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As our country grapples with racism in the wake of George Floyd’s death, NASCAR has done what it can to confront the issue. The sport banned the display of the Confederate flag, and drivers have used their platforms to speak out about it.
Not every member of the NASCAR community has embraced change, however. Backmarker driver Ray Ciccarelli made headlines this week for criticizing the sport’s decisions, but his views do not represent the majority of NASCAR drivers or fans. People across the sport have since distanced themselves from him.
As such, NASCAR hits the banks of Homestead-Miami Speedway with politics simmering in the background — and a handful of fans allowed back in attendance. If you’re interested in getting in on the action, here are my best bets for this weekend’s Dixie Vodka 400.
Past Performance at Homestead
Unlike most of NASCAR’s oval-shaped tracks, Homestead-Miami has a true oval shape. The track doesn’t bend to lengthen its front straightaway, as tri-oval and quad-oval tracks opt to do, which makes it unique. Also, Homestead features relatively steep banking in the corners at 18-20 degrees. The course’s structure favors those who can race the high line, like Tyler Reddick, and I’m expecting big things in his Cup Series debut at the track.
|Driver Name||Avg Finish||Races||Wins||Top 5’s||Top 10’s||Driver Rating (Last 5)|
|Martin Truex, Jr.||10.2||15||1||6||10||108.40|
Kevin Harvick is a Homestead ace. While he’s only scored one here, its traditional year-end date complicated drivers’ priorities at the track. Drivers that were out of the championship hunt would’ve wanted to stay out of the way, and their teams may have opted to bring experimental equipment or setups to the track. He has missed the top-10 just twice in his 19 attempts, and both of those finishes came before 2008.
Despite his lower average finish, Kyle Busch has the highest recent driver rating at this track. That metric weighs factors like average running position and laps led, which are important indicators to consider alongside where a driver ends up placing. Busch’s two wins at Homestead correspond with his two championships (2015, 2019), so it’ll be interesting to see how he’ll race here without a title on the line.
Denny Hamlin is the only other active driver with two wins at Homestead, but he hasn’t finished better than ninth in his last five attempts. He was only competing for a championship in one of those races, however, so take his recent form here with a grain of salt.
Both Martin Truex, Jr. and Chase Elliott have impressive average finishes here, although Truex has a win while Elliott doesn’t. Both Truex’s average finish and driver rating would substantially increase if we excluded his 2016 wreck here — his average finish would be 8.64, and his driver rating would be 117.95.
Joey Logano’s driver rating at Homestead also demands attention, and Sliced Bread hasn’t finished worse than sixth here since 2014. His woeful years with Joe Gibbs deflate his stats; if we exclude those four years, his average finish would be 6.29, a touch ahead of Harvick’s.
I mentioned Tyler Reddick’s name earlier, but he misses this chart due to his lack of Cup Series starts here. But he’s a strong bet to compete on Sunday, and his numbers in the Xfinity Series support that claim.
|Driver Name||Avg Finish||Races||Wins||Top 5’s||Top 10’s||Driver Rating|
Reddick earned two wins in just three Homestead races, and all three of those races came with different teams. Sure, he’ll have stiffer competition on Sunday, but Reddick’s skill on the high line has to keep him in conversations for Sunday’s race.
Equipment often limits drivers in NASCAR, so it’s essential to factor recent speed into our betting predictions. Since driver rating weighs stats like laps led and average running position, it’s a useful metric to gauge how well a driver’s car has performed from week to week. I’ve limited the sample to each driver’s performances in the intermediate track package.
|Driver||Driver Rating (Intermed.)|
|Martin Truex, Jr.||103.83|
Kevin Harvick has won twice on intermediate tracks (Darlington 1, Atlanta), so he should be a safe pick for Sunday’s race. He led a combined 310 laps in his two intermediate wins this season, which proves that he has the equipment necessary to dominate here.
Both Chase Elliott and Martin Truex, Jr. have driver ratings above 100, but they’ve only combined for one win at intermediate tracks so far. I wouldn’t be surprised to see that number correct itself on Sunday, but Toyota’s struggles so far in 2020 limit my optimism for Truex. They haven’t been the dominant manufacturer this year, and while they have a combined three wins, their top three drivers don’t have the driver ratings to back that up — both Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin are both around 25 points below Harvick.
Joey Logano won two of NASCAR’s first four races this year, but he’s been unable to finish races since then — his fourth-place result at Martinsville was his best since March. That said, his Penske teammates have flashed considerable speed, so I don’t blame his equipment for the recent lapse in production.
Lastly, Tyler Reddick has a solid driver rating of 80.1. That’s excellent for a driver in mid-pack equipment! Of our seven drivers, only Elliott has topped Reddick’s performance in each race. It’s clear that Reddick can outrun his stuff at intermediate tracks, so while I’m not comfortable picking him to win, he could be a strong bet to finish top-10.
Let’s take a look at the betting odds for our seven drivers over at DraftKings Sportsbook.
|Martin Truex, Jr.||+500||-130||-455|
Unsurprisingly, Kevin Harvick is the betting favorite for Homestead. He’s far and away the best driver at this track, and I expect him to get his second-career Homestead victory on Sunday.
Best Bets for Homestead
Isaiah’s Pick is currently 3 for 7 on the season.
To Win: Kevin Harvick (+450)
With a dominant lead in the points standings and two wins on the year, Harvick is having a year to remember. He has missed the top-10 just twice this year, but neither of those missteps came at intermediate tracks. Also, he’s also the best Homestead racer in the field in terms of average finish, so it’s shocking that he’s won here just once — Harvick actually has a higher average finish here than Phoenix, a track he’s won at nine times.
To Finish Top-5: Kevin Harvick (-136)
If Harvick doesn’t win, he’s a sure-thing to finish top-5. He’s accomplished this feat in every Homestead race since 2014! I think this is a safer bet than taking him to finish top-3 at +120, but if you’re feeling lucky, you can play that line instead.
To Finish Top-10: Tyler Reddick (+160) — Isaiah’s Pick
Reddick is one of the best high-line racers in the sport right now. Since Homestead rewards that style of driving, and since Reddick has proven capable of top-10s at intermediate tracks, this is an easy play for me in the plus money.