Podium Preview: Ford EcoBoost 400

Above all, today's Ford EcoBoost 400 decides this year's NASCAR premier division champion. (Photo Credit: Josh Jones/TPF)

Above all, today’s Ford EcoBoost 400 decides this year’s NASCAR premier division champion. (Photo Credit: Josh Jones/TPF)

By all means, today’s Ford EcoBoost 400 culminates 10 months of intense action in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. For this reason, most drivers and pit crews prepare for the final grind of the season.

However, for this year’s Championship 4 (Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex Jr, and Kyle Busch), today’s the one they’ve waited for since last year’s finale.  While Harvick, Truex, and Busch won in recent years, Hamlin seeks his first Cup title in his 15-year Cup career.

Surely, today’s race and season finale provides ample opportunities for memorable moments to hold race fans over until next year’s Daytona 500. For this reason, it’s worth observing every lap and game changing event at this 1.5-mile superspeedway!

Today, our panelists, Ashley HobbsCody ShoppeJose Acero JrKobe LambethMatt Sisoler, and yours truly prepare for this Championship 4 showdown with our analysis of the quartet, those anticipating 2020, and much more!

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Question 1
Ultimately, which of these four wins the most prestigious prize in NASCAR? (Photo Credit: Josh Jones and Jonathan Huff/TPF)

Ultimately, which of these four wins the most prestigious prize in NASCAR? (Photo Credit: Josh Jones and Jonathan Huff/TPF)

This year’s Championship 4 pits Kevin Harvick versus three of Joe Gibbs Racing’s dominant racers (Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, and Martin Truex Jr).  Which racer has the best shot at winning the Cup on Sunday evening at Homestead?

Shoppe :  I believe Martin Truex Jr is the one to beat for the Cup title this year! MTJ comes into Homestead Miami with the most wins and comes into the finale without any poor runs and plenty of momentum. While I don’t really believe that having two weeks to prepare knowing they are locked in is exactly a huge advantage, Cole Pearn and team will be prepared to win this race like in 2017. 

This is the most competitive final 4 since it started in 2014 and could be the most exciting yet! Say what you will about this format but in this instance, we will get a very deserving champion no matter what this year! 

Sisoler : I believe that Kevin Harvick is the one to beat. It comes down to one race, and Harvick is not only the most consistent at Homestead, he ran well at Texas, which is another mile-and-a-half track. I think he’s gonna get his second Cup Series championship come Sunday night, although it won’t be easy, and it will be an exciting show! 

Tiongson :  Above all, when considering consistency and determination, I like Denny Hamlin’s chances for the Cup championship.  We’ve seen a more mature, poised, and driven Virginian in that 11 car. Also, he’s made less mistakes during critical moments and he’s encouraged by crew chief Chris Gabehart.

I found it interesting how Hamlin noted his satisfaction with being like the Mark Martin (one of the greatest drivers who didn’t win a Cup title). During the telecast, it was mentioned how Gabehart told Hamlin to not think this way and that he can win the Cup.  With fast cars, one of the best pit crews, and a driver who’s compiled an excellent season, a Cup championship caps things off nicely.

Question 2
By all means, Chase Elliott can't wait for 2020 after a tough finish this season. (Photo Credit: Josh Jones/TPF)

By all means, Chase Elliott can’t wait for 2020 after a tough finish this season. (Photo Credit: Josh Jones/TPF)

While four teams vie for the Cup title, which driver and team has a lot to look forward to going into 2020 based on momentum or progress during recent races?

Acero :  Tough to choose just one. I mean, lots of drivers stepped up their game this season, but I am going with Ryan Blaney. Seems like he is the driver that will bring the heat from the Ford camp in 2020. Look for him to add a few W’s in such column! 

Hobbs :  Outside of the Championship 4, one must look at what Matt DiBenedetto has done all season. Granted, he is moving to a new ride next year, but what he has done will certainly carry over to his new ride. I also look at the youngest Joe Gibbs Racing driver of Erik Jones – he has seen improvement lately and with his other three teammates battling for the championship, that only adds desire to want to do better and be up there with them.

This may seem odd, but Chase Elliott has a lot to look forward to in 2020. He wants to put 2019 behind him right now and wants to focus on the future. While his luck has been extremely poor these past few weeks, that must be motivation for 2020 and becoming even stronger. Similarly to Elliott, Jimmie Johnson must be ready to start fresh in 2020. He has not had the season (or seasons) anyone expected. While he had a few moments of “old Jimmie”, the overall season has been a disappointment. I look for all of Hendrick Motorsports to find something in 2020 to bring them back to the team of old.

Lambeth : Despite having a disastrous Round of 8, Chase Elliott should have plenty to look forward to next season. I am sure that his team will evaluate their performance and make some changes heading into 2020. I think the 9 team is destined to find more success. In general, Hendrick Motorsports is going to be a team to keep an eye on.

Given these points, the TPF team compiled two solid laps around Homestead-Miami Speedway!  Before we resume our Homestead preview, we’ll rewind to last weekend’s action at Phoenix with our race and points reports!
Indeed, Lambeth turned up the wick at Phoenix.

Indeed, Lambeth turned up the wick at Phoenix.

With this in mind, does anyone challenge the machine?

With this in mind, does anyone challenge the machine?

For the final time in 2019, Ashley Hobbs analyzes the statistics by “Crunching the Numbers: Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead” style!
All things considered, today's Ford EcoBoost 400 yields interesting team stats.

All things considered, today’s Ford EcoBoost 400 yields interesting team stats.

Since 2004, the Ford EcoBoost 400 winner has an average starting spot of 9.5, led an average of 80.8 laps, started within the top-five 60 percent of the time, and started within the top-10 66.67% of the time.

Since 2004, the Ford EcoBoost 400 winner has an average starting spot of 9.5, led an average of 80.8 laps, started within the top-five 60 percent of the time, and started within the top-10 66.67% of the time.

Interestingly, the Cup champion has won in their respective years at Homestead.

Interestingly, the Cup champion has won in their respective years at Homestead.

In a word, choosing the correct Championship 4 for today's race at Homestead proves challenging.

In a word, choosing the correct Championship 4 for today’s race at Homestead proves challenging.

Next, here's the trends at Homestead since 2009.

Next, here’s the trends at Homestead since 2009.

Now, here's the Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead trends since 2014.

Now, here’s the Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead trends since 2014.

By and large, the machine digs Kevin Harvick for today's Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead.

By and large, the machine digs Kevin Harvick for today’s Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead.

Last but not least, here’s our picks for today’s Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead, the season finale!
Certainly, any of these can win today's Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead. (Photo Credit: Josh Jones/TPF)

Certainly, any of these can win today’s Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead. (Photo Credit: Josh Jones/TPF)

Lambeth :  Denny Hamlin will deliver a race victory and championship to Joe Gibbs Racing. 

Acero :  Kevin Harvick I know it’s a 10 point penalty and that’s OK! 

Hobbs :  He is the best of the Championship 4 when it comes to the Ford Ecoboost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, and that means a bit more than behind behind his fellow Championship 4 competitors during the season (albeit not by much). Kevin Harvick will win the race and be the 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Champion.

Sisoler : He was my preseason pick, and even though it’s a 10-point hit, I’m gonna stay with the “paid spokesman for Mobil1” (as opposed to Clint Bowyer, the unpaid one), Kevin Harvick!

TPF Stats :

    • 4th best 2019 average finish
  • Tied for 3rd most wins in 2019
  • Tied for 3rd most wins top 5s in 2019
  • 2nd most wins top 10s in 2019
  • 2nd most wins top 10s in 2019
    • Most top 5s/10s/15s at Homestead-Miami Speedway
  • 2nd best average finish and best average finish among the Championship 4 at Homestead-Miami Speedway
  • Amasses the most stage points (even though they are irrelevant this weekend) at Homestead-Miami Speedway thus implying he runs up front the entire race

What do all these stats mean and who are they for? They mean that while his three competitors are above him during the season in stats, he is the best when it comes to racing in the Ford Ecoboost 400; and that is what really counts this weekend. The man they call Happy Harvick will hoist the 2019 Championship trophy by winning the Ford Ecoboost 400.

Tiongson :  OK, so every Championship 4 race since 2014 sees the actual Cup victor win at Homestead.  However, Kyle Larson loves racing at this 1.5-mile speedway and has the makings to spoil the postseason party.

Shoppe :  Kyle Larson will win the race and nobody will pay attention because the championship four will be battling close behind! 

Race fans, thanks for joining us for our preview of the Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead!

We’re ready for some racing. How about you? What do you think are the biggest storylines heading into Sunday’s race and who is your favorite to win?  Tweet us now @ThePodiumFinish and tell us now!

Thanks as always to the TPF team for their amazing efforts this season!  Everybody brought their A-game all year long and that’s all that can be asked for with our efforts!

Last but not least, thank you to the passionate and loyal NASCAR and race fans! We hope to see you at the races in 2020. 

The opinions and thoughts expressed in Podium Preview are solely of the authors. They do not reflect any organizations affiliated with the participants and author outside of TPF. This weekly feature is strictly for entertainment purposes and are not indicative of TPF, the organization, and its staff.

Rob Tiongson

30-something motorsports journalist who enjoys sports like baseball, basketball, football, soccer, track and field, and hockey. A Boston native turned Austinite, racing was the first sport that caught my eye. From interviews to retrospective articles, if it's about anything with an engine and four wheels, it'll be here on TPF, by me or by one of my talented columnists who absolutely have a passion for racing.

Currently seeking a sports writing, public relations, or sports marketing career, particularly in motorsports. I enjoy editing and writing articles and features, as well as photography.

Graduated from Southern New Hampshire University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication. Proud to be from Massachusetts, just as happy to be a Texan.

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