One more race. That’s all that’s left to decide which four drivers will compete for the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway. One driver has already secured his spot, but for seven other drivers there are still three spots open. Jeff Gordon will be one of the four, who the other three will be won’t be decided until the checkered flag falls for Sunday’s Quicken Loans Race for Heroes 500 at Phoenix International Raceway. Here are the odds, current as of Thursday morning for your NASCAR betting or fantasy racing leagues. The Driver Ratings, a stat that combines other stats to determine the top drivers, was compiled from 2005-2015 races (21 total) among active drivers at Phoenix International Raceway.
Kevin Harvick (9-4) has to be the favorite this week. He will be going for his fifth straight win at the 1-mile track. Harvick enters Phoenix third on the Chase Grid, 10 points above the cutoff line. He was strong last week for much of the race wheeling his damaged Chevy one handed to a third place finish. If he does pull off the win it would be his fifth consecutive at Phoenix and he would join some pretty elite company including Richard Petty and Darrell Waltrip who are currently the only drivers to win at least five consecutive races at a single track. Harvick has the second best driver rating, 108.3, among the field and needs to finish of second or better; third and at least one lap led; or fourth and the most laps led to clinch his spot in the final four. Look for Harvick to do his best to seal the deal however, go for the win, and be the favorite to defend his title at Homestead.
Jimmie Johnson (10-1) played Chase spoiler last week at Texas grabbing the lead with only four laps to go and scoring his third consecutive win at Texas Motor Speedway and block an automatic qualifying berth in the Championship Round of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup from one of the Eliminator 8 drivers. Johnson could be poised to do the same this week. Johnson has the highest driver rating among the field 112.8, and has four wins, 14 top fives and 18 top 10s in 24 starts at Phoenix. His last win though came here in 2009 and he has struggled lately, finishing ninth in the spring and crashing out of this race last year. Johnson is a threat no matter where the series races however and it would be no surprise if he spoiled the party here Sunday for a second straight week.
Brad Keselowski (5-1) could be a man on a mission this week. He was solidly in the Chase last week until Johnson passed him last Sunday. Now he’s in a must-win situation. He’s never won here, and has the ninth highest driver rating, 94.0, but was sixth here in the spring and fourth in this race last year. In desperation mode, Keselowski could be a threat with his aggressive all or nothing style.
Carl Edwards (12-1) may be the oddsmakers longshot, but he has the fourth best driver rating,98.7, and is the only driver to have prevented Harvick from already winning five consecutive races here when he won in the spring of 2012. Edwards is below the Chase cutoff line but if anyone is going to race their way into the top four it’s Edwards. He has struggled here the last two races, however he still has the third best average finish among the field and could add a third win here on Sunday.
Kurt Busch (12-1) is another longshot that needs to win his way to the final round. He has the fifth best driver rating,98.6. He was fifth here in the spring and won in 2005. Busch could be another driver who is currently below the cutoff that could win his way into the final round, and to no one’s surprise.
Others: Joey Logano (6-1) has good odds and was strong early in the Chase. However he has a pretty poor record here, a 14th-best driver rating of 87.6, and no wins. He was eighth here in the spring and sixth in this race last year; even equaling those performances however, Logano will still come up short. Kyle Busch (8-1) has good odds, and the sixth best driver rating of 96.6. Busch won here in 2005, but will clinch with a finish of 3rd or better; 4th and at least one lap led; or 5th and most laps led. One has to wonder if Busch, who is still solidly above the Chase cutoff will be in protection mode waiting to let it all hang out at Homestead. Denny Hamlin (10-1) has the seventh best driver rating, 95.0, and won the spring race here in 2012. He was fifth in this race last year, but struggled in the spring coming home 23rd.
Unlike some other tracks, starting position may not be much help: 19 of the 38 races here have been won from a starting position inside the top 10, while an equal number of races, 19, have been won from starting spots outside the top 10. Sunday’s Quicken Loans Race for Heroes 500 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup cutoff race will get the green flag just after 2:30 p.m. ET Sunday with live coverage on NBC.