What an unexpected start to the season! Both races at Daytona were won by drivers that had odds of 60/1 or higher. McDowell had another top 10 finish on Sunday so I will reluctantly find a spot for him in my rankings this week, although I expect him to fall back in the pack quickly.
This week we head to Miami for a lovely high tear wear oval that should bring some semblance of normality with it. Early week odds favor the usual suspects with Harvick, Hamlin, Elliott, Truex followed by the rest of the pack. I was a little surprised to see Kyle Busch (10/1) with only the 6th best odds. The Candy Man has a win, three Top 10s, and has led 143 laps in the last three races in Vice City. Three JGR teammates have the best driver rating over that span with Hamlin, Kyle, and Truex Jr. Will Christopher Bell and Adam Stevens (more on him later) join them at the front of the pack on Sunday?
- (Last Week Ranked 2) Denny Hamlin – After running a dominant Daytona 500, Denny followed that up with a 3rd place on the Road Course. With his resume at Homestead, he tops the charts this week.
- (1) Chase Elliott – Chase dominated the road course on Sunday and could have two wins already if not for some ill timed luck. What should cheer him up is he was the fastest driver last year on high tire wear tracks. He ranked in the Top 10 in all six races including third at Homestead. That data thanks to this awesome graphic by Ryan.
- (3) Kevin Harvick – Mr. Consistent got it done again on Sunday with a 6th place finish. Harvick seems to love courses that eat up tires. He hasn’t been dominant at Homestead but he’s always very good at similar tracks like Atlanta and Auto Club.
- (5) Martin Truex Jr. – Truex had the second best car on the Road Course but only managed a 12th place finish. He has zero Top 10s this year and will be looking to change that this weekend. The 19 car was fourth fastest last year on high tire wear tracks, so he has a good shot.
- (4) Kyle Busch – Do you think Kyle is kicking himself for getting rid of Adam Stevens in the off-season? Stevens put together a phenomenal car on Sunday and Busch finished 35th after taking damage on the first lap. He’s been great at Homestead and is in a bit of a prove-it spot here.
- (7) Joey Logano – Joey had a car outside the Top 20 in speed for most of the race here last year and struggled across the board on high wear tracks ranking 14th on the season. Prior to last year, he finished Top 6 in five consecutive races. Which Logano will show up on Sunday?
- (6) Ryan Blaney – Blaney is also lacking a Top 10 this year. Last year in Miami, he finished third after running in the Top 5 all day. Hopefully that means the confidence is high in the YRB camp (is he still Young Ryan Blaney at age 27?)
- (8) Brad Keselowski – Kes had a wild time on the Road Course Sunday. He blew through the bus stop twice and spun in turn 1. The broadcast said he missed turn 1 twice last year as well. Somehow all that resulted in a 5th place finish. I think it’s safe to say Brad is happy to be back on the oval this week.
- (9) Kurt Busch – Kurt ran a great race on the Road Course and ended the day in 4th place. He was pretty good on high wear tracks last year but had a few stinkers as well, including Homestead. He only has one Top 10 in his last three visits to South Florida.
- (14) Christopher Bell – Bell had a signature win last Sunday at the Road Course that made his bettors very happy (not to brag but @PJWalsh and I (@danlavoy) both gave out Bell as a winner on Twitter last week.) With his playoff spot secured, his crew may try some riskier setups in the coming months. It could be hit and miss for the 20 car, and I expect this weekend to be more of a miss. He has struggled at Homestead, even going back to his Xfinity days, he never beat Custer or Reddick here.
- (12) Alex Bowman – Bowman had a solid 10th place finish on the Road Course and has to be looking forward to Homestead. He was the second fastest car on high wear tracks last year including a win at Auto Club last spring before the pandemic changed everything. He fell off late last year in Miami, but should have a strong showing Sunday.
- (NR) Michael McDowell – McDowell has had an amazing start to the season after winning the 500 and then getting 7th on the Road Course. He’s all but locked in to the playoffs, but if he wants to move on past the first round, he will need to show continued success.
- (10) William Byron – Chad Knaus and the 24 crew struggled to find speed on high wear tracks last year, but finished the year with good runs at Homestead and Darlington. Let’s see if new crew chief, Rudy Fugle, can transition from the truck series to leading a top car in the cup chase.
- (11) Aric Almirola – AA has raced Homestead 11 times and has a best finish of 4th place with only two Top 5s. After a disappointing start to the season with 34th and 17th place finishes, this weekend doesn’t appear to be a great bounce back spot for Almirola.
- (15) Kyle Larson – Kyle had a rough day on the Road Course that resulted in a 30th place finish. He will be licking his chops to get to Homestead this week. Larson loves running the high line and ran it well last year before a late engine failure ended his day. He has three stage wins in his last three races here so look for him to be running near the front this weekend.