Dixie Vodka 400 (Cup Series) Predictions & Picks

Dixie Vodka 400

  • Denny Hamlin is favored as the NASCAR Cup Series returns to the status quo.
  • Kyle Larson tops the list of “rim riders” who can win at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
  • Who says starting position isn’t important at the 1.5-mile South Florida track?

The NASCAR Cup Series’ Florida Swing concludes on Sunday with the Dixie Vodka 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, a 1.5-mile intermediate track located just north and west of the Florida Keys.

With the Daytona Road Course substituted last week for Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California, because of the Covid-19 crisis, this marks the first time since 1996 that NASCAR has run three straight Cup races in the same state. In that year, Cup drivers raced consecutively at North Wilkesboro, Charlotte, and Rockingham in North Carolina.

Sunday’s race will be contested at 267 laps (400.5 miles), with stage breaks scheduled after 80 and 160 laps. Denny Hamlin won last year’s race at Homestead from the pole.

How to Watch Dixie Vodka 400

Dixie Vodka 400 Information
What Dixie Vodka 400 NASCAR Cup Series race
Where Homestead-Miami Speedway
When Sunday, Feb. 28, 3:30 p.m. ET
How to Watch FOX

Denny Hamlin Is Favored as the NASCAR Cup Series Returns to “Normalcy”

The first two races of the NASCAR Cup Series season—the Daytona 500 on a superspeedway and the O’Reilly Auto Parts 253 on the Daytona Road Course—produced first-time winners, the first time that has happened in the first two races of a season since 1950.

Don’t expect that trend to continue in Sunday’s Dixie Vodka 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. This race marks the first of two straight events on 1.5-mile intermediate tracks, the staple of the Cup Series. At that sort of venue, as Denny Hamlin puts it, the top-tier teams are likely to return to the top of the heap.

It’s no surprise that Hamlin (+500 via DraftKings Sportsbook) is favored to win at Homestead. His three victories at the track are tops among active drivers and tied with Greg Biffle and Tony Stewart for most all-time. Hamlin is the defending winner of this race, and he starts from the pole as the Cup series leader.

Kevin Harvick (+550) is a bit shakier as the second favorite. Though he and Hamlin combined to win 16 of 36 points races last year, with Harvick taking a career-best nine, only three of those 16 victories came at 1.5-mile tracks. And Harvick’s record at Homestead doesn’t match Hamlin’s. The driver of the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford finished 26th there last year.

Kyle Larson Tops the List of “Rim Riders” at Homestead-Miami Speedway

Homestead-Miami Speedway is a track that provides drivers with multiple potential running lanes, but conventional wisdom says that a winner at the 1.5-mile venue has to be able to run the top of the track, mere inches from the outside wall.

That was the formula Tyler Reddick used to claim the 2018 and 2019 NASCAR Xfinity Series championships. Now a full-time Cup driver with Richard Childress Racing, Reddick understandably is one of the top 10 choices to win Sunday’s Dixie Vodka 400 at +2200, according to DraftKings Sportsbook.

A bigger threat may come from Kyle Larson (+900), a notorious rim rider who would like nothing better than to celebrate his return to Cup racing with a victory. Between seasons, Larson took over the fourth car at Hendrick Motorsports, the same organization that propelled Chase Elliott to the series championship in 2020. Larson has three top-fives in seven starts at Homestead, and he should be a factor on Sunday if he can run the wall without hitting it too hard.

Is Starting Position Important at Homestead? You Bet It Is

As noted earlier, Denny Hamlin won last year’s Homestead race from the pole position. That’s not an aberration. In 22 Cup races at the track, dating to 1999, seven have been won from front-row starting positions.

The last four Homestead races—and seven of the last eight—have been won by drivers starting in the top five. Only six times in 22 races has a driver take the checkered flag after starting outside the top 10. True, the absence of practice and qualifying this week is a mitigating factor, but the stats say definitively that starting position at Homestead is an excellent predictor of success.

The top five starters on Sunday are Denny Hamlin (+500), Joey Logano (+1000), Christopher Bell (+2500), Kevin Harvick (+550) and Kurt Busch (+4000). All but Bell have won at Homestead before, and all but Bell and Hamlin are former series champions

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Reid Spencer

Expert on NASCAR

Award-winning motorsports writer Reid Spencer has served as lead writer for the NASCAR Wire Service for 16 years, having also spent a four-year stint as NASCAR columnist and beat writer for Sporting News. He is currently serving as president of the National Motorsports Press Association. Email: [email protected]