Two weeks, two first-time winners in the NASCAR Cup Series. Today we arrive in Homestead-Miami (still Florida!), earlier than we ever have. Serving as the season finale since it entered the Cup circuit, the 1.5-miler made the transition to Week 12 in the COVID-stricken 2020 season. This year, again moved around because of COVID, we hit South Beach in Week 3. Michael McDowell took the Daytona 500, Christopher Bell took the Daytona Road Course last week; who pencils their name next to today’s race?
Here’s what to look for:
–Denny Hamlin was our winner last year, and guess what? He was scheduled to start 1st today, too! You might go “OH, pfffft, why bother watching then?!” Welp, Chase Elliott was last week’s favorite, started 1st, and ended up 21st. And, to complicate matters, as shown above he had unapproved adjustments and will now start from the rear of the field. That said, Hamlin touts a 9.2 average here, and also won back in 2013.
–Kevin Harvick finished 26th here last year. “Ok, so what, why is he here then?” I’m telling you! Before that, he had a stretch of Top 10s going back to 2011. He has the 2nd best average finish here with 6.9, and from 2014 to 2019, his worst finish was 4th. 2020 was definitely an outlier, look for Harvick to get back to the Top 5 in this one. Fittingly, he’ll start 4th.
–Kyle Busch has placed in the Top 6 for 8 of the last 9 races here. A 39th in 2014 has pushed his average over the last ten down to 9.3, but racked up a Win in 2019, and finished 6th last season. Kyle Busch has had a rough to go it dating back to last season, but could get back to his winning ways before we know it. Rowdy starts 24th today.
–Tyler Reddick has the best average here, a 4th, just making one start last season. He has had success in the Xfinity Series, however, and even ran 2nd last night…before failing post-race inspection. Reddick likes to run the high line here, something that differentiates drivers from the rest of the field. Kyle Larson has found Victory Lane with similar strategies at Michigan, is Reddick the next first-time winner in the Cup Series?
–Christopher Bell as our aforementioned winner last week. He’s got some nice numbers here, too, finishing 8th last season. That is his only data at this track, giving him a nice 8.0 average. Pretty good! By virtue of his Win last week at the O’Reilly Auto Parts 253, the Qualifying schematic has figured him to start 3rd. Nice start for #20!
My favorite part of these entries, talking about the wonderful food we’re going to have today. Lisa has prepared more Hooters Wings (as they’re still in Florida and we’ve got half a bag left), but our main dish it a throwback to last year and a repeat winner at Homstead:
Oh yes, Return of the Cuban Sandwich. While some may not make it back into rotation (sorry, bierocks! Or maybe you will, who knows?), I’ve been looking forward to this for literal weeks. True story! Good product on the track, great product in the kitchen. Nice job, Leese!
Coverage of the race starts on FOX at 3:30pm, green flag scheduled for 3:48pm.