Thanks to his history of strong finishes at Homestead, Kevin Harvick earned the top spot in the driver rankings heading into the weekend. After a strong sixth-place effort in qualifying and equally strong practice times, Harvick remains atop the driver rankings heading into Sunday's Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. His 10 top-10 finishes in 12 starts at the track, including five straight finishes of eighth or better, indicate that fantasy owners will have a tough time finding a safer option to build their rosters around this weekend.
Kurt Busch: dark horse
Vaulting into the No. 2 spot in the rankings is Matt Kenseth. His title hopes are slim, but after winning the pole for Sunday's race and turning in fast laps in practice, he seems poised to end the year on a high note. Granted, Kenseth has been a little inconsistent at Homestead in his career, but he has finished in the top 15 in six of his last eight starts at the track. More importantly, he has five top-10s, including a win, during the stretch and has won more races at 1.5-mile tracks this year than any other driver.
Another driver on the move inside the top five is Martin Truex Jr. He moves up into the No. 4 spot in the final rankings on the heels of a top-10 effort in qualifying and an impressive showing in practice Saturday. Keep in mind that Homestead is probably his best track on the schedule, and in seven starts at the 1.5-mile oval since becoming a full-time Cup driver in 2004, he has a 6.7 average finish and has never finished worse than 11th. Truex looks primed to add to his excellent Homestead resume this weekend, and he should be an excellent addition to fantasy rosters in all formats.
Outside the top five, two drivers climbing the rankings this weekend are Kyle and Kurt Busch, and both land in the top 10 heading into Sunday's race. Kyle qualified 11th and had one of the fastest cars during Saturday's practices, and at Homestead last year, he led the most laps en route to a career-best fourth-place finish at the track. Meanwhile, Kurt will start on the front row Sunday, and in his last 10 starts at Homestead, he has five top-10 finishes, including a win. Given their upside, the Busch brothers could make particularly effective options for fantasy owners trying to steal a title in the final race of the season.
Greg Biffle is another driver who heads into Sunday's race with a spot in the top 10 in the driver rankings. His 16th-place effort in qualifying wasn't overly impressive, but he posted top-five times in race trim during practice Saturday. Biffle is also a three-time winner at Homestead for his career, and while he has gone five starts at the track without a victory, he did finish fifth at Homestead last fall. Needless to say, Biffle offers plenty of potential this weekend.
Fantasy owners who can afford to take some risk in the season finale may also want to consider Brad Keselowski. Despite zero top-15 finishes in five starts at Homestead, he lands in the top 15 in the final driver rankings thanks to a fourth-place effort in qualifying and stout practice times. Although the defending series champ missed the Chase, he has finished 11th or better in six of the nine playoff races so far, and he appears to have a car capable of closing the year with one more solid run.
For those fantasy owners looking for some sleeper options, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Elliott Sadler could both get the job done. Both drivers sneak into the top 20 in the final rankings after top-10 efforts in qualifying and respectable showings in practice. Neither driver has an extensive history of success at Homestead, but Stenhouse has been a consistent top-20 threat at 1.5-mile tracks in his rookie season, and Sadler has been making steady improvement since taking over for Brian Vickers in the Michael Waltrip Racing No. 55 machine three races ago.
About Brian Polking
Racing has been part of Brian's life ever since he can remember, and he spent his childhood at dirt tracks throughout Ohio and Kentucky watching his father race. NASCAR naturally became his favorite sport, and he has been following the Cup, Nationwide and Truck Series for most of his life. Brian majored in journalism and economics at Ohio State University and becoming a sports writer has always been his dream. Although he has covered everything from minor league baseball to the NCAA tournament, his passion has always been NASCAR. Brian has served as a NASCAR writer for a variety of sites, eventually becoming head editor of the NASCAR section for Fanball.com. His knowledge of NASCAR comes from his life-long love of racing, and he tries to add a personal touch to every article he writes. Brian is always up for talking NASCAR with anyone that wants to. Brian joined KFFL's team in 2011.
Don't miss these great reports....