At long last, the final race of the season is here. And while, thanks to NASCAR’s Chase, we’ve got a snoozer of a points race headed into Sunday, there’s still a lot to look forward to on-track at Homestead. Be it drivers bidding farewell to their old teams or getting a head start with new ones, the 400-miler has often seen a number of unexpected drivers at the front, with title contenders often wondering where the speed they’ve had all season went amidst a shocking slide back into mediocrity. So don’t let complacency happen to your team when you’ve got just one more race to close out a championship. Who’s got what it takes to finish strong? The Frontstretch Fantasy Insider does… for your fantasy roster, anyway.
By the Numbers
Best Average Finish at Homestead-Miami Speedway (since 2005, active drivers)
Carl Edwards, 4 starts, 4.5
Martin Truex Jr., 3 starts, 6.0
Greg Biffle, 4 starts, 8.2
Kevin Harvick, 4 starts, 8.5
Matt Kenseth, 4 starts, 8.8
Edwards has only one more shot to avoid going winless in 2009, and fortunately, it comes at a track where he’s been all but automatic throughout his Cup career. Since 2005, he has a win and a pole to his credit in the finale race, and more importantly, hasn’t finished worse than eighth. And don’t for a second underestimate how badly the No. 99 team wants to avoid being shut out this year. Carl’s got nothing to lose, and he’ll race accordingly this Sunday. – Bryan
Gordon’s Drive For Five officially comes to an end this year when the green flag falls at Homestead, unless aliens come down and abduct Jimmie Johnson before the race starts. But with that goal painfully out of reach, there is still one other the sport’s winningest active driver can still achieve this season. Homestead is the only track on the schedule where Gordon has not won a race – and the stats show he’s getting close to a breakthrough. In five of the last seven races at the track, he’s finished in the top five, with a solid average finish of 9.9 in his last 10. So expect good things again this weekend, with Gordon giving it his best shot at fixing one of the few small holes left on his resume. – Mike
Truex Jr. has made no secret of how much he wants to win one more race for Bono Manion and his No. 1 team before heading to Michael Waltrip Racing for 2010, and just this past weekend at Phoenix, he proved it’s still possible. An unexpected top-five run at PIR should provide additional motivation for this team, as well as some much-needed momentum. Couple that with Truex’s record in South Florida (three straight top-10 finishes), and he just may be the unexpected guy to finish 2009 on a high note. – Bryan
Denny Hamlin seems to have turned around his roller coaster of a year over the last few weeks. Aside from his engine failure at Talladega, he’s scored a first, a second and a third in the last three races. With nothing to race for but wins, Hamlin has seemed to be a bit more at ease the last month. Add to that two third-place finishes at Homestead in 2006 and 2007, and things look like they could be ripe for the picking for Hamlin to have a strong points weekend. – Mike
OK, so AJ Allmendinger has made only one start at Homestead. But he did finish 11th in that race last November, putting the final touches on a part-time stint that landed him a full-time ride with Richard Petty Motorsports for 2009. And don’t look now, but the ‘Dinger’s on one of those late season runs once again. A top 10 at Texas and another solid run at Phoenix this past weekend have juiced up the No. 44 team… just as ‘Dinger juiced up what was GEM’s No. 10 car last year with similar results. Expect that trend to continue on Sunday, making the No. 44 car a solid start for your team. – Bryan
Bill Elliott is once again finishing off a limited schedule for the Wood Brothers. He’s run 11 races for them this year, with four finishes in the teens. While he’s certainly not a threat to win, although he has won at Homestead before, he will generally give a solid finish and can be had for relatively little money in salary leagues. Hitch your team to the Awesome Bill wagon, and let him and his 15.9 average finish at Homestead bring you some fantasy success. – Mike
The Last Word
The only track that drivers say has truly progressive banking will give them lots of options and lots of fits. Depending on how the cars hit the turns can determine how they handle. Drivers willing to take the chances to move around the track are going to achieve greater success than those who try and make a given line work for their car. Homestead doesn’t have a tri-oval or quad-oval frontstretch, so that puts a greater premium on corner entry.
Drivers who are good at Indianapolis seem to do quite well at Homestead. Also, as we’ve harped on for 10 weeks, Chasers are Chasers because they’re good (with the possible exception of Brian Vickers this year) so load up on them if you can – although they’re not as good at this track as some of the others on the schedule.
And as another season draws to a close, thank you all for your loyal readership over the years. It is greatly appreciated by your Frontstretch fantasy “experts.”
Results of our Experts in the Frontstretch Fantasy Games
Game of Tomorrow
Bryan – 9577
Mike – 9102
Bryan – 6918
Mike – 7204
Bryan – 18121
Mike – 15931
To help the readers track how well our experts are doing, we’ll keep track of the cumulative points scored by all three drivers every week, as well as the total for the season.
Bryan – 380 12020
Mike – 413 11770