Dixie Vodka 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway
The 2021 NASCAR season has gotten off to an interesting start, as Christopher Bell earned his first career trip to victory lane last week, just one week after Michael McDowell earned his first career victory in the Daytona 500. This is just the third time in NASCAR history, and the first time since the 1950 season, that first-time winners have won the first two races of the season.
This week the teams will finally leave Daytona Beach for the first time this season, but they won’t be going far as the schedule keeps the teams in Florida yet again at Homestead-Miami Speedway. This will be NASCAR team's and driver's first opportunity to see what they’ve got on the 1.5-mile oval portion of the schedule that in the past had typically dominated much of the schedule.
The Dixie Vodka 400 will be a 400-mile race around the 1.5-mile Homestead-Miami Speedway. The 267-lap event has seen Joey Logano, Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin win the last three races, respectively. This track favors drivers that are good at ripping around the high lane, as tire wear happens quickly, forcing drivers to adapt and run the high line to make good lap times.
Aside from the three drivers listed above, plenty of guys will have an opportunity to get a victory, and who knows, maybe we see a third-consecutive first-time winner. It certainly isn’t out of the question as you’ll see below.
Drivers I Like
Kyle Busch was mentioned above as one of the most recent winners at this track, taking home the trophy to close out the 2019 season while earning a second career championship. Busch has only won one race since then but has run quite consistently at this track in the past. In the past three races at this track, Busch has an average finish of 3.67 and a worst finish of sixth place. Over the course of his entire career, Busch has two wins, five top-5’s and nine top-10’s at the track in 16 races. It should also be noted that Busch leads all active drivers in laps led at the track, having led 465 career laps. He’ll be starting near the back this week, making him a good DraftKings play. He ought to have a solid run and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him pick up a win.
Kevin Harvick is the closest thing to a sure bet on a top-10 finish you can get at Homestead-Miami. In 20 career races at the track, Harvick has 17 top-10 finishes including 11 top-5’s, but just one victory. These stats give him the best career finish of all active drivers with at least five starts at the track. Harvick trails just Kyle Busch in career laps led at Homestead with 414. With a starting position in the top-10 I may pass over him in DFS and putting money down on a top-10 finish seems unappealing with current odds set at -375. See below where I plan on putting my Harvick money this week.
Denny Hamlin enters Homestead as the active driver with the most career wins at the track. Hamlin has picked up three career victories at the track, coming in 2009, 2013 and 2020. Hamlin has led 393 career laps at the track in 16 starts and sports a career average finish of 9.94. He’s not as solid of a lock for a top-10 as Harvick, but he’s in good form to start the season and will be a contender for the win. Despite starting from the pole, Hamlin is a steal in DraftKings this week at just $9,600.
Tyler Reddick is the guy that I think can surprise some people this weekend. As far as drivers that have yet to earn a cup victory, Reddick leads the field as the favorite to win this weekend. In 2018, Reddick ran away late with a win in the Xfinity Series Championship race, leading 44 of 200 laps to earn the championship for JR Motorsports. One year later, Reddick returned to the track and posted a dominating performance, starting from the pole, leading 84 of 200 laps and coming away with a victory and a second Xfinity Championship. In his first career cup race at the track, Reddick maintained a top-10 run all day. He led three laps and came away with a fourth-place finish. His 2021 season is off to a rocky start with a 27th-place finish at the 500 and a 38th-place finish at the Daytona road course, but I’m expecting a strong run from the young gun this weekend.
Kyle Larson has never won at Homestead, but this track fits right into his driving style. Larson came up through the driving ranks on dirt tracks where running the top is the norm. He’s in the best equipment of his career and has shown potential in both races to start the season despite being caught up in late-race incidents in both races. As long as he can keep the rubber on the road, Larson has dark horse potential this week. In seven career starts at Homestead, Larson has three top-5’s and three top-10’s. He has also led an impressive 325 laps at the track despite never coming away with a victory. Keep an eye on Larson this week.
Drivers I’m Avoiding
Alex Bowman has a bit of a hot and cold relationship with Homestead-Miami Speedway. In the last three races at Homestead, Bowman has an average finish of 18.67 including one top-10. That top-10 is his only top-10 at the track in six career races. Last season Bowman finished in 18th position, one lap down and was the lowest finishing Hendrick car in the race. Bowman has top-10 potential this weekend, but I’m willing to bet against that happening.
Kurt Busch hasn’t found the recent success at Homestead that his brother has. Over the last three races at the track, Busch sports an average finish of 16.00, a high finish of 10th and has not led a single lap. He was much better at the track earlier in his career, as he has one career win, four top-5’s and seven top-10s in 20 races, but none of that success has shown recently. I’ll be staying away from him this week.
Chris Buescher has struggled at Miami throughout his brief career. In five starts, Buescher’s best finish at the track is 16th. His average finish sits at 21.2 and he has never led a lap at the track. Buescher is coming off an 11th place finish at the Daytona road course but finished a lap down in 23rd at Homestead last season. In his second full season with Roush-Fenway racing, Buescher needs to show improvement, but this track does not line up with his strengths.
Matt DiBenedetto has had his share of struggles at Homestead in the past, posting a career average finish of 25.67 and a best finish at the track of 14th in six career starts. DiBenedetto’s numbers are bogged down a bit, as he was not in good equipment for much of his young career and his best finish of 14th came just last season. He could have a surprisingly good run, but I wouldn’t expect it. This team has gotten off to a rocky start this season (33rd in the 500 and 37th at the road course) and is headed to a track where the driver has yet to record a top-10. You may want to wait a few races for DiBenedetto to get in a better groove before using him.
Michael McDowell and his Cinderella-story start to the season may come to an end this weekend. Despite a win and a top-10 finish to start the season, McDowell may be in trouble this week. In 11 career starts at Homestead, McDowell has carded just one top-10 finish and just two top-20 finishes. His career average finish at the track is currently 29.73 and he has only led two laps in 11 races. If you’ve been riding the McDowell train to start the season like I have, it’s time to hop off before it’s too late.
($50,000 budget, 6 driver lineup)
Our DraftKings lineup brought home a sliver of money this week following an atrocious showing in the Daytona 500. It was far from a perfect lineup, but we still scored 236.45 points which was good enough to place in the contest I entered. All our drivers finished on the lead lap, led by A.J. Allmendinger’s 65.4-point performance in his seventh place finish. We’re going to stray away from loading up on the top of the lineup this week and try to balance out a lineup with some mid-range drivers that have a chance to run well at Homestead.
Last week: 236.45 pts.
1. Kyle Larson ($10,700)
2. Denny Hamlin ($9,600)
3. Tyler Reddick ($8,500)
4. Ross Chastain ($7,400)
5. Chase Briscoe ($7,200)
6. Ryan Newman ($6,400)
Remaining Budget: $200
Our betting card wasn’t great last week, but it could have been worse. We hit on three of our nine bets thanks to Christopher Bell bringing home the victory for Toyota and Alex Bowman picking up a top-10 finish and finishing ahead of Kyle Larson. In all, we lost just three units on the day and are still 11 units to the good on the season. Let’s try to hit big again!
Tyler Reddick Best Finish Group C (+250, 0.5 unit)
Ryan Newman Best Finish Group F (+155, 0.5 unit)
Kyle Busch over Ryan Blaney (-134, 1.5 units)
Austin Dillon over Bubba Wallace (-134, 2 units)
Kevin Harvick Top Ford (+175, 1 unit)
Tyler Reddick Top Chevrolet (+800, 0.5 unit)
Austin Dillon Top-10 (+150, 1 unit)
Kyle Busch to win (+1000, 2 units)
Tyler Reddick to win (+2200, 1 unit)
One and Done
*Rules for One and Done: Each driver can only be picked one time over the course of the season, unless you pick the race winner, then that driver can be picked again. Driver’s finishing position is the number of “points” you score each week. Goal: Finish with as few points as possible. Feel free to play along!
A.J. Allmendinger came through following an up and down day for the 16-car. Due to the team having limited owners’ points from the previous season, Allmendinger started in the back, but quickly moved his way into the top-10 and even led a handful of laps. A pit road penalty dropped him to the rear again and a flat tire with 11 laps remaining dropped him to the rear for a third time. Luckily for Allmendinger, a rash of cautions late in the race and a fresh set of tires allowed him to quickly recover and come away with a 7th place finish to give us the top-10 we had hoped for out of our part-time driver.
If you can’t tell by now, I’m incredibly high on Tyler Reddick this week, and if he finishes poorly, it’s going to be a rough week. As stated above, Reddick ran away with back-to-back Xfinity titles at this track and came away with a fourth place finish in his rookie season at the cup level (his lone top-ten of the year.) He’s a dark horse candidate to become the third first-time winner in a row this season. I’m happy to use him as my first full-time driver off the board this season.
Race Driver Finish
Daytona 500 Jamie McMurray 8th
Daytona RC A.J. Allmendinger 7th