The Backstretch Blog's Race Day: The Can-Am 500 at ISM Raceway

    (L-R)Chase Elliott, driver of the #9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet, sits on pit wall with his crew chief Alan Gustafson and two crew members during qualifying for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Can-Am 500 at ISM Raceway on November 9, 2018 in Phoenix. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

    Phoenix. NASCAR is in Phoenix, Arizona this weekend. Just in case you were looking at the headline and trying to figure out what ISM Raceway was. It's the track formally known as Phoenix and it makes about as much sense as the symbol Prince used to use. But I digress.

    This is the final race for seven drivers to get into the championship four. Joey Logano is already in, thanks to his win at Martinsville. Kevin Harvick should have been in after his win last week at Texas. But that win was thrown out (for championship purposes, he gets to keep the trophy and the check) because of an illegal spoiler. So Harvick is among the seven drivers fighting for the final three championship spots. I don't think there could be a better track for Harvick to be in the position, he has eight wins in Phoenix, including the last time they were here back in March. But he says that doesn't make this weekend any easier.

    "I just deal with the facts," said Harvick. I know where we are. I know what our plan is and we don’t look back.”

    In addition to Harvick there are six other former Phoenix winners in the field, but only two among the eight playoff drivers. Kurt and Kyle Busch's wins though came all the way back in 2005. So if one of the drivers that need to win to get in is going to get it done, they are are going to have to have success at a track where they haven't before.

    "Now that you’re in the final eight like this you go for broke and put all the cards on the table," said Clint Bowyer. "We were in a do-or-die situation and we went for it and came up short, but we’ve got one race to go here to try to put it all together."

    Bowyer has some work to do, rolling off 16th. The only playoff driver starting farther back is his teammate Aric Almirola who starts 18th. Harvick will have the best seat in the house when the race starts, he will lead the field to green from the pole.

    "All we concentrated on was qualifying and obviously, we had some good adjustments to the car right there at the end and I was actually able to drive the car without screwing it up," said Harvick. "It was definitely a good lap for us and came at a good time.”

    Chase Elliott joins Harvick on the front row, followed by Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ryan Blaney and Alex Bowman. Virginia native Denny Hamlin starts 10th.

    The green flag drops on the Can-Am 500 at about 2:35 Eastern Time. You can watch the race on News 5 WCYB.

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