It is time to crown a champion! Three Joe Gibbs Racing drivers (Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin) will join Kevin Harvick from Stewart-Haas Racing at Homestead-Miami Speedway for a battle for the Cup. Will Hamlin be able to win his first title or will we have a repeat champion for the first time under the current playoff format? It should be fun to watch. The Ford EcoBoost 400 can be seen Sunday at 3 p.m. ET on NBC.
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NASCAR will have a normal schedule this week. There will be two practices Friday. The first practice is at 3:30 p.m. ET (NBCSN) and final practice will be at 6:30 p.m. ET (NBCSN). Qualifying will be Saturday at 2 p.m. ET (NBCSN). The cars will be inspected Saturday before qualifying so we do not have to worry about any cars failing inspection and starting from the back this week. Once again we get to see two practices Friday before our lineups need to be set Saturday at 8 a.m. ET. Be sure to check the website Friday night for my updated picks.
People often say “the cream rises to the top in NASCAR races.” That statement cannot be truer at Homestead. Last year Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr., Kevin Harvick and Joey Logano were the four drivers racing for the trophy. The drivers finished No. 1 (Joey Logano), No. 2 (Martin Truex Jr.), No. 3 Kevin Harvick and No. 4 (Kyle Busch). They also combined to lead 179 laps and score 53 Stage points. The Final Four dominated the last 4 races at Homestead and it should be no different Sunday.
Race Rewind at Homestead: Ford Ecoboost 400 (2018)
Here are my picks for Homestead…
Driver Group Game A Picks
* I am out of allocations with Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick and Joey Logano. Havick would be my top pick to pair with Martin Truex Jr. if I had an allocation left with the No. 4 car.
Martin Truex Jr. (4): Truex came 10 laps short last year of winning back-to-back MENCS championships. Truex would be in the conversation with Jimmie Johnson as one of the best ever if he was going for the three-peat Sunday. The No. 19 team has had nearly a month to concentrate all of their work on their car for Homestead. The word in the garage is that Cole Pearn is preparing the car that Truex raced at Charlotte. That car led 116 laps and went to Victory Lane. It is going to be tough to beat the No. 19 team Sunday.
Kyle Larson (7): I am out of allocations with the other three championship drivers so I will use Larson this week. To say Larson loves Homestead is an understatement. He has led 50% of the laps in 2 or the last 3 races in Miami. He also has a 5th place average finishing position at the track since 2014. One of the championship drivers will likely win Sunday, but Larson will probably dominate most of the race.
Group A Driver Rankings: 1) Kevin Harvick 2) Martin Truex Jr. 3) Kyle Busch 4) Kyle Larson 5) Joey Logano 6) Brad Keselowski 7) Chase Elliott
Driver Group Game B Picks
* I am out of allocations with Denny Hamlin, Ryan Blaney, Kurt Busch and Clint Bowyer.
Aric Almirola (1): Almirola started off the season with 6 straight top-10 finishes after the Daytona 500. The No. 10 team then went into the tank for most of the season and now they are heating up again. Almirola finished 2nd two weeks ago at Texas. He also led 62 laps in that race. Almirola qualified 10th, scored Stage points in both Stages and finished 9th at Homestead last year. He is one of the best options I have left.
Erik Jones (1): Jones has not had much success at Homestead but most of his problems were the results of penalties and not slow cars. We know Joe Gibbs Racing is going to give Jones a fast car. He just needs to execute in the race. Jones finished 7th and 10th in the last two races on the 1.5-mile tracks (Kansas and Texas). I expect the No. 20 car to finish in the top 10 again Sunday.
Jimmie Johnson (1): Johnson is no stranger to Victory Lane at Homestead. The odds of him winning this week are slim but he should have a good chance to finish in the top 10. The No. 48 car has finished 6 of the last 8 races on the 1.5-mile tracks in the top 11. Johnson has said many times that he is focused on building momentum for the 2020 season. A top-10 finish will give him the momentum that he is looking for.
William Byron (4): It will not be long before we see the No. 24 car in the Final Four at Homestead. Byron is a quick learner and he continues to improve each time the Cup Series visits a racetrack. Byron has been good on the 1.5-mile tracks this season. He finished 5 of the last 8 races on tracks of this size in the top 9. He has also led laps in 8 of the 10 races on the 1.5-mile tracks. Byron should be a good pick Sunday.
Group B Driver Rankings: 1) Denny Hamlin 2) Kurt Busch 3) Aric Almirola 4) Erik Jones 5) Ryan Blaney 6) Clint Bowyer 7) William Byron 8) 9) Jimmie Johnson 10) Alex Bowman
Driver Group Game C Picks
* I am out of allocations with Chris Buescher, Matt DiBenedetto and Daniel Hemric.
John H. Nemechek (8): I am out of allocations with Chris Buescher and Matt DiBenedetto. Of course you need to use these drivers if they are available to you. I liked what I saw from Nemechek at Texas. He qualified 29th and finished 21st. He is racing all three series races this weekend so I am hoping the extra track time helps him find his groove this week. I would not be surprised if JHN gets the full-time seat in the No. 38 car for David Ragan next year.
Ty Dillon (2): I have been burned so many times by Dillon this season so why not get burned one more time before the season ends? The No. 13 team has run well in some of the 1.5-mile track races. It just hasn’t been when I have Dillon in my lineup. Dillon finished 16th at Las Vegas, 22nd at Kansas and 18th at Texas in the playoffs. I just hope he can finish in the top 20 Sunday.
Group C Driver Rankings: 1) Chris Buescher 2) Matt DiBenedetto 3) Daniel Hemric 4) Ty Dillon 5) John H. Nemechek
Driver Group Game Team
Group A: Martin Truex Jr. (4), Kyle Larson (7)
Group B: Aric Almirola (1), Erik Jones (1), Jimmie Johnson (1), William Byron (4)
Group C: John H. Nemechek (8), Ty Dillon (2)
I will post my final picks for Driver Group Game Saturday evening.
If you need any further advice with your team, look for me on Twitter @MrFantasyNASCAR
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