remaining).
    Drivers eliminated: Jeff Gordon, Kevin Harvick, Sterling Marlin, Casey Mears, Paul Menard, Joe Nemechek, Tony Raines, Scott Riggs, Regan Smith.

  3. Fourteen of the past 15 Phoenix winners had finished 11th or better in the last previous New Hampshire race (two drivers eliminated, four remaining).
    Drivers eliminated: Clint Bowyer, Mark Martin.

  4. The past five Phoenix winners had finished eighth or better in the previous Cup series race (three drivers eliminated, one remaining).
    Drivers eliminated: Jeff Burton, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jimmie Johnson.

  5. And your winner is: Martin Truex Jr.

Matt Willis is a studio researcher at ESPN.

ALSO SEE