Wednesday, November 19, 2014

First Las Vegas 2015 Sprint Cup odds show books differing on favorite

Who will be in the final four next season?
LAS VEGAS -- On the heels of Kevin Harvick's 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup title, two sports books in Las Vegas wasted little time in posting odds for the upcoming 2015 season. The Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook posted its odds on Monday followed by William Hill on Tuesday. It's the earliest Las Vegas has ever posted NASCAR Championship odds for the following year.

For SuperBook manager Ed Salmons, it wasn't a difficult process at all as he's well-versed on all the driver changes and the nearly five dozen changes NASCAR implemented to the 2015 rules package which includes a horsepower reduction from 850 to 725 and a reduction in the rear spoiler height from eight inches to six.

"I just had some time on Monday afternoon during my regular routine, which for the past eight months has been reserved for setting weekly NASCAR race numbers, so I thought I might as well post them up," said Salmons, who is expecting the rules package to make cars run similar to the way they do in the Nationwide series.

The two books differ on who the favorite should be. William Hill posted Harvick as the 5-to-1 favorite to go back-to-back while the SuperBook posted six-time champion Jimmie Johnson as their 5-to-1 favorite. Jeff Gordon, Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano are next in line; although Salmons is down on Gordon a little.

"I think as long as there are double-file restarts, Jeff Gordon is going to have a tough time winning another championship," Salmons said, even though he shows Gordon a lot of respect by posting him at 6-to-1. "He's absolutely terrible on restarts and it cost him a chance to get to the Championship round. He even picks the wrong restart position, when he should be starting inside, he chooses outside."

One of the major differences in odds was what to do with Carl Edwards, who will drive the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota in 2015. The SuperBook posted him at 12-to-1 odds right near new teammates Matt Kenseth (10-to-1), Kyle Busch (12-to-1) and Denny Hamlin (15-to-1), but William Hill posted him at very attractive 30-to-1 odds. We just saw Harvick show that it is possible to win a title in the first year with a new team, and Salmons thinks JGR will be one of those teams that shows improvements in 2015.

"I would assume Gibbs can only get better. They were way down in horsepower last season but were still able to run competitively and almost win a championship."

Another driver that the two books differ on is Dale Earnhardt Jr., who burst into the win column four times in 2014 after only two wins in the previous seven seasons. William Hill sees his winning ways continuing as they've posted him at 8-to-1 odds to win his first Sprint cup title, but Salmons isn't sold on Junior's nature of racing and listed him at 15-to-1.

"Dale Jr. just doesn't have a championship in him," said Salmons. "He's not a winner and doesn't have that mentality needed. It's like he just wants to hang out with the guys and be liked rather than racing hard and possibly irritating some of his friends. But that's what it takes sometimes and I don't think he has it in him."

After seeing how the new format of the Chase played out where we had one driver -- Ryan Newman -- with no wins on the season finish second at Homestead and another -- Denny Hamlin -- with only one win on the year leading at Homestead with eight laps to go, the way we used to look at Championship odds can be completely thrown out the window. It's almost like two different seasons with different agendas for each, and one slip-up anywhere in the final 10 races can cost you more than ever before.

Harvick came right out of the gate fast with a win-or-nothing approach early on in the season and then needed to win at Phoenix and Homestead to win the title. Keselowski, Logano, and Gordon mixed in the wins with consistency all season, but only Logano made it through the Chase gauntlet among the three to be one of the Championship Four.

Newman's 2014 game plan is a model that will give championship hopes to dozens of drivers who wouldn't have had much of a chance under the old format. Salmons has a couple of long shot drivers he thinks can be contenders in 2015 similar to Newman, beginning with Newman's Richard Childress Racing teammate Austin Dillon.

"I think you could see Austin Dillon do something similar to what Newman did in the Chase. He's a big picture racer, conservative and it's that mentality that saw him win a Nationwide title without winning a race. Also, Tony Stewart can't be as bad as last season. He was a train wreck, but I expect both he and Kurt Busch to bounce back in 2015."

Below is a side-by-side look at both the Super Book and William Hill odds, each with an index that has less than a 30 percent theoretic hold which is extremely fair for bettors. The SuperBook is right at 28.9 percent. As more books post their numbers, we'll add to the list. Next up is Wynn Las Vegas, who will be hosting the NASCAR Sprint Cup Awards on Dec. 5.

Read More Here.........Westgate & William Hill Sprint Cup odds

Kevin Harvick talks with media Wednesday after winning first Sprint Cup

Busy week for Kevin Harvick with the talk show circuit
JENNIE LONG: Good morning, everyone, and welcome to today's NASCAR teleconference with 2014 Sprint Cup Series champion Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Budweiser Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing. Kevin clinched his first Sprint Cup Series title on Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway after scoring back-to-back wins to remain in championship contention. Congratulations.

KEVIN HARVICK: Thank you. Yeah, it's been a great couple weeks, so just really proud of everybody at Stewart-Haas Racing, and hopefully we can enjoy this over the next few weeks.

JENNIE LONG: As you mentioned, it's been a fast and furious few days. You made the rounds in New York City yesterday, visiting Live with Kelly and Michael and the Late Show with David Letterman, just to name a few, and today you're up at ESPN for a full day. Has it all sunk in yet and do you remember much about the race or is it all still a blur?

KEVIN HARVICK: The race is definitely still a blur. I think as you look back at everything that happened, it was so competitive all day with positions changing and definitely going to have to go back and look at the race and see how things shook out. Excited about watching that, and I think as I've told several people over the past couple days, it's like you go from this huge, competitive mode, and all of a sudden you get right out of the car, you do an interview, they hand you the trophy and then you're off to do interviews and photos and interviews and photos, and it's been hard to sit down and really kind of take a deep breath and take it all in. Looking forward to going home tonight and seeing my wife and son and being able to just kind of talk about it a little bit, and as we go to the banquet I think it'll really start to sink in when I can be around my team guys who I've been around all year and see their excitement and be able to talk about everything we've done this year.

Q. You said it hasn't sunk in yet, but you must have a tremendous feeling of accomplishment. I know on television they showed your wife sobbing, and I took that to mean she knows what you've gone through with the race team and working so hard to get to this point. Talk a little bit about the feeling of accomplishment.

KEVIN HARVICK: Well, you know, for sure it's an incredible feeling of accomplishment. I think as you look back, and I'm a guy sitting in a position that I dreamed about being a race car driver and at the time winning a Winston Cup Championship that is now called the Sprint Cup Championship, and being able to fulfill your lifelong dream and reality is something that a lot of people can't really say that they've ever done.

I'm incredibly fortunate to be in that position. And as far as Delana, she grew up in a racing family and knows how hard this sport is and knows the sacrifices that we make personally and that her family had made growing up to get race cars to the racetrack. So she's been an incredible part of this for me personally, just for the fact that she knows, and we've been around each other so much that she knows exactly what to say, when to say it, what to not bother me with, and the guys and gals back at the office know that in the situation that we were in that we've been a part of before, never actually won, obviously, but whether it be on the Cup level or the Nationwide or truck level, they know that a lot of that stuff goes to her first, and she kind of filters it to me as she knows what I do and don't want to deal with in those competitive situations.

It's been an incredible amount of pressure on her. She's also been moving our houses as we've gone through this whole process over the year and actually moved in Monday and Tuesday, so she's been a huge, huge part of this, and I think over the last couple weeks, everybody can see how much pressure was on her, and the pressure is almost worse when you're sitting up there and have no control over it.

I've been in that position as a team owner before, and there's nothing worse than sitting on that pit box not really knowing what's going on.


Q. Most what guys who won titles in recent years or at least have won their first title kind of tend to do it in the first five, ten years of their careers. Can you just talk about accomplishing this kind of so deep into your career?

KEVIN HARVICK: Well, I think there's a lot that led to this, and I always tell people, my Cup career really started backwards. It's like you started with everything that happened to Dale, and you go through all those scenarios, and you have crazy amounts of fans and attention and all the things that came with that situation. So it's taken a long time to navigate through exactly what was a good mix and balance for us, and a lot of experience and a lot of situations to build off of through the years.

I think for me personally, I think this year has been a huge -- it's been very huge for me just in the fact that I've been so excited to go to work and be a part of building something and not having the race teams and really getting our life where it had a great balance, whether it be personally, financially or professionally. Everything that you do affects everything else that you do.

For me there's a lot of things that Delana and I have worked through over the past three to four years and simplifying our life and just really trying to take a lot of pressure off of ourselves so we could focus on being good parents first and being as good as possible on the professional side, as well, with my job.

I think finding that right mix for me has kind of rejuvenated just showing up to work and really having a good balance on where things are in general in life.


Q. When you first started Cup racing, did you have -- was there any sort of plan as far as -- I don't want to say plan, but any idea what you thought, how many years it would take to where you would win a title?

KEVIN HARVICK: Well, you know, I think as you start, you know, you don't really -- it's hard to explain to people everything that actually goes on because there's so many different things that are thrown at you. The driving the car part is the easy part, but you never really -- especially in the situation that I was in with Dale and everything that had happened, I think you don't really know what the chemistry or the balance of the team and the organization need to be, and I think in this process we got to start from scratch when we started this year, so I think as you've been through those years and you know you've obviously matured as a person, but you know a little bit more about what you're looking for in a crew chief and how to go about that process and what you need to be, and for me I'm a source of information for my engineers and to my crew chief and to the organization to help drive things forward.

So I think as you look and put people in place, and as we've gone through the last several years, we had all the things that we needed to go buy all the trucks and trailers and parts and pieces, and you have resources through SHR and Hendrick Motorsports and great engine department at Hendrick Engines. So you have all those resources, but in the end still the biggest thing that I've learned is it still boils down to the people no matter what you do. You don't have the right people in the right spots, you can have all the bright, shiny stuff, but you're not going to get the results that you need.


Q. Just a quick question about what do you say to all your fans here in Bakersfield who have been following your career since Mesa Marin?

KEVIN HARVICK: Yeah, it's been interesting to say the least. I still communicate with a lot of my friends and things that I went to high school with. I still get back and spend a lot of time, and we do a lot of things at North High through the people there.

It's been a lot of fun over the years to still be involved and do things in the community. I was fortunate to have my mom and sister out for the race in Homestead this weekend, so that was extra special to be able to celebrate with them.

I'll have a lot of my friends over to Las Vegas for the party after the banquet and be able to tell a lot of old stories, and a lot of my buddies still come to different races throughout the year. Just really proud of growing up in Bakersfield, and my whole family pretty much still lives there, and hopefully we can -- hopefully at some point we can get the Sprint Cup trophy there to show off to the town.


Q. How did your experience as a young racer in Bakersfield kind of shape who you are in your racing career now?

KEVIN HARVICK: Well, for me, I was lucky. When I grew up racing, California is obviously not what a lot of people in the stock car world would think about in California in general. People in California in general did not think about stock cars for the most part and NASCAR racing in general. It was me and everybody else in town growing up pretty much a Rick Mears fan and a fan of the Mears family and wanting to race Indy cars in the Indy 500.

I think as you look at the town, you can race anything in Bakersfield, and Bakersfield is one of the most supportive racing towns anywhere in the country now that I've been all over the country to race. You can honestly say that that is a racing community. So I was fortunate to have a go-kart track, to have Mesa Marin at the time and have people and fans to support it.

It was definitely a fortunate place to grow up on the West Coast that was able to springboard my career into the racing world.


Q. Can you compare the mental preparation for the intensity of the final race with the mental intensity of the media blitz after a huge win in Homestead?

KEVIN HARVICK: Well, I've always been very much a part of the media and appearances and things that we plan on a weekly basis and have a fairly good handle on where my mental frame of mind is leading into the weekends of the races. My promise to everybody around me was you guys work with me up until we get to Homestead, and if we win the championship, I'll do whatever you guys want me to do. I'm at the mercy of everybody around me right now and enjoying being a part of what we've accomplished here and letting them kind of run with what they think is best for me personally and our sponsors and Stewart-Haas Racing and getting everything that we need.

That part of it has -- the post part of it has been very good. The weeks leading up to the race were obviously stressful. We were in a situation where our backs were against the wall and really needed to focus on what we were doing as a race team and spend the extra time thinking about race cars and race setups and had to shy away from some of the media things with everything that happened in Texas to really keep the focus on our race team and keep my guys around me from not having to answer questions that were outside of race cars.

Definitely a balance, and trying to keep control of the message of things and how they are perceived and what my guys at the shop are reading was very important to me as to what the perception we were sending.

I thought the weeks leading up to the race for us went well in the media blitz, just for the fact that I felt like the perception that we sent and the things that we did were very positive for our team and towards the people that we were racing against.


Q. And as far as the elimination format, you've probably been asked this question a bunch of times, but now after you've got the championship, the elimination format, could you make a comment on that, and would you change anything in it?

KEVIN HARVICK: It's probably going to end up shortening my career to be honest with you just for the fact that it's been so stressful over the last 10 weeks. It's definitely been probably some of the -- probably some of the most stressful 10 weeks I've had to deal with in my racing career just because of the intensity that it's created for the Chase and knowing that you have three weeks to make something happen, and in our situation we got our backs put against the wall in the first week of the next to last round, and we knew we had to go out and win one of those two races.

You know, it was definitely high intensity, high stress as we went through the new format, and I think for the fans, it created some really, really good racing, and everybody just kind of throwing caution to the wind to try to win races and make things happen for your team to keep advancing through the rounds.

It was very easy to follow, and in the end you knew how those cars finished, that was going to be your champion, and that was going to be your top four in the points. I think the racing world has enjoyed it, and that's what it's all about in the end.


Q. First of all, what's been the coolest thing and the neatest thing that's happened to you so far this week on the tour?

KEVIN HARVICK: The coolest thing that's happened on the tour? It's all been such a whirlwind, it's hard to really focus on one particular thing. I think as we got done with the race, some of the -- really some of the neatest moments were -- probably the neatest moment for me, first off, was being able to see my wife and son immediately after I got out of the car and celebrate with them in victory lane.

But some of the coolest moments probably came on that particular night when my son, after we got done with the car, he didn't really care about anything that was going on, but it was just watching him run up and down the racetrack and sitting up against the wall with him and really throwing rocks down to the bottom because that was really what he cared about at that particular point was throwing the rocks and rubber to the bottom of the racetrack. Just those little moments like that, and through the week he got his first fishing pole, so that was pretty cool to be able to share some of those moments.


Q. When did it sink in, or has it?

KEVIN HARVICK: Yeah, it really hasn't sunk in. Right now you're just trying to represent the sport and your team and your sponsors and doing everything that you need to do and do everything as right as possible for everybody involved.

I think sitting down and drinking some beers with the guys and really talking about everything that we've accomplished will probably come at the banquet, but right now it's just making sure that you do everything that you need to be doing and do it as right as you can for the sport in representing everything that we are at SHR.


Q. And finally, this Thanksgiving is going to be a little bit different than last Thanksgiving. You've got a new house versus a burned house from last year.

KEVIN HARVICK: Yeah, we won't be at Delana's mother's house and living in a motor home for sure.


Q. Anything different about -- not about the new house or anything, but when was the fire? Was it before or after Thanksgiving? I can't remember.

KEVIN HARVICK: I believe it was the day before Thanksgiving when we had the fire last year.


Q. So this year is going to be a lot different I would assume?

KEVIN HARVICK: Yeah, and that was really our main focus throughout the year was to make sure that we had everything situated. That was the main focus in front of everything else that we were doing on the weekends was to make sure that we had everything as in order as possible so that leading into the holidays, Keelan could have a firm foundation and home to celebrate the holidays in and make it as memorable as possible for him.

That's really been the main life focus that Delana and I have been working on throughout the year.


Q. We always ask or talk about at the end of the season whoever is crowned champion, what kind of champion they might be going for, do we think it'll be good for the sport, will they lead and guide it. Have you thought about what your role is and whether or not you have a certain responsibility as a champion next season in representing NASCAR?

KEVIN HARVICK: Absolutely. I think there's a definite responsibility that comes with the champion and doing the things that you need to do to help grow the sport. Obviously there will be a lot of people looking for your opinion, and you all know that I have opinions on how things should go and what is best. So I think for me, it's very simple; you be honest, you do -- just like we would do on a personal level. We'll try to do everything that we need to do to help grow the sport, grow our sponsors, and as always, always push everybody around us to try to do things that are unique and different from what they've done in the past to try to make things better.

I think as you look at the last couple of years in our sport and you look at the owners and the drivers and the communication between NASCAR and those groups, I think you have to see the results of everything that has come out of the meetings and things that have happened over the past few years. I think the sport is in a better spot than it was. We will all have that constant communication, and I definitely as champion want to do my part and do it as well as possible.

Q. Are you looking forward to that role?

KEVIN HARVICK: I am. You know, it's always better to lead than follow, so if there's a possibility of being that leader and being the one that everybody looks to you, you want to try to seize those moments and do the best you can to take control and do it better than it has been done in the past.

We'll do the best that we can in trying to achieve that.

Q. The last week or so as Rodney has gotten a little bit more attention, a lot has been talked about the courtship and how you guys dated for a year before he wanted to take that job. Why did you want Rodney so bad? What did you see in him or know about him that made you think he was the fit for you?

KEVIN HARVICK: Well, I think the biggest thing as a competitor, you see the speed in the cars that he's always worked on, so as a competitor, I think that's the first thing that you've always seen. I think the second thing is kind of that new wave of crew chief that's coming through the garage, and what I mean by that is Rodney has driven, he's built his own cars, he can run the engineering simulation program, and when you have all those experiences, you can relate to all those groups and not let them get too far out of bounds in what they're telling you and what they're communicating to you.

I believe he can keep his thumb on all those things and be able to understand whether they're working right or wrong. When you look at Rodney and you look at Paul Wolfe and a lot of these engineers that are coming through and have driven and raced and done the things that they've done, you have to -- there's not very many of those guys that are that well-rounded in that crew chief role. When you have something, and this probably comes from the business side of things of owning KHI, when you see something like that and you believe that's the right person, you have to figure out how to make it happen.

It was a lot of conversations for sure. He's one of those guys that just has to have that feeling of being comfortable and knowing that he's dotted all his Os and crossed all his Ts because it's no different than anything else. It's still business for him, and he has to support his family, and the decisions that he made will affect his life for the next few years and the contract that he was signing.

It definitely has been a lot of big decisions for really everybody on our team, and the team itself and making the commitment to myself to get everything started, to put those cars on the racetrack and not have one-dollar sponsorship if that's the way it all worked out. They were putting those race cars on the racetrack regardless. It was a lot of commitments and a lot of time from a lot of different people, and in the end of the time and the money that everybody spent wound up with a lot of good people, and that in the end is what makes it all go around.

Q. What did you think when he called for four tires on that last pit stop? What did you think?

KEVIN HARVICK: I never really even thought about it to tell you the truth. We've talked about these scenarios before, and he has to be comfortable sitting on the pit box and making those bold decisions and knowing that I believe in it and the team believes in it, and in the end he and the engineers have so much more ability to see what's going on in the race than I do in the race car. Sure, I'm a guy that always wants four tires, but sometimes you have to take two and you have to stay out on the racetrack to keep your track position, and they've seen how people move through the field and the difference in times from new tires to old tires.

When we came out of the pits, I thought we were in trouble because we were sitting 12th and behind a lot of cars, and you just never know how those restarts are going to work out.

But he made the call, and in the end that's what won us the race.

Q. You touched on a couple of things, but with the intensity for 2015, now people have gone through the cycle of the regular season going into the Chase, what do you expect to see at Daytona and at the first few races for next year?

KEVIN HARVICK: You know, I think everybody knows that winning is the ultimate thing in the end, and I think as you look at those first few races and everybody kind of understands the point system a little bit better and the intensity that you need to show towards trying to win races so that you can get that golden ticket, I guess you could say, into the Chase and really the earlier that you get it, the more time you have to build and fix problems that you have with your race team.

I think we were a classic example of that this year. We were able to win the second race of the season in Phoenix and kind of punch our ticket for the most part to being in the Chase.

It allowed us to fix a lot of problems. It allowed us to plan out where we thought we needed to be with cars, and if you wanted to make changes, you could have all those cars and you could have a backup plan for the backup plan leading into the Chase.

The earlier you can get that win, the better off you're going to be to prepare for the Chase.


Q. Did you really expect to see someone like Ryan Newman who was so consistent for 2014, someone to be able to make it into the Final Four, or did you think really winning would probably be the only way anyone would make it to that point?

KEVIN HARVICK: Well, racing for wins almost became a little bit detrimental, as you saw some of the things play out and accidents happen and things of that nature throughout the Chase. You saw some of those problems creep up because we were all racing for wins and having things happen.

I think in the end, I think it wound up with some guys that had won races and some guys that had been consistent and wound up with a good mix of both throughout the end of the Chase in the next to final round and the final round.

In the end it was a good balance of both scenarios.


Q. You've been posted already, not to put any pressure, but 5-to-1 favorite to win next year's championship by one of the sports books in Las Vegas. On that note, on a broad level for NASCAR, it seems like after we watched the 2014 Chase play out and the season with different strategies approached, whether it's points racing, trying to get wins, it just seemed completely different from what we've seen in the past. But after it all came out, seeing Ryan Newman, no wins and running in second at Homestead with a chance, Denny Hamlin, only one win, leading with eight laps to go, it seems like there's more hope for a lot more drivers coming into a season to win a championship. Can you talk about that and how far it expands? Does it go 20, 25 drivers deep that really think they can be in Ryan Newman's position? 

 KEVIN HARVICK: Absolutely. You know, I think as you -- if you can get to the Daytona 500 or Talladega or whatever that particular driver's good track is or the team's good track and capitalize on those situations, you look at Aric Almirola and AJ Allmendinger and those guys being able to get themselves into victory lane, if you can get that one win and really prepare yourself for the Chase and have a good first few weeks and you have some guys have some problems and you kind of, I guess, you guys have all kind of dubbed the 31 team as the Cinderella story, but there's a lot of cars in the garage that have that capability of being that Cinderella team, especially when you start talking about momentum. When you get the momentum in the sports world, momentum is a huge thing, and you can carry that a long ways. I think it definitely opens the possibility of things -- of cars and teams coming from being that dark horse I guess you could say to being in contention just for the fact of that momentum building and the teams getting better as they go through the year. It definitely opens things up to a lot of people being able to be in the Chase.


- NASCAR

Monday, November 17, 2014

Westgate LV SuperBook odds to win 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup

Denny Hamlin is 15/1 to win 2015 Sprint Cup
2015 SPRINT CUP CHAMPIONSHIP

JIMMIIE JOHNSON 9-2
KEVIN HARVICK 6
JEFF GORDON 6
BRAD KESELOWSKI 7
JOEY LOGANO 8
MATT KENSETH 10
KYLE BUSCH 12
CARL EDWARDS 12
DENNY HAMLIN 15
DALE EARNHARDT JR 15
KYLE LARSON 20
TONY STEWART 20
KURT BUSCH 25
KASEY KAHNE 25
RYAN NEWMAN 40
CLINT BOWYER 40
JAMIE McMURRAY 40
GREG BIFFLE 40
AUSTIN DILLON 50
BRIAN VICKERS 100
PAUL MENARD 200
MARTIN TRUEX JR 200
AJ ALLMENDINGER 300
TREVOR BAYNE 300
SAM HORNISH JR 300
RICKY STENHOUSE JR 300
DANICA PATRICK 500
FIELD 100

Kevin Harvick wins Ford EcoBoost 400 to win his first Sprint Cup Title





Ford EcoBoost 400 Results

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Updated Westgate Odds to win: 2014 EcoBooster 400 at Homestead

Jimmie Johnson is now 3/1 favorite to win at Homestead
FORD ECOBOOST 400
HOMESTEAD-MIAMI SPEEDWAY
SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 16, 2014


KEVIN HARVICK 5
JEFF GORDON 6
BRAD KESELOWSKI 6
JOEY LOGANO 6
JIMMIE JOHNSON 3
MATT KENSETH 12
KYLE BUSCH 15
KYLE LARSON 15
DENNY HAMLIN 12
DALE EARNHARDT JR 15
JAMIE McMURRAY 50
KASEY KAHNE 20
CARL EDWARDS 75
RYAN NEWMAN 35
TONY STEWART 60
KURT BUSCH 18
CLINT BOWYER 30
GREG BIFFLE 100
BRIAN VICKERS 100
PAUL MENARD 100
MARTIN TRUEX JR 75
AUSTIN DILLON 300
RICKY STENHOUSE JR 300
ARIC ALMIROLA 500
MARCOS AMBROSE 500
TREVOR BAYNE 500
AJ ALLMENDINGER 500
DANICA PATRICK 500
JUSTIN ALLGAIER 500
FIELD 500

Post Practice Notes & Top-Rated Drivers

Homestead Practice Notes and Final Driver Ratings: 2014 Ford EcoBoost 500

Strong Texas performance a good sign for Johnson at Homestead
LAS VEGAS – Jimmie Johnson saw a 1.5-mile track earlier this month at Texas and he led 191 laps en route to a win, and a huge part of the reason was because of a Homestead test session a few weeks prior, where they found a recipe for success. During Saturday’s final Ford EcoBoost 400 practice session at Homestead on Saturday, Johnson showed that the recipe is still good to go as he not only had the fastest lap (175.200 mph), but also had the fastest 10-consecutive lap average.

Homestead-Miami Speedway is one of only four tracks Johnson has yet to win at since he began running full-time in the Cup series. That’s 70 wins since 2002, none at Homestead. Along the way he’s grabbed six Cup titles, which is part of the reason he’s been in situations where he really wasn’t trying to win in the final race of the season at Homestead. In many of those instances, Johnson just had to play it safe and points-race.

Now Johnson can go all out as he’s the furthest back in points since he began Cup racing. He crossed Michigan off his ’things to do list’ in June, and between winning at Texas three weeks ago and what we saw Saturday during the final practice, he’s clearly the driver to beat on Sunday.

But the big story everyone wants to talk about is who is going to win the Sprint Cup among the Championship 4. The race itself, and who will win, almost becomes secondary to most in NASCAR Nation unless it’s a combination effort like Tony Stewart in 2011 when he held off runner-up Carl Edwards to win the race and the Sprint Cup.

Kevin Harvick was posted as the 9-to-2 favorite to win the race at the beginning of the week, as well as the 3-to-2 favorite to win the Sprint Cup, but he didn’t look nearly as intimidating during practice as he did on the other 1.5-mile tracks this season. Maybe because the paper-clip configuration and progressive banking make it unique to the others, but they were trying all types of set-ups during both of Saturday’s practices and couldn’t find that consistency they were searching for.

Harvick was fastest in the early session and then was eighth in the final session, but what had made him so intimidating to everyone else was the speeds they gained over 10-consecutive laps. He was blowing the doors off everyone in that category all season on the 1.5-mile tracks. His only win on the 10 1.5s this season was at Charlotte in October, but his confidence was high going into each of those races because of those stellar average speeds.

It’s not to say Harvick was slow, because he wasn’t. In the 10-consecutive lap category he was fourth best in the morning and seventh best in the afternoon. Any other team might be thrilled with that, but it might be kind of a downer for the No. 4 team because they have been the big dog in practice. What makes it even worse is that this 1.5-mile race is for the title. This is not the time for a sub-par practice. They raised the bar all season, now they're just a little bit under it.

Denny Hamlin, meanwhile, has to be thrilled with their practices where they had the third best 10-consecutive laps average during both sessions. The No. 11 team consistently ran fast laps and got their car looking better than it has all season. Remember, Hamlin’s team has underperformed on 1.5s all year -- only one top-5 finish -- but he’s also the only Championship 4 driver to win at Homestead, and he’s done it twice, including last season for his only win of 2013.

The entire No. 11 team has to be excited about their chances to not only win the Sprint Cup, but also win the race. Why not? Crew Chief Darian Grubb got the combo special done for as Stewart’s crew chief in 2011. They’ve also got the best pit crew in the series. And now they've got a very fast car on the long runs.

Both Harvick and Hamlin will have a rough Saturday night trying to sleep as they go for their first title, but Harvick’s might be a little tougher not just because of his practices, but also because the No. 11 looks stronger than ever, and maybe even better than his car.

If allowed to make a daily-double here in Las Vegas, like horse racing, for the race winner to the Cup winner, my play would be 11, 48 with 11. Johnson is the driver to beat, but Hamlin may be forced into winning and racing harder because Harvick is surely to be on his tail, just like Edwards was with Stewart in 2011.

Of course there's also Joey Logano and Ryan Newman racing for the title. Logano has a better resume on 1.5s this season as far as consistency goes, and Newman is right there with a 10th-place average on the 1.5s this season, but they didn't wow in practices. However, Logano's car did show noticeable improvements after his teammate, Brad Keselowski, shared some notes before Saturday's early session.

The best long shots to consider based on practices are Kurt Busch, Kasey Kahne and Clint Bowyer.

Read More Here.....Driver Ratings


Logano fastest in final practice among title contenders

HOMESTEAD, Fla. (AP) -- Joey Logano, trying to help team owner Roger Penske to a sweep of the major American racing titles, was the fastest of the four championship contenders in Saturday's final practice at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

''To be able to accomplish this would be really quite something, and that was really our goal from the beginning of the season,'' said Walt Czarnecki, executive vice president of Penske Corp. and the listed car owner of Logano's Ford.Team Penske won the IndyCar championship with Will Power in September, and a victory by Logano in Sunday's season finale would make Penske the only team owner to complete the sweep. A first-time champion will be crowned when Logano competes against Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick and Ryan Newman, with the Sprint Cup going to the highest-finishing driver.

''Maybe we didn't verbalize it quite that way, but we really felt we were going to be competitive in all of these series, and the results have demonstrated that.''

Read More Here.....Yahoo! Sports

Friday, November 14, 2014

2014 EcoBoost 400 Starting Lineup Breakdown

Denny Hamlin starts eighth on Sunday
HOMESTEAD, Fla. — The drivers in the first two rows for the NASCAR season finale are not Chase for the Sprint Cup finalists, so it wouldn’t be surprising for some of the focus to start with the third row.

Kevin Harvick, starting fifth, is the highest starter among the four drivers who enter the race on equal footing in the standings. Whoever finishes best in the Ford 400 among that group will be crowned the champion Sunday night at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

MORE: Homestead picks | Odds | Teammates could play big role in deciding champ

Harvick is the favorite, having led more than 2,000 laps this year, and he showed in qualifying Friday he had the most speed. As for the other Chase finalists, Denny Hamlin will start eighth, Joey Logano will start ninth and Ryan Newman will start 21st.

Jeff Gordon is on the pole and will be joined on the front row by Kurt Busch.

Here’s the breakdown for the final race of the 2014 season (Chase finalists in CAPS):

MORE: Most surprising Cup champions | Breaking down the final four | Chase story lines

1. Jeff Gordon, Hendrick Motorsports No. 24 Chevrolet — Still has to be wondering how in the world can he finish second in two races of the previous round and not advance to the championship round. He’ll have a lot of company in the bewilderment.

Jeff Gordon on pole for Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homsestead

HOMESTEAD, Fla.—Jeff Gordon edged Kurt Busch for the top starting spot in Sunday's Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway (3 p.m. ET on ESPN), as three of the four contenders in the Championship Round of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup qualified in the top nine during Friday's time trials.

In the third and final round of the knockout qualifying session, Gordon covered the 1.5-mile distance in 29.876 seconds (180.747 mph), narrowly beating Busch (29.895 seconds/180.632 mph) for the top spot on the grid.

Championship favorite Kevin Harvick (179.946 mph) will start fifth, with fellow contenders Denny Hamlin (179.348 mph) and Joey Logano (179.259 mph) eighth and ninth, respectively. Ryan Newman (178.241 mph), the fourth driver eligible for the championship, failed to advance to the final round and will start 21st.

Matt Kenseth (180.294 mph) and Brad Keselowski(179.994 mph), both eliminated from the Chase last Sunday at Phoenix, qualified third and fourth, respectively, for the race.

In the 25-minute first qualifying round, Keselowski set a track record at 181.238 mph (29.795 mph), breaking the mark of 181.111 mph established by Jamie McMurray in 2003. No driver has won a Sprint Cup race at Homestead from the pole since Busch accomplished the feat in 2002.

Gordon, eliminated from the Chase by one point last Sunday, moved toward the top of the track for his Coors Light Pole Award-winning run.

"The bottom just wasn't the perfect place for us to run," Gordon explained. "I could feel the tires going away, and then we needed to move up. So when we saw some of those guys running fast laps a little bit higher up, I was looking forward to making that last lap.

"The guys made some great adjustments. We unfortunately had a tire going down on the left front, so I don't know if that helped us or hurt us, but it was pretty nice to get that pole. That's awesome."

Gordon's Coors Light Pole Award—his first at Homestead, his third of the season and the 77th of his career—also was the 200th for Hendrick Motorsports.

Read More Here....NASCAR.com

Harvick fastest among Championship 4 in first Homestead practice

HOMESTEAD, Fla. — Kevin Harvick wasn’t on top of the speed chart in opening practice Friday, but he was at the top of the list that mattered most at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Harvick was second overall but first among the four Chase for the Sprint Cup finalists in the 90-minute practice session at the 1.5-mile track. Harvick turned a lap of 178.95 mph, slightly slower than Brad Keselowski’s lap of 179.004 mph.

MORE: Lawmaker: Busch should be suspended | France promises tougher stance| France likes new Chase | Team orders in play?

Among the other three championship contenders, Ryan Newman was ninth, Denny Hamlin 11th and Joey Logano 22nd.

Harvick, Newman, Hamlin and Logano all enter the season finale Sunday with equal points, and whoever finishes the best among the four will be crowned the 2014 Sprint Cup champion.

Following Keselowski and Harvick on the overall speed chart were Danica Patrick, Matt Kenseth, Kyle Larson, Kurt Busch, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Newman and Kyle Busch.

Qualifying for the Ford 400 is set for 6:15 p.m. ET today with two more practices scheduled for Saturday afternoon.

No major incidents occurred during the opening practice session.

- Sporting News

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Driver Chassis Selections for Homestead: 2014 Ford EcoBoost 400

Keselowski using winning Chicagoland chassis this week at Homestead
#2-Brad Keselowski: will drive Primary Chassis PRS-924 at Homestead, which last ran at Chicago in September and won the race. The backup chassis is PRS-902 which was last used as a backup at Texas in Nov.

#3-Austin Dillon will pilot Chassis No. 481 at Homestead. This is the same Dow Chevy that Dillon raced to a 13th-place finish at Charlotte in October, a 16th-place finish at Chicago in September, a 22nd-place finish at Michigan in August and a 10th-place finish at Indianapolis in July.

#4-Kevin Harvick will utilize Chassis No. 850 this weekend. Harvick raced this Budweiser chassis multiple times this season, including the following races: Auto Club Speedway (36th), the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race (second), Kentucky (seventh) and Bristol (August - 11th). The #4 Budweiser team also utilized this car during a two-day test at Homestead last month (Oct. 28-20). Harvick has 13 prior NSCS starts at the 1.5-mile track. He has earned five top fives and 11 top-10 finishes. Harvick has led a total of 136 laps at Homestead and has an average start of 14.0 and an average finish of 8.1 there.

#5-Kasey Kahne: Crew chief Kenny Francis has selected Hendrick Motorsports Chassis No. 5-820 for Sunday's race at Homestead. Kahne has raced this car five times this year. He drove it at the Fontana, California, oval in March and at Charlotte's All-Star Race in May, raced it to an eighth-place finish at Kentucky in June and drove it to Victory Lane at Atlanta in August. Most recently, Kahne drove this chassis at Dover in September. In 10 Sprint Cup Series starts at Homestead, Kahne has earned two pole positions, one top-five finish and four top-10s and led a total of 107 laps at the 1.5-mile track. He also has completed 2,593 of 2,675 laps there (96.9 percent). Kahne is the only driver with more than three starts at Homestead to have an average starting position inside the top 10 (8.3).

#10-Danica Patrick: will drive primary Chassis No. 10-908 which debuted in October 2014 at Charlotte with Kurt Busch and crew chief Daniel Knost. It started 11th and finished 11th after leading two laps. Backup chassis No. 10-845 was tested by Kurt Busch at Las Vegas in March, and then started 26th and finished 23rd at the 1.5-mile oval race weekend. The chassis was then used at Darlington, where Busch started 13th but finished 31st after being involved in an accident late in the race. The car was repaired and used in June at Michigan, where Busch started eighth, led 16 laps, but finished 13th. The car was back to Michigan in August, when Busch started 16th, led three laps and finished 31st. The Ford 400 will mark Danica Patrick's 82nd career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start and her second at Homestead-Miami Speedway. She finished 20th there in 2013. In three NASCAR Nationwide Series outings, she started in the top-15 each time and finished 13th in November 2012. In six IndyCar Series races at the track, her best finished was second in 2010.

#14-Tony Stewart: Chassis No. 14-898 debuted in August at Michigan with veteran NASCAR driver Jeff Burton at the wheel. Burton qualified 27th and felt the car was capable of advancing to the front, but a cracked tailpipe caught the heat shields underneath the car on fire around lap 65. It took 24 laps in the garage to make repairs, and Burton finished a disappointing 37th. Chassis No. 14-898 returned to action at Atlanta with Stewart. After starting 12th and passing five cars on the first lap, Stewart continued to show strength, climbing all the way to fourth place by lap 15. Changing track conditions saw Stewart drop to 12th by lap 100, but in working the low line around the track's corners, Stewart made the racecar work for him. Unfortunately, a flat right-front tire on lap 171 sent Stewart into the turn-two wall. The right side of Chassis No. 14-898 scraped along the SAFER Barrier and then moments later, the tire shredded, ripping apart sheetmetal and suspension components. Too damaged to repair, the car suffered a DNF (Did Not Finish). The car has been busy since, testing at Charlotte Sept. 29-30 and at Homestead Oct. 28-29. This weekend's Sprint Cup season finale marks the third career start for Chassis No. 14-898. Stewart has three wins, four top-fives, seven top-10s and has led a total of 450 laps in his 14 career Sprint Cup starts at Homestead. His average start is 15.9, his average finish is 11.9 and he has a lap completion rate of 99.9.

#15-Clint Bowyer: Chassis No. 817 serves as the primary chassis for Bowyer at Homestead. This chassis raced at Kansas in October (18th). Chassis No. 800 serves as the back-up chassis . This chassis raced at Bristol in August (17th) Kentucky in June (23rd) and Dover in June (4th). Bowyer has three top-fives and five top-10s in eight races at the 1.5-mile oval.

#16-Greg Biffle: the primary chassis is RK-930 which made is 2014 debut at Kansas with a 15th place finish, then went on to finish 13th at Texas. The backup chassis is RK-890 which last ran at Pocono, finishing 5th. Greg Biffle won at Homestead three years in row, starting in 2004. In addition to his three wins, Biffle has four top-five and five top-10 finishes at the 1.5-mile track.

#17-Ricky Stenhouse Jr.: primary chassis RK-914 is the same chassis that Stenhouse Jr. has raced multiple times this year. This chassis was last raced at Charlotte where Stenhouse finished 24th. The backup chassis is RK- 877 which last raced at New Hampshire and finished ninth. Stenhouse has two career starts at Homestead, with an average starting position of 18.0 and average finishing position of 30.5.

#22-Joey Logano: will drive Primary Chassis PRS-923 at Homestead, which last ran at Chicago in September and finished 4th. The backup chassis is PRS-903 which was last used as a backup at Texas in Nov.

#24-Jeff Gordon: crew chief Alan Gustafson has selected Hendrick Motorsports Chassis No. 24-914 for this Sunday's race. This chassis is brand new and has never been raced. On Nov. 18, 2012, Gordon led the final 13 laps en route to his only victory in 15 starts the South Florida track. His seven top-five finishes are two more than any other driver while Gordon is tied for most top-10s with 11.

#27-Paul Menard will utilize chassis No. 480 during Sunday's 400.5-mile event at Homestead. This is the same Richmond/Menards Chevy he raced to a 42nd-place finish at Charlotte in October, a 21st-place finish at Chicago in September, a fourth-place finish at Michigan in August and a 24th-place finish at Indianapolis in July. In eight starts at the 1.5-mile track, Menard has an average start of 26 and average finish of 24.1. He's completed 2,093 of 2,137 laps with one lap led. Menard also owns five NASCAR Nationwide Series starts earning one start from the third position, along with two top-five and three top-10 finishes.

#31-Ryan Newman will drive chassis No. 486 in Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series finale at Homestead. This Caterpillar chassis was utilized earlier this season at Kansas where the #31 team started 17th and finished sixth. In 12 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts, Newman owns one top-five and four top-10 finishes. His average start is 12.4 and average finish is 17. He's led 143 laps in competition. Newman's 11th-place finish at Phoenix advanced the #31 team to the Championship Round at Homestead. Newman is in a four-way tie for the lead heading into the season finale with 5,000 points.

#33-Brian Scott will pilot chassis No. 454 during the 267-lap event at Homestead-Miami Speedway. This chassis saw track action this season at Atlanta, Las Vegas, Texas, Charlotte, Michigan and Kentucky. Slugger Labbe will crew chief the #33 entry this weekend. Scott will be making his first Sprint Cup Series start at Homestead-Miami Speedway in the Homestead-Miami 400 on Sunday.

#48-Jimmie Johnson: Crew chief Chad Knaus has selected Hendrick Motorsports Chassis No. 48-891 for this weekend's event in Homestead. This car was tested at Homestead last month and also finished 12th at Chicago in September. The backup car is Chassis No. 48-799, which was last raced at Kansas in May where Johnson finished ninth. In 13 starts at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Johnson has four top-five and eight top-10 finishes. Johnson won two poles (2007 and 2009) and has led 99 laps. He has yet to win at the 1.5-mile track, which is one of four tracks where he has yet to reach Victory Lane. Others include Chicago, Watkins Glen and Kentucky. Johnson has an average start of 15.8 and finish of 14.8.

#55-Brian Vickers: will drive primary chassis 808 which finished 26th at Darlington, 42nd & 19th at Michigan & 15th at Dover in Sept. Backup chassis 797 finished 43rd at Dover in June.

#88-Dale Earnhardt Jr.: This weekend, crew chief Steve Letarte and the #88 National Guard team will unload Hendrick Motorsports Chassis No. 88-877. Earnhardt most recently raced this chassis to an 11th-place finish at Chicago in September. In 14 Sprint Cup starts at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Earnhardt has led 121 laps and recorded one top-five finish and two top-10s. He scored his best finish -- third -- at Homestead in the 2013 season finale.

#99-Carl Edwards: The #99 Fastenal team will unload primary chassis RK-910 was last run in 2014 at the second Charlotte race, starting in the 10th spot and finishing 8th. Backup chassis RK-897 was Backup for second Texas race. Edwards has won two times at Homestead in the Sprint Cup Series in 2008 and 2010. He has 10 Sprint Cup starts at the 1.5-mile oval with an average start of 11.7 and an average finish of 6.6.

- compiled by Jayski.com

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Kevin Harvick comes in as favorite to win Homestead and Sprint Cup

Kevin Harvick is 9/2 favorite to win at Homestead Sunday
Budweiser Racing Team Notes of Interest

Kevin Harvick and the No. 4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS team travel to Homestead-Miami Speedway this week to contend for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) championship in Sunday’s Ford EcoBoost 400.

Chase Update… Harvick enters the season finale tied atop the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup standings with Joey Logano, Denny Hamlin, and Ryan Newman. From that group of four, the highest-finishing driver in Sunday’s race will be crowned the 2014 NSCS champion.

Season Review… In the first 35 races of the season, Harvick has earned four wins, 13 top fives, 19 top-10 finishes and eight pole awards. He has also has led a series-high 2,083 laps.

Chassis Info…The No. 4 Budweiser team will utilize Chassis No. 850 this weekend. Harvick raced this chassis multiple times this season, including the following races: Auto Club Speedway (36th), the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race (second), Kentucky Speedway (seventh) and Bristol Motor Speedway (August – 11th). The No. 4 Budweiser team also utilized this car during a two-day test at Homestead-Miami Speedway last month (Oct. 28-20).

Homestead Stats… Harvick has 13 prior NSCS starts at the 1.5-mile track. He has earned five top fives and 11 top-10 finishes. Harvick has led a total of 136 laps at Homestead-Miami Speedway and has an average start of 14.0 and an average finish of 8.1 there.

Loop Data… Harvick owns a number of impressive marks in NASCAR’s Loop Data scoring system at Homestead-Miami Speedway leading into this weekend’s event, including: first in closers (40 positions gained); fourth in driver rating (99.1); fourth in average running position (10.855); fourth in laps in top 15 (1,805 laps); fifth in fastest drivers early in a run (164.262 mph); fifth in fastest on restarts (160.051 mph); fifth in green flag speed (161.857 mph); seventh in quality passes (398); eighth in laps led (78 laps); ninth in fastest drivers late in a run (159.888 mph); ninth in green flag passes (681 passes); and ninth in speed in traffic (161.248 mph).

A Look Back… During last year’s Ford EcoBoost 400, Harvick started sixth, led eight laps and ended up 10th. The finish marked Harvick’s sixth-straight top-10 finish at the track.

Harvick on racing for a championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway

Now that you’re in the mix to contend for the championship, what’s your outlook for this weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway?
“Going there and knowing that you’ve been there and tested, the No. 22 (team) has been there and tested and the No. 11 (team) has been there and tested, you go down there and it’s just a matter of going through the notes and trying to put together one more weekend. I think, for us, we’re going to approach it as having a good time, having fun and really try to keep it as low key as possible, just for the fact that this is what we all signed up to do — to race for a championship and to go to Homestead and just have a chance. So, let’s go down there and go for it and see where it all winds up.”

Your team has shown speed week in, week out. Having fast cars certainly makes it a lot easier to go to the race track every week, doesn’t it? “It certainly does. I think for me and my confidence, when I climb into the car every week, I know that thing is going to be fast, and if it’s not, I know we can figure out what we need to do to make it better. I’m just really proud of everyone at Stewart-Haas Racing and particularly my team for everything that we’ve built this year and been a part of.”

Reflect on the progress your team has made this year. “The progress that we’ve made this year is really something that I think we’re all proud of, just for the fact that we were able to knock off a win early, we were able to overcome so many problems, we’ve won a race in the Chase now, we’ve gotten this far in the championship race and we’ve done, really well as a group. We’ve built a race team from scratch, really from not one nut or bolt in a trailer and not one race car. Everyone has done a great job and everyone at SHR has given us the financial ability and all of the tools that we needed to go about building a race team how we wanted to. It’s been a lot of fun to be a part of.”

How would coming out ahead at Homestead affect your legacy? “This is all about winning a championship. That’s what we all show up for. We all want to be competitive on a weekly basis, but at the end of the year, you want that championship trophy. I think I’ve been fortunate to have won all of the marquee races and won at different race tracks, Nationwide championships, Truck championships as an owner, so we’ve been able to achieve a lot of things. That Cup trophy is the one thing that’s eluded us up until to this point. I definitely want to check that off of the list and be able to experience that for not only myself, but for all the guys that work on my car and haven’t been able to win that championship either. It’s been fun and hopefully we can reach that goal if not this year at some point.”

- Elevation Group of Companies for Budweiser Racing

Video: Roberts talks Homestead Odds

Homestead-Miami Preview: 2014 Ford EcoBoost 500

From 16 Chasers down to the final four this week
There were 16 drivers that began competing in NASCAR’s new Chase for the Sprint Cup format 10 weeks ago at Chicagoland and were down to the Final Four this week at Homestead. The best finish among the four eligible drivers wins the 2014 Championship.

Kevin Harvick has been posted by the Westgate SuperBook as the 8/5 favorite (Bet $100 to win $160) to win the championship followed by Joey Logano at 9/4, Denny Hamlin at 13/4 and Ryan Newman at 17/4. No points carry over from the eliminator round. It’s now head-to-head for all the marbles. While the eventual winner doesn’t have to win the race to win the title, there’s a strong possibility that one will win just because two of the drivers competing have been the among the best on 1.5-mile tracks this season.

There have been 10 races on 1.5-mile tracks this season and for the most part, there weren’t many surprises. Harvick won at Charlotte in October and also finished second at Kansas (May), Charlotte (May) and Texas (Nov). He also has led the most laps on 1.5-mile tracks this season while dominating every one of those practice sessions to the point where he looked to have the best car in all of them. Harvick is not only the favorite to win the Championship, he’s also favored to win Sunday’s race.

Logano grabbed wins on 1.5-mile tracks at Texas (April) and Kansas (Oct) and has four other top-5 finishes on them. Between he and teammate Brad Keselowski, Penkse Racing has won five of the 10 races on these type of tracks. After perhaps being rushed to the Cup series too quickly by Joe Gibbs Racing, where he was expected to some day win a championship, Logano has proven how good he is this season and is on the verge of finally winning the a Cup championship.

Denny Hamlin grabbed his only top-5 finish of the Chase last week at Phoenix and has been consistent throughout, but now he’s got to try and beat the Penske duo and Hendrick engines on a 1.5-mile track, something he hasn’t been successful at doing this season. His only top-5 finish on these type of tracks came in August at Atlanta. His team hasn’t had the power all season and they’re going to have to be creative to get some this week.

But Hamlin does have a couple of advantages. For one, his crew has been by far the best during the Chase. They routinely have the best pit stops, so while he may be losing speed to the big horsepower teams on the track, he’s gaining a second or two on them in the pits.

This track has also been kind to Hamlin. Of all the 1.5-mile tracks on the circuit, Homstead stands out as being the most unique and unlike the others with progressive banking and being in the shape of a paper-clip rather than the traditional tri-oval. Last season Hamlin struggled on the 1.5-mile tracks while his Joe Gibbs teammates Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth were dominating on them, but closed the season out with a win at Homestead. Hamlin also won at Homestead in 2009.

Harvick, Logano and Newman have never won at Homestead, but Harvick has been the closest with two runner-up finishes and two other third-places. Logano had his best career run last season with eighth-place while Newman was third in 2012.

Newman is the most unlikely of the Chase contenders because he hasn’t won a race all season. The new Chase format was designed to force drivers to win more, but he’s shown consistency still has it’s place in the sport. If he were to win the title without winning a race, he would be the first Cup champion ever to do so. To beat the other three drivers, he’s going to have find a little more power under the hood. He’s been solid all season on 1.5-mile tracks -- 15th or better in the last eight -- but he’s going to be overmatched.

The top drivers on 1.5-mile tracks this season that aren’t eligible to win the championship have been Keselowski, Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon. Kasey Kahne, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kyle Busch have also fared well. While Busch hasn’t won on any of them this season, he has finished fifth or better in the last three, which should be a good sign for teammate Hamlin.

The smart pick is either Harvick or Logano to win the title, but I’m going to go for Hamlin to somehow find a way to finish better than the other three. I’ll also take Jeff Gordon to win the race, and watch out for Johnson who was dominating at Texas using a set-up package for 2015 that was discovered during a test session at Homestead a week prior.

Read More here........Top-5 Finish Prediction

Video: Roberts talks Homestead odds

Hamlin's pit crew big reason where he is in Chase

Denny Hamlin's pit crew should win an award for their excellence
Denny Hamlin’s championship hopes were in dire jeopardy early in Sunday’s race, when the rear tire changer’s air gun knocked off the valve stem and flattened the tire, forcing Hamlin to return to the pits.

Hamlin twice went a lap down to race winner Kevin Harvick, only to get the laps back as the “lucky dog,” the highest-scored lapped car.

But when Hamlin needed a strong performance from his crew late in the race, the over-the-wall gang was up to the challenge.

On Hamlin’s final pit stop, Hamlin’s pit crew gained three positions for the driver of the No. 11 Toyota, boosting him from eighth to 11th in the running order and giving Hamlin the working margin he needed to advance to the season finale at Homestead with championship eligibility.

Ultimately, Hamlin came home fifth and had nothing but praise for his crew in the aftermath of a stressful race.

“They’re probably the reason that we’re in this position anyway,” Hamlin said. “I’ve been riding their coattails for most of the year. What they do for me on pit road, and obviously law of averages, every now and then, that stone is going to hit you, and it hit you that first pit stop, and luckily it was the first one. If it was later in the day, we were not going to overcome it.

“But you know, yeah, it’s crazy that that mistake is what put us back there, but they made up for it tenfold throughout the entire day with great stops. It’s great to have them on your side, knowing that you’ve got the fastest pit crew on pit lane going into a one race shootout. I like my chances.”

- Reid Spencer / NASCAR Wire Service

Kyle Busch going for fourth straight top-5 on 1.5-mile tracks

Kyle Busch is 10/1 to win at Homestead on Sunday
HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (Nov. 11, 2014) – As the curtain falls on the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series campaign in Sunday’s season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Kyle Busch is as focused as ever to finish strong.

Despite not being eligible to win the Sprint Cup championship, the driver of the No. 18 M&M’s Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) has plenty to race for in Sunday’s Ford EcoBoost 400.

The statistics show that the 2014 Chase has been strong for Busch and the M&M’s team overall, with three top-five finishes and six top-10s in the first nine races of NASCAR’s 10-race playoffs. However, accidents at both Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway last month and at Phoenix International Raceway last weekend have him sitting eighth in the standings heading into this weekend. For the season as a whole, Busch has nine top-fives and 15 top-10s, which includes a win in March at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California.

Homestead, site of this weekend’s finale, had never been kind to Busch until two seasons ago. He dominated the 267-lap race in 2012, leading six times for a race-high 191 laps. But while he had the dominant car, the Las Vegas native had to settle for a fourth-place finish after a long, green-flag run to the checkered flag saw the M&M’s team come up short on fuel and foiled a seemingly certain win in the closing laps. He backed up his strong run from 2012 with an eighth-place finish last year. Busch’s 2012 result was his first top-five at the 1.5-mile South Florida oval, bettering by far his seven previous finishes of 41st, 28th, 20th, 19th, eighth, 32nd and 23rd.

While mathematically eliminated from the championship hunt, Busch sits eighth in the standings, 40 points behind fifth-place Brad Keselowski. Busch also sits 16 points behind his seventh-place JGR teammate Matt Kenseth. The Las Vegas native can climb as high as fifth in the standings this weekend.

So, before the curtain falls on the 2014 Sprint Cup season at Homestead, Busch will reach for a Homestead win in order to top off another strong Chase. From there, he and the M&M’s team hope to take some momentum from Homestead to build upon for another Sprint Cup title run in 2015.

KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 M&M’s Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:

Do you feel like you’ve had two strong Chase runs in-a-row?

“I think so. Obviously, you look at some of the things that we could have done better, too. We proved to ourselves we could do it and we came out here this year and we were able to follow up on last year’s success. Barring Phoenix last weekend and the bad luck we had at Talladega, I think we’ve done a really nice job. At New Hampshire and Texas, we had basically wrecked race cars and brought home top-10 and top-five finishes. Those are the encouraging weeks, along with some of the other top-five finishes we had. Other than that, we’ve run a lot better in the Chase than we did throughout the season. The pace that those guys up front have kept up has been really tough. All we can do is go out there Sunday, try and win the race with our M&M’s Camry, and let the points fall where they may. We can get up to fifth and hope we can gain a spot or two once the checkered (flag) drops.”

How did the car react at Homestead-Miami Speedway during your test session a few weeks ago?
“Everything was really, really close to last year’s stuff – very similar. The track seems to have aged a little more and maybe the tire compound could use a little bit of help to be better there just because we’ve run the same one, I think now, three or four years. The tire compound is fine – it’s not that big of a deal. Definitely a lot of grip for the first few laps and then it really tapers off and then everybody is running up next to the fence. I think that’s what we saw in years past. As it did get darker, the track seemed to widen out. It’s just during the day, when it’s hot out and it’s slick out, that the best you can do is run right next to the wall. As the nighttime came, you could start moving around a little bit more. It’s definitely still a racey joint, but track temperatures are very conducive to that. Our M&M’s Camry was pretty good and we’d really like to finish off the year with a big win.”

What are your expectations for Sunday’s race at Homestead-Miami Speedway?
“That track hasn’t been great to me, but we really turned the corner there in 2012 and Dave (Rogers, crew chief) and the M&M’s guys brought a really good racecar. I’ve run well there in the Truck Series. I won the Nationwide race there in 2010 and 2011, as well. Homestead is a fun racetrack. It’s real challenging because of the way the race changes from the beginning to the end, and the way things change from the beginning to the end of your runs. You run the bottom, then you go to the top. You’re always moving around. You’re always thinking. It’s a cool racetrack. The sun is going to play havoc on our eyes getting down into turn one during the race.”

Like you said, Homestead has not been a great track for you, statistically, but that changed the last two years. Is Homestead a place you might be starting to figure out in the Sprint Cup car?
“We ran a lot better there in 2009 than where we finished and we were running top-10 in 2011 before we got wrecked, so, we’ve had a few races where our runs have been much better than the results have shown. In 2009, Denny (Hamlin) and I battled on that last restart and I just couldn’t quite stay ahead of him. Track position is big there and, once he got out in clear air, he was gone. I was trying hard to get back ahead of him and ended up scraping the fence. I’ve never run that well there overall, but Dave really gave me the best car I’ve ever had there last year. I’m hoping we can have another strong car and finish off the season strong, and it can give us some momentum for the offseason and for next year.”

KYLE BUSCH’S HOMESTEAD SPRINT CUP SERIES PERFORMANCE PROFILE
YearDateEventStartFinishStatus/LapsLaps LedEarnings
201311/17Ford EcoBoost 400117Running, 267/2670$140,293
201211/18Ford EcoBoost 40084Running, 267/267191$198,318
201111/20Ford 4001923Running, 266/26716$114,966
201011/21Ford 4003332Running, 242/2670$86,625
200911/22Ford 400308Running, 267/2671$130,623
200811/16Ford 400819Running, 266/2670$84,975
200711/18Ford 4001820Running, 266/2671$86,550
200611/19×Ford 400338Running, 206/26828$78,600
200511/20Ford 400441Accident, 115/2670$66,425

× Race length extended due to green-white-checkered finish.  

- True Speed Communication for Kyle Busch Motorsports/Joe Gibbs Racing

Ryan Newman using sixth-place Kansas chassis at Homestead

Ryan Newman is 9/2 to win Sprint Cup, 30/1 to win at Homestead
Ryan Newman
No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS
Event Preview Fact Sheet

This Week’s Caterpillar Chevrolet SS at Homestead-Miami Speedway
… Ryan Newman will drive chassis No. 486 in Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series finale. This chassis was utilized earlier this season at Kansas Speedway where the No. 31 team started 17th and finished sixth.

Newman at Homestead-Miami Speedway … In 12 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts, the South Bend, Ind., native owns one top-five and four top-10 finishes. His average start is 12.4 and average finish is 17. He’s led 143 laps in competition.

About Caterpillar … For nearly 90 years, Caterpillar Inc. has been making sustainable progress possible and driving positive change on every continent. Customers turn to Caterpillar to help them develop infrastructure, energy and natural resource assets. Caterpillar is the world’s leading manufacturer of construction and mining equipment, diesel and natural gas engines, industrial gas turbines and diesel-electric locomotives. The company principally operates through its three product segments – Resource Industries, Construction Industries and Energy & Transportation – and also provides financing and related services through its Financial Products segment. For more information, visit caterpillar.com. To connect with us on social media, visit caterpillar.com/social-media.

#NewmanNation …His 11th-place finish at Phoenix International Raceway advanced the No. 31 team to the Championship Round at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Newman is in a four-way tie for the lead heading into the season finale with 5,000 points.

Newman Media Availability … Newman, along with car owner Richard Childress, are scheduled to participate in the Championship Media Day on Wednesday from 6 to 8 p.m. ET at Trump National Doral.

Where’s Newman … Newman is scheduled to attend the Championship 4 autograph session on Saturday at the Sprint Experience located in the Homestead-Miami Speedway midway. Wrist bands will be distributed at The Sprint Experience during the week and one wristband guarantees all four driver autographs.

Race Rewind … In last season’s NASCAR finale, Newman started 15th and finished 17th.

Drive Home a Winner … Quicken Loans’ latest sweepstakes, “Drive Home a Winner” awards one lucky winner both a brand-new Chevrolet SS and a year’s worth of mortgage payments. The sweepstakes, open to those 18 and older, is a collaboration between General Motors and Quicken Loans. Fans can enter by visiting www.qlracing.com.

RYAN NEWMAN QUOTES:

What are your feelings heading into the final race of the season Homestead-Miami Speedway?

“I am so proud of my guys and all the effort they have put into this. I want to thank Luke Lambert, everyone at RCR, ECR Engines, Caterpillar, Chevrolet, Quicken Loans, WIX Filters and Kwikset for giving me the opportunity to race for the championship. We’ve been fighting very hard all year long. We did what we had to do to get to this position. We flew under the radar and turned in the solid performances to earn one of the four positions. There’s been so much on the line week in and week out during this new Chase format. We’ve been able to dig in and move on. It’s no different with the Homestead-Miami Speedway race. We are going to keep digging and hope it will be good enough to win a Sprint Cup Series championship.”

Can you get it done in Homestead?
“I sure hope so. We are certainly going to try. I mean, if we can win Homestead, it would be the icing on top of all the cake.”

- Richard Childress Racing

Monday, November 10, 2014

NASCAR should leave Chase format as is

There was certainly more spirited events this year than ever before
Good, bad or ugly, NASCAR's new Chase format has created drama, excitement and hard racing throughout its first year. Although it has faced criticism and it may have flaws, NASCAR now needs to leave the format alone for the next few seasons.

Since the Chase was introduced in 2004, the format and way teams compete for the championship has been changed, molded and completely rewritten on four different occasions. These changes altered how many drivers qualified, how they made their way in, and how the eventual champion was crowned.

With this latest change producing drama and excitement unlike anything we've seen in the sport for quite some time, NASCAR needs to embrace this format and let it be.

"NASCAR's core responsibility is to always look down the road and position the industry to excite our fans with the highest level of competition in the world," NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France said when introducing the new format in January. "... The new Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup will be thrilling, easy to understand and help drive our sport's competition to a whole new level."

Read More Here.......Fox Sports

Ryan Newman Sprint Cup Champ with no wins on season?

So far, NASCAR’s new Chase for the Sprint Cup has been a huge hit.

It has produced everything fans could want in a playoff-style championship battle.

Drama. Suspense. Controversy.

MORE: Breaking down Chase final four | Newman's bump-and-run | Harvick now Chase favorite |Gordon, Kes ousted

Big moments, and big performances.

Desperate drivers making desperate moves, leading to tense moments and thrilling finishes.

There’s been raw emotion, incredible passion and confrontation.

There have even been two wild fights, if you like that sort of thing.

In almost every way, the new, revamped Chase has been wildly successful.

There’s only one thing that could ruin the 2014 Chase, only one thing that could take the shine off a brilliant move and burst NASCAR’s bubble.

Read More here.......Sporting News