MENCS: Garage Talk Notes for Homestead


The last race of the season is here. The trend at Homestead-Miami Speedway is for the final four drivers to dominate this race. The drivers competing for the title last year finished No. 1, No. 2, No. 3 and No. 4 last year. I expect the same this week. It should be fun to see which of the four takes home the championship. The Ford EcoBoost 400 can be seen Sunday at 3 p.m. ET on NBC.


Track Notes

The cars will have the 550 HP engines with the 2” splitter, 8” spoiler and aero ducts this week. This is the same aero package they have raced on all 1.5-mile tracks this season. Kevin Harvick said on Fox Sports Race Hub, “The racing at Homestead could be a lot different this week. We usually see the top as the preferred lane but the reduced horsepower should allow drivers to run nearly wide open at the bottom too. It all depends on the grip in the track.”

Goodyear brought the same tire compound for all three series this weekend. It is different from what they used last year because the reduced horsepower should affect tire wear. It is the same tire that was used at Chicagoland Speedway and Darlington. Drivers who managed their tires well in those races should be up front Sunday.

Homestead-Miami Speedway is a high tire wear track. Managing your tires will be the key to maintaining speed in your car throughout the long run. The high tire wear tracks include Atlanta, Auto Club, Chicagoland and Darlington. Here are the drivers who ran the best at the high tire wear tracks this season…

Stats from Races on High Tire Wear Tracks in 2019

Diver Avg. Finish Laps Led

Driver Rating

1. Kyle Larson




2. Kevin Harvick




3. Kyle Busch




4. Brad Keselowski




5. Kurt Busch




6. Joey Logano




7. Martin Truex Jr.




8. Ryan Blaney




9. Erik Jones




10. Jimmie Johnson




11. Denny Hamlin




12. Alex Bowman




13. Aric Almirola




14. Chase Elliott




15. William Byron




16. Austin Dillon




17. Daniel Suarez




18. Clint Bowyer




19. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.




20. Chris Buescher




21. Paul Menard




22. Ryan Newman




23. Daniel Hemric




24. Matt DiBenedetto




25. Ryan Preece




* High Tire Wear Tracks Include Atlanta, Auto Club, Chicagoland and Darlington


Driver Notes

Chase Elliott: The No. 9 team enters the race with absolutely no momentum. Elliott finished 36th, 32nd and 39th in his last three races. It is no secret that they simply want the season to be over and move onto 2020. Homestead does rank as the third-best track for Elliott so there is some hope. Elliott made a long run in practice and told his team, “It is no surprise that we have one of our best cars once we are eliminated from the playoffs. Oh well, at least we have a chance to win tomorrow.”

Jimmie Johnson: Johnson said his goal after missing the playoffs was to build some momentum for the 2020 season. He has run a lot better then he finished in the last nine races. Johnson has finished four of the last six races at Homestead in the top nine. He needs another solid run to head into the next season with the momentum he has been looking for. Johnson made some long runs and said, “The back end is not in the track at all. It slides all over the track.” He was P21 at the time.

Alex Bowman: Bowman has been at his best on the 1.5-mile tracks this season. He won at Chicagoland Speedway and finished second at Kansas in May. He also finished sixth at Las Vegas and fifth at Texas in the playoffs. Bowman has never finished in the top 15 at Homestead so he will need to find the speed he had at the other intermediate tracks this week. Bowman was fighting a tight race car. He said, “The front turns into the corner nice but through the center and off the corner, it is way too tight. I cannot get back to the throttle as fast as the others.”

William Byron: Byron only has one race in the MENCS at Homestead on his resume. He qualified 28th and finished 24th last year. Byron is a quick learner and has improved at every track in his return visit. Byron has finished half of the races on the 1.5-mile tracks in the top 10 this season so he should have a chance to run well Sunday. Byron made some long runs and told his team, “Entry to the center is really good. It is the center off we need some more work on.” He was P29 at the time. Chad Knaus told him, “Our long-run speed looks really competitive. Good job.”

Kyle Larson: It is hard to beat the final four drivers at Homestead but if a non-playoff driver is going to Victory Lane Sunday, it will be Larson. He is the best in the series at managing his tires and he has a series-best 111.2 Driver Rating on the high tire wear tracks this season. Larson also has a series-best 190 laps led at Homestead over the last two seasons. Larson was having problems with the nose of the car hitting the track. Larson said, “I am dragging the nose and it is killing the center of the corner.” He was P8 at the time. After his last run he said, “I know the car is good. But I am just scared I am going to knock the fence down if I go to the top because the nose makes the car unstable.”

Kurt Busch: Busch enters the race at Homestead with a contract for the upcoming season or the first time in three seasons. Now Busch can focus on racing and not what his future plans are. Homestead only ranks as the 18th-best track for Busch. His average finishing position over the last four years in Miami is 13.25. Busch made a long run and said, “The front was dragging through the corner and when the air-pressure came up it was near where we need it to be.” At the end of practice Busch said, “It seems like something is really off with the suspension.”

Kevin Harvick: Harvick should be the favorite to win Sunday. He is one of the best drivers on high tire wear tracks and Homestead ranks as his third-best track. Harvick has been in the final four in the last five championship races at Homestead. His average finishing position in these championship races is 2.6. Harvick worked on “Hooking the bottom line” and said his car was a little snug. They were working on their long-run speed. Midway through practice Harvick told his crew chief, “Keep going in the direction we are heading with those adjustments. The car is about where we need it to be Rodney.”

Clint Bowyer: Bowyer has been tough driver to trust this season. He either runs near the top 5 or outside the top 15. Bowyer spent most of his practice session working on setups to help his teammate (Kevin Harvick) win the championship. Bowyer learned a lot of tire management from Harvick so he could have a good run Sunday. His average finishing position at Homestead since joining Stewart-Haas Racing is 10th. Bowyer was fighting a tight race car in practice. He made three long runs and said, “I really have to back off the throttle on center-off.”

Daniel Suarez: Suarez found out this week that he will be replaced in the No. 4 car by Cole Custer in 2020. How focused will Suarez will be on this race is the question this week. The No. 41 team said they will spend all of their practice time trying to dial in a setup for Kevin Harvick’s car. Suarez has two races in the MENCS at Homestead on his resume and he finished 30th and 34th. Not too good. He did win the race in Miami in the Xfinity Series. Suarez made some long runs. The team told him to “manage his tires.” They were working on their long-run speed. Suarez was P13 on the speed chart after his long run.   

Aric Almirola: The No. 10 team joined the rest of the Stewart-Haas Racing teams in trying to dial in a setup to help Kevin Harvick win the race Sunday. Each SHR team used a different setup in the first practice. The teams then convened between the practice sessions and work on the setup that they thought was best. Almirola has run well at Homestead since joining SHR so he should be good this Sunday. Almirola tried running the top of the track and he said the car was too loose. He said, “It is numb in the middle of three and four and wags the tail in one and two. I am scared I am going to snap the back around and crush the it on the exit.” The team worked to tighten him up.

Brad Keselowski: Keselowski told MRN radio after the race last week, “It sucks we are not competing for the trophy next week but it is important that a Ford wins the championship. We already lost the manufacturers championship so we need to ensure Harvick wins the season championship.” Keselowski is one of the best drivers on high tire wear tracks so the No. 2 car should run in the top 10 Sunday. Keselowski started running the bottom and then switched to the top lane. He told crew chief Paul Wolfe, “It came to life after five laps.”

Joey Logano: Logano entered the race last week with a 22 point lead over Denny Hamlin for the final playoff spot and an underinflated tire ruined his day. You would think that the No. 22 team would still be crushed by the disappointment from last week and not focused on the race at Homestead but that does not seem to be the case. Logano said he has a $150K sponsor bonus if he can win the race Sunday. That has to have him motivated to run well. Logano was running the top of the track and the team told him, “Bring it in. We will try the setup the No. 2 car has.” Logano went back out and said, “We nailed it. Good job guys.”

Ryan Blaney: The No. 12 team enters the race Sunday with a lot of momentum. Blaney finished fifth, eighth and third in the Round of 8. Blaney led 62 laps and finished second in the last race on a 1.5-mile track (Texas). Blaney qualified 15th and finished 17th in this race last year. The No. 12 team is running a lot better now than they were at the end of the 2018 season. Blaney had the same speed as his teammates. I expect that all three Team Penske cars were using the same setup. Blaney was P6 after his second long run.

Paul Menard: This is the last race for Menard as a full-time driver in NASCAR. The trend at Homestead with drivers retiring after the race is that the drivers perform very well. Matt Kenseth finished 6th and Jamie McMurray finished 18th last year in their final race. I expect Menard and the No. 21 team to perform well Sunday. The crew chief for the No. 21 team spent a lot of time talking to the No. 22 car’s crew chief and engineer. I expect Menard is using the Team Penske setup. He was P12 on the speed chart.

Kyle Busch: Can Busch win his second championship? He will likely need to win the race in order to win the title but Busch has not been to Victory Lane since the June race at Pocono (22 races ago). This is the fifth time Busch has been in the final four and not considered the favorite. His average finishes in his final four races is fourth. The No. 18 car unloaded with a lot of speed. Busch went straight to the top of the speed chart which is big for this team because they typically do not unload with the fastest car. His attitude sounded a lot more positive than I have heard it in a long time. Maybe the “old Kyle” is back this week.

Erik Jones: Jones is the only driver for Joe Gibbs Racing not competition for the championship Sunday. The team used Jones as a Ginny Pig in practice. Competition Director for Joe Gibbs Racing (Jimmy Makar) was meeting with the championship teams and then relaying messages to the No. 20 team and trying a new setup. Jones should have a fast car as a default of working with three championship teams this week. Jones made three 18 lap runs. Each had different setups. His best setup put him P9 on the speed chart.

Denny Hamlin: Hamlin has a lot going for him Sunday. He enters the race after winning last week at Phoenix. Hamlin also has more wins at Homestead than any other driver in the series. The No. 11 car has finished five of the last six playoff races in the top five. Hamlin unloaded with similar speed as his teammates. He did say the car was, “a little tight off the throttle.” They brought him in and Hamlin said it was better. Hamlin did miss the entry to pit road twice in practice. It is better he figures that out in practice then having it happens Sunday.

Martin Truex Jr.: The casinos in Las Vegas list Truex as the favorite to win at 11-4 odds. The No. 19 team locked up their spot in playoffs three weeks ago with their win at Martinsville so this extra time should help Truex run up front Sunday. Truex has a series-best 8.3 average finishing position on the 1.5-mile tracks this season. Ttuex has finished first and second in the last two championship races at Homestead. The No. 19 car had a very similar setup as the No. 18 car. Truex went to P2 on the speed chart after his first run. They really liked their car. With 10 minutes left in practice Truex said, “I am not sure what else to try. It feels really good.” Crew chief Cole Pearn told him, “Let’s put some new tires on it and just shake it down one more time.”

Matt DiBenedetto: This is the last race for DiBenedetto in the no. 95 car before he takes over for Paul Menard in the No. 21 car for the Wood Brothers. DiBenedetto has not been very good on the 1.5-mile tracks this season but the team found some speed in the playoffs. DiBenedetto finished 15th at Kansas and 14th at Texas. The crew chief for the No. 95 team spent a lot of time talking to the Toyota engineer for Joe Gibbs Racing. DiBenedetto was trying some setups for the JGR cars. He must have hit on something because DiBenedetto was 11th on the speed chart.

Daniel Hemric: This is the last race for Hemric in the No. 8 car before Tyler Reddick takes over in 2020. Hemric found out this week that he will drive the No. 8 car for Junior Motorsports in the Xfinity Series in 2020. Hemric has a 9.9 average starting position and a 22.2 average finishing position on the 1.5-mile tracks this season. The negative place differential points kills his value in DFS games. Hemric is one of the underrated drivers when it comes to managing his tires. He made some long runs in practice and was P16 on the speed chart.

Austin Dillon: Dillon has underperformed all season so there is little reason to believe he will run well Sunday. Dillon has an 8.5 average starting position and a 19.6 average finishing position on the 1.5-mile tracks this season. He has no value in DFS or other games that award drivers for position differential.

Ty Dillon: Dillon was horrible on the 1.5-mile tracks throughout the regular season and then the team received some extra sponsorship at the beginning of the playoffs. This money allowed the team to scan their cars before they arrived at the track. This help the team unload with more speed. Dillon finished 16th (Las Vegas), 22nd (Kansas) and 18th (Texas) in the three playoff races on the intermediate tracks. Dillon made some long runs and he said, “It felt like those adjustments help my grip. It is still too tight in the center.” Dillon was P25 at the time.

Chris Buescher: This is the final race for Buescher in the No. 37 car before he takes over for Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in the No. 17 car for Roush Fenway Racing. Buescher has had a very good season and I expect the team to be motivated to have one more solid finish before Buescher leaves the team. Buescher has a 24.2 average starting position and a 14.1 average finishing position on the 1.5-mile tracks this season. This makes Buescher one of the best value picks in DFS this week. Buescher made some long runs and said, “It is still a little tight but I can run it wide open all the way around the track.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.: This is the last race for Stenhouse Jr. in the No. 17 car before he moves to the No. 37 team to take over for Chris Buescher. Stenhouse has been a mediocre driver on the 1.5-mile tracks and that is probably the reason why he lost his seat. Stenhouse has a 13.1 average starting position and a 16.2 average finishing position on the 1.5-mile tracks this season. Stenhouse would need to qualify outside the top 20 to have any value in DFS this week. Stenhouse made some long runs and said, “Drive off is good. The entry is doesn’t load enough. We need to work on the balance some more.” Stenhouse was P23 at the time.

Ryan Newman: Newman really brought the No. 6 car to life this season. He has been one of the best value picks in DFS because of his ability to finish higher than where he starts the race. Newman is good at managing tire wear so he should be able to finish higher than he qualifies once again Sunday.

* Both MENCS Practices were rained out Friday. NASCAR decided to replace the Saturday qualifying session with a 50 minute practice session. The starting lineup for the Ford EcoBoost 400 was set by owner’s points. Newman worked on his long-run speed and running the wall. He was P22 at the time but Newman always races better then he qualifies.


Ford EcoBoost 400 Starting Lineup


Favorites to win Sunday: Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex Jr., Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Kyle Larson, Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski


Good Sleeper Picks: Ryan Blaney, Clint Bowyer, William Byron, Erik Jones, Chris Buescher, Matt DiBenedetto, and Daniel Hemric



MENCS Final Practice Speeds


MENCS Final Practice 10-Lap Avg.Speeds



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