A championship contender has won the Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway ever since the current format was employed and it is beginning to look like that will continue to be the case.
Denny Hamlin won the pole for Sunday’s race with a speed of 173.980 mph and he was fastest in Saturday morning’s session as well, but the Championship Four was not far behind at any time. Martin Truex Jr. sits on the outside of the front row with Kyle Busch lining up third. Notably, both of those drivers also continued to impress in Saturday’s practice.
Hamlin certainly has a chance of playing spoiler and causing the championship to go to a non-winner. He has been solid on 1.5-mile tracks all year and is part of the same organization that fields cars for the playoff contending Busch. Hamlin has the added motivation of proving that he belongs in the finale after crashing with damage from an incident involving Chase Elliott last week at Phoenix International Raceway. Only time will tell if that will be enough to get him to Victory Lane, but his value is increased by the fact that he is not one of the contenders and is therefore much cheaper in most salary cap games.
Truex has to be the favorite to win the championship, however. His outside pole and fast times in Saturday’s morning and Happy Hour sessions—plus quick times in 10-lap averages in both make him hard to overlook. His best value to playefs will come in straight-up, pick ‘em games where salary considerations are not part of the decision process. He was second quick both times, which suggests he is going to be good on long runs.
Busch was quickest in Happy Hour’s 10-lap averages and fourth-best in the morning. He was not among the fastest in either of those sessions, however, when one looked at single-lap speed and that will certainly hurt him if the race is decided by a short run. Since players never know how a race is going to end, Busch loses some of his attractiveness as a result.
Ten-lap averages are great in helping determine who is favored. In final practice, Busch led Truex, Hamlin, and Kevin Harvick—so there were not a lot of surprises there. Even Kyle Larson in fifth cannot exactly be called a surprise, but given the troubles he has experienced in the past four races, he is likely to fly under many player’s radar screens. During the past two years, the competition has pointed to him as a favorite at Homestead. He has not yet lived up to that with a win, but he has outperformed his track average on several occasions.
Erik Jones was the quickest freshman and the rookie title is going to be his. He has outperformed lofty expectations, but has not been able to find his way into Victory Lane. That won’t change this week, but he is likely to score another top-10 and that will make him one of the better fantasy options. In the final practice, he was ninth-quickest compared to Daniel Suarez’s 25th. Jones qualified 14th—four positions behind his rookie rival, but he should be able to make up the deficit quickly.