We’ve reached the 36th and final race of the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season, and Sunday’s Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway will not only decide who will be crowned the Cup Series champion, but it will also decide championships across a variety of Fantasy NASCAR leagues.
Since Homestead is yet another 1.5-mile oval, the typical strategy of leaning on the bigger names, especially the four drivers running for the title, should be effective. That being said, we are talking about the final race, so it is now or never if you plan on making a move in your leagues. You can and should base your strategy on your particular situation in each league.
In the Driver Group Game, this could mean rolling the dice on some sleeper drivers. In Group A, Kyle Larson has shown he can run up front at Homestead even when he isn’t competing for the title. Jamie McMurray, Austin Dillon and Paul Menard have all had decent success at Homestead if you are hunting for Group B alternatives. If you have nothing to lose, why not throw a Hail Mary and hope a couple of the obvious plays have trouble.
Fantasy Live somewhat boxes you in since there are only four playoff drivers remaining and you have to roster two of them. However, the Big 3 are probably going to be the most popular picks, so having Joey Logano available could allow you to steal some points if someone from the Big 3 has major issues. You can also get creative with your non-playoff picks to try to steal some spots.
Even in Slingshot Fantasy Auto, you can give yourself an opportunity to gain some ground by taking a chance on some mid-pack guys who happened to qualify deep in the field. If you get lucky, you could pile up some place differential points and close out the year by jumping up your standings a bit.
Check out all my picks for Sunday’s Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead, and thanks for reading my articles all year. Good luck closing out the 2018 Fantasy NASCAR season on a winning note.
NASCAR.com Fantasy Live
Kevin Harvick (Playoffs)
Harvick has been the fastest driver at the 1.5-mle tracks all year, and I don’t expect that to change at Homestead. He has finished in the Top 10 in his last 10 starts here, finishing fourth or better in all four starts with Stewart-Haas Racing. Last year, Harvick also finished fourth and third in the two stages. He was a little off in qualifying, but he’s still starting 12th. I’ll be shocked if he doesn’t finish with well over 40 fantasy points Sunday.
Kyle Busch (Playoffs)
He will start on the front row as he goes after his second title, and Busch has finished sixth or better in his last three starts at Homestead, leading 40-plus laps in two of those races. He also finished in the Top 5 in both stages in last year’s finale. At the very least, I expect a similar performance out of Busch again this weekend, and I wouldn’t be shocked to see him win one or both of the stages.
Homestead’s high line plays right to Larson’s strengths, and he has reeled off three straight Top 5s at the track, leading the most laps in the last two races here. Larson actually won both stages here a year ago, and among the non-playoff drivers, I don’t think anyone has more stage point upside. He qualified 11th, but Larson looked to have the car to beat on longer runs in practice.
Keselowski might not be quite on the level of the Big 3, but he has been pretty good at the 1.5-mile tracks in the second half of the year. He has led laps in the last six races at mile-and-a-half ovals, leading 25-plus laps in four straight. Keselowski also finished in the Top 5 in both stages at Homestead last year. After qualifying fourth and showing solid long-run speed in practice, more stage points should be on tap this weekend. Erik Jones and Aric Almirola are two alternatives I like if you want to fade some of the bigger names.
Garage Driver – Joey Logano (Playoffs)
I thought about going with Martin Truex Jr. in my garage, but I like the momentum Logano has been building at the 1.5-mile tracks and the speed he has shown this weekend. He has nine Top 10s in the 10 races this season, and he has led 40-plus laps in all three races at mile-and-a-half tracks during the playoffs. Logano also has three straight finishes of sixth or better at Homestead, and he earned points in both stages last year. He followed up a Top 5 qualifying effort with excellent practice speeds Saturday.
Fantasy Racing Cheat Sheet Driver Group Game
Kyle Larson (A)
I’m out of starts from both Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch, and while I thought about the other two championship contenders, I decided to go with Larson. He absolutely owns the high line at Homestead, and he has three straight Top 5s at the track, leading the most laps here in 2016 and 2017. After the speed he showed over long runs in race trim, Larson could easily end up in victory lane will the championship is decided behind him.
Chase Elliott (B)
Elliott had a solid run at Homestead last season, earning points in both stages on his way to a Top 5 finish. He has also found some extra speed at the 1.5-mile tracks down the stretch, winning at Kansas and finishing sixth at Texas. Elliott is one of the few drivers in this tier who has a realistic chance of contending for a win this weekend, so I can’t pass up using him one more time.
Ryan Blaney (B)
He hasn’t had a lot of success at Homestead yet, but Blaney has taken his performance at the 1.5-mile tracks to another level this year, and he has really been locked in recently. He has a 4.0 average finish over the last four races at mile-and-a-half ovals, and he has a pair of runner-up efforts in that span. There just aren’t any other drivers in this tier with a higher ceiling, so I’ll use up my final start from Blaney in the finale.
Chris Buescher (C)
I thought about using William Byron, and while I still think he has a higher ceiling than Buescher, the rookie just hasn’t been good at 1.5-mile ovals. Meanwhile, Buescher has managed four finishes of 16th or better at the mile-and-a-half tracks this year, and he finished in the Top 20 at Homestead last fall. With no starts left from Alex Bowman, I think Buescher is my best bet this weekend, especially after he showed solid speed in practice Saturday.