Christopher freakin’ Bell!!

Some people somehow missed just how often Christopher Bell was mentioned as a sleeper on this site last week leading up to the Daytona Road Course race, but anyway… we have two first-time winner to start out the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season!

But with that being said, after a wild two races to start out the Fantasy NASCAR year, we get to settle back down into a more calm race with the Dixie Vodka 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Sunday. Typically, Homestead has always been the track that has crowned the Champion at the end of the year, but that changed in 2020 as the race was moved to earlier in the year in favor of Phoenix being the Championship Race. We’ll talk about the implications of that change in a bit, but first let’s talk about the Homestead-Miami track in general.

High-Wear Intermediate Tracks

Denny Hamlin Fast Pit Stop at Dover
Photo Credit: Matt Sullivan/Getty Images

You’re going to hear a lot about “high-wear” tracks this year if you read or listen to any of the Fantasy NASCAR experts (or wannabe experts). Homestead-Miami Speedway falls under this category, as the track is old and abrasive and hasn’t really been changed for nearly 20 years (it was reconfigured in 2003). Other “high-wear” tracks include Atlanta (probably the most similar), Auto Club Speedway, and Darlington. Last season, we raced at Homestead, Atlanta, and Auto Club each one time, while the Cup Series was at Darlington for three points-paying races in 2020. So there’s a good amount of data to look back on there–although note that half of the races in that data set are from Darlington, and some drivers–ahem, Ryan Blaney–haven’t quite figured that place out yet.

Most NASCAR fans love these types of tracks because tire wear is a major factor. The drivers that are able to conserve their tires the best throughout a run will likely be the ones that end up finishing up front. Additionally, these teams are going to be putting on new tires pretty much any time they have the opportunity to on Sunday. Even if there was just a caution five laps prior, chances are all teams will come in for tires again because the falloff is that significant; any driver that would elect to stay out during the caution in that example would be a sitting duck for the rest of the field.

Still, though, Homestead is 1.5-mile intermediate track, so you can’t discount the other “low-wear” tracks of that length either. Last year’s races on “low wear” 1.5-mile tracks included events at Las Vegas (twice), Charlotte (three times), Kentucky, Texas (twice), and Kansas (twice). What I’m trying to say here is there’s a ton of data to absorb and analyze for this week’s race.

As mentioned earlier, Homestead used to be the home of the Championship Race, the final race of the season, but was moved last year to earlier in the year. This is kind of significant because it can provide some misleading data when analyzing just the Homestead races. The Championship drivers–when the race was held here–were always faster than everybody else, plus you had to question whether anyone not in the running actually cared enough to run 100%. I’d argue most didn’t–just like we saw at Phoenix in 2020. In previous years, we often saw the Homestead race be used as a test session for many teams, with them trying experimental setups and engines in preparation for the following season. Just something to remember when you’re looking through old Homestead results this week.

Pre-Race Loop Data Box Score for Homestead

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The Favorites

Joey Logano and Chase Elliott racing side by side in 2020 Playoffs
Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk | Getty Images

Denny Hamlin – It should be no surprise that sportsbooks cemented Denny Hamlin as the early favorite to win at Homestead here on Sunday. In last year’s race, the #11 Toyota started on the pole and led 137 of the 267 laps en route to Hamlin’s third win (of an eventual seven) during the 2020 year. That was also Hamlin’s third career win here at Homestead. Additionally, Dennis had the best average running position in the series at “high-wear” intermediate tracks last season and finished top 5 in two of the three Darlington races as well as posting a 6th-place finish at Auto Club and a 5th-place result at Atlanta. Hamlin will lead the field to the green for the Dixie Vodka 400 here at Homestead on Sunday and also have that coveted first pit stall.

Chase Elliott – As we talked about before, tire management is incredibly important at a track like Homestead-Miami Speedway. And with good tire management comes high speed late in the run. And at this track, nobody has had better speed late in a run than Chase Elliott. Finish wise, our 2020 Champion came home 2nd here last year and has an average result of 8.0 over his five career starts at this track, plus he had the 2nd-best average running position (6.61) on the “high-wear” intermediate track races last season. He should be a contender once again in the Dixie Vodka 400 here on Sunday.

Kyle Larson – It was a bit surprising on Monday morning when Kyle Larson opened with 14-to-1 odds to win the Dixie Vodka 400 this weekend. Yeah, he didn’t really race much last year, but this has long been one of, if not the best track for Kyle Larson, and he’s in the best equipment he’s ever been in in the Cup Series this year. By the way, DraftKings Sportsbook quickly adjusted his line down to 8-to-1 by Monday evening, which is about where he should be. But anyway, Larson has three top 5 finishes in his last five Homestead starts and he’s led more laps here than all but three active drivers–and those drivers all have nine or more Homestead starts than he does.

Underdogs

Christopher Bell hand in air celebrating after winning at Daytona Road Course 2021
Photo Credit: James Gilbert/Getty Images

Ryan Blaney – Looking at average running position on “high-wear” intermediate tracks last season, Ryan Blaney’s 12.85 average isn’t eye-popping (it was 12th-best in the series), but keep in mind that that average included three races at Darlington. And Ryan Blaney is not good at Darlington. At all. Looking at the other three events, though, Blaney was a contender to win at Auto Club, ran 3rd here at Homestead, and finished 4th at Atlanta. Young Ryan Blaney has been an extremely disappointing fantasy option to start out the 2021 season, and this might make some people shy away from picking him this week. Don’t be one of those people. Blaney is more than capable of finishing top 5 here on Sunday.

Tyler Reddick – You’re going to hear Tyler Reddick’s name a lot this week, and for good reason. In last year’s race at Homestead, Reddick started back in 24th but quickly made his way toward the front once the green flag waved, ultimately running inside the top 4 for the rest of the night. This time around, he’s going to start even further back–which makes him a must play in Fantasy NASCAR leagues that award points for place differential–but it wouldn’t be surprising if Reddick ran inside the top 5 once again on Sunday. The fastest way around Homestead-Miami Speedway is right up against the wall, and Reddick is a master at that. For what it’s worth, looking at the “high-wear” intermediate races last year, the #8 Chevrolet had the 8th-most fastest laps, including 48 here at Homestead.

Christopher Bell – For the second week in a row, it’s a good idea to look at Christopher Bell as a solid underdog. Well, if the most recent race winner can even be considered an underdog. But early week betting odds have Bell at 22-to-1 to win at Homestead on Sunday, so that’s good enough for me. Anyway, again it’s a good idea to take into account the equipment that Christopher Bell is in this year. The Joe Gibbs Racing Toyotas have been great here at Homestead-Miami Speedway–even Erik Jones finished 3rd here in 2019–and in his first Cup Series start here last year, Bell started way back in 36th but was 8th when the checkered flag flew. Thanks to his win last week, CBell will start 3rd for the Dixie Vodka 400 this Sunday, and should be able to compete for a top 10, if not a top 5. Don’t forget, he has Adam Stevens atop the pit box now, who guided Kyle Busch to two wins and no finish worse than 6th here at Homestead.

Homestead-Miami Betting Odds

As of Tuesday afternoon, DraftKings Sportsbook had the following odds listed to win the Dixie Vodka 400.

  • Denny Hamlin +500
  • Kevin Harvick +500
  • Martin Truex, Jr. +700
  • Chase Elliott +750
  • Kyle Larson +800
  • Kyle Busch +900
  • Joey Logano +1000
  • Brad Keselowski +1400
  • Ryan Blaney +1600
  • Tyler Reddick +2000
  • Christopher Bell +2200
  • Austin Dillon +3000
  • Alex Bowman +3300
  • William Byron +3300
  • Kurt Busch +4000
  • Aric Almirola +4000
  • Bubba Wallace +6000
  • Matt DiBenedetto +6600
  • Chase Briscoe +8000
  • Cole Custer +8000
  • Erik Jones +10000
  • Ryan Newman +10000
  • Ross Chastain +15000
  • Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. +20000
  • Michael McDowell +35000
  • Daniel Suarez +35000
  • Chris Buescher +35000
  • Anthony Alfredo +75000
  • Ty Dillon +75000
  • Ryan Preece +75000
  • Corey LaJoie +75000
  • Justin Haley +100000
  • Josh Bilicki +150000
  • Timmy Hill +150000
  • Quin Houff +150000
  • BJ McLeod +150000
  • Garrett Smithley +150000
  • Cody Ware +150000
As someone who has always been obsessed with numbers, Fantasy NASCAR has been the perfect fit with me. I pride myself on the quality of my analysis for each race, and am glad that I have been able to help others along the way. I've been a serious Fantasy NASCAR player for over 10 years now, and I'm just getting started.