Fantasy NASCAR race preview: Ford 400
It took several makeovers to get the racing at Homestead-Miami Speedway just right. After a failed attempt to produce 1.5-mile version of the rectangular Indianapolis Motor Speedway, track officials would finally settle on a more traditional oval design with progressive corner banking and flat straightaways. What stayed the same are the splashy, art deco-inspired colors used throughout the venue or the numerous season-ending races the track hosts for various forms of motorsports, including all three major NASCAR touring series.
Location: Homestead, Fla.
Drivers to keep an eye on
Even if he wasn't leading the points heading into the finale, Edwards would still be a prime choice. In seven career starts at Homestead, his average finish is a sizzling 5.7 with a pair of wins in the last three, including last year's event from the outside pole. Since loop data was introduced in 2005, Edwards' average running position of 7.7 is nearly two spots ahead of the nearest driver. Even though he only holds a three point advantage for the Cup, it will be awful difficult to keep Edwards from back flipping his way into his first championship.
While Stewart won the first two races held at Homestead, he hasn't won at the venue since the track was redesigned. Since 2003, Smoke has tallied half a dozen top-15 finishes with four top-10s in eight starts at the site. A year ago, Stewart rallied from a starting position of 31st to score an impressive eighth-place result. True told, none of the past numbers matter that much given Stewart's four Chase victories and calm approach to catching Edwards for the championship.
Over the last three starts at Homestead, Harvick has been a major player in each race. He finished as the runner-up in 2008 prior to third-place results in each of the last two years. During that time, Harvick has boosted an average running position that has ranged from fourth to ninth. While he's not the top-10 machine from a year ago, Harvick has remained solid and is a top selection for the finale.
Despite a planned departure from RCR, Bowyer has remained a consistent performer throughout the postseason. In nine Chase events, he has scored a victory and five other top-10s after failing to qualify for the championship. At Homestead, Bowyer has finished 12th or better in four of his five career starts with a single top-five. His career average running position of 13.5 is good for ninth among all drivers.
Even though Kahne did not qualify for the Chase, he has been among the best drivers of the postseason. Over the last seven races, Kahne has five top-fives and is coming off a victory at Phoenix International Raceway. He's finished sixth or better in three of the last five at Homestead while capturing the pole twice. With Red Bull still in search of a buyer to take over their NASCAR car operation, Kahne's recent performance shows the shop is fully capable of putting a contending piece of equipment on the track.
In three career starts at Homestead, Allmendinger has seen both his qualifying position and finish improve each time out. He's finished no worse than 11th in those events, including a fifth-place result in last year's finale that included an average running position of 10th. Allmendinger has now finished 11th or better over the last three races of the season, including five such finishes in the last seven. Intermediate tracks have been a strength for the Dinger so expect him to end things on a high note.
At first glance, Ambrose looks like a terrible start at Homestead due to an average finish of 34.3 in three career starts. While the Australian's best result is only 26th, the overall performance of RPM on 1.5-mile tracks suggests Ambrose could have something in store for the finale. Three such venues have hosted a race in the last six Chase events which saw Ambrose finish ninth at Kansas Speedway, fifth at Charlotte Motor Speedway and 11th at Texas Motor Speedway.
Since 2006, Truex has finished no worse than 11th at Homestead in five starts. Even more impressive, he boasts a career average running position of 9.6, second among all drivers. Truex entered last week's race at Phoenix with three straight top-10s in the Chase but finished 20th despite an average running position of 12th. After making commitments to Clint Bowyer and Mark Martin, MWR is going on all-in starting next year. Given his mini surge and history at Homestead, Truex could offer another positive sign of things to come.
Temper your expectations
This Sunday will mark the 400th career start for the elder Busch brother. However, he's been inconsistent at both Homestead and during the Chase. Last week, a fuel error cost the double deuce a shot at stealing the checkered flag at PIR after leading 57 laps late in the race. What ensued was another classic Busch meltdown over the radio en route to a disappointing 22nd-place finish. At Homestead, he's finished collected a pair of top-fives in the last five starts but also dead last on two occasions.
After winning three straight races at Homestead from 2004 to 2006, Biffle has only one top-10 in the four starts since. While his body of work at the site isn't a cause for concern, a season full of struggles certainly is. Biffle has looked a little better in recent weeks with six straight top-15 finishes, including two poles. Given his top driver status in most formats, The Biff doesn't have a ceiling worth the price.
About Eric McClung
Eric McClung has been profiled by the FSWA for covering the fantasy sports spectrum and is a two-time award finalist. He's also made several appearances in print and on radio. McClung began contributing to KFFL in 2008 and currently serves as one of KFFL's featured fantasy NASCAR experts. Follow @EricMcClung
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