Mike Forbes previews the NASCAR race in Miami!!
This Sunday the NASCAR Cup Series drivers head to what many would call the official start of the season. The Daytona 500, where pack racing causes some surprise finishes, along with the first road course of the season have provided some great racing and couple first times winners.
When the series heads onto the first oval that is not pack racing we will start to get an idea which cars and teams have made strides during the offseason and which teams may have lost a step.
Last year it was seemingly the Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick show. It almost seemed as if the drivers were alternating victories each week. Although neither were able to capture the championship in the end these two were the class of the field all season long.
Last June when the series last visited the 1.5 mile true oval track just South of Miami it was Denny Hamlin’s turn to capture the checkered flag. This was the first time in quite some time that the race in Homestead was not the season finale. The final race was moved to Phoenix International Raceway for 2020 and beyond while the race in Southern Florida was pushed to the first quarter of the season.
Whenever you change conditions at a track teams and drivers need to adjust keep up. The problem is that last year’s race was pushed to a much warmer mid-June. That means that the track conditions the teams were facing last year are going to be quite a bit different now at the end of February.
I believe we will see conditions more in line with what the teams experienced when they would come to the track to wrap up the season in mid-November.
I wrote last year that it was going to be interesting seeing how teams would perform when the race was not the final race of the year. Once the playoffs come around the teams in contention for the championship usually become the class of the field. For whatever reason the teams battling are the ones we see up front all race long. Now that the race is not in the Chase we expect to see some different leaders up front all race long.
That was certainly the case last year when Tyler Reddick was able to come home 4th. Last week’s winner Christopher Bell finished 8th and he will be in much better equipment this year. He same goes for Bubba Wallace who finished 13th in the 43 last year, but now that he has moved to 23XI and it’s affiliation with Joe Gibbs Racing we should expect to see better results this year.
Behind Denny Hamlin in the finishing order last year we saw the eventual series champion Chase Elliott and Ryan Blaney. Aric Almirola and Austin Dillon had great top ten finishes that foreshadowed their success for the rest of the season.
Kevin Harvick for all his dominance last year had a disappointing finish of 26th in what would be one of his worst finishes all summer long.
Of course, that was all last year and we still have not seen what the teams have for these all important intermediate tracks. We have yet to see the best from drivers and teams like Stewart-Haas and Kevin Harvick.
The one thing we do know is how certain drivers perform at Homestead Miami Speedway. Of drivers who have made more than one start at the track Kevin Harvick leads all drivers with an average finish of 7.4 in his twenty starts at the track. His also has a victory in 2016 and a runner up finish in 2019. His 26th place finish last year was the worst of his career at HMS.
Chase Elliott is right behind Harvick with an average finishing position of 8th in his five starts. Chase is coming off a disappointing finish on the road course last week and he should be highly motivated this weekend.
This track lines up nicely for his teammate Kyle Larson. Kyle has not been much of a factor in the two races so far this year but three top fives in seven starts. Kyle loves to run the high line and Homestead Miami is fast in the top groove. Kyle will be starting 17th in the field so he offers us some great value in terms of performance improvement.
This weekend also lines up nicely for Kyle Busch. Kyle’s career stats aren’t great, but in his last three races he leads all drivers with an average finish of 3.67 including a win in 2019. Kyle is another driver who hasn’t had the best start to 2021 but his talent is undeniable, and this is a track he has been getting better on as his career progresses. In addition to his win in 2019 he also won in 2015 to secure his first cup championship. Kyle is starting 24th Sunday and that gives him excellent value.
Austin Dillon is a driver I will also be looking at this weekend. He may not make it in to many of my lineups, but if he and his team can again show the strength he had last year he will become an interesting driver for the rest of this season.
The favorite for this race must be Denny Hamlin. In addition to his victory last year he also has victories in 2009 and 2013. The Joe Gibbs Racing team has an impressive roster of talent for it’s four cup cars and for each of them a case could be made to predict them as the winner. For Denny though his three wins and his average finishing position of 13.34 should put him right up there with his teammate Kyle Busch. Denny is starting on the pole so while he may be able to turn some fastest laps for us we need him to finish right where he is at to provide the most value.
One of the drivers that I will be staying away from this week includes William Byron. His average finish of 24th is less than appealing. Byron did show some improvement last year on these mile and a half tracks, but I will need to see some more this year before he cracks my lineup at a track like Homestead. His starting position of 31st is intriguing however so if you decide you want to take the risk, I can see why but you would need him to finish in the top ten to get value from him.
With only 38 drivers entered in the field a guy I like starting at the back of the field that I do like is Matt DiBenedetto. He is starting 37th and is only in front of Quin Houff. Matt’s statistics are not great here either, but we only need him to finish around the top 15 to provide enough value for us to use him in our lineups.
We talked about Tyler Reddick’s 4th place finish in his first and only race at the track here last June. Tyler is starting 35th and barring an on-track accident this looks like a must play this week. I doubt he finishes in the top four again, but he loves this track and a top ten certainly looks achievable.
Here are my rankings for this week
- Denny Hamlin ($9,600)
- Kyle Busch ($11,800)
- Chase Elliott ($11,000)
- Kevin Harvick ($10,100)
- Martin Truex Jr ($11,400)
- Joey Logano ($9,300)
- Ryan Blaney ($10,400)
- Brad Kesolowski ($9,900)
- Kyle Larson ($10,700)
- Christopher Bell ($7,600)
- Alex Bowman ($8,300)
- Aric Almirola ($7,900)
- Tyler Reddick ($8,500)
- Kurt Busch ($8,100)
- Austin Dillon ($7,700)
- Bubba Wallace ($7,000)
- Cole Custer ($6,600)
- Matt DiBenedetto ($8,800)
- Ryan Newman ($6,400)
- Erik Jones ($6,900)
- Ross Chastain ($7,400)
- Chase Briscoe ($7,200)
- William Byron ($9,100)
- Chris Buescher ($6,300)
- Michael McDowell ($6,100)
- Justin Haley ($5,300)
- Ricky Stenhouse Jr ($6,700)
- Ryan Preece ($5,900)
- Anthony Alfredo ($5,500)
- Daniel Suarez ($5,700)
- Corey LaJoie ($5,400)
- Timmy Hill ($4,700)
- Garrett Smithley ($4,500)
- Cody Ware ($4,800)
- Quin Houff ($5,100)
- James Davison ($4,900)
- Josh Bilicki ($5,000)
- BJ McLeod ($4,600)
So now let’s talk about how we want to build our lineup. I really like Denny Hamlin at the current price. The issue I have is that there is no room for error with him starting on the pole. If he has any sort of issue he will cost us points rather than gain us anything.
I am willing to bet that even with his extremely high price tag Kyle Busch will be heavily owned this week and for good reason. We discussed his success at the track earlier and the fact that he starts 24th means there is plenty of room for improvement. If you use Kyle this week you are going to have to get creative towards the bottom of your lineup.
Brad Kesolowski starting in the 7th spot is a great choice for our 2nd spot this week. I like Brad at these mile and a half tracks and the fact that he is priced under $10,000 makes him a great choice.
If you want to pay up in this position you can look at drivers like Kyle Larson who I believe will have a breakout race this week. I don’t love his $10,700 price tag, but his 17th starting position makes a heck of a case to be put in our lineups.
From here I am going to look at a driver like Matt DiBenedetto. Although his record at this track is not great, he will move quickly through the field from the 37th starting spot. His salary is higher than I would like but I cannot overlook the potential payout with him starting so far back.
I also love Tyler Reddick in the 3rd or 4th spot. I do not see him finishing in the top five again, but he could be on the fringe of a top ten and he is starting 35th. It seems like DraftKings knows where the money will be spent because they have priced his at $8,500 and again if it was not for his starting position, I would not be comfortable using him.
So now we need to look for some real value to round out our lineups. Bubba Wallace at $7,000 has a chance to be a real value play this week. We are going to see if a new team with better equipment is what Bubba needs to get himself into contention for a win this season. I also like his 19th starting spot so Bubba may be a driver to watch this weekend.
Chase Briscoe at $7,200 is another driver who could surprise this week. Chase took over for Clint Bowyer in the 14 and he has had a couple tough races to start the season. He has a premier organization backing him and it will be a matter of time before Chase breaks through.
If you are going to pay up at the top of your lineup you are going to need some super sleepers at the $6,500 and below price range.
Justin Haley at $5,300 could be a sleeper value. I do not love his 20th starting position because I believe he will finish lower than that however if he can stay in the top 25 that would be a win at that price.
Anthony Alfredo at $5,500 is another driver with sleeper value. Anthony will not jump off the page at you but if you need guys to round out your lineup at this price, he provides the best value.
This is my predicted ideal lineup on DraftKings.
- Kyle Busch
- Brad Kesolowski
- Matt DiBenedetto
- Bubba Wallace
- Chase Briscoe
- Justin Haley
Follow me @mikejforbes on Twitter for updates all weekend long.