NASCAR wraps up its West Coast swing with a trip to Phoenix Raceway, the site of this year’s Cup Series Championship Weekend.
The Rouff Mortgage 500 (Sunday, 3:30 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) will be a critical race for teams to learn how the Next Gen car reacts in true race conditions around the 1-mile, D-shaped oval.
Get set for the weekend with everything to know here:
UP TO SPEED
On Saturday, teams will get 20 minutes of practice in two separate groups (Group A and Group B) at 1:30 p.m. ET on FS1. Following the session, each group will participate in single-car, single-lap qualifying (2:15 p.m. ET, FS1). The top five drivers from each group will then advance to the second round of qualifying to fight for the pole with another single-car, single-lap run.
— Richard Petty won the first NASCAR-sanctioned event on the Arizona desert’s 1-mile oval, in the Winston West Series in 1978.
— The first Cup race was run a decade later in 1988, won by Alan Kulwicki, who celebrated with his inaugural trademark “Polish Victory Lap,” circling the track in the opposite direction.
— Phoenix was reconfigured in 2011 and repaved for the first time since 1990. The then-frontstretch was widened from 52 feet to 62 feet and the radius of the famous dogleg was tightened from 800 feet to 500 feet while also adding progressive banking.
— The track was reconfigured again between races in 2018, moving the start/finish line from the center of the track’s longest straightaway to the exit of what was previously known as Turn 2.
— Sunday’s race marks the 52nd Cup race at Phoenix.
Source: Racing Insights
Teams will utilize the same tire compound Goodyear brought to Phoenix for a January test session in the Next Gen car, giving each program a familiar baseline to work with in a sea of unfamiliarity.
“Teams having a chance to get on Phoenix before this weekend is a huge advantage as we move up the learning curve with this Next Gen car and 18-inch tire,” said Greg Stucker, Goodyear’s director of racing. “Overall as a sport, we had 30 tests in preparation for this season, and the Phoenix test was very important in that development. Not only is this the track where we crown our champion later in the season, it also falls into a group of tracks that we will race on several times leading up to that weekend.”
Each Cup team will get one set of Goodyear tires for practice, one set for qualifying and then nine sets for the race (eight race sets and one set transferred from qualifying).
STORY LINES APLENTY IN PHOENIX
— The last six races at Phoenix have been won by different drivers: Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano, Chase Elliott, Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Larson.
— The only driver to win more than once since the start/finish line was moved is Kyle Busch, who won the first two races after the shift.
— Kyle Larson is the only stage winner to win at Phoenix in the past four events.
— Eight of the last 10 Phoenix races have featured at least 15 lead changes. Each Cup race in 2022 has featured at least 23 lead changes.
— The driver who led the most laps won five of the last seven at Phoenix, and finished top-two in seven of the last eight.
— Hendrick Motorsports has won 22 of the last 44 races. A team has never won 23 races in a 45-race stretch in the modern era.
— Denny Hamlin has yet to finish higher than 15th this season with two finishes outside the top 30.
— If Kevin Harvick finishes top 10 at Phoenix, he will tie the record for most consecutive top 10s at a track all-time at 18.
— Toyota is winless in the last eight races, its longest winless streak since the 2014-15 seasons.
Source: Racing Insights
WHAT ARE THE ODDS?
Series points leader Kyle Larson has the hot hand and is listed as the 4-1 favorite to win, courtesy of BetMGM. Thanks to his Auto Club win and a runner-up finish in Vegas, Larson is the only driver with two top-five finishes this year and has won five of the last eight races, including his title triumph in November at Phoenix.
Your next best bets shouldn’t come as surprises as they’re all former Phoenix winners — Kyle Busch (7-1), Martin Truex Jr. (7-1), Chase Elliott (8-1) and Denny Hamlin (8-1).
Perhaps the steal of the week, though, is Kevin Harvick at 18-1. Harvick has been relatively quiet in 2022, but that’s all relative. Finishes of seventh (Auto Club) and 12th (Las Vegas) show he’s still plenty competitive, and Phoenix is unquestionably his best track. The 2014 champion has won nine times in Arizona and has collected 18 top fives, his most at any one track.
Harvick hasn’t won there since March 2018 — before the track was most recently reconfigured — but he’s still yet to finish worse than ninth in the seven races since.
RELATED: Odds for Phoenix
Want to manage a team and race your way to the top of the leaderboards? Check out NASCAR Fantasy Live, which is open now. The free-to-play game lets you choose your drivers each week and show off your crew-chief instincts by garaging a driver by the end of Stage 2, and there is a $25,000 prize for the winner.
The 2022 Fantasy Live points leaders are Kyle Larson (109 points), Martin Truex Jr. (102 points) and Joey Logano (102 points).
ALSO ON NASCAR.COM
Get additional camera views by logging on to NASCAR Drive, where each week a select number of in-car cameras will be available — as well as a battle cam and an overhead look.
NASCAR has partnered with LiveLike to add fan engagement in the NASCAR Mobile App. Log in to the mobile app during the race for polls, quizzes, the cheer meter and more — and see instant results from NASCAR fans like you.