Race: Ford EcoBoost 400
Date: Sunday November 22, 2015
Track: Homestead-Miami Speedway
Time: 3 pm ET
by Virginia Vroom, NASCAR Handicapper, Predictem.com
Well, folks, it’s almost a wrap! Dale Jr. won the race at Phoenix this past weekend after a huge rain delay at the desert of all places. Regardless, Jr. still proved that he’s a force to be reckoned with and has a lot of potential moving into the 2016 season. Overall, Phoenix was a drab race. There were few exciting moments. Kurt Busch messed up by jumping a restart and ended up going from the front row to 43rd. He ended the night well with a 7th place finish when all was said and done, but he knew he had a competitive car and one that could potentially win, so he was clearly frustrated by his own mistake.
This weekend, we round out the 2015 season at Homestead to finally crown our Sprint Cup Champion. The final four heading into this very last race include Jeff Gordon, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, and Martin Truex Jr. Who would’ve thought Busch would still be standing and guys like Johnson and Jr. would be knocked out heading this late into the season after the preceding events? It’s been a heck of a season, one filled with change, progression, and quite a few tempers. Those were still evident during the rain-shortened race at Phoenix as Carl Edwards through his umbrella on the ground once NASCAR called the race. Several drivers were still upset over the call and wanted to get every lap in. Unfortunately, Mother Nature said no on Sunday.
Homestead proves to be a track that is unpredictable. If nothing else, the top 4 drivers are going to pull out all of the punches. The best part is that nobody will hold back because the only thing anyone has to lose in the last race of the season is a win. It will definitely be exciting. Taking a look at the track, it’s a 1.5-mile oval with a very worn surface. It’s similar to other tracks like Atlanta and Chicago. Those are good comparisons for how these drivers may pan out this weekend. The turns have 18 to 20 degree progressive banking with a small 3 degrees on the straights. It’s a very typical cookie-cutter type track. That being said, track position and tire strategy are keys here. Tire strategy will play a huge role in the track position game. With the track being so worn, drivers have to mind those left side tires going into the turns, but they will also have to baby those outsides as well. Ultimately, this race is going to come down to how well these teams set up the cars to handle the abuse that the drivers are sure to lay on them on Sunday.
When we take a look at our most significant players here, we can’t ignore Kevin Harvick. He’s the defending champ and race winner here, and will be one to watch since he’s going for the same again this year. Jeff Gordon had the best car here last year but ended up with a disappointing 10th place finish. In years past, namely 2012, he won the race, so he’s definitely got this place figured out well enough to be a strong contender. The Penske teams of Logano and Keselowski will have the horsepower to get around this place well, although I suspect that Keselowski will have a better finish than Logano. Finally, in terms of Truex Jr. and Kyle Busch, they are going to be the longshots of this weekend. They aren’t the best here, but that doesn’t mean that we should count them out. Again, they’ve got nothing to lose, so with a strong car and a flawless performance on the track, these guys can’t be knocked out of the running. Here’s a look at your potential winners this weekend heading into Homestead:
My Pick to Win: Jeff Gordon
Middle of the Road Pick: Martin Truex Jr.
Dark Horse Prediction: Ty Dillon. Bet YOUR pick using your
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Interesting to note that Ty Dillon is going to give it a shot here. He’s had a solid few runs in the Xfinity series, with both a 7th and 14th place finish. I think he will finish solidly in mid-pack, which really isn’t much better than any of the other dark horses out there. Truex Jr., although a championship contender, is still a mid-pick simply because of his underdog nature. He’s running a single-car team out of Denver and has been nothing short of impressive to get this far. He will most definitely give it everything he’s got to bring home the trophy for his team. Finally, although I’m wavering in picking Gordon over Harvick, I think that Gordon’s got more passion coming into this final race at Homestead. He called this season a fairytale season after his win at Martinsville and said that Homestead was his only priority. I think that the entire HMS team will attest to their backing of Gordon, trying to ensure that he gets that championship in his last season in the Sprint Cup Series.
Again, your final four going into this weekend are Jeff Gordon, Kyle Busch,
Kevin Harvick, and Martin Truex Jr. I’m willing to bet that we will see
some hail-Mary moves along with some very competitive racing. Gordon is
in his last race of his last ever season. Harvick is trying to make it 2
in a row. Truex Jr. has a lot on the line as a single-car team. Kyle Busch
has made a miraculous recovery after missing nearly half the year due to
a broken leg. Every one of those guys has a reason and an extraordinary
one at that to really pull through at Homestead. Stay tuned as we speed
into the conclusion of the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Homestead-Miami
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