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Track Talk: Can-Am 500 at ISM Raceway

Jimmie Johnson aims for a victory in today's Can-Am 500 at ISM Raceway.

Jimmie Johnson aims for a victory in today’s Can-Am 500 at ISM Raceway.

Each weekend, our panel provides their thoughts on the latest stories in NASCAR while predicting the winner of the Can-Am 500(k) at ISM Raceway, the upcoming Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race!

Today, our panelists Adam LucasAshley Hobbs, Ashley Hull, Christina BowmanCody ShoppeJose Acero JrKathleen CassidyKatie Copple, and Matt Sisoler consider any weaknesses with Kevin Harvick and the potential of some last lap antics at this unique Arizonan raceway!

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Question 1
Despite the heavy Texas penalty, Kevin Harvick is still a strong favorite today at Phoenix.

Despite the heavy Texas penalty, Kevin Harvick is still a strong favorite today at Phoenix.

Kevin Harvick absolutely dominated the race at Texas en route to win number eight of 2018.  Now’s the time ponder, but are there any flaws or weaknesses with this driver and his No. 4 team?

Acero :  Only weakness we have seen out of this team is the pit crew. At times it’s like when they have to step up to the occasion that’s when the costly mistakes happen. Come Homestead, the guys in the pit need to have all their P’s and Q’s in place.

Bowman :  The only weakness will be if they are off on the set-up for Homestead. Other than that, they are solid.

Copple :  Following the recent penalty handed down to his team, apparently they have a problem following the rules. Other than that, I think the only “issue” they have is a pit crew who isn’t always on the top of their game. I’d say they are there about 90% of the time. However, it’s that 10% they are not that could cost him this championship.

Hobbs :  If anything, it is the pit crew from time to time; and those times are very rare. Though, with his team receiving a huge penalty after his Texas win, this is a huge weakness – pushing the limits a bit too far this late in the game.

Lucas : His pit crew and NASCAR’s questionable penalty calling. Those could derail his championship race at Homestead.

Shoppe :  This 4 team has had the best consistant speed all year long! The series leading wins aside, Harvick has been a threat to lead at any race all year. So yes they are the strongest team week in and out but those costly mistakes have cost them so many more wins! With pit penalties and the post-race penalties adding up, this you be a championship that slipped through the fingers of Kevin Harvick, Rodney Childers and the SHR 4 team!

Sisoler :  It is clear this year that the No. 4 car and Harvick have been one of the most consistently fast combinations. That’s why he had such a big cushion entering the playoffs. Unfortunately, the penalty bug bit him yet again. That really seems to be the only weakness. Not necessarily with the driver, but with his luck around penalties and in-race infractions. If he could clear that bad luck, he’d be unstoppable.

Question 2
Might we see some aggression among those still battling in the NASCAR Playoffs at Phoenix?

Might we see some aggression among those still battling in the NASCAR Playoffs at Phoenix?

ISM Raceway hosts the penultimate race of 2018 with a somewhat reconfigured layout, as the start/finish line moves close to the infamous dogleg.  Given how gritty this track has been through the years, will we see some physical, paint trading action with those looking to clinch the final two Playoffs spot?

Acero :  With the recent news that NASCAR delivered today (Wednesday) all i can say is this is the one race (besides Daytona 500) that will have viewers glued to their seats. We know how good Harvick is and him being all of a sudden not locked in, is only fueling his fire. As for the other drivers, this is an opportunity to execute a Hail Mary. Lots of beat up race cars once the checkered flag flys!

Bowman :  This will be a dog eat dog race! You better believe that drivers and crew chiefs will be doing everything in their power to secure a spot in the Playoffs going into Homestead. I don’t see anything short of actions that would guarantee penalization as off limits for teams.

Copple :  I think this race might be more of a show than Homestead. This is the one race that’ll get them to the championship. This is the “big” race. Yes, I know the championship is big, but that race just comes down to who finishes higher. These drivers not locked in are going to be fighting hard for those final transfer spots and I think some of these are going to come down to just a handful of points or less.

Hobbs :  One driver is sitting pretty (should be two, but #greyareas). There are three spots left with seven drivers wanting to fill those spots. If you do not see some bumping and banging and tempers, something is not being done correctly.

Lucas :  I’ve been looking forward to this race since March, and based on pictures I’ve seen on social media, the Diamond in the Desert will live up to its name. Beautiful facility with decent racing, I think we’re in for a cracker of a show!

Shoppe :  The finish at Martinsville was just a preview of what will happen this weekend at ISM Raceway Phoenix! With the season’s dominant driver Kevin Harvick barely inside the cutline as well as having something to prove once again, everyone better watch out! While Harvick may be the one to beat, if there is a late restart, anyone else trying to make it to Homestead will do whatever it takes to win on this newly-configured Phoenix!

Sisoler :  This will be one of the most-watched races of the season. With Harvick now not guaranteed for the final round, he will be pushing very hard to keep himself in the hunt, and with four drivers right on his bumper for the final transfer spot, things should get very interesting in the closing laps.

Great effort by our team as we prepare for this desert duel today!  Before we go green flag racing at ISM Raceway, let’s review the craziness that ensued at Texas last Sunday!
The penalty dealt to Harvick's team changed things up...

The penalty dealt to Harvick’s team changed things up…

...and it's made life interesting for that top spot!

…and it’s made life interesting for that top spot!

Well, before we consider this year’s championship, today’s Can-Am 500(k) makes all the difference at ISM Raceway.  Let’s get goign with our race picks for today!
A quartet of some racers who love racing at Phoenix!

A quartet of some racers who love racing at Phoenix!

Tiongson :  It’s hard to ignore how strong this driver is at ISM Raceway. Sure, he’s gotten some flack for what happened in Texas. Ultimately, Kevin Harvick gets the job done today at Phoenix and truly punches his ticket to Homestead.

Copple :  Before Harvick’s penalty, I would have had someone else.  But with his penalty and no guarantee he will make it to Homestead, I have to go with Harvick.

Acero :  I lost track of who I have picked but I am sticking with Chase Elliott.

Lucas :  Chase Elliott will silence the critics and lock himself into the Championship Four with a prickly win.

Shoppe :  Chase Elliott may be the only playoff driver I haven’t picked yet but I still think he can pull off another big win and make the fans happy with a Championship 4 berth!

Sisoler :  I’d like to pick Chase Elliott because of how strong he ran here last year (wrecking Denny Hamlin in the process), and I would’ve, had nothing changed mid-week. However, Harvick is one of those drivers who always seems to find an extra gear when he faces adversity, particularly from NASCAR officials (reminding me a lot of Dale Earnhardt Sr. in that regard), so I’m saying Harvick wins his second race in a row, and this time, the rewards survive NASCAR’s inspections.

TPF Stats :  He may only have a couple starts at this track during the Playoffs, but he has finished quite well. Chase Elliott will lock himself into the final battle at Homestead by winning the Can-Am 500.

Hobbs :  One of the best average finishes in the field and needing to win to keep his championship hopes alive, I look at Kurt Busch to shock the field.

Bowman :  Hamlin.

That wraps this week’s preview, race fans!  Thanks for joining us for another edition of Track Talk!

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.

The opinions and thoughts expressed in Track Talk 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 is a sports writer and editor originally from the Boston area and resides in the Austin, Texas, area. Tiongson has covered motorsports series like NASCAR and INDYCAR since 2008 and NHRA since 2013. Most recently, Tiongson is covering professional basketball, mainly the WNBA, and women's college basketball. While writing and editing for The Podium Finish, Tiongson currently seeks for a long-term sportswriting and sports content creating career. Tiongson enjoys editing and writing articles and features, as well as photography. Moreover, he enjoys time with his family and friends, traveling, cooking, working out and being a fun uncle or "funcle" to his nephew, niece and cat. Tiongson is an alum of Southern New Hampshire University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication and St. Bonaventure University's renowned Jandoli School of Communication with a Master of Arts in Digital Journalism.

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