Fantasy NASCAR preview: Ford 400

by C.J. Radune on November 18, 2009 @ 00:00:00 PDT

 


Homestead-Miami is the only track on the Sprint Cup circuit with variable banking. That means the banking on the track is gradually increased from 18 degrees on the bottom to 20 degrees at the top. Theoretically, this creates multiple lines for cars to run and promotes three-wide racing. In practice, it has proven to be a risk to run more than two-wide. The track recently was repaved with new asphalt, which has caused tire blistering and, in turn, has led to cautions. Additionally, the Florida heat, even in the fall, can make the track slick. The graduated banking has made Homestead a faster track than it was prior to 2003, when it was one of NASCAR's flattest tracks with 6-degree banking. With drivers staying on the throttle around the track, cars run high RPMs and blown engines can be a factor.

Homestead-Miami Speedway has been a great arena for Roush Fenway Racing. The teammates have won each of the last five races at the track. Those wins haven't stopped other teams from winning the championship though.

Location: Homestead, Fla.
Shape: Oval
Length: 1.50 miles
Laps: 267
Turns 1-2: 18-20 degrees
Turns 3-4: 18-20 degrees
Front stretch: 3 degrees
Back stretch: 3 degrees

Drivers to keep an eye on

Carl Edwards | No. 99 Aflac Ford | Roush Fenway Racing

Edwards has endured a rough Chase for the Championship in 2009 with just two top-10 finishes in the nine Chase races so far. Edwards might be able to finish the season on a high note at Homestead-Miami Speedway after going winless to date. His Homestead finishing average is fantastic. In five starts his average finish is 6.4 with a win, three top-fives and four top-10s. Roush Fenway Racing drivers have won the last five races at the track with Edwards taking the latest. Look for all of the Roush boys to be competitive, but Edwards, in particular, will be looking to win at least one race this season.

Martin Truex Jr. | No. 1 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet | Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing

Despite ranking just 23rd in the season points as the season closes, Truex has stepped up his performances. He scored his first top-five of the season and another top-10 in the last five races. He has five top-10 finishes to his credit with one race left to run. Truex's average finish through four career starts at Homestead is 12.5. Truex has led two of those four races and finished outside of the top 10 just once, his first attempt at the track. Truex can hustle his way around the Florida oval; with his form on the upswing as the season closes, he could be a solid selection for fantasy rosters this weekend.

Matt Kenseth | No. 17 DeWalt Ford | Roush Fenway Racing

Two seasons ago Kenseth won the Ford 400 after starting fourth. Last year he started the race third, and led 73 laps, but finished a disappointing 25th. Among those races, Kenseth led 287 of the last 534 laps run at the Homestead-Miami Speedway. Had it not been for bad luck Kenseth may have earned a repeat win in the 2008 Ford 400. He heads into this weekend with an average finish of 10.8 in the last five Homestead races, with a win, a top-five and another top-10 finish. Statistics as attractive as those are make Kenseth a driver that fantasy owners should consider selecting this weekend.

Kevin Harvick | No. 29 Shell/Pennzoil Chevrolet | Richard Childress Racing

Three of Harvick's eight top-10 finishes this season have come in the last eight races. After suffering through a miserable season, Harvick's fortunes seem to have turned around as the races have wound down. His average finish in the last five Homestead starts is 8.8 with a career average finish of 9.1 through eight starts. Only twice has Harvick finished outside of the top 10 at Homestead. Richard Childress Racing has progressed in addressing their 2009 struggles, and the results have begun to show. Harvick should be the top Richard Childress Racing driver in fantasy consideration for this weekend's Ford 400.

Greg Biffle | No. 16 3M Ford | Roush Fenway Racing

Biffle has been dominant at Homestead-Miami Speedway, winning three of the last five races at the track. He ranks seventh in NASCAR Sprint Cup points heading into the final round of the season and will be looking to turn on that Homestead magic again. His average finish at the track in the last five races is 6.8. His worst finish in that time was 18th in last year's Ford 400. While Biffle doesn't have the recent momentum at the track as his teammates do, he has run consistently and put up some solid numbers in the Chase. Look for Biffle to close the season with yet another solid points finish.

Temper your expectations

Kurt Busch | No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge | Penske Championship Racing

Busch was fixture at the front of the field the last few races, scoring four top-10 finishes in the last six races. He worked his way to fourth in the Chase with just the Ford 400 left. While Busch is not to be overlooked, fantasy owners should recognize his up and down results at Homestead. His three top-fives in the last five Homestead races are split by three finishes of 36th or worse. His average finish in the last five Homestead runs is 25.8 with two DNFs resulting in 43rd-place results. While Busch could be solid, trouble also finds him and that might be too much of a risk for fantasy owners looking to wrap up their own championships.

Brian Vickers | No. 83 Red Bull Toyota | Red Bull Racing

After working so brilliantly to make the Chase, Vickers' results have fallen off of a cliff. His best finish since the Chase began is 11th, which he did twice. His average Chase finish through the nine events so far is 24.1. His average finish through five races at Homestead-Miami Speedway is 31.2. Those numbers are not encouraging. Vickers has also never scored a top-10 finish at the Florida oval, and his best finish at the track is just 18th. Vickers is not the picture of reliability in the fantasy world this weekend, and owners should avoid choosing him if possible.

Kyle Busch | No. 18 M&M's Toyota | Joe Gibbs Racing

Busch is looking to land the 13th-place result in the NASCAR Sprint Cup points and the bonus that comes with it. After a slow start this season, Busch has come on strong in his usual fashion. With a 45-point lead over Matt Kenseth he may take that 13th position; however, Busch hasn't excelled at Homestead. Busch's average finish in four career Homestead starts is 29.5. That is a very disappointing number knowing that his average start is 8.3. His best finish at the track was the 19th-place run he turned in last year. Busch will have his work cut out for him to top Kenseth this weekend, and fantasy owners may want to place their hopes somewhere more statistically reliable this weekend.

Jeff Burton | No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet | Richard Childress Racing

Burton is in the process of bringing his season to an end on a high note. He picked up two top-fives and three top-10s in the last three races from below-average starting positions. Burton has been disappointing at Homestead in the past, though. His average finish through the last five Homestead races is 24.6, with a best finish of eighth in the 2007 Ford 400. This may not be the weekend to completely ignore him due to his recent string of top finishes, but Burton has disappointed at Homestead as of late. He could still turn into a solid third driver for your lineup, though.

Ryan Newman | No. 39 HAAS Automation/U.S. Army Chevrolet | Stewart-Haas Racing

Newman has had a strong first season with Stewart-Haas Racing, but he hasn't matched his teammate and boss, Tony Stewart. Still, five top-fives and 15 top-10s with a spot in the Chase is a good season by most accounts. Newman holds ninth in the standings with the last race to run, but he will need to step up his Homestead performances to help retain that points position. His average finish in the last five Homestead races is 19.8 with just one top-10. In total he has just two top-10 results at the track. Fantasy owners who have played Newman to their advantage this season should look for a driver with better Homestead results than Newman this weekend.

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About C.J. Radune

Radune has been a KFFL contributor since January 2008.

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