Sunday the Cup Series will run is final intermediate race of the 2023 season. Homestead is a 1.5-mile true oval. The track’s turns have progressive banking from 18 to 20 degrees. The front and backstretch have three degree banking. The other most notable feature of the track is its high tire wear.
Last year the average speed during the first 25% of laps following a pit stop was 157.11 MPH. The average lap speed during the last 25% of laps before a pit stop was 152.34 MPH. Meaning drivers lost on average around 3%, or almost 5 MPH of speed. In 2023 only six races on paved tracks have featured more fall off.
Although Homestead is a true oval, rather than a quad- or tri-oval like the other 1.5-mile tracks, there is still significant correlation between those tracks and Homestead. There is also significant correlation between Homestead and the other intermediate track most known for its tire wear, Darlington. So as I am handicapping this week’s race I am looking at the six races at 1.5-mile ovals plus the two races at Darlington.
The last wrinkle with Homestead is that while there is significant correlation between it and other tracks, there are some drivers who are just good here. There are also some drivers who are just not. Take for example Erik Jones. Jones is a monster at Darlington, which is arguably the most important non-Homestead track given its high tire wear. However, in six Cup Series starts here at Homestead he has only one finish better than 21st. He has also finished behind his starting position in five of six races. Models can only account for this so much… Which leads me to my best bet for this weekend.
Kevin Harvick, Top 10 +140 (Bet365 and Hard Rock Sportsbook)
The flip side of Erik Jones is the honoree of the 4EVER 400 race name, Kevin Harvick. Harvick is the model of consistency here at Homestead. Sunday will be his 23rd and final Cup Series start at Homestead. In his previous 22 races Harvick has 19 Top 10 finishes and 12 Top 5 finishes along with nine Top 3s and a win. Simply put every year, no matter the team, no matter what else has happened that year, Harvick shows up at Homestead.
His consistency here is why I’m surprised that a number of books opened his Top 10 odds at +140. I’m even more surprised that any book still has him at this price 24 hours later. But at Bet365 and Hard Rock we are still getting this great price on the #4 car.
Harvick’s overall consistency isn’t the only reason I’m willing to back him at this price. Earlier this year at the the first Darlington race Harvick finished second and was in the Top 10 for 61.7% of the race. At the Southern 500 Harvick had a car capable of winning until a poorly time caution lead to him make a pit stop while pit road was closed, sending him to the back and ruining his day. Before the untimely caution he had spent almost 95% of his laps inside the Top 10.
In his final start at one of his best tracks, in a year where he has been performing at the track I use as my primary comparable track, in a race named after him, I’ll take Harvick to get one last Top 10 more than the 41.67% of the time implied by +140 odds.
* Odds as of 7:30pm Eastern on Wednesday