All eyes will be on the Championship 4 this weekend after last year’s contenders swept the top four spots and three of them finished that well in 2017. And while it is expected that the playoff drivers will all battle for a top-five finish, their cost in salary cap games means fantasy players have to make tough choices in order to fill out a roster.
Homestead-Miami Speedway is drastically different than the other 1.5-mile tracks. It is the only true oval and that means drivers have to approach the corners in a manner they don’t on the doglegged tracks. For that matter, each of the so-called "cookie-cutter" courses are also unique, but there is still some similarity between them. They all take a perfect combination of speed, driver skill, and teamwork to get around them fast.
With 11 races contested on 1.5-mile courses, teams have to put a lot of effort into going fast on them or risk being left behind in the points standings. That has allowed for some very interesting dark horse contenders. Pay close attention to the drivers ranked 16th to 22nd this week. Any of those racers are capable of busting off a good run and finishing in the top 10 for the Ford EcoBoost 400 – and that is something that cannot be predicted until practice and qualification is in the books.
1. Kevin Harvick
Harvick has been consistent during the playoffs with wins in key contests when he needed it most. At Homestead, he has a current five-race, top-five streak and 11 straight top-10s.
2. Kyle Busch
Busch was not part of the playoffs in the first winner-take-all format in 2014. Since then, his worst finish at Homestead was a sixth in 2016.
3. Martin Truex Jr.
If the 2018 edition of the Ford EcoBoost 400 had a longer green-flag segment at the end, Truex would likely enter this weekend as a two-time defending champion.
4. Joey Logano
Aside from his victory in the Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas, Logano had a slow start this year on 1.5-mile tracks, but he closed strong. After finishing second in the Coke 600, he's been in the top 10 on this course type in all but one race.
5. Kyle Larson
Larson was absolutely great at the beginning of last year's Ford 400 with a second-place finish in Segment 1 and a win in Stage 2. He slipped to 13th at the checkers, but had three straight top-fives on this track before then.
6. Brad Keselowski
All of the drivers outside of playoff contention will be highly motivated to win the season finale for the first time under the current format. Keselowski has finished seventh or better in five of his last six Homestead attempts.
7. Denny Hamlin
Motivation is a big intangible and with a championship on the line fantasy players can expect Hamlin to challenge for a top-five. If he loses track position late in the going, however, he will finish on the high side of the single digits.
8. Chase Elliott
It will take nerves of steel to start Elliott this week after three consecutive finishes in the 30s, but surely his luck is bound to change. He enters Homestead with a worst finish of 11th and back-to-back top-10s.
9. Kurt Busch
Busch has not scored a top-five at Homestead since 2009, but he hasn't been all that bad recently with four top-15s in his last five attempts there.
10. William Byron
Byron has improved remarkably on 1.5-mile tracks this year with top-10s in half of his starts and nothing worse than 20th.
11. Erik Jones
In 10 starts on 1.5-mile tracks, Jones has finished outside the top 35 twice. The good news is that seven of his remaining eight attempts have landed inside the top 10 with three top-fives for good measure.
12. Alex Bowman
Bowman has not been perfect on 1.5-mile tracks this year, but with his Chicagoland win, a second-place finish at Kansas this spring, and a fifth at Texas two weeks ago, he has captured a lot of attention.
13. Ryan Blaney
On several occasions this year, Blaney has been the top Team Penske driver. That probably won't occur this week because he has not yet cracked the top 15 in four previous Homestead starts.
14. Aric Almirola
Almirola was the model of consistency on 1.5-milers. Dating back to last year's Kentucky race he had 13 consecutive results of sixth through 16th. He struggled at Kansas to a 23rd, but made up for that with a second at Texas this fall.
15. Clint Bowyer
In the second half of the season, Bowyer has been more 'miss' than 'hit' on 1.5-milers, but he has challenged for results in the high single digits and low-teens on a few occasions.
16. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
This is the last time Stenhouse will be behind the wheel of the No. 17 and he's going to be highly motivated to prove he should not have been released from Roush Fenway Racing.
17. Chris Buescher
We expected a little more out of Buescher at Texas, but his 19th-place finish in the AAA 500 was his 10th consecutive top-20 on a 1.5-mile track.
18. Daniel Suarez
Suarez has been a good value a time or two on this track type in 2019, but his two Homestead races ended badly with 30-something results.
19. Jimmie Johnson
We were firmly on Johnson's bandwagon earlier this season after he scored four straight top-10s on 1.5-mile tracks. Two of his last four attempts ended in the 30s, however, and our enthusiasm has cooled.
20. Ryan Newman
For the moment, don't worry about Newman's 40th-place finish at Kansas a few weeks ago because that came with crash damage. It is one of only three races in which he finished worse than 17th.
21. Matt DiBenedetto
DiBenedetto will tell you that the unrestricted, intermediate speedways are not where this team excels, but they have a worst finish of 21st in their last four attempts on 1.5-mile tracks.
22. Paul Menard
Menard has gotten progressively worse at Homestead over the last three attempts, but with an average finish of 17.1 on 1.5-milers this year, he should be able to reverse that trend in his last attempt as a fulltime Cup driver.
23. Austin Dillon
Like several drivers in the middle of this week's Cheat Sheet, Dillon has a lot to recommend him. He's finished 20th or better in seven of 10 starts on this track type. Make him a race time consideration and compare him to Buescher, Menard, Newman, and Stenhouse.
24. Daniel Hemric
Hemric just needs a solid showing to win the 2019 Rookie of the Year honors and with an average finish of 22.2 in 10 races on 1.5-mile tracks, he should be able to finish solidly in the middle of the pack.
25. Ty Dillon
Dillon has the capacity to sneak up on your rivals this week. In two of his last three attempts on 1.5-mile tracks he finished 16th at Vegas and 18th at Texas. Last year's Homestead race ended in a 22nd-place result.
26. David Ragan
If you catch Ragan on the right weekend, he is a great value. On 1.5-milers this year he finished 15th at Charlotte and 16th at Atlanta. The remainder of his efforts lowered his average to 24.6, but that makes him decent pick at his level.
27. Michael McDowell
While we were disappointed with his 30th-place finish last week at Phoenix, McDowell has a lot of momentum on his side. In the nine races previous, he swept the top 25 with an average of 19.4.
28. Ryan Preece
Preece is going to need to finish about 10 positions ahead of Hemric at Homestead if he wants to take home the Rookie of the Year honors. That is going to be a big incentive this week.
29. Bubba Wallace
Wallace ran into trouble at Kansas a few weeks ago and crashed. With that outlier removed from his average, he has a near perfect record of mid-20s finishes, however. He could be a great utility pick.
30. John Hunter Nemechek
Nemechek is making a great impression on car owners in his three-race stint with Front Row Motorsports. He debuted with a 21st at Texas and finished 27th last week at Phoenix.
31. Corey LaJoie
LaJoie has been the most pleasant surprise on 1.5-mile tracks several times this year. He has a best of 12th in the Coke 600 and was in the top 30 in every race until he crashed at Texas two weeks ago.
32. JJ Yeley
Yeley has been behind the wheel in only the last three races on 1.5-mile tracks, so he may catch the competition by surprise. He's steadily improved from 32nd at Vegas, to 30th in Kansas, and 26th in Texas.
33. Ross Chastain
If one disregards his 36th-place finish in the Coke 600 after he sustained suspension damage, Chastain has finished between 26th and 33rd in every attempt on a 1.5-mile track.
35. Joe Nemechek
Spurred on by competition with his son, Nemechek finished in the top 30 at Texas two weeks ago. They will race head-to-head again in the season finale.
36. Landon Cassill
With a little pit strategy, Cassill could easily contend for a top-30 finish. He has been 32nd or better in five of the 10 races run so far on 1.5-mile tracks.
37. Josh Bilicki
Bilicki could be a surprise contender for a finish in the low-30s. In three starts on 1.5-mile tracks this year he has a 33rd at Chicagoland and was 30th two weeks ago in Texas.
38. BJ McLeod
A 29th-place finish in the Coke 600 is McLeod's high water mark on this track type, but he has three other results in the low-30s on 1.5-milers in seven starts.
39. Reed Sorenson
In seven starts on 1.5-milers this year, Sorenson has finished between 30th and 37th. Attrition will play a big role in where he lands at Homestead.
40. Timmy Hill
In four starts on 1.5-mile tracks this year, Hill has a best finish of 37th two weeks ago at Texas. With 40 cars entered at Homestead, he'll struggle to finish that well.
Drivers Most Accurately
* Playoff contender