Ford 400 fantasy NASCAR preview

by C.J. Radune on November 11, 2008 @ 01:00:01 PDT

 


Homestead-Miami Speedway is the only track on the Sprint Cup circuit with variable banking. That means the banking on the track is gradually increased from 18 degrees on the bottom to 20 degrees at the top. Theoretically, this creates multiple lines for cars to run on and promotes three-wide racing. In practice, it has proven to be a risk to run more than two wide. The track recently was repaved with new asphalt, which has caused tire blistering, which in turn has led to cautions. Additionally, the Florida heat and humidity, even in the fall, can make the track slick. The graduated banking has made Homestead a faster track than it was prior to 2003, when it was one of NASCAR's flattest tracks with 6-degree banking. With drivers staying on the throttle around the track, cars run high rpms and blown engines can be a factor.

Location: Homestead, Fla.

Shape: Oval

Length: 1.5 miles

Laps: 267

Banking: 18- to 20-degree variable turns; 4-degree straights

Table: Do not bench

Leading the pack

Martin Truex Jr. | No. 1 Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Chevrolet | Dale Earnhardt Inc.

Truex is coming to Miami off a 43rd-place finish at Phoenix International Raceway. He picked up two top-10 finishes in the last five races, though, and also took one top-five with another top-10 in the last two Miami races. Truex has proven that he is quick in two of three Miami races thus far. His only other Miami start ended early because of a tire issue. With 30 laps led in the last two races there, along with the two top-10s, he should be able to close the season strongly in Miami.

Greg Biffle | No. 16 3M Ford | Roush Fenway Racing

Biffle took home three top-10 finishes in the last five races. He also bagged four top-fives in the nine Chase races so far. His worst result in last five races was 12th in the TUMS QuikPack 500, and his average finish since the Chase began is 8.2. He finished 13th in last year's Miami event but won the previous three Homestead events, and Biffle is looking strong for the Ford 400. His average Miami finish is 12.7 in six career starts. Biffle has run well alongside - if not behind - teammate Carl Edwards since the Chase began and should be able to close the season in similar fashion.

Kasey Kahne | No. 9 Budweiser Dodge | Gillett Evernham Motorsports

Kahne's results have really trailed off since his second-place result in the Bank of America 500. His average finish over the four races following that finish is very disappointing at 25.8. Whatever was instituted midseason to improve Gillett Evernham Motorsports finishes seems to have vanished. Both Kahne and teammate Elliott Sadler have struggled to run near the top 10 as the season has come to a close. What started as a rough season for Kahne could end with just two wins to his credit, and his current form may leave a sour taste in his mouth heading into the offseason. Look for him to try and reverse that trend in Miami; there's hope as he came in fourth at the 2006 event and 16th the year before. His 24th-place result in last year's go-round gives him a bit of a hill to climb, though.

Casey Mears | No. 5 Kellogg's/CARQUEST Chevrolet | Hendrick Motorsports

Mears will be driving his final race for Hendrick Motorsports in the Ford 400. His results have improved recently - two top-15 finishes in addition to one top-10 in the last four races. Unfortunately he was in an accident in the Checker O'Reilly Auto Parts 500 and finished that race 36th. He took home a top-five finish in the 2005 Ford 400 and should be anxious to do the same in his final Hendrick race. Look for Mears to run in the top 15 and maybe crack the top 10 if things go his way.

Ryan Newman | No. 12 Alltel Dodge | Penske Racing

Since even before the Chase began, Newman has faded from view. Penske has been improving, though, and running closer to the front with more regularity. Newman was the victim of a tire issue at Phoenix International Raceway, and that just added to his string of disappointing results. He was obviously fast, qualifying sixth, but he hasn't turned it into a finish yet. He is historically fast at Miami with four top-five starts in six career races. Look for Newman to be near the front, but also look to see if the reliability is there for him as well. He has endured two engine failures since the Chase began.

Drivers to keep an eye on

David Ragan | No. 6 AAA Ford | Roush Fenway Racing

Ragan's average finish in the last seven races is ninth. He finished 10th at Phoenix International Raceway, and that was his fifth top-10 in the nine Chase races. Ragan has certainly overcome his midseason slump and is closing the season with a statement. He finished 10th in his only Miami race, which bodes well for another top-10 given his current performances. Ragan had a breakout year in 2008 and could be a major factor in 2009. Take note of how he closes the season to gauge how much confidence he can carry through the offseason, though he has already increased his 2009 stock.

Dave Blaney | No. 22 Bad Boy Mowers Toyota | Bill Davis Racing

Blaney has struggled throughout 2008, and in the last six races he picked up two DNFs. That makes his total DNF count seven for the year. He is currently 30th in points, which means he should be able to secure a top-35 spot in points to guarantee him a spot in the first few races of 2009. He only bagged two top-10s this season and probably will be looking to just get a solid top-20 or top-15 in Miami to finish as high up the order as possible. He could be a dark horse, though, considering he has three top-10s in eight Miami races on his resume. Blaney finished 12th in last year's Miami race and sixth in 2005.

Clint Bowyer | No. 07 Jack Daniel's Chevrolet | Richard Childress Racing

Bowyer's average finish in the Chase races is 10.4. He sits sixth in points and is just seven behind fifth-place driver Kevin Harvick. The battle for the top five in points is still raging. Bowyer didn't have a great outing in last year's Ford 400, but his first Miami race was a top-10 finish. Bowyer also hasn't finished outside of the top 20 since Watkins Glen (Aug. 10). The battle between Harvick and Bowyer, Richard Childress Racing teammates, will definitely be an interesting one to watch throughout the race on Sunday.

Kurt Busch | No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge | Penske Racing

Busch really lit the afterburners at Phoenix International Raceway. He qualified third and finished second after running up front the entire day. He might have been the first non-Chase driver to have won a Chase race, but it wasn't meant to be. Homestead could be a different story, though. He added two top-five finishes to his Homestead resume in the last three races there and won the 2002 edition of the Ford 400. Busch could be a very strong contender this weekend and may still be the first driver not in the Chase to win since it began nine races ago.

Scott Riggs | No. 66 State Water Heaters Chevrolet | Haas CNC Racing

Riggs was involved in an accident at Phoenix and finished the race 38th. His last top-15 result was six races ago in the AMP Energy 500, when he finished 7th. That was his only top-10 result in 2008 so far and the same place he came in at the 2006 Ford 400; he even led a lap in that outing. He finished 15th and 38th, respectively, in the previous two races, meaning he can produce if you need a deep fantasy selection. All things considered, though, Riggs doesn't look like a strong competitor in Haas CNC equipment lately. He has run some decent races but never was able to truly finish well. He will give up his ride to new owner Tony Stewart next season. Riggs is auditioning for a job next season and should be exciting to watch as he tries to make a good impression in that effort.

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About C.J. Radune

Radune has been a KFFL contributor since January 2008.

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