Creature Vs. Creature Writers Pool: Picks For Phoenix

Kelly CrandallSenior Writer INovember 13, 2009


All eyes will be on the Phoenix International Raceway and two cars this weekend in the Checker O’Reilly Auto Parts 500.

Jimmie Johnson enters with a 73-point lead over teammate Mark Martin after Johnson had a disastrous weekend in the Lone Star State.

Now they are back in Arizona where Martin won earlier this year.

Our Creatures are down to their final two races and for now there are three Creatures that are taking the title fight down to the wire.

For the rest of the Creatures, they’ll be looking to play spoiler and hoping to avoid another poor weekend like they had in Texas.

Here’s who they believe will be taking the checkered flag Sunday in the Valley of the Sun.

Ben Bomberger: Jimmie Johnson

I've managed to keep my Johnson pick in my back pocket for eight Chase races, but this weekend he's my guy to hopefully put the Creature Chase away.

To describe Johnson at Phoenix International Raceway, I'll use one word: Phenomenal.

In 12 races at the one-mile track, driver of the No.48 has three wins, seven top-fives, 10 top-10s, one pole and a series-best average finish of 5.4. Other series-bests for Johnson include: average running position (5.5), driver rating (120.0), fastest laps run (283), average green flag speed (123.556 mph) and 2,675 laps in the top 15 (95.2 percent).

Johnson's bad luck last week may have closed the point gap and left fans salivating for a decent run to the championship, but lightning never strikes the same place twice. Johnson will all but capture his unprecedented fourth championship in a row on Sunday.

James Broomhead: Mark Martin

Don’t believe anyone who still subscribes to the "Phoenix is like a road course" theory because it’s not, and I've already picked Montoya.

I've had Mark picked out for Phoenix since the beginning, he won here in April and seems pretty confident of going there and have a go an the sweep, and he'll have to if he wants to get that title this year.

Mary Jo Buchanan: Kevin Harvick

"Happy" is traditionally pretty good at PIR, with two victories, three top fives, and six top tens.  Kevin's crew chief Gil Martin thinks that the driver has picked it up for the last races of the season and has confidence in a good finish.  Richard Childress, team owner of the No.29, feels that Kevin and all of the RCR drivers have turned a corner and are heading in the right direction.

The team had a good run at Texas this past weekend, earning a top five finish, and Kevin likes Phoenix so I predict he will be happy there this Sunday in victory lane.

Kelly Crandall: Mark Martin

Martin has excelled this year on the small flat tracks. That includes dominated the spring Phoenix race and picking up the win. Then he went to another flat track in New Hampshire, the first race of the Chase, and whipped everyone there for another win.

This weekend it’s his last chance to prove he can beat Johnson for the title and he’ll get the chance to do it a track that he’s the series best driver on. He’s led over 800 laps and has an average finish of 9.04 to accompany his two wins.

Oh, and did I mention he’ll be driving chassis 5-538… that’s the car that won both Phoenix and New Hampshire. 

Mason Dunn: NO PICK SENT

No pick sent.

Adam Heasley: NO PICK SENT

No pick sent.

Danielle Henderson: NO PICK SENT

No pick sent.

Kara Martin: Mark Martin

No comments sent.

SM Napier: Kevin Harvick

He's going for the triple this weekend at Phoenix, it's his house, and we could see him win all three races.

David Phillips: NO PICK SENT

No pick sent.

Jen Preston: Kasey Kahne

Kahne has never won at Phoenix.

Actually, he's never led a lap there and he hasn't had a top ten finish at the track since 2006. 

However, call it a hunch, I think Kahne is going to have a solid weekend, and hopefully he can continue my good run in points without picking a Hendrick car.

Rob Tiongson: Kevin Harvick

It's a total long shot, but when you need to make up a tremendous deficit and a driver to throw the ultimate Hail Mary, Harvick can get it done.

He swept the races here in 2006 and if RCR looks for one small glimpse of hope in a tumultuous 2009 campaign, a win from the No.29 team will be just that.

Point Race

After an up and down day for our Creatures in Texas, here’s how they’ll roll into Phoenix with two races remaining.

Ben Bomberger (6,231) Kyle Busch finished 11th (4)

Mary Jo Buchanan (-52) Kasey Kahne finished 33rd (2)

Kelly Crandall (-64) Kevin Harvick finished fifth (2)

Jen Preston (-104) Kevin Harvick finished fifth (2)

Kara Martin (-131) Juan Pablo Montoya finished 37th (4)

Rob Tiongson (-149) Joey Logano finished 19th (2)

James Broomhead (-347) Juan Pablo Montoya finished 37th (3)

SM Napier (-421) Juan Pablo Montoya finished 37th (3)

Mason Dunn (-461) NO PICK SENT (0)

Danielle Henderson (-635) NO PICK SENT (2)

David Phillips (-676) NO PICK SENT (2)

Adam Heasley (-1,201) NO PICK SENT (3)

Final Thoughts

 If you want to look for the winner at Phoenix you need to look for two things: a Chevrolet and a starting position in the top ten. The last eight winners at Phoenix have driven a Chevrolet, either for Rick Hendrick or Richard Childress Racing and those eight winners each came from a starting position that was no worse than seventh.

Of this years Chase field, five of the 12 drivers have visited victory lane at the one-mile track: Mark Martin (2), Tony Stewart (1), Kurt Busch (1), Jeff Gordon (1), and Jimmie Johnson (3). 


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