Ford Ecoboost 400 Picks

Race: Ford Ecoboost 400
Date: Sunday November 17th, 2013
Track: Homestead-Miami Speedway
Time: 3 pm ET

by Virginia Vroom, NASCAR Handicapper,

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Carl Edwards almost pulled it off last weekend. He was a lap away from taking the victory and then ran out of fuel. Kevin Harvick took advantage and the checkered flag much to the disappointment of Edwards. Kasey Kahne actually had one of his most solid runs of the Chase with a 2nd place finish while teammates Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. rounded out the top four positions. Matt Kenseth had a very discouraging run in a race that he needed to do well at. He ended up a lap down and in 23rd position before it was all said and done. He’s got an almost impossible deficit to make up this weekend as we head into Miami. It’s hard to believe, but here we are. It’s the last race of the 2013 Sprint Cup season. It seems like just last week I was beginning the season previews for Daytona. I suppose we can take a few months to recoup and catch up with the NFL. Anyway, as we head into Homestead-Miami, Jimmie Johnson is leading the points by a whopping 28 over Kenseth. Ultimately, Johnson needs to have a devastating day or else we are going to very likely see a 6 time champion before it’s all over. That being said, we still have some very good competition to look forward to as we close out this year. Kevin Harvick is in 3rd in the points and could very well come out on top of Kenseth after Sunday’s race.

Miami is a little bit of a crap shoot when it comes to races altogether. This is a pretty cookie-cutter type intermediate track, but it’s placement as the last race of the year makes the competition all the better. This track is a true 1.5-mile oval with a 1760 foot frontstretch and backstretch. The banking in the corners is progressive from 18 to 20 degrees with the straights having a mere 3 degrees. What typically wins the races for the drivers here is track position, as is key with any intermediate track. When it comes down to it, pit strategy is going to make it or break it for these guys this weekend. We saw it at Phoenix. There were literally at least 3 very clear cut pit strategies going on at a time. Some guys took 4, some took 2, and some took fuel only. Some guys ended up laps down because of it also! Homestead is going to prove much the same.

The drivers are going to be going through all kinds of strategy. This is the race where winning is everything, unless you are Jimmie Johnson. While winning is always the goal, Johnson needs to just drive a smart race and stay out of trouble so that he can be Mr. Six-time. That’s really all he’s got to do. Now, the other guys are going to want to do everything in their power to get a win. That includes everyone from Kevin Harvick to those field-fillers in the back. Sorry if that offends anyone, but the true fans know what I’m talking about when it comes to field-fillers. Regardless, this is a no-holds bar kind of race. There are going to be risks taken, not only for the win but we may also see some teams trying out new strategies for the 2014 season. There’s really no better time to test it than now.

When it comes to potential winners, there is a lot of chatter amongst the so-called or self-proclaimed experts that Jimmie Johnson is going to win this weekend. I don’t know if that’s the case. While he is a very suitable contender and could very well take the checkers, I don’t think that we should count everyone out just yet. Like I mentioned before, Johnson has a lot more to lose than anyone else here. He needs to drive a smart race. Other guys like Kevin Harvick and defending winner Jeff Gordon have little to lose and a lot to gain for trying to grab that win. In my opinion, I think that we may very well see Kevin Harvick take the win here again this weekend. He’s usually pretty hot when it comes to momentum from a previous week’s win. Not only does he have momentum, but if we simply look at his stats for Miami, it’s really no wonder why he isn’t a completely awesome pick. Harvick has been in the top 10 here for 9 out of his last 10 races. I think that he is going to be the one to beat. Another solid pick this is going to be Jeff Gordon. He is the defending champ here and he’s really had a good streak of races with the exception of only a couple in these last few weeks. Harvick, though, is my guy to beat this week. Here’s the complete rundown of your possible winners:

My Pick to Win: Kevin Harvick
Middle of the Road Pick: Carl Edwards
Dark Horse Prediction: Elliot Sadler

Sadler has done a solid job of filling in for Brian Vickers. Quite frankly, he’s probably the one with the most experience and potential from the C list this week. Carl Edwards is also another strong pick. He could come away with the win when it’s all said and done. Intermediate tracks are his style. Edwards is also one of those drivers who has nothing to lose and everything to gain by getting a win. He was close last weekend, so you can bet your bottoms that he’s going to give it his all at Homestead. Like I mentioned before, Johnson made up some serious ground and extended his lead over Kenseth at Phoenix. Barring a catastrophe, it’s pretty safe to say that Johnson is going to take the championship. That being said, there has been quite the change-up in the points over the last few weeks.

Here are your current top 13 after last week’s race:

1. Jimmie Johnson
2. Matt Kenseth
3. Kevin Harvick
4. Kyle Busch
5. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
6. Jeff Gordon
7. Greg Biffle
8. Clint Bowyer
9. Joey Logano
10. Kurt Busch
11. Ryan Newman
12. Kasey Kahne
13. Carl Edwards

Overall, it’s been a pretty crazy season this year! We’ve seen Denny Hamlin break his back, Tony Stewart break his leg, and a cheating scandal for the books at MWR. I dare to say that it can’t get any crazier than that, but there’s no telling what 2014 will bring us. I hope that you will all come back next year as we head into another awesome season of Sprint Cup racing. Until then, sit back and enjoy the race this Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway!