November 20, 2009

While much of the focus this weekend will be on Jimmie Johnson's pending fourth straight championship, do not expect to see the No. 48 blowing the doors off the competition like it did at Phoenix. While Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus may say they go for the win at every race track, the Lowe's Chevy will have one of the more conservative setups in South Beach. So if you have already expended your picks this Chase on other drivers besides Johnson, you will not be disappointed. Expect the eventual champ, who only has to score 25th or better to clinch the title, to be a lock for the top 10 or top 15. That means if you are in the same position as the No. 48 team for your fantasy title, Johnson is a safe, conservative bet -- though he has never won at Homestead.

But for drivers and teams that need to get more aggressive, you may want to turn to the Roush Fenway stable. The powerful Ford team has won six of the 10 races run at the track, including the last five. As was the case at Texas, fuel mileage could play a role in the final running order of the season's final race, which could also "conjure up angst from aggravating fans" --but could also spoil statistical fantasy locks for the race. With the usual suspects not necessarily running up front at Homestead, you may find a winner at a bargain price for your fantasy roster.

Greg Biffle: Winless so far in 2009, "The Biff" has been the man in past races at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Biffle won three straight races at the Florida track from 2004 to 2006, putting together a streak similar to the dominance Jimmie Johnson showed at Lowe's Motor Speedway earlier this decade. Homestead is one of the few tracks that has not been dominated by a single driver or set of drivers over an extended amount of time, making Biffle's potent run at the track even more impressive. Another plus side for the veteran is that he comes at a cheaper price than most notable contenders in most fantasy leagues and has top 10s in the last three 1.5-mile races (Kansas, Lowe's, and Texas). Unfortunately for Biffle, his four other finishes at Homestead are outside the top 10 -- he finished 18th last season in the No. 16 Ford.

By the numbers: Biffle's Homestead career average finish is 13.4, but he has scored the most points there over the past five races.

Matt Kenseth: The entire Roush Fenway organization has struggled this season, as evidenced by Kenseth's failing to make the Chase. But the 2003 champ won at Homestead two years ago and led 73 laps last year before troubles led the DeWalt Ford to a 25th place finish. The RFR program is turning around, though, as Kenseth has scored top 5 finishes in the last two 1.5-mile track races. Kenseth may also be a fantasy bargain in comparison to his Hendrick counterparts at the top of the standings.

By the numbers: While his average finish at Homestead is only 20.6, he has three top 10s (and a win) in the last four races and has scored the 5th most points of any driver running HMS over the last five races.

Mark Martin: You have probably already expended one of your past picks on Martin or may be pushing your fantasy salary cap too much to add him to your roster, but the ageless wonder has nothing to lose at Homestead. The No. 5 team has shown it has the versatility to run well at every track, and the team has fielded at least a top 10 car in almost every race this year. Expect Martin to drive the race of his life at Homestead (like Carl Edwards did last year in Chase of Jimmie Johnson), in case Johnson slips up and finishes outside of his title-clenching threshold.

By the numbers: Martin has four top 5s and five top 10s in nine Homestead races, including a runner-up effort in 2005.

Denny Hamlin: Hamlin has been a contender at almost every Chase race this year and has not run badly at Homestead, scoring a pair of 3rd place finishes in 2006 and 2007. Carrying momentum from a runner-up run at Texas two weeks ago and a solid 3rd place effort at Phoenix last week, do not be surprised at all if Hamlin ends the final race of the season at or near the front of the pack.

By the numbers: Hamlin has averaged a 13th place finish in his four career races at the track and led 19 laps there in 2007.

Carl Edwards: Edwards' struggles this season have been mighty, but his track record at Homestead-Miami Speedway is hard to beat. Not only did Edwards obliterate the competition en route to last year's victory, but he has four top 10s (three top 5s) in his five career races there. The only reason not to pick Edwards Sunday is because he has not had a resurgence on the 1.5 mile tracks like teammates Biffle and Kenseth. Also keep in mind Edwards will come at a heftier price to your final fantasy roster, still buzzing on the strength of his nine victories and near-championship last year.

By the numbers: Edwards' 6.4 average finish at Homestead is best of all Cup drivers at the track.

Kyle Busch: Wasn't Kyle Busch supposed to catch fire in the Chase races, after failing to qualify for the playoffs for the first time since his rookie year in 2005? It never happened and one crew chief later, Busch is still fighting to regain the magic that led him to eight wins last season. In four Homestead races, Busch has a best finish of 19th, though he started inside the top 10 in three of those races.

By the numbers: Busch has scored the 32nd most points of all drivers in the last five Homestead races (he has only competed in four), behind underachievers such as Jeremy Mayfield (31st), Travis Kvapil (29th), Joe Nemechek (26th), Scott Wimmer (24th in only three races in that stretch), and Dale Jarrett (23rd).

Next up: Settle up time. Pay your debts or collect your winnings and do not spend it all in one place. Daytona and a new fantasy NASCAR season are less than three months away. Save this link to your browser, if you want to play fantasy racing Sunday only, or anytime next season.

Join writers for commentary, opinions, polls, and all kinds of other inside information you just can't get anywhere else as you follow the Homestead-Miami race LIVE from your computer. The action starts at 2:45 PM EST on Sunday, so feel free to drop on by. And remember, viewer posts are always welcome, so don't be shy -- participate!

You can hear Doug Saturday on The Allan Vigil Ford Lincoln Mercury 120 racing show with host Captain Herb Emory from 12-1 p.m. on News/Talk 750 WSB in Atlanta and online at Doug also co-hosts a weekly racing show, The Lead Lap: North Georgia's Racing Leader, on and You can also hear Doug host the Bill Elliott Racing Podcasts on and Chase

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