Five things to watch for in today’s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Phoenix


AVONDALE, Ariz. – New season, new rules package. Doesn’t seem to matter to Kevin Harvick, who again is the favorite to win today’s 500 at Phoenix International Raceway.

But if not Harvick, could today’s winner be another Stewart-Haas Racing driver? Kurt Busch possibly?

Busch has been fast this weekend in his return from a three-race suspension. Busch admitted he was a bit behind the field because he has not raced with the new aero and horsepower rules at an unrestricted track. This also is his first chance to tinker with the driver adjustable track bar.

Still, if Harvick falters, Busch could be in position to take advantage.

The Stewart-Haas Racing duo is among the key things to watch in today’s race. Here are others:

Pit Strategy

This race is among the shortest on the circuit at 312 miles. It’s difficult to rebound from a mistake.

A short race also means fewer pit stops. Every decision by the crew chief has to be correct to have a chance at winning. Watch what crew chiefs try and see who might be willing to gamble for track position.


Late cautions have been common at Phoenix in recent years. Two of the last five races ended with a green-white-checkered. Both races last year had two cautions within the final 30 laps.

If history is an indicator, there will be a chance or two for someone to challenge the leader on a restart.

Team Penske

Daytona 500 champion Joey Logano has been strong, and teammate Brad Keselowski has been encouraged with his team’s progress this weekend. Either one could challenge Kevin Harvick for the win if things go their way.


Toyota is on a 29-race winless streak in Cup. The manufacturer’s last Cup victory was by Denny Hamlin at Talladega Superspeedway 10 months ago. Toyota’s last win at an unrestricted track was 35 races ago when Kyle Busch won at Auto Club Speedway in March 2014. When will the streak end?