Mid-Pack: Ford EcoBoost 400Thursday, November 14, 2013
Track history:NASCAR racing made its debut in the Miami area in November of 1995 with the grand opening of Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Fla. The ultra-modern facility, located south of Miami, drew a sellout crowd of 60,000 race fans to its first event, the season finale for the 1995 NASCAR Nationwide (Busch) Series. The first Cup Series race was held in 1999.
In 2003, the 1.5 mile oval completed a $10 million major reconstruction project to increase the banking in the turns from almost flat 6-degrees to a variable 18-20 degrees. This gave the fans some exciting side-by-side racing to view during the 2003 season ending weekend. SAFER barriers were installed in front of the cement walls in the turns as part of the reconfiguration project as well.
MUSCO lighting was added to the facility after the end of the 2004 season. The 2005 season finales for all three NASCAR premier divisions debuted night racing at the speedway.
November 14, 1999:After a qualifying lap of 155.759 mph in the Tim Beverley owned No. 45 Pontiac Grand Prix, David Green started on the pole, led seven laps and finished 22nd in the 1999 Pennzoil 400. Tony Stewart put the No. 20 Home Depot Pontiac seventh in the lineup, led 44 laps and came away the winner of the inaugural Cup race with an average speed of 140.335 mph (a race record on the pre-2003 track layout).
November 18, 2012:Jeff Gordon (No. 24 Chevrolet) won the Ford EcoBoost 400, his 87th victory in 689 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races. This was his second victory in 2012 and his first victory in 14 races at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Pole-sitter No. 20 Joey Logano had to start at rear due to using a backup-car. He never led a lap and finished 14th. Drivers leading 10 or more of the 267 laps run: No. 56 Martin Truex Jr. 11 laps, finished sixth; No. 9 Marcos Ambrose 14 laps, finished 13th; Race-winner Gordon led 14 laps; No. 48 Jimmie Johnson 25 laps, credited with a 36th place (rear gear) and No. 18 Kyle Busch led the most laps (191) and finished in fourth place.
Track Quick Facts (courtesy NASCAR Media):
Last five winners: Jeff Gordon 11/18/12, Tony Stewart 11/20/11, Carl Edwards 11/21/10, Denny Hamlin 11/22/09 and Carl Edwards 11/16/08
First Cup start here (Active drivers): Juan Pablo Montoya 11/19/06.
First Cup pole: Jamie McMurray 11/16/03 and David Reutimann 11/16/08.
First Cup win: No driver yet.
Fantasy games won’t allow you to pick all track favorites so Mid-Pack Attack is here to help. With only 34 points separating the top three in the championship standings, and, since every other driver is ‘mathematically eliminated’, every dozen laps or so in the season finale you’ll hear with commentary on where Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth and Kevin Harvick stand “if the race should end now”. This is also a tough race to predict since teammates of the three may be helping them win the title. Most of the other drivers don’t want to be the cause of one of them losing the Cup; and then, there are those who just want to win the race at any cost. That being said, here are our best guesses for our last mid-pack picks of the season for Sunday’s Ford EcoBoost 400 in Homestead, Florida.
Martin Truex Jr. will be making his final start in Michael Waltrip Racing's No. 56 Toyota this Sunday. He said this week: "..this NAPA team has nothing to prove. All we want to do is end on a high note and this track can certainly be the place that we can win." Only Jeff Gordon has scored more points than Truex in the last two season finales at Homestead. NASCAR Statistics loop data for the last eight HMS races lists him 1st in their Quality Passes category (he passed 449 times while running in the top-15), 2nd in their Closer category (he improved an average 4.4 positions during the last 10 percent of the races) and 2nd in their Average Running Position category (an 8.1 average). His worst finish in the last seven season-ending races was an 11th (2010). Truex is our top sleeper pick to close out the 2013 season.
AJ Allmendinger takes over the No. 47 Toyota Camry this week at Homestead-Miami and will be full-time in the car for 2014. He seems to have figured out how to get around this track. In four Sprint Cup starts his worst finish at HMS was a 15th place. He averaged an 18.3 start coupled with a 10.2 average finish in those races. Allmendinger said this week: "I am happy to be back full-time in a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series car in 2014 and working with Tad (Geschickter) and the entire JTG Daugherty Racing organization. We are all focused on making the team better.” Give AJ a look for another strong run at the South Florida track.
Tampa, Florida native Aric Almirola has had success in all three series at HMS since 2010. He earned a Sprint Cup fourth place finish in 2010 driving for Richard Petty the first time, a fifth place in the 2011 finale in Billy Ballew's truck in the Camping World Truck Series and ended the 2011 Nationwide Series with an eighth place finish in one of Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s entries. In the 2012 Cup finale, Almirola started fifth and spent 99.3% of the race running in the top 15. He was running third with a lap to go, ran out of fuel on the last lap, but still managed to coast around to a seventh place finish. Find a spot on your fantasy roster for the No. 43 Ford Fusion this week.
Due to lack of full-season sponsorship for the No. 31 Chevrolet, Jeff Burton is another driver making his final start for his current team. In 14 starts at Homestead-Miami Speedway, he has four top-five and six top-ten finishes. Burton showed his "closer" style in three of the last four Sprint Cup season-enders. In 2009, he started 26th and finished a career best second place; in 2011, he started 31st and finished 10th and, in 2012, he started 33rd in the lineup and finished in 19th place. He has a 21.8 average start at the track, so we don't expect to see him running with the leaders early in the race. We do think the No. 31 Chevy driver will continue that closing style into Sunday's event.