The NASCAR Cup Series heads to Phoenix Raceway for the Ruoff Mortgage 500, with the green flag set to drop on Sunday, March 13 at 3:30 p.m. ET.
The Next Gen car has already produced four different pole winners, three different race winners, and 25 different lap leaders in the first three events of the 2022 season.
This will be the Cup Series’ first race with the Next Gen car on a one-mile track this season. So while we certainly can draw from past data to help us target the best driver selections for Phoenix this week, we can also consider results from this season’s Busch Light Clash at the Los Angeles Coliseum for projections. Practice and qualifying results are other essential factors.
Drivers may use similar setups as they did at the Coliseum, as that was a quarter-mile short track. Phoenix is not a classic short track, but it does have similarities to other short tracks.
Joey Logano led the final 33 laps en route to winning the Busch Light Clash, and he has won twice previously at Phoenix.
Kevin Harvick is a nine-time winner at Phoenix, and Kyle Busch has three wins at the site. Denny Hamlin is a two-time Phoenix winner, and Kyle Larson won the last race at the site in November to claim the 2021 Cup Series title.
Here are our Ruoff Mortgage 500 predictions and best bets.
Ruoff Mortgage 500 Winner Odds
Ruoff Mortgage 500 odds and lines are current as of 9 p.m. ET on Saturday, March 12, and appear courtesy of Caesars Sportsbook.
- Kyle Larson (+450)
- Denny Hamlin (+600)
- Ryan Blaney (+600)
- William Byron (+800)
- Chase Elliott (+800)
- Joey Logano (+1000)
- Kyle Busch (+1000)
- Martin Truex Jr. (+1000)
- Christopher Bell (+1800)
- Alex Bowman (+2000)
- Kevin Harvick (+2200)
- Aric Almirola (+2200)
- Tyler Reddick (+2500)
- Austin Cindric (+2500)
- Chase Briscoe (+3000)
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Ruoff Mortgage 500 Prediction
So far, the Next Gen car has produced more competitive racing as intended, so we could see a healthy amount of lead changes once again. Projecting the race winner will be a challenging task, but recent performances at Phoenix, markers from the Busch Light Clash, early-season results, and practice and qualifying runs will be the factors we lean on.
Despite Harvick’s great history at this site, he should not be one of your prime targets. Harvick’s winless streak has reached 46 races, and he has not finished in the top 5 in his last three Phoenix starts. He has not finished better than seventh in the Next Gen car so far with two finishes outside the top 10.
Hendrick Motorsports has won two consecutive races coming into Phoenix and now has won 19 times dating back to the start of the 2021 season, more than double the amount of the next closest team, as Joe Gibbs Racing has nine wins during that span. Hendrick also leads all teams with 12 all-time wins at Phoenix.
The early returns in the Next Gen era have certainly shown us that we could see a fourth different race winner to open the season this week, but Larson, who is back on top of the standings, is looking like a champion again early in 2022.
Ruoff Mortgage 500 Winner Pick: Kyle Larson
Ruoff Mortgage 500 Favorites
Kyle Larson (+450) at Caesars
Larson is sizzling heading into Phoenix, as he has finished second and first in his last two starts. Once we got past the super speedway kryptonite of Daytona for Larson, we knew we could see his best form again.
Larson has made a seamless adjustment to the Next Gen car so far, and led for 107 laps in his last start at Phoenix. In the last four races at the site dating back to 2020, Larson is third in Driver Rating (110.4). He had the third-best 10 Consecutive Lap Average in practice.
Larson is aiming to become the seventh different driver to win consecutive Phoenix races and has a very good shot of pulling it off.
Ryan Blaney (+600) at Caesars
Blaney took the pole at Phoenix for the third time in his career on Saturday. He ran the second-fastest single lap in practice and had the second-best 10 Consecutive Lap Average.
Blaney finished fourth in the second Phoenix last season and led for 68 laps in the two races at the site in 2021. He has finished in the Top 6 in four of his past six races at the site and has three Top 4 finishes during that span.
William Byron (+800) at Caesars
No surprise here that Hendrick cars are two of the top three favorites. He had the best 10 Consecutive Lap Average in practice and ran the fourth-fastest single lap. He was fastest in Qualifying Round 1A and will start third.
Dating back to 2020, Byron leads all drivers in Quality Passes (passes of cars in the Top 15 while under green flag conditions, 229) and is fourth in Green Flag Passes at Phoenix (393).
Ruoff Mortgage 500 Contenders
Denny Hamlin (+600) at Caesars
Hamlin is off to a terrible start in 2022, having wrecked at Daytona, and he had a parts failure last week at Las Vegas. He seems to be having some difficulties with the Next Gen car and is 30th in the Cup standings so far.
There has to be a significant sense of urgency in the Hamlin camp this week as he looks to get back into a positive groove. Hamlin qualified with a spot on the front row and needs to sustain that momentum. He has three consecutive top-4 finishes at Phoenix and has placed in the top 5 in five of his past six starts at the site. Since 2020 at Phoenix, Hamlin is second in Fastest Laps Run (120
Joey Logano (+1000) at Caesars
In three of his last four Phoenix starts, Logano has finished in the top 3 three times, including a second-place showing in the spring race at the site last season, which he led for 143 laps. In the last four races at Phoenix, Logano is second in Driver Rating (120.1) and Laps Led (328).
Logano has not won in the last 32 races, but he did win the Busch Light Clash and this is one of his best tracks. He had the fifth-best 10 Consecutive Lap Average in practice.
Kyle Busch (+1000) at Caesars
Kyle Busch is coming off a very impressive run at Las Vegas last week. In a backup car, he rocketed from a starting spot of 37th to lead for 49 laps before ultimately finishing fourth.
Busch could end a 20-race winless streak this week, especially as the Next Gen car potentially gives some top drivers better chances to end victory droughts.
Busch finished second in the Busch Light Clash, leading for 64 laps. In the last four races at Phoenix dating back to 2020, Busch is third in Quality Passes (217), which demonstrates his ability to move to the front of the pack. His Driver Rating of 103.8 is third-best all-time at Phoenix.
Christopher Bell (+1800) at Caesars
Bell, who starts third, is coming off an impressive run at Vegas, where he took the pole and finished 10th after coming back from a wreck and pushing on to a respectable finish. He finished ninth in both Phoenix races last season and placed eighth in the Busch Light Clash.
Since 2020 at Phoenix, Bell is sixth in Green Flag Passes (356).
Aric Almirola (+2200) at Caesars
Almirola has come out of the gate impressively this season, with three consecutive top-6 finishes. He finished sixth in the second Phoenix race last season and could be even better at the site this time.
In the last four Phoenix races dating back to 2020, Almirola is second in Green Flag Passes (412). He was second-fastest in Qualifying Round 1B and will start fifth.
Tyler Reddick (+2500) at Caesars
Reddick has looked very fast frequently so far this year and has dealt with some bad luck. At the Busch Light Clash, he started on the front row and led for 51 laps before a car issue ruined his day. At Fontana, he won the first two stages and led for 90 laps, but then had a flat tire that led to a crash.
Dating back to 2020, Reddick is fifth in Green Flag Passes at Phoenix (373). His Busch Light Clash showing and good runs in the last two races (seventh at Las Vegas) point to Reddick possibly earning his first career Cup win very soon. Reddick had the third-fastest single lap in practice.
Austin Cindric (+2500) at Caesars
The Daytona 500 winner has finished second and first twice in his last three Xfinity races at Phoenix. Cindric had the fastest single lap in practice with the fourth-best 10 Consecutive Lap Average on Saturday. He was second-fastest in Qualifying Round 1A, and the rookie is looking like one of the best values on the board.
Ruoff Mortgage 500 Sleepers
Erik Jones (+7500) at Caesars
Jones has crashed twice so far this season, but has looked promising otherwise, as he finished third at Fontana and was fourth in the Busch Light Clash, while also running well before a mishap in the Daytona 500.
He has a new crew chief and Petty GMS Motorsports appears to be looking good so far with the Next Gen car.
Cole Custer (+7500) at Caesars
Custer finished seventh in the Busch Light Clash, and he placed 13th in the second Phoenix race last season and ninth in the spring race in 2020.
Dating back to 2020 at Phoenix, he leads all drivers in Green Flag Passes (434) and is fifth in Quality Passes (192).
How to Bet on the Ruoff Mortgage 500
Diversification is key.
Because the Next Gen car has led to more competitive racing and produced several spinouts, crashes, and car issues so far, we still have a significant amount of unpredictability attached to the early-season Cup events.
As in NASCAR DFS, spread out your wagers so you can have a better shot at heading to the pay window.
Hold on for a dramatic ending.
The racing near the front of the pack has been intense so far this season, as the 25 different lap leaders are tied for the most in the first three races since 2013, and the average of 30 lead changes per race are the most since 2011.
There have been 194 green flag passes for the lead, the third-most since Loop Data was initially shared starting in 2007. This should be a race that is heavy with action from start to finish.
Practice and Qualifying sharpened the picture.
Recent in-season and Phoenix finishes, plus some Busch Light Clash showings, gave us a good initial projection of what to expect.
But we have begun a new era in Cup racing with the Next Gen car, and practice speeds and qualifying results were final and very important pre-race indicators to firm up our best selections. We made some changes to our initial outlooks after Saturday’s pre-race events, moving Blaney and Byron into the favorites section and adding Cindric as a prime play among the drivers with longer odds.