The favorite to win Sunday’s championship race at Phoenix is not a driver who is racing for the title. And you can probably guess who that driver is.
Kevin Harvick has the best odds of any driver at BetMGM. Harvick, who was eliminated from title contention after he finished 17th at Martinsville, has odds of +350. That’s slightly better than Chase Elliott, Denny Hamlin, Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano. One of those four drivers will be crowned the 2020 Cup Series champion on Sunday.
Harvick is searching for his 10th win of the season. He’s already the winningest driver in a single season in over a decade and a win Sunday would make him the first driver to win double-digit races since Jimmie Johnson in 2007. Of course, Johnson won the title that season. Harvick will not win the title this season.
Harvick’s success in 2020 isn’t the only reason why he’s the favorite to win Sunday’s race. He’s also been really, really, really, really good at Phoenix since the track was repaved in 2011.
There have been 18 races at Phoenix since the track had new asphalt. Harvick has won seven of those races and hasn’t finished outside the top 10 since he was 13th in the spring race in 2013. He was driving for Richard Childress Racing back then. In his 13 starts at Phoenix with Stewart-Haas Racing, Harvick hasn’t finished lower than ninth and has finished in the top five in 11 of those 13 races.
One of those top five finishes came earlier this year. In March — the final race before NASCAR went on a coronavirus pandemic hiatus — Harvick finished second to Joey Logano. If Harvick wins at Phoenix, he’ll also be the first non-title contending driver in NASCAR’s elimination playoff format to win the final race of the season.
Logano is currently the fourth-best favorite among the championship drivers. Here’s a look at the odds for the four title favorites.
Sunday, Nov. 8, 3 p.m. ET (NBC)
Denny Hamlin (+500)
Hamlin won the fall race at Phoenix in 2019 to advance to the title race. Now he’s back at Phoenix under similar circumstances. Can Hamlin repeat? He’s been the second-winningest driver in the Cup Series this year after Harvick and was second at New Hampshire this summer. New Hampshire isn’t a direct comparison to Phoenix by any means, but it’s the only other relatively flat one-mile track on the Cup Series circuit.
Chase Elliott (+500)
Elliott has been eliminated from the playoffs in each of the past three seasons at Phoenix. Now he’s racing for the first title of his career. Elliott has five top-10 finishes in nine races at Phoenix and was second in the 2017 fall race. But he hasn’t finished in the top 20 in either of the two fall races at the track. It’s hard to see that repeating for a third straight fall unless Elliott’s hit with a mechanical failure or is involved in a crash.
Brad Keselowski (+550)
Is Keselowski the smart money favorite? While his odds are slightly worse than Hamlin’s and Elliott’s, Keselowski has been the best driver at short tracks this season. He beat Hamlin at New Hampshire and also won at Richmond in the fall. The car he drove to both of those wins is the car he’ll be using on Sunday.
Joey Logano (+650)
How significant is Logano’s win this spring? The race was the first at Phoenix for NASCAR’s lower-downforce rules at short tracks. Cars had much more downforce during the two 2019 spring races. While that win could give Logano the upper hand, teams work on their cars and find speed throughout the season. It can be hard to gain much insight into a race that was more than seven months ago.
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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.
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