Sundays Dixie Vodka 400 (2:30 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN) race preview

With one race down in the Playoffs Round of 8 and two to go, the drivers below the Championship 4 Round cutline have their work cut out for them as they try to earn their position in the next round. Following Las Vegas, William Byron (-6 points), Chase Briscoe (-9), Ryan Blaney (-11) and Christopher Bell (-23) are all ranked below the cutline of the Championship 4 Round, but keep in mind only two more spots can be earned by wins leaving at least one spot reserved for a driver to get in on points. 

Hendrick Motorsports’ William Byron is currently fifth in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs, six points behind Denny Hamlin in the fourth and final transfer spot on points to the Championship 4 Round at Phoenix Raceway on November 6. In seven Playoff starts this season, Byron has put up one top five and four top 10s. He has led 102 laps in the postseason events this year and has average finish of 9.3. Looking to Homestead-Miami Speedway this weekend, Byron should be feeling pretty confident. The North Carolina native has made four starts at the 1.5-mile track posting one win (2021) and two top 10s. His average finish at Homestead-Miami is 18.2. He’ll start from the pole in earning his first pole of the season at that.

Hamlin rolls off 14th.

Stewart-Haas Racing’s Chase Briscoe is carrying the organizations banner this season in the Round of 8 of the Playoffs and following his top-five finish to open the round at Las Vegas he has moved up from eighth to sixth in the postseason standings nine points back from the Championship 4 Round cutline. In seven Playoff starts this season he amassed two top fives and four top 10s. Looking ahead to this weekend at Homestead-Miami, Briscoe will be looking to build on his series track debut from last season, where he started 30th and finished 18th. The South Florida track has been to Briscoe’s career in the past, he has wins in both the NASCAR Xfinity Series (2020) and the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (2017). 

“We kept ourselves in the ballgame and still have a lot of work to do but we still have a chance,” said Briscoe following Vegas. “We are running the best we have all year long and that is about all you can ask for.”

The SHR driver rolls off 19th on Sunday.

Team Penske’s Ryan Blaney was looking like he was going to challenging for the win last weekend in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs Round of 8 opener at Las Vegas, but instead an incident derailed his day and now the North Carolina native finds himself seventh in the point standings, -11 points back from the Championship 4 Round cutline. In seven postseason starts this year, Blaney has put up two top fives and three top 10s. He has led 110 laps and also has an average finish of 16.0. Looking ahead to this weekend at Homestead-Miami, Blaney has made seven career Cup starts at 1.5-mile track collecting just one top-10 finish. His average finish at the speedway is 18.9. He was also expected to be faster this weekend but in turn was one of 3 Penske drivers to get eliminated in the first round of qualifying on Saturday. He starts 13th.

The one driver that fell the furthest in the standings following Las Vegas was Joe Gibbs Racing’s Christopher Bell, who was caught in the Bubba Wallace and Kyle Larson incident, and now finds himself eighth in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs Round of 8 standings, -23 points back from the Championship 4 Round cutline. Bell’s 2022 Playoff run has been one of feast or famine. The Oklahoman has put up one wins (Charlotte ROVAL) and four top fives (most among Playoff contenders). He has also led 157 laps and has an average finish of 14.0 this postseason.

“The good thing is I feel better about winning one of those two races than I did winning the Roval,” said Bell, who’ll share the front row with Byron. “We’ve just had really, really strong Toyota Camrys – really all year long. We will see if we can go pull another rabbit out of the hat.”

Looking ahead to Homestead this Sunday, Bell has made two series starts at the 1.5-mile track posting one top-10 finish.


LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – MARCH 06: Ross Chastain, driver of the #1 ACM Awards Chevrolet, and Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Ethel M Chocolates Toyota, race during the NASCAR Cup Series Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on March 06, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images)

Ross Chastain breaking new ground in racing career

Trackhouse Racing’s Ross Chastain is forging into unfamiliar territory in his NASCAR Cup Series career. In his first appearance in the Playoffs, the Florida native ranks second in the postseason standings following the Round of 8 opener at Las Vegas and is up +18 points on the cutoff with a shot at the Championship 4 Round.

“It’s so good to be driving these Trackhouse Racing Chevy’s for everybody at Advent Health, Moose Fraternity, Jockey and Worldwide Express,” said Chastain. “To keep bringing this kind of speed in the Playoffs is a dream come true.”

Chastain grew-up not too far from Homestead-Miami Speedway in Alva, Florida and returns to his home state looking to lock-up his chance at making the Championship 4 Round. So far, Chastain has been impressive in his first postseason run, making seven starts and putting up two top fives and four top 10s. His average finish during the Playoffs is 12.7.

Chastain will have to work this weekend to maintain his current points cushion, as Homestead-Miami has not been his best track. In three Cup Series starts he has a best finish of 17th (last season). His average finish at the 1.5-mile Miami track is a 28.3 – the worst of the eight Playoff contenders. However, Chastain has also scored 79 more points than any other driver this season in the eight races at 1.5-mile tracks.

CONCORD, NORTH CAROLINA – OCTOBER 09: Chase Elliott, driver of the #9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet, and crew chief Alan Gustafson talk on the grid after the NASCAR Cup Series Bank of America Roval 400 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on October 09, 2022 in Concord, North Carolina. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Former champion Chase Elliott looks to make Champ 4 for third straight season

The 2022 Regular Season Champion, Chase Elliott, has been hustling through this year’s Playoffs and finds himself third in the point standings following the Round of 8 opener at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, up 17 points on the Championship 4 Round cutoff. Since winning the Cup Series title in 2020, Elliott has earned a spot in the Championship 4 Round the last two seasons and is looking to make it three straight this season for a shot at his second-career championship. If Elliott were to win the title this season, he would join Kyle Busch (2015, 2019) as the only other multiple title holder active in the series.

In seven Playoff starts this season, Elliott has been roller coaster ride posting one win (Talladega) and two top fives. He has led 84 laps and has an average finish of 17.6. 

But what should worry the competition is Elliott has run well at both Homestead and Martinsville in his career. At this weekend’s track, Homestead-Miami, Elliott has made six series starts posting two top-fives and three top 10s. Plus, he leads all eight Playoff contenders in average finish at the 1.5-mile track with a 9.0.

FORT WORTH, TEXAS – SEPTEMBER 25: Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Office Toyota, and William Byron, driver of the #24 Chevrolet, race during the NASCAR Cup Series Auto Trader EchoPark Automotive 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on September 25, 2022 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)

Miami Vice: Denny Hamlin teeters Championship 4 Round cutline

Of the Playoff drivers left vying for a position in the Championship 4 Round, Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin has had the most experience in the final round with four career appearances (2014, 2019, 2020, 2021) and is looking for his fourth consecutive appearance this weekend at one of his best tracks, Homestead-Miami Speedway.

“I’m looking forward to Homestead,” said Hamlin. “We had a very good test there a few weeks ago and really felt like we unloaded as one of the best cars. After two days, the field kind of caught up to us a little bit, but I have a lot of confidence going there. I feel like the driver can make a difference just with the different lines you can run, so I think that fits into our strengths on top of just how strong we have been on these types of tracks this year.”

Hamlin will be one to watch come Sunday, in 17 career NASCAR Cup Series starts at the 1.5-mile track in South Florida he has collected three wins (2009, 2013, 2020), five top fives and 11 top 10s. His average finish at the track is 10.0 (second-best among Playoff contenders) and he has led 393 laps.

If he can win, it would give JGR a historic feat. Joe Gibbs Racing’s next win is its 200th and would make it the third organization with at least 200 wins.

Top Stat

The last 10 races have each been won by different drivers — Kevin Harvick, Kyle Larson, Austin Dillon, Erik Jones, Bubba Wallace, Chris Buescher, Tyler Reddick, Chase Elliott, Christopher Bell and Joey Logano.

Top Quote:

“Homestead-Miami Speedway is one of my favorite tracks and I can’t wait to get down there next week,” he said after his top 10 in Vegas.

Erik Jones is good at Homestead and also won the Southern 500 last month.

“We’ll head to Homestead next weekend where I feel like we made gains at the test a few weeks ago and see what we can do,” he said.

Goodyear Quote

Teams will use a new left-side tire compound at Homestead-Miami Speedway this weekend, a code confirmed by teams during NASCAR’s organizational test at the facility in September.

Combined with reliable test data, there should be little surprise as teams dial in setups. The right-side tire used this weekend is the same as was used at Pocono in addition to the second races at Kansas, Texas and Las Vegas.

The abrasive surface at Homestead provides conditions that will likely result in tire conservation and management.

“Homestead is a high-wear track, and that wear, along with the resultant tire fall-off, creates a lot of ‘comers’ and ‘goers’ throughout the field over the course of a run,” said Greg Stucker, Goodyear’s director of racing. “Another thing to watch for, like at Las Vegas last weekend, is teams’ air, camber and suspension settings. With this Next Gen car, teams have found that getting the rear end of the car down and sealed off helps the diffuser create more rear downforce. We continue to provide teams with test data to help them understand the true risk vs. reward in running lower than recommended air at various set-ups.”

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