Podium Preview: Bluegreen Vacations 500

Certainly, Joey Logano knows today's Bluegreen Vacations 500 at Phoenix decides his Championship 4 fate.

Certainly, Joey Logano knows today’s Bluegreen Vacations 500 at Phoenix decides his Championship 4 fate.

Above all, today’s Bluegreen Vacations 500 at ISM Raceway in Phoenix decides more than a race winner.  In fact, it decides the fate of at least six drivers’ Championship 4 bids for next Sunday’s Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead.

In the meantime, today’s race in the desert likens to Indiana Jones’ crusade for the Holy Grail.  Much like Indy, drivers contend with three distinct challenges at the 1-mile speedway.

However, instead of booby traps and remembering the Latin alphabet, today’s field contends with three stages that offer little margin for error.  Ultimately, maybe going for the Cup of Life proves easier than two of the final coveted title challenging spots in Florida.

Today, our panelists, Ashley HobbsCody ShoppeJose Acero JrKobe LambethMatt Sisoler, and yours truly prepare for this Championship 4 field deciding race with the stories leading up to Round 35, statistics, and race picks!

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Question 1
In any case, Kurt Busch and the No. 1 Monster Energy Chevy continue their quest for a title for a couple of years. (Photo Credit: Sean Folsom/TPF)

In any case, Kurt Busch and the No. 1 Monster Energy Chevy continue their quest for a title for a couple of years. (Photo Credit: Sean Folsom/TPF)

Kurt Busch agreed to drive the No. 1 Monster Energy Chevrolet Camaro for the next two years.  How impactful will Busch’s extension be for the Chip Ganassi Racing team?

Acero :  With Busch signing that contract, in my opinion, he is just securing his retirement and taking up an available seat for a future Cup driver. Yeah, we all know he has talent, but two years – really? Expect for Kurt Busch to win at the most two to three races in that new contract. 

Shoppe :  I expect much of the same in 2020 for the elder Busch Brother in the CGR Monster #1. While Kurt Busch brings as much experience as any cup driver on the grid today, attempting full seasons since 2001, I think Kurt Busch is getting all he can get out of the car at this point in his career.

I expect maybe another win and a consistent year for the Monster team, making the playoffs one more time before retiring perhaps next year. By the way, Kurt and Chip, please run the Indy 500 together! 

Question 2
Will Denny "Banker" Hamlin finally make a total cash withdrawal in the Bluegreen Vacations 500? (Photo Credit: Sean Folsom/TPF)

Will Denny “Banker” Hamlin finally make a total cash withdrawal in the Bluegreen Vacations 500? (Photo Credit: Sean Folsom/TPF)

The NASCAR Playoffs bubble battle is as close as can be with Denny Hamlin, Kyle Larson, and Ryan Blaney within 23 points of the final Championship 4 seed for Homestead.  Which of these four has the best chance at advancing?

Hobbs :  While 23 points seems like a close battle, it is really half the field. In order for these three drivers to have a realistic shot, one of two things would have to happen:

  1. Win the race (only option for Chase Elliott).
  2. Joey Logano and/or Kyle Busch would have to go out (very) early on and these three drivers will have to run very well and earn stage points.

Can either scenario be done? Absolutely! The best way for these three drivers to advance is just go all out and win the Bluegreen Vacations 500 on Sunday.

Lambeth :  Without a doubt, it has to be Denny Hamlin. He was my championship pick at the beginning of the playoffs. The odds might seem tough, but I believe that he will rise to the occasion on Sunday afternoon. He had one of the best cars in practice. Keep an eye on the 11 car.

Sisoler : This will be an interesting race and will be a lot up to what the drivers who are the most desperate are willing to do. Chase Elliott always seems to do solidly here, but he has a really long way to go, whereas Denny Hamlin and Kyle Larson also run solid at Phoenix, and have a lot less ground to make up.

Tiongson :  23 points is a lot of ground to make up in any race.  However, Phoenix offers some opportunities such as restarts, the dogleg, and of course, the unique pit road.  Sure, Phoenix is a mile speedway, but we’ll see the likes of Hamlin, Larson, and Blaney roll the dice. Let’s not forget Chase Elliott is still in the hunt despite an abysmal Round of 8.  Desperate drivers often resort to desperate measures so any Sunday school etiquette on the track will be dismissed.

Two laps around ISM Raceway prove tricky for most but not for this crew!  Before we proceed with the preview, let’s rewind to last Sunday’s AAA Texas 500 with our race and points reports.
Michigan Matt and the infernal machine chose the race winner.

Michigan Matt and the infernal machine chose the race winner.

For the rest of us, we're trailing the fedora-wearing journalist.

For the rest of us, we’re trailing the fedora-wearing journalist.

As always, Ashley Hobbs contributes to the preview with her weekly numbers segment, “Crunching the Numbers: Bluegreen Vacations 500” at ISM Raceway style!
Indeed, Hendrick proves as formidable as Gibbs in Phoenix.

Indeed, Hendrick proves as formidable as Gibbs in Phoenix.

Oddly, Kyle Larson may like the starting position trend since 2017.

Oddly, Kyle Larson may like the starting position trend since 2017.

As shown above, the past Cup champs have their middling moments.

As shown above, the past Cup champs have their middling moments.

Now, here's the trends at Phoenix since 2009.

Now, here’s the trends at Phoenix since 2009.

Next, here's the Bluegreen Vacations 500 trends since 2014.

Next, here’s the Bluegreen Vacations 500 trends since 2014.

Our infernal machine likes some Bloomin' Onions.

Our infernal machine likes some Bloomin’ Onions.

While some of us are going wild, some are playing it safe.  In either case, here’s our picks for today’s Bluegreen Vacations 500!
Given these points, the field likes the current NASCAR Playoffs field for the Bluegreen Vacations 500.

Given these points, the field likes the current NASCAR Playoffs field for the Bluegreen Vacations 500.

Acero :  Ryan Blaney punches his ticket to Homestead!

Shoppe :  Ryan Blaney will win his way to Miami! YRB won the pole and was close to winning the race here at ISM in the spring. This time around in the desert with so much more on the line, the 12 will win and shake up the Championship 4! 

Hobbs :  I’d be a fool not to choose the defending race winner and pole sitter for Sunday. Help prove me right, Kyle Busch!

Tiongson :  Kyle Busch wants and will score the three-peat at Phoenix on Sunday. 

Lambeth :  We cannot go to Homestead without Denny Hamlin competing for the title. In my opinion, this is his year to finally seal the deal. Look for the 11 team to take the victory this weekend and secure a Championship 4 berth.

Sisoler : Kyle Larson will punch his ticket to Homestead in the deserts of Phoenix (ISM, whatever), and put himself in a strong position to take home the title this year.

TPF Stats :  The Machine foresees back-to-back wins for Kevin Harvick this weekend.

Race fans, thanks for joining us for our preview of the Bluegreen Vacations 500 at Phoenix!

We’re ready for some racing. How about you? What do you think are the biggest storylines heading into Sunday’s race and who is your favorite to win?  Tweet us now @ThePodiumFinish and tell us now!

Thanks as always to the TPF team for their amazing efforts this week!  We hope to see you at the races in 2019. 

The opinions and thoughts expressed in Podium Preview are solely of the authors. They do not reflect any organizations affiliated with the participants and author outside of TPF. This weekly feature is strictly for entertainment purposes and are not indicative of TPF, the organization, and its staff.

Rob Tiongson

30-something motorsports journalist who enjoys sports like baseball, basketball, football, soccer, track and field, and hockey. A Boston native turned Austinite, racing was the first sport that caught my eye. From interviews to retrospective articles, if it's about anything with an engine and four wheels, it'll be here on TPF, by me or by one of my talented columnists who absolutely have a passion for racing.

Currently seeking a sports writing, public relations, or sports marketing career, particularly in motorsports. I enjoy editing and writing articles and features, as well as photography.

Graduated from Southern New Hampshire University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication. Proud to be from Massachusetts, just as happy to be a Texan.

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