2019 TicketGuardian 500 Vegas picks and NASCAR predictions: Fade Brad Keselowski, back Denny Hamlin at Phoenix

ISM Speedway in Phoenix is Kevin Harvick's track, but he faces plenty of competition in Sunday's 2019 TicketGuardian 500, which starts at 3:30 p.m. ET. Harvick has nine Cups wins at Phoenix and holds track records with 16 top-five finishes, 21 top-10s, and 1,595 laps led. He won this race last spring and has taken down seven of the last 13 here. Not surprisingly, Harvick is the 5-2 favorite in the latest 2019 TicketGuardian 500 odds. Three others -- Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano -- are posted at 8-1 or better on the 2019 NASCAR at Phoenix odds board. With an ultra-competitive field chasing Harvick, a little expert advice can go a long way. That's why you'll want to see what Micah Roberts, a legendary Vegas bookmaker and the pioneer of NASCAR handicapping, is saying about the race before making any 2019 TicketGuardian 500 picks.

Roberts went with Jimmie Johnson as a hefty 25-1 long shot at the season-opening Advance Auto Parts Clash. The result: Johnson survived a huge crash and went on to win the rain-shortened race as Roberts' followers raked it in. At the Pennzoil 400 in Vegas last week, Roberts nailed a ridiculous seven of the top 10 finishers. He entered the 2019 NASCAR season after finishing big-time in the black in 2018. In fact, those who wagered $100 on each of his picks last year have $1,750 in profit to show for it. 

His biggest wins came when he went against the grain, taking Keselowski at 12-1 to win the South Point 400 at Las Vegas in the opening race of the NASCAR playoffs and going with Logano, also 12-1, to take the First Data 500 at Martinsville. He also nailed four of Harvick's nine series victories and three of Busch's nine wins. 

That continued an astonishing run in which Roberts picked nine of the 10 winners in the 2017 NASCAR playoffs. In 2016, he took Denny Hamlin to win the Daytona 500 at 15-1, and took him again at 40-1 at Watkins Glen later that year. Anyone who's following his picks is up huge year after year. 

Now, he has analyzed Sunday's 2019 TicketGuardian 500 lineup from every possible angle and locked in his 2019 NASCAR at Phoenix picks.

We can tell you he's not going with Keselowski, one of the top Vegas favorites at 7-1 odds. Keselowski's history on flat tracks isn't spectacular, with just one top-five finish in five races in 2018 and no career Cup wins at Phoenix. With so many other legitimate contenders in this loaded 2019 TicketGuardian 500 field, Roberts says Keselowski doesn't even crack the top 10. 

One shocker: Roberts is high on Denny Hamlin, a long shot at 18-1 TicketGuardian 500 odds. Hamlin's lone win in Phoenix came back in 2012, but he was fourth in this race last year and may have an edge as the Joe Gibbs Racing tester at this track in the off-season. 

"Hamlin has been at his best on flat tracks," Roberts told SportsLine. "He did a test at Phoenix with the new package last fall and should have an edge with the information he's sharing with his Joe Gibbs Racing teammates. This package offers much more horsepower than we've seen the last two weeks at Atlanta and Las Vegas."

Hamlin will start third on Sunday for NASCAR at Phoenix 2019 and won February's Daytona 500 after leading 30 laps. He also finished fourth in one of this year's Daytona Duels. It's no fluke either, as he closed out last season with runner-up showings at Dover and Martinsville in the last two months of the year.

Roberts is also high on three long shots with double-digit TicketGuardian 500 odds who will make a strong run at the title. His picks will shock many, but anyone who backs them could hit it with a massive payday, just as in the season opener. 

So which drivers are must-backs in the 2019 TicketGuardian 500? And which underdogs will shock NASCAR? Visit SportsLine now to see the projected leaderboard from the nation's premier NASCAR handicapper, and find out.

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