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Nine drivers to watch for the 2013 Ford EcoBoost 400 from Homestead-Miami

Updated on August 31, 2014
Ah, memories... where NASCAR's Chase began. Since then one driver was removed and two drivers added to this picture
Ah, memories... where NASCAR's Chase began. Since then one driver was removed and two drivers added to this picture | Source
Johnson won at Texas two weeks ago and can seal up a sixth Sprint Cup by finishing 23rd or better
Johnson won at Texas two weeks ago and can seal up a sixth Sprint Cup by finishing 23rd or better | Source

The Chase finale is upon us and NASCAR prepares to crown its tenth Sprint Cup champion under the playoff format. Despite one abominable pitstop and two dirt-track moments, Jimmie Johnson left Phoenix with a significant points lead. He needs to finish 23rd or better to clinch the title no matter what his competition does. Odds are, he's going to do it. But given the comfortable lead, it's also doubtful Johnson will follow through on his promise to go for the win- and in fact he'd be stupid to take any major chances with so much on the line. That opens the door for some other drivers, including a couple still looking for a win in 2013. Will one of the winless break through at Homestead or will we see another driver add to their victory total in the finale?


Before going any further, a quick note. We'll be looking at the statistics over the past ten races, all courtesy of racing-reference.com. Going any further back takes us into fourth generation cars and a completely different race environment in terms of competition on the track. We're also in no way advocating gambling in any way shape or form. These odds are purely for informational purposes only.


One other bonus; with Phoenix in the rear-view mirror, NASCAR's journalists can forget the word “penultimate” for another year. I don't think I read a single article or watched a single broadcast that didn't manage to work that word in somehow when describing the next-to-last race of NASCAR's season.

Harvick has won two Chase races so far and is the favorite to win a third this week
Harvick has won two Chase races so far and is the favorite to win a third this week | Source

The Favorites:

Driver: Kevin Harvick

Team: Richard Childress Racing

Odds of Winning: 4-1

After the events at Martinsville two weeks ago, it was hard to imagine Harvick having enough to stay in the race for the championship. But with his win at Phoenix, the #29 remains in mathematical contention for a title and has momentum on his side. Homestead is one of Harvick's better tracks; he has five top five and nine top ten finishes in the last ten races. His average finish is nearly six spots ahead of his start and he's finished all ten races. He also knows that the only way to beat Johnson is to run up front and hope he can force the #48 team into a mistake. Despite being further behind in points, Harvick probably has the best shot to unseat Johnson with a win in South Florida.


Driver: Carl Edwards

Team: Roush Fenway Racing

Odds of Winning: 6-1

At 6.0, no one has a better average finish at Homestead than Edwards over the last ten races (he's run nine of them).He has two pole starts, two wins, five top five and seven top tens during that timeframe and has finished on the lead lap in every race. He's also led over 23% of the laps, nearly double the next highest driver. Roush Fenway hasn't been in JGR's class at the intermediate tracks this year but that's largely been an aero problem in traffic; they've qualified well and shown plenty of power running alone. They've also been closing the gap as the season progresses and have little to lose and everything to gain at a track they've done well at historically.

Driver: Greg Biffle

Team: Roush Fenway Racing

Odds of Winning: 8-1

All of that applies to Biffle as well. He also has three wins over the last ten Homestead races compared to Edwards' two (they are the only drivers with more than one win over that time period). The only reason he's a step down from Cousin Carl is that he hasn't been up front quite as consistently. He has four top five and five top ten finishes but has led only 6.92% of the laps and also has two DNFs; those lowered his overall finish as well to a pedestrian 13.3. If he can qualify up front he'll have the clean air needed to pull away and be ahead of problems when they develop.

Biffle and former teammate Kenseth have combined for four wins over the last ten races here
Biffle and former teammate Kenseth have combined for four wins over the last ten races here | Source
Gordon won this race last season- can he do it again?
Gordon won this race last season- can he do it again? | Source

The Sleepers:

Driver: Jeff Gordon

Team: Hendrick Motorsports

Odds of Winning: 15-1

Gordon is the defending race winner but mainly a forgotten man after his struggles at Texas. He's no longer a threat to win the title from the 13th Chase slot but he'll still be a factor at Homestead. In addition to last year's win he has a total of six top five finishes over the last ten races here and has been on the lead lap in eight of those ten events. His average finish of 9.8 is also third highest overall. With Johnson largely playing a prevent defense, Gordon will likely be looking to end his year on a high note as he did in 2012.


Driver: Clint Bowyer

Team: Michael Waltrip Racing

Odds of Winning: 25-1

Bowyer is one of the drivers still looking for a win in 2013. He's won at least one race ever year since 2009 (and in every full time season at the Sprint Cup level besides that year and 2006) but that streak is in serious jeopardy. Both Bowyer and his team as a whole probably need a win more than anyone else in the garage and that need will translate to major on-track mojo. While he's winless so far at Homestead, he has four top ten finishes in seven races here and his average finish of 12.1 is sixth overall among active drivers.


Driver: Matt Kenseth

Team: Joe Gibbs Racing

Odds of Winning: 40-1

Like his former teammates at Roush Fenway, Kenseth has an excellent record at the track. He has a win, three top five and five top ten finishes over the last ten Homestead races. He's also led over 12% of the laps, second best overall to Edwards. He'll also benefit from the handling and power the JGR cars have shown all season at the intermediate tracks. Were it not for the egg the #20 team dropped at Phoenix, they'd be a favorite this weekend. But as Johnson showed last year, trying to make up a deficit in Florida after struggling in Phoenix is a recipe for failure. The team needs to remember what got them here and avoid the mechanical problems and mental errors that come with trying too hard if they want to have a shot to finish in victory lane.

Kenseth has seven wins in 35 races this season. Can he make it eight in South Florida?
Kenseth has seven wins in 35 races this season. Can he make it eight in South Florida? | Source
Sadler (right) is filling in for Brian Vickers (left) in the MWR #55 at Homestead-Miami
Sadler (right) is filling in for Brian Vickers (left) in the MWR #55 at Homestead-Miami | Source

The Sucker's Bets:

Driver: Elliott Sadler

Team: Michael Waltrip Racing

Odds of Winning: 400-1

Sadler has not had much luck in Florida of late. He's run eight of the last ten events but has the fourth worst average finish (31.1) among active drivers. Yes, that includes the start and park teams (which he generally has not been). That finish is over 11 spots behind his average start and includes only two DNFs. The six times he's finished the race include zero top tens and only two lead lap finishes. A top 20 on the lead lap would be a victory for Sadler this weekend, who still hasn't finalized his 2014 plans.


Driver: Dale Earnhardt Jr

Team: Hendrick Motorsports

Odds of Winning: 200-1

Earnhardt is another driver without a win this year but it's unlikely he'll be in the running to pick one up this weekend. At 23.8. only Logano at 24.0 has a worse average finish at Homestead among Chasers. His average start is 22.4 so at least he's not losing much on the track. Generally speaking, Earnhardt has been a step behind the competition from the first practice until the final lap. He won't be able to lean on Johnson here as the #48 usually comes into the finale protecting a lead and is doing so again this weekend. Earnhardt has only one top ten finish versus four finishes off the lead lap (only one of those a DNF). With a top five season finish on the line, the effort will undoubtedly be there for the #88 team but history is working against them.


Driver: Juan Pablo Montoya

Team: Earnhardt Ganassi Racing

Odds of Winning: 175-1

Montoya's last race as a full time NASCAR driver comes at one of his worst tracks. He's led a total of four laps over his seven races at Homestead and he has only two lead lap finishes (none inside the top ten). His average finish of 28.3 is better than only a handful of other drivers who will run on Sunday. Montoya has two likely outcomes; either he will overdrive the car in a final attempt to pick up an oval win or has already checked out mentally. Neither makes a JPM win likely as he climbs into the #42 for the final time.

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Now it's your turn!

Who will win the 2013 Ford EcoBoost 400 from Homestead-Miami?

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