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2017 Ford EcoBoost 400 Preview

Race: Ford EcoBoost 400
Date: Sunday November 19, 2017
Track: Homestead-Miami Speedway
Time: 2:30 pm ET

by Virginia Vroom, NASCAR Handicapper,

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I have to say, Iím not a Matt Kenseth fan. Iíve never cared for his attitude, but I can respect his driving abilities. That being said, I was very happy to see him pull off a win Sunday at Phoenix. I didnít think heíd be in contention, but he proved everyone wrong. His last win at the track was in the early 2000s, much before the reconfiguration of the track. Honestly, heís had a very lackluster season, but heís at least gotten some redemption. His post-race interview was full of humility and gratefulness. For that, I applaud him. I am going to be sad to see him go. Iím still very surprised that he doesnít have a ride for 2018, but there certainly is a lot of young talent coming up through the ranks. Erik Jones is one of those young guns who is replacing Kenseth for the 2018 season. He proved himself worthy with a 4th place finish on Sunday too. Chase Elliott needed a win to get into the final 4, but managed another second place finish after a big brush with Denny Hamlin. Martin Truex Jr. finished third, and Kevin Harvick rounded out the top five.

Elliott and Hamlinís debacle certainly was the entertainment of the night. Denny Hamlin caught the raw end of the deal by ending up with a flat tire and a car in the wall after challenging Elliott for much of the race. Elliott was constantly behind Hamlin, running with a better car but being blocked by Hamlin. At one point, Elliott ran Hamlin hard up the wall and Hamlin came down and hit the fender of Elliottís car. Hamlinís car ended up with a tire rub and Hamlin told the media that he now knows what Elliott was willing to do to get his championship. The irony is real, folks. Hamlin raced Elliott dirty at Martinsville and got exactly the same treatment that he was given. Quite frankly, I donít think that Hamlin thought Elliott would stand up to him. Well, Hamlin, Elliottís got some news for you. Heís worthy and heís not backing down to you. Time to get with the program.

Unfortunately for Elliott, he will not be competing for the championship this weekend, but heís got nothing to be sorry about. That kid has a heck of a future in front of him and will likely be contending very strongly in the 2018 season. I mean, come one! Jimmie Johnson didnít even make the cut this year. Thatís not bad company to be with. This weekend, the drivers will be battling for the final win of the season to be handed out at Homestead. This is the weekend where there is everything at stake for the final four, but nothing to lose for the rest. Sure, a good finish always helps, but what better way to end the season than with a win? So, now you have a good majority of the field willing to put in a run testing stuff for next year, not really caring what happens, and really not caring about whether they finish 40th or 1st in this scenario. Then you have your final four that are going to have to be overly cautious but still cautiously aggressive. Itís a very fine line to tread. Homestead is not typically a track that gives the drivers too much trouble. Itís a typical 1.5-mile oval. Itís got 18-20 degree progressive banking through the turns and a mild 3 degrees on the straights.

Thinking about the winner here is almost as much of a crapshoot as trying to choose a Talladega winner. This is something Iíd rarely say about an intermediate track, but under the circumstances of a final race of the season that will determine the championship, thereís a very high level of unpredictability here. Honestly, though, I am putting my chips on Truex this weekend. How can someone win 6 intermediate track races this year, head into the championship race, and not be picked? Sure, someone could wreck him racing hard, but as an overall driver, thereís no one better right now. He will have some contention with Kevin Harvick, as heís the best active driver with his stats here. Heís actually finished third or better here in the last 3 years. Thatís not too shabby. Letís take a look at all of your potential winners heading into the final race of the 2017 season:

My Pick to Win: Martin Truex Jr.
Middle of the Road Pick: Chase Elliott
Dark Horse Prediction: Erik Jones

Jones is not the best quite yet on the intermediates tracks, but heís holding his own. Coming off a top 5 finish at Phoenix is nothing to shake a stick at either. Look for him to be the strongest in your C list garage this weekend. Now, wouldnít it be something if Elliott pulled off the win at Homestead? After losing his chance in the race before the final go-round, Iíd love to see him cap 2017 with a win. Heís had enough of second place, a strong run on the intermediates this year, and he might just pull it off with the confidence that heís gained in the last few weeks. Letís see who your guys are that are reaching for that championship. Get YOUR Ford EcoBoost 400 race predictions down at a sportsbook that takes credit cards for deposits and that will give you a 100% bonus up to $250 in free betting tickets: Bovada Sportsbook!

Here are your current top 4 after last week's race:

1. Martin Truex Jr.
2. Kevin Harvick
3. Kyle Busch
4. Brad Keselowski

Remember now, it could be a situation where none of the final 4 end up winning. In that situation, itís going to be points. This is where stage points are critical. These guys are going to have to be cautiously aggressive as I mentioned earlier. They need to get up front and stay there if they want to win this thing. Stay tuned for whatís sure to be an epic end to the 2017 season at Homestead Miami Speedway!

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