It began at Daytona back in February, and this weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway, the 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season will come to a close. Four drivers have survived the first nine races of the playoffs and will head into Sunday’s Ford EcoBoost 400 with a shot to win the title. Denny Hamlin will be looking for his first championship, but Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. will all be seeking title No. 2.
The mile-and-a-half track has become known for its progressive banking and abrasive surface, and the combination of the layout and track conditions forces drivers to move around the track throughout a run and forces crew chiefs to find a balance between short-run speed and long-run handling. The good news for fans is that the end result is usually an entertaining race.
At this point in the year, your strategy options are limited. If you want to play it safe, stick with the Championship 4. History says that one of the title contenders is going to win the race. Heck, the Championship 4 claimed the first four spots in last year’s finale. If you are sitting atop your Fantasy NASCAR league or are simply looking to maintain your current spot in the standings, take advantage of the championship hopefuls whenever possible.
On the flip side, you are going to want to fade the title contenders if you want to try to throw a Hail Mary and gain ground in the final race. Yes, the Championship 4 have delivered strong results more often than not, but anything can happen. If trouble strikes one or more of the championship drivers, you will quickly gain a lot of ground on a lot of the competition if you went in another direction. It’s a gamble, but this is the last race. You have nothing to lose.
Thanks for reading my content throughout the 2019 season. I hope it has helped you take down your Fantasy NASCAR leagues. Good luck in this weekend’s finale, and best of luck bringing home some championships of your own.
1. Martin Truex Jr.
At their best, the No. 19 team has been the team to beat this year, and after winning at Martinsville, no team has had more time to focus on this race. Truex led 78 laps in a win at Homestead in 2017, and he led 20 laps in a runner-up effort in last year’s race. I’m expecting Truex to unload with the car to beat this weekend.
2. Kevin Harvick
He’s been the most consistent performer at the 1.5-mile tracks all year, and he has also been the steadiest performer at Homestead. Harvick leads all drivers in points scored and laps led at the mile-and-a-half tracks this year, and he has 11 straight Top 10s at Homestead. Since joining Stewart-Haas Racing, Harvick has a 2.6 average finish in five starts here, winning in 2014 and leading 40-plus laps four times.
3. Denny Hamlin
Hamlin came up with a clutch performance at Phoenix to punch his ticket to the Championship 4, and he should be a major player for the title Sunday. He is a two-time winner at Homestead, and he led 41 laps in last year’s race. He has also won the pole in three of the last four races here, so at the very least, keep him in mind as a source of qualifying points.
4. Kyle Busch
He pointed his way into the title race, and Busch knows how to get around at Homestead. He has finished sixth or better in four straight races here, winning the 2015 race and leading 20-plus laps three times. No, he hasn’t won at a mile-and-a-half track this year, but he does have four finishes of third or better in the 10 races and is tied for the series lead with seven Top 10s.
5. Kyle Larson
If you head into the final week needing to make up a little ground in your fantasy leagues, Larson is absolutely the driver you need to target. He has an 8.5 average finish in six starts at Homestead, logging three Top 5s in his last four starts. Larson has also led at least 45 laps in three straight races, leading the most laps in the 2016 and 2017 races. No one runs the high line better than Larson, and if he can keep it off the wall for the entire race, he could dominate this race.
6. Joey Logano
Thanks to great short-run speed and a “timely” caution caused by his teammate, Logano stormed to the win and the championship at Homestead last fall. He has finished sixth or better in four straight starts here, leading 70-plus laps in two of those races.
7. Chase Elliott
Elliott has been solid at Homestead, finishing 11th or better in all three starts and posting a 7.7 average finish overall. He also ranks as a Top 5 scorer at mile-and-a-half tracks this year. Expect him to run in the Top 10 in the finale.
8. Brad Keselowski
He won’t be competing for the title this weekend, but Keselowski should still be in the mix for a strong finish. He has finished seventh or better in four of his last five starts at Homestead, notching three Top 5s in that span. Keselowski should be one of the top non-playoff options in Fantasy Live this weekend.
9. Kurt Busch
Busch has been solid, not spectacular, at Homestead in recent years, cracking the Top 15 in four of his last five starts. He picked up a Top 10 here last year, and his seven Top 10s in the 10 races at 1.5-mile ovals this season are tied for the most in the series. Busch should be a solid play in the season-long contests this weekend.
10. Erik Jones
His first two starts at Homestead haven’t gone well, but Jones has been rock solid at the 1.5-mile tracks this season. He finished in the Top 15 in eight of the 10 races, and his seven Top 10s are tied for the most in the series. Jones should be a solid option both the Driver Group Game and Fantasy Live.
11. Alex Bowman
His Cup starts at Homestead haven’t gone well, and he is still looking for his first Top 15 after four attempts. However, Bowman has enjoyed his best season at the 1.5-mile tracks in 2019, posting a 9.3 average finish in the 10 races. He has finished 11th or better in seven of those starts, winning at Chicagoland and finishing seventh or better in five of the last seven. He’s a high-upside Group B play in the Driver Group Game.
12. Ryan Blaney
He has struggled at Homestead throughout his career, posting a 22.2 average finish and finishing outside the Top 15 in all four starts. Granted, he is the type of driver who is always capable of a Top 5, but this might not be the week to target him.
13. William Byron
Byron has been solid at the 1.5-mile tracks all year, cracking the Top 20 in all 10 races while posting a 12.3 average finish. He has also led laps in eight of those 10 starts, cracking the Top 10 in four of the last six. It is the Top 10 upside that makes him a particularly intriguing option for GPP contests at the DFS sites.
14. Aric Almirola
The last time the series visited a mile-and-a-half track, Almirola turned in his best performance of the 2019 season, leading 62 laps and finishing second. For the year, he has an 11.3 average finish in the 10 races at 1.5-mile ovals, and he finished ninth at Homestead last fall in his first at the track for Stewart-Haas Racing. Almirola should challenge for a Top 10 Sunday, and if you are looking to protect a lead in the season-long contests, he is a driver to target.
15. Clint Bowyer
He has been solid at Homestead throughout his career, and in two starts here with Stewart-Haas Racing, he has finished 12th and eighth. Granted, he has run hot and cold at the 1.5-mile tracks in 2019, but Bowyer does have four finishes of sixth or better in the 10 races and six finishes of 11th or better. If you want to throw a Hail Mary in the final race in the DGG, Bowyer could be worth a look.
16. Jimmie Johnson
Johnson crashed out at Texas a couple of weeks ago, but he has finished 11th or better in six of the last eight races at 1.5-mile tracks this year, he finished 14th at Homestead last fall. I’m not expecting anything special out of the seven-time champ, but he should challenge for a Top 15.
17. Ryan Newman
Outside of a crash at Kansas, Newman has been able to crack the Top 20 on a routine basis at the mile-and-a-half ovals. He has finished 17th or better in seven of the 10 races, cracking the Top 15s in three of the last four. Newman has also been solid at Homestead, finishing 10th in 2017 and 15th last year. He should be able to challenge for a Top 15 again Sunday.
18. Daniel Suarez
Suarez finished third in both races at Texas this year, but he struggled to find consistent success at the 1.5-mile tracks overall. He has also finished 30th or worse in both of his Cup starts at Homestead. Driving for Stewart-Haas Racing gives him more upside than some other midrange guys, but he is a boom-or-bust fantasy option in all formats.
19. Chris Buescher
The 1.5-mile tracks have been his bread and butter all year, and in the 10 races, Buescher has compiled a 14.1 average finish. He has finished in the Top 20 in all of those starts, gaining an average of 10.1 spots per race. Buescher has also outscored the rest of the Group C options in the DGG by 89 points in those 10 races. If you have him available, use him this weekend.
20. Matt DiBenedetto
After a brutal start to the season at the 1.5-mile tracks, DiBenedetto has turned a corner. He has finished 21st or better in the last four races, finishing 16th or better three times. DiBenedetto should be a Top 15 threat Sunday, and he is the No. 1 Group C alternative to Chris Buescher in the Driver Group Game.
21. Austin Dillon
He has been a mid-pack performer at the mile-and-a-half tracks most of the year, but Dillon has cracked the Top 15 in two of the three races at 1.5-mile ovals in the playoffs. He has also been solid at Homestead, finishing in the Top 15 in four straight starts and logging back-to-back 11th-place finishes. Keep him in mind as a sleeper play this weekend, especially at the DFS sites.
22. Paul Menard
Menard has been steady at the mile-and-a-half tracks this year, posting a 17.0 average finish and sneaking into the Top 20 eight times. His worst finish in those starts is 24th, and he has managed five Top 15s. Menard doesn’t have a ton of upside, but if he qualifies outside the Top 20, he can be an underrated cash option at both DFS sites.
23. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
He will be making his final start in the No. 17 machine this weekend, and while he has had issues in a couple of the recent races at 1.5-mile tracks, he has been solid overall. He has finished 18th or better in eight of the 10 races, finishing 12th or better five times. Stenhouse could be worth a roll of the dice in GPP contests at the DFS sites.
24. Ty Dillon
Dillon has enjoyed a slight boost in performance during the final couple of months, and he has finished 22nd or better in all three races at 1.5-mile tracks since the playoffs began, finishing 16th at Las Vegas and 18th at Texas. If you are out of starts from Chris Buescher and Matt DiBenedetto in the DGG, I’d look to Dillon as the safest Group C alternative.
25. Daniel Hemric
He has struggled with consistency at the 1.5-mile tracks this year, but Hemric has cracked the Top 20 in five of the 10 races, finishing 17th or better in two of the three races at mile-and-a-half ovals in the playoffs. If you are out of starts from the top Group C options in the DGG, Hemric is worth a look as a replacement.
26. Bubba Wallace
Wallace has been no more than a Top 25 driver at the mile-and-a-half ovals this year, posting a 26.0 average finish in the 10 races and finishing no better than 23rd in any of those starts. He did finish 21st in his Homestead debut last fall, but there just isn’t enough upside with Wallace to use him in most fantasy formats.
27. Ryan Preece
His performance has been trending up down the stretch of the season, but he is still a lackluster option at the 1.5-mile tracks. With the exception of a 12th-place finish at Kansas, he has finished outside the Top 20 in the other nine races at mile-and-a-half ovals, posting a 24.8 average finish overall. Don’t expect more than a Top 25 out of Preece.
28. John Hunter Nemechek
He only has two Cup starts under his belt, but Nemechek held his own in his only start at a 1.5-mile track to date. He started 29th and finished 21st at Texas a couple of weeks ago, and he should be able to manage another Top 25 this weekend. If he qualifies towards the back, Nemechek could have some appeal as a source of cap relief at DraftKings.
29. David Ragan
Ragan has a 24.8 average finish in the 10 races at the 1.5-mile tracks this year, but he has finished outside the Top 25 in three of the last four. He has managed back-to-back Top 20s at Homestead, but that would be the absolute best-case scenario for him this weekend. Ragan’s no more than a DFS punt candidate this weekend.
30. Michael McDowell
After opening the year with a pair of duds at the 1.5-mile tracks, McDowell has finished 26th or better in the eight trips to mile-and-a-half ovals, logging six straight Top 25s. There’s still not enough upside here to use McDowell in season-long contests, but he could be a serviceable punt play at DraftKings if he happens to start outside the Top 30.