Driver Handicaps: Homestead

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This weekend the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series heads to Homestead-Miami Speedway for the season-ending Ford 400. To help you make your Dale Jr. Reality Cup Racing fantasy picks, RacingOne brings you our weekly detailed look at some of the field for the 267-lap event.

Who's Hot at Homestead-Miami
Greg Biffle has won the last three events.
Jimmie Johnson has finished ninth or better in four of the last five races.
Mark Martin leads all drivers with four top fives.
Carl Edwards has a 8.7 average finish.
Kevin Harvick has finished in the top 10 in the last four races.
Jeff Gordon has finished in the top five twice on the new track configuration.


Keep an Eye On at Homestead-Miami
Tony Stewart will be driving the same car that won at Chicagoland and Indianapolis.
Martin Truex Jr. is coming off a second-place finish at Homestead.
Jeff Burton will be racing one of the best cars in the No. 31 stable..
Kurt Busch will return in the same car that won at Michigan in August.
Kasey Kahne holds a 5.0 average running position in the last two races at Homestead.


Track Performers
The Hendrick Motorsports teammates of Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson lead all drivers with nine wins each on tracks exactly 1.5-miles in length. Mark Martin and Tony Stewart are tied for second with seven wins a piece. Jeff Burton rounds out the top five in wins with six. Martin leads all drivers with 46 top-10 finishes, followed by Gordon with 44. Ryan Newman is the current pole leader on 1.5-mile tracks with 11. In 2007, Gordon and Matt Kenseth lead all drivers that have made all seven starts on 1.5-mile tracks in finishing average at 9.9 and 13.0, respectively.


Homestead-Miami Rookie Report
Paul Menard and Juan Pablo Montoya are the only Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidates that have made a NEXTEL Cup start at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Both of them started last year's race and Menard was the tops among the two, finishing 17th. In 2007, Montoya holds the best average finish (23.3) on tracks exactly 1.5-miles in length (seven starts). Rookie Standings


Qualifying Tidbits
Seven drivers have won poles in the eight NEXTEL Cup races held at Homestead-Miami Speedway with only Kurt Busch repeating, taking the top spots in 2002 and 2004. Jamie McMurray set the track qualifying record in 2003 with a lap of 181.111 mph. History has shown qualifying in the front of the field is imperative to finish well at Homestead with six of seven pole winners going on to finish in the top 10. Last year's race winner Greg Biffle was an major exception to that trend, starting 22nd. Past Pole Winners | Starting Positions of Homestead-Miami Winners


Homestead-Miami Loop Data Leaders (2005-2006)
*Fastest Early in a Run
*Fastest Late in a Run
Avg. Running Position
1. Greg Biffle
1. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
1. Kasey Kahne - 5.0
2. Kasey Kahne
2. Martin Truex Jr.
2. Greg Biffle - 5.4
3. Martin Truex Jr.
3. Greg Biffle
3. Martin Truex Jr. - 7.2
4. Casey Mears
4. Kasey Kahne
4. Carl Edwards - 8.4
5. Carl Edwards
5. Carl Edwards
5. Kevin Harvick - 9.5
Laps in Top 15
*Quality Passes
*Driver Rating
1. Kasey Kahne - 521
1. Kevin Harvick - 92
1. Greg Biffle - 126.1
2. Greg Biffle - 512
2. Greg Biffle - 82
2. Martin Truex Jr. - 114.6
3. Kevin Harvick - 490
2. Casey Mears - 82
3. Kasey Kahne - 114.1
4. Carl Edwards - 450
4. Kasey Kahne - 79
4. Carl Edwards - 110.9
5. Matt Kenseth - 387
5. Ryan Newman - 73
5. Kevin Harvick - 99.8
*Fastest Early In a Run: Ranks each driver during the first 25 percent of laps run since a pit stop.
*Fastest Late In a Run: Ranks each driver during last 25 percent of laps run since a pit stop.
*Quality Passes: Passing a car running in the Top 15 while under a green flag.
*Driver Rating Formula combining the following categories: Wins, Finishes, Top-15 Finishes, Average, Running Position While on Lead Lap, Average Speed Under Green, Fastest Lap, Led, Most Laps, Lead-Lap Finish. Maximum: 150 points per race.


Dale Jr. Reality Cup Tiebreakers
Last Five # of Lead Changes
Last Five # of Caution Laps
2006 - 15
2006 - 43
2005 - 21
2005 - 37
2004 - 14
2004 - 79
2003 - 21
2003 - 60
2002 - 12
2002 - 41
Average: 16.6
Average: 52.0


Staff Picks
Jeff Wackerlin: Tony Raines
Pete Pistone: Jeff Gordon
Rachael West: David Gilliland
Note:
Drivers can be selected only one time per season. Race points will be added up each week. This is the 32nd race of the season for this section of the handicaps. Standings


Top 20 Driver Notes - Based on Current Standings
1. Jeff Gordon (Points: 6201): Gordon's 24th-place finish in this event last year was only the second time he has finished outside the top 10 at Homestead Miami Speedway. The finish also raised his finishing average in the four races on the new track configuration to 10.3. Gordon has led 46 laps at HMS, with the most of them coming in the 2005 race when he was up front for 39.
2. Jimmie Johnson (Points Behind: -9): Last year, Johnson used a ninth-place finish at Homestead-Miami Speedway to clinch his first NEXTEL Cup championship. In 2005, Johnson entered the race 52 points behind leader Tony Stewart, saw his championship hopes go up in smoke when he cut a right-rear tire on lap 127 that sent him into the Turn 3 wall. The 40th-place finish was his worst performance at HMS in five career starts. Prior to 2005, Johnson posted three consecutive finishes of eighth or better, including a runner-up finish in 2004 when he lost the title to Kurt Busch by a mere eight points. This weekend Johnson, who can secure the title with an 18th-place finish, will be driving the same car (chassis No. 363) that won at Atlanta, California and Las Vegas.
3. Clint Bowyer (Points Behind: - 111): Bowyer finished 10th in his first NEXTEL Cup start at Homestead-Miami Speedway in 2006. This weekend he will look to lock up his 18th top 10 of the season by driving the same car (chassis No. 170) that finished second at Kansas in September.
4. Carl Edwards (Points Behind: - 261): Edwards has yet to finish outside the top 15 in three starts at Homestead-Miami Speedway. His 8.7 average finish currently is tied with Kevin Harvick for the best among all drivers. In 2004, Edwards led 94 laps, marking the first time he has been up front in Cup competition at HMS. This weekend's chassis (No. 320) is the same one Edwards finished second with at California in September.
5. Tony Stewart (Points Behind: - 322): Stewart's finishing average (10.0) ranks first among all drivers that have competed in every event at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Stewart's two wins on the old configuration put him with Greg Biffle as the only multiple winners at HMS. This weekend he will be shooting for his third top-10 finish on the new variable banking in the same car (chassis No. 143) that won at Chicagoland and Indianapolis.
6. Kyle Busch (Points Behind: - 328): Homestead-Miami Speedway is Kyle Busch's worst track on the circuit based on his 39.5 finishing average. However, his starting average is the best at 3.5. Sunday will mark Busch's final race in the No. 5 Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports. He will make that start in chassis No. 412, which finished 41st at Kansas after a early race accident.
7. Kevin Harvick (Points Behind: - 392): Harvick currently holds the best average finish (8.7) among all drivers that have competed in four or more events at Homestead-Miami Speedway. His last four finishes have all resulted in a top 10, including a second-place in the first race on the track's new configuration in 2003. This weekend he will shoot for his sixth top 10 at HMS by driving the same car (chassis No. 120) that finished sixth at Kansas.
8. Jeff Burton (Points Behind: - 400): This weekend Jeff Burton will be making his fourth start at Homestead-Miami Speedway with Richard Childress Racing. His best finish with the team came last year when he took the checkered flag in 14th. Burton's previous track starts came with Roush Racing where he posted three top fives - all coming on Homestead's old configuration. Burton will shoot for his first top 10 at Homestead with RCR driving the same car (chassis No, 155) that most recently finished sixth at Texas earlier this month.
9. Kurt Busch (Points Behind: - 419): Last year, Busch finished 43rd in his Homestead-Miami Speedway debut with Penske Racing after a crash took him out of contention. Thanks to a suspension by Jack Roush, Busch missed the 2005 race at HMS. Busch, who is the only multiple pole winner at HMS, has two top fives - including a win in 2002 - in five starts with Roush Fenway Racing. This weekend Busch will return in the same car (chassis No. PSC-111) that won at Michigan in August.
10. Denny Hamlin (Points Behind: - 424): This weekend Denny Hamlin will be making his third career NEXTEL Cup Series start at Homestead-Miami Speedway. In his first attempt in 2005, Hamlin had to start at the rear of the field in a backup car after crashing his No. 11 Chevrolet on his qualifying attempt. He finished 33rd in that event. Last year he bounced back to finish third. The FedEx team will unload the same car (chassis No. 121) that has finished in the top 10 in five of six races this season.
11. Matt Kenseth (Points Behind: - 448): Over the past two seasons, Kenseth has boosted his Homestead-Miami Speedway finishing average to 22.7 after two consecutive finishes of sixth or better. With finishes of 19th or worse in his five previous starts, Homestead is Kenseth's worst oval on the circuit based on finishing average. This weekend Kenseth will look to continue to turn his luck around at HMS by driving the same car (chassis No. RK-323) that finished fourth at Atlanta last month.
12. Martin Truex Jr. (Points Behind: - 513): Last year, Truex Jr. boosted his Homestead-Miami Speedway finishing average from 32.0 to 17.0 with a second-place finish. He started 20th and led 27 laps in that event.
13. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (Points: 3714): Earnhardt Jr. has yet to post a top-10 finish in seven starts at Homestead-Miami Speedway. His best finish of 13th came in his first start in 2000. In 2002 he qualified inside the top 10 (second) for the only time, and led 46 laps before a broken valve spring knocked him out of contention. This weekend he will make his last start in the Budweiser Chevrolet, which will be the same chassis (No. 42) that finished 14th at Texas earlier this month.
14. Casey Mears (Points Behind 13th: -79): Mears hopes his first Homestead-Miami Speedway start will Hendrick Motorsports will help his overall record at the 1.5-mile speedway. Although he captured one top five in 2005, Mears has posted finishes of 26th or worse in his three other starts with Chip Ganassi Racing. Last year engine problems relegated him to a 32nd-place finish and a 22.5 overall average finish.
15. Greg Biffle (Points Behind 14th: -2): Biffle has won the last three Cup races at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Biffle's victory in the 2004 race was his first finish of 25th or better. Last year's win boosted his finishing average from 15.5 to 12.6. This weekend Biffle will drive the same car (chassis No. RK-315) that won at Kansas in September.
16. Ryan Newman (Points Behind 15th: -21): Newman has posted an average finish 20.6 in five starts at Homestead-Miami Speedway. His best finish came in his first start in 2002 when he drove a Ford to a sixth-place finish. Newman's only other top 10 (seventh) came in 2005 when he switched from his Dodge Charger back to the previous Dodge Intrepid. This weekend he will be driving the same car (chassis No. PRS-110) that finished fifth at Texas.
17. Kasey Kahne (Points Behind 16th: -366): Homestead-Miami Speedway is the site of Kahne's first NASCAR win. In 2003 Kahne won the Busch Series event from the third starting position. Sunday will mark his fourth NEXTEL Cup start at the track. Last year he started from the pole and led 90 laps en route to a fourth-place finish. It was his first Cup finish inside the top 15 at HMS.
18. Bobby Labonte (Points Behind 17th: -47): This weekend Bobby Labonte will be making his second start in a Dodge for Petty Enterprises at Homestead-Miami Speedway. His seven previous starts have all come with Joe Gibbs racing. Labonte won the first race on the new banking in 2003 after passing Bill Elliott, who cut a tire, on the last lap. His three other top 10s came in his first track starts, which included him leading 174 laps en route to a runner-up finish in the inaugural race.
19. Jamie McMurray (Points Behind 18th: -1): This weekend will be McMurray's second start with Roush Fenway Racing at Homestead-Miami Speedway. His first four starts came with Chip Ganassi Racing, where his finishes consist of two top 10s. His best start came in 2003 when he set the current qualifying record by winning the pole. McMurray, who finished 35th with Roush last year, will pilot the same car (chassis RK-393) that finished ninth at Texas earlier this month.
20. Juan Pablo Montoya (Points Behind 19th: -34): Homestead-Miami Speedway is the site of Montoya's first career NEXTEL Cup start. He started 29th and finished 34th in this event after crashing on lap 251. This weekend he will be racing the same car (chassis No. 707) that finished second at Indianapolis.

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