Ford EcoBoost 400 Preview

hi-res-156526618_crop_northA new Sprint Cup Champion will be crowned on Sunday — Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth or Kevin Harvick — when the NASCAR season concludes at Homestead-Miami Speedway for the Ford EcoBoost 400. Johnson, seeking his sixth career points championship, leads Kenseth by 28 points and Harvick by 34 points. This 1.5-mile, oval intermediate track was completed in 1995 with 18-20 degrees of banking on the turns, but just four degrees of banking on the straights. The frontstretch and backstretch both measure 1,760 feet (one-third of a mile). Jeff Gordon is the defending champion of this race. Drivers to Watch Carl Edwards (18/1) – Edwards has been outstanding at this track in his career with an average finish of 6.0 in his nine Homestead starts. This includes two poles (2005 and 2011), two wins (2008 and 2010), and three other top-5 finishes (2nd in 2011, 4th in 2005 and 5th in 2007). Edwards has also finished in the top-10 in two of the past three races on 1.5-mile tracks, placing 10th at Charlotte and then producing a 5th-place showing at Kansas. Although he’s been too inconsistent to trust on a weekly basis this year, No. 99 has still won two races and tallied nine top-5’s. That is why Edwards is our pick to win the final race of the season. Greg Biffle (30/1) – Biffle went off at 8-to-1 in last year’s race in Miami, so this 30-to-1 price is too sweet not to pounce on. Biffle has won three times at Homestead, taking the checkered flag in 2004, 2005 and 2006. He’s also been close to winning more recent races at this venue with a 10th-place showing in 2010 and a finish of 5th last year. In the past four races at 1.5-mile tracks, the No. 16 car has the 10th-most driver points, finishing no worse than 16th. He’s also done a nice job recently, finishing in the top-12 in eight of his past 13 starts. Biffle’s extremely favorable odds clearly make him the driver with the best value on the board here. Jeff Gordon (12/1) – Gordon has raced very well in the second half of the season with top-8 finishes in 10 of his past 16 starts. This includes strong showings at similar 1.5-mile tracks like Atlanta (6th), Charlotte (7th) and Kansas (3rd). But this run is nothing compared to what Gordon has done recently at Homestead, finishing sixth or better in eight of his past 11 starts at this track, which includes last year’s win. He’s been able to do this despite starting among the top-10 drivers in just three of these races. With double-digit odds, Gordon is certainly worthy of a small wager. Matt Kenseth (7/2) – Kenseth is the favorite of this race, as he still has a chance to capture the points championship and he’s been a monster on 1.5-mile tracks all season. This includes the past three such races as he’s placed 3rd at Charlotte, 11th in Kansas and 4th at Texas. He’s also been strong at Homestead with top-9’s in five of the past eight starts, including a victory in 2007. Kenseth has been too good this year to go out with a whimper, producing seven wins (including two during the Chase for the Cup), and 11 top-5’s. And before last week’s disappointing 23rd-place finish at Phoenix, he had gone nine straight starts of leading at least one lap. The odds are tiny, but Kenseth is still worthy of a one-unit wager for the chance that he’ll finish the season on top. Mark Martin (100/1) – Last year Martin had 30-to-1 odds, so this is a nice treat to end the season. Martin has had a rough year with just one top-5 and an average finish of 21.0. But he is finishing on a high note with a 13.0 average finish in the past two races, including an 11th-place showing on the most recent 1.5-mile race in Texas. Martin has also banged out four top-5’s in 13 career starts at Homestead, and has started among the top-9 drivers in five of the past seven Homestead races. The triple-digit odds would be quite a way to cap off your season.

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