Fantasy NASCAR Predictions: Homestead – Ford 400 (Chase Race #10) (Post Qualifying)
And The 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion Is…..
Three points, two drivers, one champion. Carl Edwards started off this weekend being fast in practice, and brought that over into qualifying where he won his third and final pole for this 2011 season. Martin Truex, Jr. will start beside Cousin Carl on Sunday, and for the full starting lineup all you have to do is click here. Also, my Practice Breakdown for the Ford 400 can be found by clicking here. If you have any questions or would like my opinion, you can leave a comment on here, but there’s a chance I won’t see it. E-mails go directly to my phone, email@example.com , so feel free to shoot me a message and I’ll be sure to get back with you ASAP.
Also, one final thing: I would like to take the time to thank everyone that reads these articles I put up, and I hope you continue to come around next year. I have some plans to make them more visually appealing, and I am open to suggestions as to how to make them better. Just leave a comment if you can think of something. Thanks again, good luck this week, and I hope you have a great off-season. — Jordan
Breaking Down The Chasers:
Carl Edwards – This would be an interesting battle if the points between Edwards and Stewart were switched around, but they’re not and I expect Cousin Carl to dominate this race for the second year in a row and bring that Sprint Cup championship back to Roush Racing. Edwards’ average finish at Homestead is 5.7, he will start from the pole on Sunday, and after running just three laps in Happy Hour, this team was done. Although that isn’t really much out of the ordinary from Carl, he has a fast car, he knows it, and all he’ll have to do on Sunday is execute. He should lead early and often in this year’s Ford 400, and I personally think he is in a league of his own this weekend. Carl is racing the same car from Texas a couple weeks ago, where he finished 2nd.
Tony Stewart – I’m going to give “Smoke” the nod for a top 5 finish on Sunday simply because of how great he has been in t he Chase, but I just don’t see him competing with Edwards, although Stewart’s ten-lap average in first practice was right on par with Cousin Carl. Mr. Runner-Up (yes, I’m already saying it) won in his first two starts at this track, but since then has an average finish of just 14.7. He still should be a great pick on Sunday, though, and if Edwards somehow screws up, Stewart will be there to take the championship. I’ll say a lock for a top 10 with a top 5 a great possibility for “Smoke” on Sunday.
Kevin Harvick – I’m really confused as to why Gil Martin is no longer going to be Kevin Harvick’s crew chief next season, but that’s off-season talk to I’ll wait until then to discuss that. As far as the race this Sunday, “Happy” will start in 21st, which is actually a little out of ordinary for Harvick here considering he has four top 10 starts in the last five races. Don’t let the starting position fool you, though: the #29 should still be a solid pick for a good run anyway. Statistically, this is Harvick’s best track on the circuit (7.9 average finish), although he has never visited victory lane. I don’t think that will change on Sunday, but a solid top 10 isn’t out of the question and maybe even a top 5, where Harvick has finished in four of the last five races here. The #29 Chevrolet was 3rd on the ten-lap average chart in Happy Hour and 7th on the overall chart.
Brad Keselowski – I said I would jump off the Brad Keselowski band wagon if he had another bad finish last weekend, so I’m off of it, but I still think he has a shot to put together a good run this Sunday in Homestead. Bad Brad has made three career starts at this race track, and after finishing mid-twenties in the first two, he finished 13th in this race last season after started 18th. He qualified 5th on Saturday, right behind his team mate, and the Blue Deuce was 4th on the ten-lap average chart for Happy Hour. Interesting… He won’t stay in the top 5 but a solid top 15 should be expected out of Keselowski–maybe a top 10–but I’ll say a top 5 is out of reach for this team this weekend.
Jimmie Johnson – This team is completely out-of-whack in my mind, and although JJ put his #48 Chevrolet in 9th during qualifying, I think a top 5 is completely out of reach for this team, and a top 10 may end up being so as well. I’m not going to go into detail about how disappointing “Five Time” has been during the Chase this year, but Johnson was 8th out of 11 cars in first practice in terms of ten-lap average, and in Happy Hour he was 11th out of 23. Nothing for the competition to be scared of in my eyes. Johnson ended up 25th on the overall average speed chart, and although he has just one finish outside of the top 10 in the last five races here (a 15th in 2008), I think this team has packed it in for the season and Jimmie will end up in the teens on Sunday. If you want to do a fantasy hail mary this weekend (details here), my number one suggestion would be taking the #48 off of your roster.
Matt Kenseth – I haven’t heard much about Matt Kenseth all weekend, which is a bit surprising, and going off of past experience, usually means he will have a good race. He qualified his #17 Ford in 6th-place for Sunday’s event, and Matt was even 5th on the ten-lap average chart for Happy Hour. This track has been kind to him some years (from 2005-2007 Kenseth finished 3rd, 6th, and 1st), but he also has five finishes outside of the top 20 in eleven career starts at Homestead. If Brian Vickers doesn’t wreck him or if he doesn’t lose his brakes, I think Kenseth should finish top 10 on Sunday, and could even pull off a top 5. He ended up 11th on the overall average speed chart for the two practice sessions this weekend.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. – For a second there I thought that Earnhardt, Jr. would take the pole from Carl Edwards in qualifying, but then I remembered who was driving that #88 Chevrolet. Still, 11th isn’t bad for Junior considering his average starting position at Homestead is 20.7. NASCAR’s golden boy ended up 2nd on the overall average speed chart this weekend and after having the best ten-lap average in first practice, Dale posted the 7th-best in Happy Hour. In eleven career starts at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Junior’s best finish has been 13th (which came back in 2000), but I fully expect him to better that this weekend and he is definitely my number one sleeper choice for Sunday.
Kurt Busch – I wasn’t really expecting to see Kurt Busch put down a good qualifying lap considering he wasn’t in the top 25 during either practice session, but the Double Deuce will roll off the grid in 4th to start the 2011 Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Kurt ended up 16th on the ten-lap average chart in Happy Hour, but I’m not going to be surprised at all if ends up in the top 5 when it’s all said and done on Sunday. Remember what I said about the elder Busch brother in my Preview? If not, here it is: “If you’re someone who notices patterns and makes fantasy decisions based on them, then Kurt Busch would be a perfect pick for you this weekend. Since 2001, the elder Busch brother has posted a top 5 finish in every other race at Homestead. For example, he finished 4th in 2009, 2nd in 2007, 5th in 2004 (he didn’t race in 2005), and won the race in 2002. Last season, Kurt ended up 18th, and finished 43rd in 2008 as well as 2006. In 2003, he ended up 36th.” Also, Kurt Busch has started three races at Homestead in the top 5, and finished in the top 5 in each of them as well.
Ryan Newman – “The Rocketman” didn’t make my top 15 ranking in my Preview this week for a reason. He’s terribly average at this track (average finish of 19.1) with a few bright spots on his resume (top 10 finishes in 2002, 2005, and 2010). He will start the Ford 400 in 14th and that’s pretty much where I think he’ll end up as well. Newman was 8th on the ten-lap average chart in Happy Hour and 8th on the overall average speed chart, but he’s been a teens driver on the intermediates this season and I don’t expect that to change with the last race.
Denny Hamlin – I like Hamlin for a top 15 this weekend, and maybe even a top 10. He was 13th on the ten-lap average chart in Happy Hour and will start Sunday’s event in 10th place. This isn’t his best track, but Denny does have three top 5 finishes in the last five Homestead races (including a win in the 2009 event), and this starting spot he has for Sunday is by far the best of his career. Previous best you may ask? 25th.
Jeff Gordon – I haven’t kept my eye on Jeff Gordon very much this weekend, which has actually turned out to be pretty foolish. He had the best ten-lap average during the Happy Hour practice session and ended up 15th on the overall chart, which is actually pretty good for him. At Homestead, Gordon has an average finish of 11.8 in twelve career starts, and although he has never won here, Jeff has finished 6th or better in three of the last four races. This team stumbled last weekend in Phoenix but I expect Gordon to bounce back with a top 10 on Sunday.
Kyle Busch – I’d avoid Kyle Busch this weekend simply because of the engine issues, but he also hasn’t showed much speed, either. “Rowdy” qualified in 19th on Saturday (a little worse than his career average of 19th) and he couldn’t manage to break the top 15 in either practice session. On the overall speed chart, Kyle ended up 14th, and on the ten-lap average chart in Happy Hour he was 12th. His average finish here is 26.3, and although I do expect him to improve that on Sunday, anything higher than a 9th or 10th would really surprise me out of this #18 team.
“Non-Chasers” I Have My Eyes On:
Martin Truex, Jr. – It’s hard to even consider Truex as a sleeper when the series visits Homestead. He has finished 11th or better in each of the last five races here and even led 62 laps here in last year’s season finale. He’s going to start the Ford 400 in 2nd-place and I expect him to run top 10 all day at least. Martin was in the top 13 in both practice sessions (one lap speed) but didn’t blow anyone out of the water when averages were taken into account (22nd on the overall average speed chart). The #56 Toyota ended up 6th on the ten-lap average chart in first practice, and I hate to use the word “lock” with this guy, but Truex should finish top 10 on Sunday.
Kasey Kahne – Remember a few months ago when Brad Keselowski was the hottest guy on the circuit, and it was the dumbest move you could make benching him? Fast forward to now, and Kahne is the exact same. He’s the series’ most recent winner (you should know how much I like them) and has six finishes of 6th or better in the last seven Sprint Cup events. Kasey was 3rd on the average speed chart, and although he has been hit-or-miss at Homestead (three top 6s compared to four finishes of 16th or worse), I expect him to end this 2011 campaign at Red Bull on a high note, and he very well could do what Carl Edwards did last season and win at Phoenix and then Homestead.
Greg Biffle – The Biff didn’t run ten consecutive laps in either practice session on Saturday, which isn’t extremely important, but I still like the see it. He qualified 8th, though, and does have three victories at Homestead in nine starts. His average finish in those six other races, though? 19.2. This is a Ford track, though, and Biffle was 10th on the overall average speed chart, so if this team can put together a full race I see a top 10 as a possibility for them.
A.J. Allmendinger – With an 8.7 average finish at it, Homestead-Miami Speedway is Allmendinger’s best track on the circuit, and although he didn’t blow anyone away in practice (24th on the overall average speed chart, 14th in Happy Hour in terms of ten-lap average), I still think a top 10 is a good possibility out of him. A.J. has been one of the most consistent drivers in the series recently, with five finishes of 11th or better in the last seven events. He finished 5th here last season and will roll off the grid in 12th in the Ford 400. They just seem a tick off to me going into the race for The Dinger to post a second top 5 at this track on Sunday.
David Ragan – He’s racing for a ride next season and this is definitely a track that favors Ford, so if you want to go off of that then be my guest and pick Ragan. He had the best average speed of the weekend but ran only 44 laps, which could mean that his #6 Ford is just really good. David qualified 13th for Sunday’s race, but he always seems to do a good job in qualifying here: in three of his four starts at Homestead, Ragan has started in the top 10. He finished 10th here in 2007 but his best finish at this track since then has been 20th. I can see why people would pick him this weekend, but I’m going to pass.
Clint Bowyer – In his last race with Richard Childress Racing, I’m sure Clint will want to go out on a high note, so let’s hope Richard isn’t pissed off that he’s leaving and give Bowyer some equipment that’s going to break down mid-race because the #33 Chevrolet looks pretty sporty. Bowyer was 6th on the average speed chart, ended up in the top five in both practice sessions in terms of ten-lap average, and has finished 12th or better in four of the last five Homestead races. He has been great in this Chase and if everything goes right on Sunday, we may be seeing Bowyer in victory lane on Sunday.
Trevor Bayne – It’s really peculiar to me just how consistent Trevor Bayne is on these intermediate tracks in the Sprint Cup series. He generally qualifies right around 20th or so (which he did for this race) and usually finishes right around there as well. Bayne’s average speed would have been good enough for 12th on the overall chart if he wasn’t a go-or-go-homer. I like the kid to get a solid top 25 finish, and may creep into the teens if he stays on the lead lap during a long, green flag run.
Landon Cassill – If you want to dive extra deep this weekend (hail mary), don’t be afraid to give Landon Cassill a shot. He qualified for the Ford 400 in 22nd spot and was in the top 10 in both practice sessions (one lap speed). Landon had a ten-lap average better than Jeff Gordon in the first session and was 20th on the overall average speed chart. Heck, if I could get a top 20 out of Cassill this weekend, I’d be thrilled, and I definitely think it’s possible. Remember, he finished 12th at Michigan in June, and 17th at Kansas in October.
Should challenge for the win: Carl Edwards and Kasey Kahne.
My favorite sleepers: Landon Cassill (top 15), Dale Earnhardt, Jr., and Clint Bowyer.
Those I will avoid: Joey Logano (like the plague), David Reutimann, and Jeff Burton.
Many will pick ____, but I won’t: Jimmie Johnson and David Ragan.
My Yahoo! starters: Carl Edwards, Martin Truex, Jr., Kasey Kahne, Trevor Bayne
My Yahoo! bench: Kyle Busch, A.J. Allmendinger, Ryan Newman, Paul Menard