NASCAR Picks: Ford Ecoboost 400 at Homestead

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It seems like an eternity since speed weeks took place in Daytona back in February as now there are four drivers ready to duel for the championship here at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Brad Kesolowski, Martin Truex Jr, Kyle Bush and Kevin Harvick are the drivers that have persevered to get the opportunity to take home the Monster Energy Nascar Championship Cup hardware. Only Kyle Busch returns from last year’s championship competitors to take another shot at being this year’s champion.

Before we get to the analysis let’s take a look at the track. Homestead-Miami Speedway is a mile and a half oval that boasts 18-20 degrees in the turns and levels off to just three degrees of banking down the straightaways. It will take at least 267 laps to crown a winner of the race which doesn’t necessarily mean that the winner will be the season’s champion. Although stage points will be awarded at the end of the first two stages this will not affect the four drivers vying for the championship as they all start with 5000 points and whatever driver finishes higher is the winner. This may not seem fair to Martin Truex Jr. as one false move could cost him a championship that he surely deserves based on his performance all season.

Nascar has obviously tried to follow the lead of most other North American sports by having the champion win the ‘last game of the season’. It does go against Nascar purists as the champion used to be the driver with the highest points at the end of the season. If that were to be the case this season, Truex Jr. would have wrapped this up long before now. Ok, now let’s get down to the business.

Martin Truex Jr. ($11,100) has been inserted by Las Vegas as the favorite to win the race at 9-4 odds but is only a 7-4 favorite to win the championship. You almost have to pull for him here as he has been the most efficient driver accumulating 62.8 fantasy points per race on average which is the highest of any other driver all season. The driver of the #78 Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Boats Toyota has not led a lap in three of the last five races this season but has been able to tally six top 10 finishes in the last 10 starts here in Miami. Truex will start on the outside pole when the green flag drops this afternoon.

Kyle Busch ($10,500) is next up not only on the Vegas charts but is the second highest salaried driver in the contests over at DraftKings this weekend. The driver of the #18 M&M’s Caramel Toyota has been here before and could rely on his experience last year to bring home the hardware come Sunday afternoon. Busch won the championship here on November 22nd 2015 as he beat both Harvick and Truex Jr. that day for the title so this scenario shouldn’t be as unfamiliar to those drivers as one would think. Last week was the first time in the last 18 races that he didn’t lead a lap so expect him to fight tooth and nail to the bitter end. Busch was fast enough to qualify 3rd in today’s 40 man field.

Bad Keselowski ($9,900) has the third highest salary in this week’s contests but has only been inserted as an 8-1 favorite to win the race and is a 4-1 favorite to take home the hardware. Keselowski saw a string of three straight races finishing in the top six in Homestead come to an end last year as he was collected up in a wreck and finished 35th, which is the lowest in his last 10 starts here. The driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford hasn’t led a lap in the last two races but one thing is for sure, he will always be around at the end. In a format like this one that is all you need. Keselowski has a decent starting spot from the third row on the grid.

Kevin Harvick ($9,700) is the 5-2 favorite to win the championship but sees three other drovers ahead of him that are favored to actually win the race. Of course this doesn’t make any sense but what does make sense is that Harvick has a great chance to win it all this afternoon. The driver of the #4 Jimmy John’s Ford has racked up nine straight top 10 finishes here in Florida which is the most on the circuit over that time frame at this track. Obviously Harvick has done enough to make it through the playoff rounds so look for a little patience here when the green flag drops on Sunday afternoon. Harvick has the worst starting spot of the four championship drivers as he will start from the 9th position this afternoon.

Now that we have covered who is vying for the championship, let’s see who can help their team mate come away with the championship. The drivers will tell you that during the season it’s every man for himself but you can bet your bottom dollar that all four will get a little help from their friends. Denny Hamlin helped out his team mate in Kyle Busch by winning the pole which effectively knocked Martin Truex from the top spot and the best pit stall selection. Busch also has Matt Kenseth and Daniel Suarez to look for some help if needed. Meanwhile, Truex can look to Erik Jones to help him finish higher than the other three drivers. Brad Keselowski will call on the help of Joey Logano while Kevin Harvick can call on Kurt Busch, Danica Patrick and Clint Bowyer to get the extra help needed to win this afternoon.

Jimmie Johnson ($9,600) won the championship last year but one has to wonder how he will do with nothing on the line. He is fresh off of getting booted from the playoffs so there could surely be a letdown here. The only saving grace here is that the driver of the #48 Lowe’s Chevrolet is tied with Matt Kenseth ($9,100) and Denny Hamlin ($8,900) with seven top 10 finishes over the last 10 starts here in the Sunshine State. Hamlin is in the same boat as Johnson is as the driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota was knocked out of the playoffs last weekend. Johnson will start 22nd while Kenseth earned the fourth postion on the starting grid for this afternoon’s race.  Hamlin looks to lead a few laps as he outlasted the field to grab the pole for today’s race.

Clint Bowyer ($8,500) could be a major factor in this race if he can keep the car running up towards the front. Despite crashing out here a few years ago the driver of the #14 Haas Automation Ford had a string of four consecutive top 10 finishes here in Miami before the last two seasons. I know that may not seem like much but I am sure Bowyer would be pretty happy if he could ride shotgun while assisting team mate Kevin Harvick to his second Nascar championship.

Kasey Kahne ($7,900) has had a rough year but may be of some value here as he has not finished out of the top 20 over the last seven races. Furthermore the driver of the #5 Great Clips Chevrolet had finished no lower than 21st over his last nine starts here in Homestead until last year when he got collected in a wreck. He will start 27th and should easily finish higher than he starts on Sunday afternoon.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. ($7,800) and Danica Patrick ($6,500) are set to make their last starts here in the Sunshine State as Earnhardt is retiring and Patrick will only run the Daytona 500 next season. Earnhardt has been pretty solid over the past eight races and will start from the back of the pack but will be scored from the 24th positon with Patrick right behind him.

A.J. Allmendinger ($6,300) will start from the 26th spoy on the grid and may be able to get us some fantasy points here as he has three top 10 finishes in his eight starts he has made here including an eighth place finish last season.

That will put a wrap on another Nascar season here at Hopefully the material provided this season helped you win some cash this season as I am looking forward to next season already. In the meantime, follow me on twitter @elctrceye and good luck in your contests this weekend.