NASCAR Fantasy Blog


NASCAR Fantasy Preview: Homestead

November 13, 2013, Dan Beaver, NASCAR.com

Homestead's history of streaks point to strong fantasy drivers for season finale

NASCAR's 36-race schedule Sprint Cup Series is one of the most grueling in all of professional sports. Drivers criss-cross the United States, running a wide variety of tracks that test their ability to adjust to the changing conditions. With races on road courses, unrestricted intermediate speedways, restrictor-plate superspeedways and short tracks, they take their contest to steeply banked courses like Dover International Speedway and flat tracks like Phoenix International Raceway -- and everything in between.

Drivers have completed 10,286 laps of competition. On Sunday, they will have 267 more chances to make an impression on their sponsors by running in the lead or at least among the top 10.

Fantasy players who have faithfully set their lineups every week are in much the same situation. Victory in one's league may already be decided, but this race is for pride, and the winner of the Ford EcoBoost 400 has bragging rights all the way to February and the Daytona 500.

Driver, Power Average on progessively-banked 1.5-mile tracks over the last 3 years

Rank

Driver

Power Avg.

1.

Carl Edwards

4.74

2.

Martin Truex Jr.

6.85

3.

Matt Kenseth

7.67

4.

Kasey Kahne

9.84

5.

Kevin Harvick

9.87

6.

Jimmie Johnson

10.53

7.

Kyle Busch

11.95

8.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.

12.56

9.

Ryan Newman

12.76

10.

Greg Biffle

14.15

11.

Brad Keselowski

14.35

12.

Aric Almirola

14.81

13.

Jeff Gordon

15.32

14.

Clint Bowyer

15.78

15.

Paul Menard

16.31

16.

Jamie McMurray

17.29

17.

AJ Allmendinger

17.59

18.

Denny Hamlin

20.15

19.

Mark Martin

20.57

20.

Joey Logano

20.80

21.

Kurt Busch

21.09

22.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

22.20

23.

Trevor Bayne

22.98

24.

Marcos Ambrose

23.95

25.

Jeff Burton

24.06

26.

Elliott Sadler

25.11

27.

Juan Pablo Montoya

25.15

28.

David Ragan

27.67

29.

David Reutimann

30.19

30.

Casey Mears

32.75

31.

David Gilliland

34.02

32.

Dave Blaney

34.38

33.

Danica Patrick

35.50

34.

Travis Kvapil

36.50

35.

Landon Cassill

37.77

36.

Ken Schrader

38.30

37.

Tony Raines

38.38

38.

JJ Yeley

39.17

39.

Joe Nemechek

40.27

40.

Josh Wise

40.39

41.

Michael McDowell

41.27

The Favorites

It's a little counterintuitive, but Homestead-Miami Speedway is prone to streaks. One might think that would not be the case for a track that hosts only one race per season -- the final one of the year, when drivers and teams have various agendas. But the three favorites for the Ford EcoBoost 400 have all scored top-10s in at least 75 percent of their starts on the current configuration of this track.

Players who read last week's Fantasy Update noticed that Kevin Harvick was elevated to favored status based on his practice speeds. He could very well end his tenure with Richard Childress Racing with back-to-back victories, because he has been almost perfect in regard to top-10s on this track since it was last reconfigured in 2003. He finished second that year and posted a third as recently as 2010. If anything unfortunate happens to Jimmie Johnson -- like it has in each of the past two seasons -- he might even sneak in and win the championship.

Take away a 32nd-place finish in his pre-rookie warm-up of 2004 and Martin Truex Jr.'s worst finish at Homestead is an 11th. He has had a seesaw season in terms of his salary cap, but he will end the year just under $25, which makes him a good value compared to Johnson and Matt Kenseth, both of whom have recent records on this track that are far less superior. The only negative about Truex is that his recent 1.5-mile attempts in the second half of the season have not been quite as strong as the ones at the beginning of the year, but players who need a differentiator will be more than willing to roll the dice on the No. 56. Truex has also logged the most quality passes in the field with an average of 64.1 in the past eight events.

Carl Edwards is the third driver with a near perfect record at Homestead. He finished 14th in the 2004 edition of this race and was 12th last year in a season when he was struggling everywhere. In between, he amassed a seven-race top-10 streak, of which five results were in the top five. Better still, he won the 2008 and 2010 events. Edwards will not only score major points for fantasy players based on his finishing position, he will also bank some fastest laps run points. Since NASCAR Statistical Services began publishing loop data, Edwards has earned 14.7 percent of the available fastest laps run, which leads all drivers in the field.   

Dark Horses

As Homestead is prone to streaks, dividends will be paid to fantasy players who can identify the next great dark horse. To do so, they need only check a driver's recent performances. Aric Almirola surprised the field with a fourth-place finish in 2010 driving a car recently vacated by Kasey Kahne, but to prove he could be just as strong in a car with his own setups, he backed that up with a seventh-place run last year. Along the way, Almirola has earned 59.3 quality passes per race, which is the second best average behind Truex.

Fantasy owners need to be aware of how points are earned each week in the NASCAR Fantasy Live game. At some tracks, finishing position is of the utmost importance; fastest laps led are critical on short tracks where 500 circuits are recorded in the books. At Homestead, the emphasis will be on quality passes. Eleven drivers have recorded an average of 40 or more quality passes in the past eight races. They are led by Truex and Almirola, but Clint Bowyer's 52.1, Jeff Gordon's 48.8, and Ryan Newman's 46.6 averages should put those drivers on quite a few fantasy players' radar screens. If they can back up their historical record with strong practice times, they could become favorites before the green flag waves over the Ford EcoBoost 400.

Parker Kligerman is another driver who simply cannot be overlooked this week. He was a late entrant to the AAA Texas 500, replacing Cole Whitt in the No. 30, and no one knew exactly how he would perform. He did not get a lot of television time, but players who watched the Live Leaderboard saw him slowly edge his way up the grid. Finishing 18th, he earned 33 points and that made him well worth his salary cap. 

Underdogs

Juan Pablo Montoya is driving with a purpose. He wants to end his fulltime NASCAR career on a high note and he has made an impression in three of the last five races. He finished 12th at Charlotte Motor Speedway, 13th at Martinsville Speedway, and was sixth last week. Each of those efforts made him a good value, but unfortunately he could not have chosen a worse track for his finale. In terms of average finishes, this is his most difficult track that NASCAR visits. To say that Homestead has not been kind would be an understatement, as he has not cracked the top 25 there in the past four years.

Kurt Busch has some truly bad memories at Homestead and that might weigh heavily on him. He finished more than 100 laps off the pace in his first attempt in 2003, crashed on Lap 9 of the 2006 Ford 400 to finish dead last, and was 43rd again two years later. A mechanical failure in 2011 sent him to the garage for an extended period of time and his interaction with a pit reporter while the car was being repaired was a key factor in the decision to part ways with Roger Penske during that off-season. In between those disappointments, he scored three top-fives and another top-10, but it is difficult to recommend him this week.