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The Ultimate NASCAR DFS Guide for Homestead 2018

Congratulations readers, you’ve made it to the end of another long but exciting NASCAR DFS season! For the season finale at Homestead, I’m going to give a breakdown of every driver, as well as talk strategy and model performance for this final race of the year. I’ll be using the color coded system that I’ve used on past RotoViz Live shows, with:

  • Blue = dominator
  • Purple = outside dominator
  • Green = good play
  • Yellow = mediocre play
  • Red = bad play

Let’s dive right into it, first with strategy, then the model projections and accuracy, then the driver-by-driver breakdown, going by starting order.


Homestead has a relatively high incident rate overall, thanks to the 2016 chaos that ensued late in the race. However, in three of the past four years, the incident rate has been under 18 percent. I’d look for some action and some strategy this weekend, and a three dominator race as the most likely outcome, with some possibilities of two dominators. Last year was kind of the exception with two dominators. Each of the other three races using this Championship format produced 3+ dominators. The model accuracy for Homestead isn’t super high, at only 0.58, so it’s definitely a week were getting away from the chalk is possible. Speaking of the model, let’s dive into its results.

Model Results

The factors that go into the finishing position portion of the model include 10-lap speed, year-to-date driver rating, last 12 race fastest laps, past Homestead fastest laps, and past Homestead driver rating.

Note: the model predicts the finishing position with DNFs removed, which is why you’ll see no driver projected worse than around 31st.

Denny Hamlin17.915.19.2437.59880013.3%
Kyle Busch25.3361.2727.5864.461180042.9%
Martin Truex Jr35.351.224.8561.631130031.4%
Brad Keselowski46.5313.788.8342.8940015.0%
Joey Logano55.6839.715.0555.091060032.5%
Kurt Busch610.988.68.6534.53920012.3%
Erik Jones711.441.197.2732.05820013.3%
Ryan Newman818.261.24.0117.7975008.4%
Ricky Stenhouse Jr915.680.055.0824.2730012.2%
Aric Almirola1011.310.476.934.95840017.0%
Kyle Larson117.1134.4822.2360.521000042.8%
Kevin Harvick126.9832.4629.9165.11250014.8%
Alex Bowman1316.180.157.2428.3740010.7%
Chase Elliott149.0521.0212.2351.28970012.6%
Ryan Blaney1512.3410.697.4240.71860013.6%
Austin Dillon1619.140.052.7123.0877009.7%
Matt Kenseth1720.150.782.822.31670012.3%
Daniel Suarez1817.830.073.4128.06780011.6%
Jimmie Johnson1916.050.87634.11800010.0%
AJ Allmendinger2021.3601.9122.2465009.8%
Jamie McMurray2118.70.011.3728.28710013.9%
Paul Menard2215.0302.1337.01700039.4%
Bubba Wallace2322.0901.2723.47590011.5%
Michael McDowell2422.140.011.9724.7560010.9%
David Ragan2521.8701.4726630012.8%
Clint Bowyer268.856.7912.4260.21900029.9%
Chris Buescher2722.7701.3726.14610010.2%
William Byron2819.780.023.834.34690041.3%
Matt DiBenedetto2926.960.011.2319.6954006.4%
Regan Smith3021.5501.1931.5580038.1%
Ty Dillon3121.2900.7932.82640014.9%
Landon Cassill3228.6201.3219.4152003.7%
JJ Yeley3330.170.010.4816.951002.9%
Corey Lajoie3430.400.4917.4449003.1%
Kyle Weatherman3530.9300.6517.4650001.3%
BJ McLeod3630.9500.518.3646001.5%
Tanner Berryhill3730.900.6519.5347003.2%
Timmy Hill3830.9900.5120.2748001.2%
Ross Chastain3930.7400.5921.8153007.4%


1. Denny Hamlin ($8800) – Hamlin is not a great play this weekend. I expect him to cede the early lead to teammate Kyle Busch, and Hamlin also did not choose the optimal pit position, instead giving that to Busch as well. No polesitter has won in the Championship Four era at Homestead, and no driver outside of the Championship Four has won at Homestead. I’d probably avoid him in all formats, especially cash games.

2. Kyle Busch ($11,800) – Busch has one of the best cars this weekend, placing third in 15-lap average in final practice, behind only Joey Logano and Martin Truex Jr. Kyle’s won in this format before and will have the optimal pit position and a teammate starting alongside him in the front row. He’s my top candidate to lead the early laps, and my personal favorite to win the title. I love Busch as a play in all formats.

3. Martin Truex Jr. ($11,300) – Truex had the second-best time across the board in final practice, behind only Logano. Truex won this race last year and has motivation to close out Furniture Row’s NASCAR tenure with a second championship in a row. He’s my second top dominator behind Busch, and a solid GPP play.

4. Brad Keselowski ($9400) – I’ll give Keselowski outside dominator potential, because the Penske/Wood Brothers cars look really fast this weekend. However, if push comes to shove, he’ll do whatever he can to help teammate Logano win the title, which makes me like him very little this weekend, hence the yellow tag.

5. Joey Logano ($10,600) – Logano was fastest in both post-qualiyfing practice sessions over 10-consecutive laps, and also fastest over 15 consecutive in final practice. He looks to have maybe the strongest car, and his team has been able to focus on Homestead longer than any of the other three teams he’s competing against. He certainly has dominator potential. He also has a strong track history since 2014, with the fifth-best driver rating, ahead of Truex who sits in sixth in that statistic. Logano’s price tag is a bit steep, and I expect him to be highly owned, so I might go a bit underweight on him in GPPs, but he’s a fine play given his practice speed and track history.

6. Kurt Busch ($9200) – I’m not super high on Busch this weekend both because I think he’s priced too high, and because his track history isn’t that strong. He has an 88.5 driver rating, good for only 11th best in incident-free Homestead races since 2014. Throw in abysmal practice times, and he’s a possible fade candidate, hence the yellow/red designation.

7. Erik Jones ($8200) – I kind of like Jones as a fade candidate this weekend, since I think everyone is going to be looking at his very strong practice times and moderate price tag and give him a look. However, Jones has been poor at Homestead in Cup, Xfinity, and the Truck Series, picking up finishes below his final championship position each time. The practice times keep him yellow, because that’s certainly a good sign, but I wouldn’t hate it if you almost fully faded Jones this weekend, except maybe a couple lineups.

8. Ryan Newman ($7500) – I don’t love Newman this weekend simply based off his practice times — only 22nd in 10-lap average — but he does have a killer track history for his price tag. Newman has the 10th best driver rating at incident-free Homestead races since 2014, and an average finish of 9.3 in those races, including a 10th place finish last year. His track history keeps him yellow-red instead of full red.

9. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. ($7300) – Stenhouse is strongest at the steep tracks, especially so in 2018, logging a career-best 81.8 driver rating at the highly-banked tracks. That’s 10 points higher than his previous season best. Stenhouse posted top 10 practice times in single, 10, and 15-lap averages in final practice, making him a better play than Newman.

10. Aric Almirola ($8400) – Homestead is one of Almirola’s strongest tracks, but you might not tell from recent history. He had problems in both 2015 and 2016, relegating him to 41st and 40th place finishes. However, aside from those two plus his initial Homestead appearance in 2008, he has no finish worse than 19th, which came in an inferior Richard Petty Motorsports car. He’s also tacked on a seventh and fourth place finish in inferior Petty equipment. His practice times were fast, placing seventh in 15-lap average and sixth in 10-lap average. I like him this weekend.

11. Kyle Larson ($10,000) – Homestead is a great track for Larson, and this weekend should be no exception. Larson led at least 132 laps in both the 2016 and 2017 editions of this race, and has posted the most fastest laps in incident-free Homestead races since 2014. Consider him a potential dominator, and a great cash game play at this price.

12. Kevin Harvick ($12,500) – Harvick is priced pretty steep this weekend, especially for someone who hasn’t shown quite the speed that the other three championship contenders have. However, he’s still Kevin Harvick, and his practice times weren’t that far off the mark of his competitors. I expect his ownership to be quite low, given the eye-popping times of the other three contenders, so I don’t mind an overweight play here if your heart desires. However, I’ll probably not go overweight myself, because I’m chicken.

13. Alex Bowman ($7400) – Bowman probably doesn’t have the car to push for a top-10, which is what you want from a mid-$7k driver starting this far forward. His practice times were slower than his qualifying position, and his track history in his only Cup race in high-level equipment produced only a 16th place finish. However, he is a pivot off of Stenhouse, and interestingly has a better steep track driver rating than Stenhouse this year, earning him a yellow tag just like Stenhouse.

14. Chase Elliott ($9700) – Elliott has had a fantastic second half of 2018, with the third-best driver rating and fifth-best average finish after the halfway point. In each of the previous two Homestead races, Elliott finished within one place of his final championship position. If he repeats that in 2018, he’ll be looking at a top eight finish, or even better if he finishes more like his second half instead of full season performance. His practice times weren’t amazing, which could keep his ownership down. I like him as a contrarian play this weekend.

15. Ryan Blaney ($8600) – Blaney will probably draw more ownership than Elliott given the price and practice difference, plus that one extra spot of place differential potential, and he does make a solid play this weekend. However, I think I like being underweight on him strategically, given his poor Homestead history in the Cup series, with no finish better than 17th. His 10-lap time of eighth was good, but not light-the-world-on-fire quick, and he didn’t show up on the 15 lap chart.

16. Austin Dillon ($7700) – Dillon has a strong Homestead track history, with finishes of 14th, 12th, and 11th in each of the last three trips to Miami. His 10-lap times in those races were 31st, 4th, and 20th respectively, so it’s hard to say practice is predictive of his race result. He practiced 18th fastest this weekend over 10-laps, which is around his starting spot. With some attrition, a top-12 is certainly possible. I give him a yellow, and he is another nice pivot off Stenhouse.

17. Matt Kenseth ($6700) – Kenseth has top-eight finishes in each of the last five years at Homestead, but that was in Joe Gibbs Racing equipment. More notably, those finishes got worse and worse, going from 2nd to 6th, to 7th, to 7th, to 8th. Like Austin Dillon, he has a car that practiced around where it starts, so he could also pick up a top-14 finish this weekend, which could get him close to the winning lineup.

18. Daniel Suarez ($7800) – Suarez has an average finish of 14.2 at the steep tracks this year and practiced 14th quickest over 10 consecutive laps in final practice. He also won at Homestead in the Xfinity series back in 2016. He’s a solid play this weekend, but his price tag, plus so many plays in the $7k range keeps him at a yellow tag instead of yellow-green.

19. Jimmie Johnson ($8000) – Homestead has never been one of Johnson’s strongest tracks, despite his win here in 2016 when he possibly had the worst performance of the four Championship contenders that year. Johnson was looking for speed here yet again, putting together only the 26th best 10-lap time. He’s not a strong play this weekend.

20. A.J. Allmendinger ($6500) – Surprisingly, Homestead has been a good track for this road course specialist. He’s averaged a 14th place finish over the last three years, and prior to a couple problematic years in 2013 and 2014 at Homestead, he averaged a finish of 10.25 in four consecutive Homestead appearances from 2008-2011. However, I don’t expect that trend to continue given his sub par long-run practice times of only 29th best. That said, in addition to strong track history, there is some saving grace in his short run speed, so I’ll certainly have Allmendinger in a few of my lineups this weekend.

21. Jamie McMurray ($7100) – McMurray gets a yellow-green tag given his low price point and solid practice times (16th best in both single and 10-lap speed). He also has a solid average finish of ninth at the season finale since 2014. He’s a strong pivot off the next driver…

22. Paul Menard ($7000) – Menard is in play in all formats, posting the seventh-best 10-lap average in final practice and part of that Penske alliance that has shown tremendous speed this weekend. Menard has a solid 13.8 average finish since 2014 at Homestead, and that came in inferior RCR equipment. Look for Menard to push for a top-12 this weekend.

23. Bubba Wallace ($5900) – Bubba practiced much slower than his qualifying position, which keeps him mostly off my radar as a sub-$6k play this weekend.

24. Michael McDowell ($5600) – McDowell is in play after practicing 23rd in 10-lap average in final practice. He does come in at a $700 discount to his teammate despite their similarities in speed and starting position this weekend, so he could be a nice pivot off his expected-to-be more highly-owned teammate.

25. David Ragan ($6300) – Ragan practiced 21st quickest in final practice. Whenever a cheaper play practices better than his starting position, he merits a look. However, strategically, I prefer McDowell to Ragan.

26. Clint Bowyer ($9000) – Bowyer is a strong cash game play from this far back after posting the 12th-best 10-lap average in Happy Hour. He has a strong track history, consistently outperforming his year-end championship position. That could put him in contention for a top-10. However, I can see an argument for being underweight on him in GPPs given his expected high ownership, but not break-neck speed this weekend. But he is certainly chalky this weekend.

27. Chris Buescher ($6100) – Buescher has been mediocre at Homestead, posting finishes of 24th and 20th in his two Cup starts. His practice times were slow, so I’ll keep him at a yellow tag.

28. William Byron ($6900) – Byron starts much farther back than he’s projected to finish, which makes him super safe for cash games. He did practice only 24th quickest in final practice, and that $6900 price tag is a touch steep, so I can see an argument for an underweight play in GPPs here. But certainly he’s a fine cash game play.

29. Matt DiBenedetto ($5400) – The first of the Joe Dirt Cheap tier (under $5500), DiBenedetto typically thrives on steep tracks. However, Homestead hasn’t been so kind to him, with only a 27th place finish as his best. I’d rather look elsewhere.

30. Regan Smith ($5800) – After a few weeks of struggle, Smith’s price tag has dropped to a much more palatable $5800. Combine that with a 30th place starting spot, a 25th-best 10-lap average, and a couple of inspiring performances back in 2010-2011 for a then-underfunded Furniture Row team, and you have the makings of a solid value play.

31. Ty Dillon ($6400) – Dillon practiced 27th quick over 10-laps in Happy Hour, so there is some room for place differential potential. Add in some attrition, and there is appeal to playing the younger Dillon brother as a value play. I’d really like him if he was under $6k, but instead he’s more of a meh play at this price point.

32-39. The Joe Dirts – I’m just lumping these guys together and ranking them in terms of my preference:

  1. Ross Chastain ($5300)
  2. Landon Cassill ($5200)
  3. Corey Lajoie ($4900)
  4. J.J. Yeley ($5100)
  5. B.J. McLeod ($4600)
  6. Tanner Berryhill ($4700)
  7. Kyle Weatherman ($5000)
  8. Timmy Hill ($4800)


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