Race Preview Update: Homestead

Carl Edwards snagged a front-row starting spot Friday, and he's my pick up finish up front, too. (Photo Todd Warshaw/Getty Images for NASCAR)

The NASCAR Sprint Cup teams got in all three practice sessions and qualifying at Homestead Friday and Saturday. To handicap the race, I crunched the numbers from those prelim sessions to produce initial rankings, and then I merged those rankings with the historical rankings I produced earlier this week (weighting the results heavily toward the initial rankings). Finally, I tweaked the results per the 10-lap averages in practices 2 and 3.

I came up with this top six:

  1. Carl Edwards
  2. Jeff Gordon
  3. Jamie McMurray
  4. Jimmie Johnson
  5. Kyle Busch
  6. David Reutimann

Like last week, Edwards is the favorite to win the race. In practice, he put up good one-lap numbers and was fast over 10-laps, too. Plus, he starts on the front row from the #2 slot, and his historical numbers look great.

Like Edwards, Gordon, McMurray, Johnson and Kyle Busch looked good in the prelims and historical numbers, and I think they all offer good value today.

Reutimann is my dark horse today. I rated him #8 in my mid-week rankings, and not only did he hang in there in the prelims, he edged up a couple spots. If you can find good odds on him (he’s at 30-1 on The Greek Sunday morning) and feel like riding a long-shot today, Reuty is your man.

I liked Greg Biffle a lot prior to the prelims, but not only did the Bif look a little off the pace Friday and Saturday, he cracked up his primary car on Friday and had to go to a backup.

And what about Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick? Most everybody else online is high on them today, but I can’t quite rate them with the favorites. Not only do they start way back in the field (particularly Hamlin), their speed chart and 10-lap numbers are weak.

However, I’ve certainly been wrong about them before—particularly Harvick. It’s clear the practice and qualifying data has limited value because some drivers consistently finish better than their prelim numbers suggest they will. Harvick is the most recent and obvious example, but other drivers such as Tony Stewart and Matt Kenseth tend to fit this bill, too.

My Yahoo! Fantasy Picks
Group A
I’ll run Kyle Busch over Greg Biffle. I certainly wish I’d activated Edwards instead of Biffle (that was my pre-deadline dilemna).

Group B
My Group B gamble has worked out pretty well so far. Instead of activating Jeff Burton, Kenseth or Harvick, I went with David Reutimann, Martin Truex Jr., Jamie McMurray and Joey Logano. These guys offered good mid-week value, but I also hoped to make up ground on all the folks who will run big-guns such as Burton, Kenseth or Harvick.

Thankfully, McMurray and Reutimann looked good in the prelims, and I’ll start them over Truex and Logano (though Truex isn’t far behind).

Group C
A.J. Allmendinger looks tops in C, with Paul Menard and Regan Smith next. Bill Elliott looks decent, too.

I’m not high on Scott Speed or Sam Hornish Jr., however.