Sunday’s Dixie Vodka 400 Race Preview

TRACK: Homestead-Miami Speedway (1.5-mile Oval) DISTANCE: 400 Laps – STAGE 1/2 (80 Laps each), FINAL STAGE 107 LAPS 400.5 Miles)
WEATHER: RAIN 80%, 86 degrees high

Starting Lineup

Betting favorites

Kevin Harvick (+400)

What a start to 2020 its been for Harvick. This could be the very spot to where he picks up another victory. The SHR driver has 12 straight top 10 finishes including 16 of his last 17 at Homestead. Since 2014, he’s yet to finish worse than fourth there.

Martin Truex Jr. (+500)

Truex has yet to finish worse than second in his last three Homestead tries. He led 78 laps in his win in 2017, 20 in 2018 and 103 more last year. Since 2006, the JGR driver also has 11 top 11 finishes in Miami in his last 14 tries and is coming off of winning both stages of the race in a third place run last Sunday in Atlanta and a win on Wednesday night in Martinsville.

Kyle Busch (+550)

You can’t overlook him at Homestead either. Busch, won last year and has three top two finishes in his last five tries including five consecutive top six finishes there. Also, he has seven top seven finishes in his last eight tries too.

Chase Elliott (+700)

Worth it here too. He has shown the speed so far in 2020 and has two top seven finishes in his last three Homestead tries.

Joey Logano (+750)

He’s a favorite for good measure. Logano, has five consecutive top six finishes in Homestead including a win in 2018, fifth last year and two fourth place efforts in 2015 and 2016.

Brad Keselowski (+1,000)

Might be worth a risk here. He’s never won at Homestead before but does have two top seven finishes in his last three starts including five in his last seven there overall.

Betting long shots

Alex Bowman (+2,000)

Did I mention that this guy likes aged surfaces. He won in Fontana earlier this year and was runner-up in Darlington 1. He was ninth at Homestead last November too.

Clint Bowyer (+2,800)

This could be where the keeps rolling. Bowyer, has 10 top 12 finishes in his last 12 Homestead starts including being eighth in 2018 and sixth last year.

Erik Jones (+4,000)

Why not here? JGR was good in the past at Homestead and he finished third in last year’s race for a 1-2-3 JGR finish.

Tyler Reddick (+6,600)

His rookie campaign is going pretty well. Now, it’s to a track that he’s won in each of the last two years at during the Xfinity Series race. In five career Homestead starts across NXS and Truck Series competition, he’s yet to finish worse than fourth.

Austin Dillon (+8,000)

This is a perfect longshot. He has five straight top 15 finishes on this race track including an eighth place run last year.

Dixie Vodka 400 Race Preview

This will be the first race at Homestead outside of November. How will that play out? For starters, it’s going to be hotter and slicker. That may create way more lanes of racing than this racing package produced last year. The reason is, the race last year and for several years prior, always ended under the lights. This race, will run the entire way under the hot Florida sun.

That’s great news for a rookie who could potentially earn his first career Cup victory in Tyler Reddick. He won the last two Xfinity Series races at Homestead and likes to rim ride the outside SAFER barrier. Also, in five career Homestead starts across NXS and Truck Series competition, he’s yet to finish worse than fourth. We could see a first time winner on Sunday.

If not, then the usual suspects will be the ones to beat. Joe Gibbs Racing finished 1-2-3 in last year’s race at Homestead and have the best drivers. Kyle Busch won last November and has three top two finishes in his last five tries including five consecutive top six finishes there. Also, he has seven top seven finishes in his last eight tries too. Martin Truex has yet to finish worse than second in his last three Homestead tries. He led 78 laps in his win in 2017, 20 in 2018 and 103 more last year. Since 2006, the JGR driver aslo has 11 top 11 finishes in Miami in his last 14 tries.

If not them, then Kevin Harvick or the Team Penske camp will be the ones to win. Harvick, has 12 straight top 10 finishes including 16 of his last 17 at Homestead. Since 2014, he’s yet to finish worse than fourth there.

Brad Keselowski has never won at Homestead before but does have two top seven finishes in his last three starts including five in his last seven there overall. His teammate Joey Logano has five consecutive top six finishes in Homestead including a win in 2018, fifth last year and two fourth place efforts in 2015 and 2016.

Don’t overlook Alex Bowman or Chase Elliott either. Bowman, is at his best on aged surfaces in his two career wins being on them (Chicagoland/Fontana) and also coming home second last month at Darlington 1. He was ninth in last year’s race.

Elliott, has two top seven finishes in his last three Homestead tries.

Doesn’t that group sound familiar? It should, they’ve won all but two races run in 2020. That driver that has won the other two races is Denny Hamlin but he typically struggles on the South Florida track. Hamlin, has just one top five since 2010 as that was his win seven years ago. He does have a top 12 in all seven of those starts, but that’s the only time he ever seriously contended for a win there.

Six of the last seven races at the Homestead-Miami Speedway have also been won by a driver coming from a top five starting spot. On top of that, with the draw format, all four winners have come from the top 10 with three of the four from the first 3 Rows.

Stat To Watch

Since the start of the Championship 4 format in 2014, the old season finale now that took place in Homestead has gone to overtime just once (2016). But, if you go back to 2007, that race in 2016 is the only race that has ended past the 400 scheduled miles.

So, while the race will likely end on Lap 267 and avoid overtime, expect a late race caution to change the entire complexion of this race. Or will it?

We’ve seen five or fewer cautions in each of the last three years with only three yellows last year. Take out the stage breaks and you get seven total yellows in three years of racing at Homestead.

Since 2014, we’ve had a late race caution in all but one year. Which gives?

For 2018, the final caution flew with 25 laps remaining. There were only two cautions in the final stage, that was one of them. In 2017, the last yellow flew on Lap 229 of 267 (38 to go). That was the only caution in the final stage. In 2015, the final caution flew on Lap 258 (9 to go). That was the only caution since Lap 168. In 2016 though, we saw a bunch of late race cautions, including Laps 253, 259 and 264. The 2014 race was a lot like the 2016 one with several late race incidents. The final yellow flew on lap 263.

With late race cautions, it sets up interesting pit strategy. The Homestead surface is abrasive on tires, so if the cautions come out late, do you pit for fresh Goodyear rubber or do you stay out for track position?

That question all depends on how many laps are left? Still, it forces the pit crews to be flawless as you can’t afford a slow stop or a penalty. The drivers also can’t afford to speed on pit road either.

They Said It

“It’s a tough week,” Brad Keselowski said as NASCAR will wrap up three races in a seven day span Sunday in Homestead. “It’s tough.  Probably the toughest I’ve ever been a part of. Atlanta was a grueling race, very humid. 500 miles.  I don’t know why it had to be 500 miles, but it was, at a track where the cars are a handful.  Normally when we run Atlanta it’s in March or late February-ish.  Obviously running it in early June, late May is much different weather conditions, much harder.  Same thing here in Martinsville.

“I’m a little bit surprised that today was a 500-lap race because with it being a Wednesday night race long into the night for some of our fans.  It also is part of the challenge of being a racecar driver, is running 500 laps, 500 miles.  It gives an endurance factor to it.

“I think we see time over time with that endurance factor the storylines and the plot changes.  I hate to shorten the races because I think it’s part of the storyline and plot of the Cup Series that you have to be good for so long.  It wears you down physically, mentally, along with the car.  I really appreciate that.  I don’t know if there’s ever been a more grueling stretch in Cup racing.

“I was talking to my dad about this.  My dad was around in Cup in the ’60s and ’70s as a kid that went to a bunch of races with his dad who had a team.  He and I were talking about it at dinner a week or two ago.  He asked me, Are you going to be all right for this stretch of races?

“I said, I’m just going to have to suck it up.

“What are you going to do?  You have to find a way and persevere through it.  Everyone is telling me stories about the ’60s and ’70s when they ran more races.  They had the longer schedule.  They’d run a 400- or 500-mile race one or two a week.  The drivers would get out halfway.  It wasn’t uncommon to where your big-name drivers would run the first 200 or 300 laps, get out, either somebody else would finish the race or they’d get back in and finish the race at the end.  I thought that was so interesting.

“I think that just goes to show you how much the racing has changed and evolved.  Even though you could maybe compare this specific period of time in NASCAR to the olden days when they raced more during the week, I think that kind of changes it because we don’t have driver changes mid race.

“I think that creates, like I said, history for the most grueling few weeks on a driver that the Cup level has ever seen.

“With respect to that, it’s the same for everybody.  We all got to toughen up.  I think it’s a great test of will, a great test of the drivers.  I think it’s what makes these few weeks so compelling not just as a participant but as a fan myself.

 

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