After two "wild-card races" and two upsets to start the 2021 season, NASCAR will return to more traditional surroundings this weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway. That means the top teams and top drivers should once again rise to the top.
The 1.5-mile track at Homestead will test the speed and horsepower of the top teams, giving NASCAR Cup Series drivers a better indication of how they stack up this season.
“First of all, it’s an oval; getting back on an oval that’s not a speedway," driver Austin Dillon said. "The first 1.5-mile of the year, everybody’s excited, I think, when it comes to seeing what kind of speed you’re going to have on your program and where you stack up because it can be a long year if you don’t have your stuff together."
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Favorites in NASCAR race at Homestead?
Joe Gibbs Racing had a huge weekend last week at the Daytona Road Course, winning both the NASCAR Xfinity Series race (Ty Gibbs) and the Cup Series race (Christopher Bell). This could be another big weekend for the elite organization.
Teammates Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. each have great records at Homestead. Hamlin leads all active drivers with three wins at the 1.5-mile track, while Busch has two wins and Truex one. And all three are accustomed to running up front every year at Homestead.
Hamlin has led 180 laps at Homestead and has a series-high driver rating of 118.1. Busch is next with 143 laps led and a driver rating of 115.9. Busch has also been hot of late at Homestead, where he clinched the 2015 and 2019 Cup Series championships. Busch has six straight top-10s at Homestead, including four straight top-5s.
Truex won at Homestead in 2017 and has three runnerup finishes at the track.
Who will be the top challengers at Homestead?
If one of the JGR drivers doesn't win, another top NASCAR driver likely will. Kevin Harvick (2014) and Joey Logano (2018) have both won at Homestead and are among the top-10 drivers there, as is defending NASCAR Cup Series champion Chase Elliott. Team Penske teammates Ryan Blaney and Brad Keselowski have also been good over the years there.
Who is the NASCAR wild card pick for Homestead?
If there is to be a third straight upset in the NASCAR Cup Series, it just might be Tyler Reddick scoring his first career victory. Reddick, who drives the No. 8 Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing, won two straight NASCAR Xfinity races at Homestead, both times clinching the Xfinity Series championship. He also finished fourth in his first Cup race there.
Also Read: NASCAR odds at Homestead
Reddick is known for running the high line at big, fast NASCAR tracks like Homestead, and is confident at the 1.5-mile track.
“I’ve been very fortunate to have some great vehicles at Homestead-Miami Speedway, whether it be in the trucks, Xfinity or Cup cars, so that helps a lot with just overall confidence and feeling comfortable there," Reddick said this week. "Going there with such strong cars really has allowed me to play into my strengths around that track. Homestead-Miami Speedway is a place where you can move around and change up your line almost every lap to find more speed. So, I think just having a feel for that, the tire fall-off there, and how much you can move around suits my driving style."
Dillon, who drives the No. 3 for RCR, says Reddick's success at Homestead has even helped him improve on the NASCAR track.
"Obviously Tyler Reddick is solid there and I think that’s pushed our program to another level when it comes to running at Homestead," said Dillon, who finished seventh at Homestead last year. "People really put an emphasis on that track for him because they know it’s a place where he can show up and run really well. I feel like we’ve learned off of our cars the last couple of years.”
Who are the dark horses at Homestead?
Though it would be a big surprise to see Michael McDowell continue this hot streak at Homestead, where team resources will play a huge role, look for Bell to run well again. He finished eighth in his first Cup race at Homestead last year, and now he's in JGR equipment. Another top-10 run is likely.
Ryan Blaney can hardly be considered a dark horse; he finished third at Homestead last year, leading 70 laps. It would not be shocking to see him score his fifth career Cup victory at the track.
Also keep an eye on Aric Almirola, who finished fifth at Homestead last year. He'll be racing for his third career victory and his second with Stewart-Haas, another top Cup team.
NASCAR Homestead Predictions
Though Hamlin is the defending champion of the Dixie Vodka 400, no one has a better record at Homestead the past four years than his teammate Kyle Busch. Busch has finished second, fourth, first and sixth in the last four races at Homestead. He's also determined to put a disappointing 2020 season behind him. His last win came on a 1.-5-mile track at Texas. He'll do it again at Homestead.
- Ryan Blaney
- Denny Hamlin
- Kevin Harvick
- Tyler Reddick