Two weeks in a row we’ve had a first-time winner, and a lot of talk has gone into this week about the potential for a third. Names like Tyler Reddick and Bubba Wallace continue to come up, and while I think they are realistic possibilities, I’m not banking on that this week. Reddick is great at Homestead and RCR has been running better, but there is still this wild quality to Reddick that I think will have to be ironed out before he gets his first.
I’m holding judgment on Wallace and 23XI Racing until we see them tackle their first traditional oval. Wallace has had some decent runs at Homestead, so we’ll see if he can get a good day pieced together.
Like I said, It’s not my own personal prediction that we will not see a first-time winner, but I think we could see someone out of the norm. I recently did a write-up on how Kyle Larson should be heavily favored, but Christopher Bell could easily go for back-to-back wins.
Each of them runs well here but Bell may still have learning curves he’ll go through in his second year before he becomes a force capable of winning consecutive races. Larson also may take an adjustment period before getting his footing again, even at his strongest track.
None of these guys make my cut for favorite or dark horse pick. I just don’t trust them enough to overlook the veterans and guys that are constantly a threat to win
Favorite: Denny Hamlin
Hamlin has started off 2021 with consecutive top-five finishes and heads to Homestead where he has pocketed three wins and an average finish of tenth. Starting on the pole and being the defending winner here, I think it’s a pretty safe bet.
Denny is heading into this year with a brand new perspective on the sport, coming in as an owner. His personality and charisma seem in a much better place than they have been in years past. I think that coming in with a more positive mindset could be the fuel to possibly his most successful year yet. That’s saying something after coming off a seven-win race year.
Dark Horse: Austin Dillon
Dillon is coming off a bad week at the road course, but let’s not forget that he had his car running in the top fifteen for most of the day before the craziness began ruining cars. For a guy who is not a strong road course driver, that tells me that the 3-team has got that car running right this year. His third-place finish at Daytona helps validate that theory as well.
Homestead is also a strong track for him. He’s coming off of back-to-back top tens and has six top fifteens in a row. I think that Dillon is starting to hit his prime, and I think pulling out a surprise win here is well within the realm of possibility whether it be through pit strategy or off of speed.
- Denny Hamlin: $9’600
- Kevin Harvick: $10,100
- Chase Elliott: $11,000
- Brad Keselowski: $9,900
- Kyle Larson: $10,700
- Christopher Bell: $7,600
- Austin Dillon: $7,700
- Aric Almirola: $7,900
- Tyler Reddick: $8,500
- Cole Custer: $6,600
- Daniel Suarez: $5,700
- Ryan Preece: $5,900
- Corey LaJoie: $5,400
- Justin Haley: $5,300
- Anthony Alfredo: $5,500
I think that Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick are your best bets to win the race. DraftKings has Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. as the highest-paid driver this week, but I’m not buying that. Kyle Busch’s struggles from 2020 seem to be leaking into this year, and MTJ is having an off start to the year as well. I expect both of them to bounce back, but I’m not feeling it this week.
Keep an eye out for Chase Elliott and Brad Keselowski to try and have big bounce-back weeks. Elliott knows he missed out on a win last week, and Kes is looking for some redemption after such a hard outing on the road course. Both have run well here in the past and have shown speed early on this season.
I feel like I’ve said it many times this week, but Larson and Bell are both strong pickups for this race. Bell is especially appealing because of his ridiculously cheap price for a guy coming off of a win and runs well at Homestead.
Almirola was in the running for my dark horse spot before I gave it to Dillon, but both these guys could be out of nowhere wins on Sunday. I expect a top fifteen out of each of them at least.
My advice this week is to try and avoid some of the guys at the bottom of the barrel. The cheapest I’m going this week is Cole Custer at $6,600 and I think that’s where the top ten potential jumps off of a cliff.
If you’re going to pad your line-up with high-priced guys, keep Daniel Suarez and Ryan Preece on your minds. This is as close to the bottom of the barrel as I’d even consider going. My gut is telling me that DraftKings is overpricing and underpricing a lot of guys this week, so there is a lot of drivers in that middle ground you can fill a money-winning line-up with.