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Podium Preview: Dixie Vodka 400 at Homestead-Miami

Pole sitter William Byron hopes to lock his Championship 4 spot with a win at Homestead-Miami. (Photo: Sean Gardner | Getty Images)

Pole sitter William Byron hopes to lock his Championship 4 spot with a win at Homestead-Miami. (Photo: Sean Gardner | Getty Images)

Although Homestead-Miami Speedway has not hosted the season finale since 2019, Sunday’s Dixie Vodka 400 is a finale of sorts as the last intermediate track race of the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season.

With progressive banked corners, drivers will often race along the top lane, getting ever so close to the wall. Sometimes, it’s a lot like the Molly Hatchet song about flirting with disaster.

Built following the devastating damage from Hurricane Andrew in 1992, the 1.5-mile Homestead-Miami Speedway is the spirit of Southern Florida. Pastel blue colored walls, a sunny demeanor and sweeping corners will make drivers feel like Sonny Crockett in his Ferrari Testarossa.

For seven drivers, they hope to feel like Crockett when he drives his unmistakable ride around Miami. While Joey Logano is as cool as the other side of the pillow following his victory last Sunday at Las Vegas, his remaining Round of 8 challengers are ready for at least 267 laps of Cup racing.

Last year, William Byron was victorious in his No. 24 Chevrolet. This year, Byron, one of the Playoff racers, scored the pole and hopes to tally a timely third win and automatic berth into the Championship 4.

This weekend, Cody ShoppeJasmine SharpeKobe LambethLuis TorresMatt SisolerNathan Solomon and yours truly ponder about the Kyle Larson-Bubba Wallace fiasco at Las Vegas and an emerging winner from the remaining Playoffs field.

Podium Preview: Dixie Vodka 400 at Homestead-Miami
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Question 1
This was not quite Donnie Allison and Cale Yarborough after the 1979 Daytona 500. (Photo: Landen Ciardullo | The Podium Finish)

This was not quite Donnie Allison and Cale Yarborough after the 1979 Daytona 500. (Photo: Landen Ciardullo | The Podium Finish)

Bubba Wallace was dealt a one race suspension for his altercation with Kyle Larson during last Sunday’s South Point 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Given this suspension and the concerns surrounding the Next Gen car, was this the right move and should NASCAR set this as the precedent moving forward?

Sisoler : It is absolutely the right call to suspend him. We’ve seen intentional wrecks before, but with how these cars have shown to be less safe, to put it mildly, than their predecessor, a hit like the one Larson could’ve taken had Christopher Bell not been there to change the angle and lessen the force of impact into the outside wall, could’ve ended Larson’s season a few races early.

I do understand the frustration from Bubba, but I’m sorry, that’s just not the time to do something like that, not to mention the fact that Bell, an innocent bystander, got wrecked because Bubba turned Larson.

Tiongson : I mostly agree with the suspension doled out by NASCAR to Bubba Wallace. While I understand his frustration during the early going of last Sunday’s race, it was uncalled for by him to intentionally crash Kyle Larson. Yes, Wallace was essentially out of room off Turn 4 but Larson did not make contact with him.

It is understandable if Wallace wanted a war of words with Larson after the race. However, his retaliatory hit was inexcusable and it could have injured Larson and Christopher Bell, a victim of circumstance. As Kyle Petty of NBC NASCAR said on Motor Mouths, it is up to Wallace if he will learn from what happened and grow from what transpired at Las Vegas and his subsequent suspension for the Homestead-Miami race weekend.

During a time when drivers are clamoring for safer cars to allow for more aggressive, safer on track action, it’s one thing to be upset and peeved with a fellow racer. It’s another to take it to the level that Wallace took. Hopefully, we don’t see anything like this happen again but in the 74 year history of NASCAR, hits and paybacks will be a part of stock car racing as questionable hits in football occur.

Shoppe : I agree with the decision to suspend Bubba Wallace for a race. Action absolutely needed to be taken after not just the dangerous retaliation on track but also the walking down the hot track, and the ambulance protocol refusal. 

We’ve heard a lot of opinions this week citing countless previous incidents. I can see people’s frustration with the inconsistencies with penalties that NASCAR has always seemed to be famous for. Maybe points and fines should have been added as well but hopefully, in any case, a message was delivered by NASCAR that this behavior will not be tolerated moving forward. 

Solomon : This was absolutely the right move by NASCAR. Wallace blatantly wrecked Larson at a time where the Next Gen cars are under a ton of scrutiny for its safety. Keep in mind, this happened at the same time two full time drivers were sidelined for concussions. The wreck was completely uncalled for, as were Wallace’s actions afterward. I understand his frustration getting put in a bad spot by Larson, but retaliation was unnecessary.

NASCAR has now set a precedent and needs to follow it. Just this year, we’ve seen Carson Hocevar intentionally crash Colby Howard at Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park and Noah Gragson intentionally crash Sage Karam and others at Road America. When intentional, preventable crashes happen, NASCAR must continue to step in.

Question 2
Can Ross Chastain tally a timely victory at Homestead-Miami? (Photo: Sam Draiss | The Podium Finish)

Can Ross Chastain tally a timely victory at Homestead-Miami? (Photo: Sam Draiss | The Podium Finish)

Joey Logano punched his ticket to Phoenix with his win last Sunday at Las Vegas. Which of the remaining Round of 8 drivers seems likely to advance with a win at Homestead?

Sharpe : After watching the lower series race, as well as the Cup Series qualify yesterday, my head is spinning to find a solid answer. The eight remaining drivers are all deserving of a spot in the final four, each has proven their worth throughout this whacky season.

It seems to most that William Byron would be the best answer for snagging a win at Homestead, but for me I like looking back at all the chaotic events of this season for the best answer. 

Ross Chastain of Team Trackhouse has proven his ability of snagging wins this season. Yes, the boys over at Hendrick Motorsports are talented and have some of the best gear in the series, but this season has not exactly treated them the greatest. Ross is able to overcome car issues quite well, reeling from the tail end of the field, to finish up near the front.

The other six drivers Ross is facing off against for a secure spot in the final four are not great at staying positive when things don’t go their way. While Chastain has been known for causing plenty of chaos on the track, he seems to grasp the concept of having laser focus. The conflict between Denny Hamlin and himself could have gone many ways, but Ross kept looking ahead and driving his car out to the front. 

Lambeth : After putting down a solid qualifying lap yesterday to take the pole, I think William Byron might be ready to take the next step in his NASCAR Cup Series career. To no one’s surprise, Hendrick Motorsports looks strong this weekend and I wouldn’t be surprised to see one of their Chevrolets in victory lane underneath the gorgeous Florida sunset. 

Byron won at Homestead last year and he’s starting upfront in the Dixie Vodka 400. This race and next weekend’s race at Martinsville is the perfect storm for the No. 24 team to put themselves in the position to win and advance to the Championship 4.

Torres : The favorites at Homestead that are actually still in the championship fight are really slim. To me, it’s going to be tough beating Kyle Larson, but if there’s a man that has a great shot, look no further than last year’s winner William Byron.

The lone Hendrick driver in the Round of 8 has been quiet since his last win at Martinsville. But through consistency and other drivers’ pitfalls, he’s made it to this point. 

If he’s seriously going to be a threat for the championship, it starts at Homestead. While there’s still that race coming up next week, I can see Byron delivering a big win for the entire No. 24 team. They’ve been needing it since that battle with Joey Logano at Darlington. Imagine if it comes down to those two at Phoenix, we may see some payback.

Time will tell though but now it’s the time for Byron to make his presence known in these playoffs.

After two laps around Homestead-Miami, you’ll have to forgive us if we have Crockett’s Theme on repeat. Before moving onto the next track, let’s rewind to last Sunday’s South Point 400 at Las Vegas, Race No. 33 of 36 of the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season!
Did anything in Vegas stay in Vegas?

Did anything in Vegas stay in Vegas?

For Matt Sisoler, he left Las Vegas with the points lead.

For Matt Sisoler, he left Las Vegas with the points lead.

Next, here’s the starting lineup for Sunday’s Dixie Vodka 400 at Homestead-Miami courtesy of NASCAR Media.

Lastly, here’s our picks to win Sunday’s Dixie Vodka 400 at Homestead-Miami!
Will any of these formidable drivers win Sunday's Dixie Vodka 400 at Homestead-Miami? Can Ross Chastain tally a timely victory at Homestead-Miami? (Photo: Sam Draiss | The Podium Finish)

Will any of these formidable drivers win Sunday’s Dixie Vodka 400 at Homestead-Miami? Can Ross Chastain tally a timely victory at Homestead-Miami? (Photo: Sam Draiss | The Podium Finish)

Torres : Homestead usually has its favorites that are more often than not, out of championship contention. Even if it’s back in the playoffs, I still see this favoring non-title contenders. I’m going to take a gamble and go with Tyler Reddick this Sunday. Since going to Cup, he’s shown his muscle at this track already. No question, another win for arguably the breakthrough racer of 2022 is in the making.

Tiongson : If Noah Gragson conquered Homestead-Miami Speedway, Kyle Larson can do the same on Sunday. Larson has been close to winning at the South Florida track throughout his NASCAR Cup Series career. On Sunday afternoon, the defending Cup champion makes it happen with his No. 5 Valvoline Chevy Camaro.

Solomon : It’s pretty easy to go with Kyle Larson here. Homestead-Miami is a place where dirt trackers seem to thrive and Larson has always ran well there. Expect Larson to head to Victory Lane and redeem himself after a tough Playoff run.

Lambeth : Entering this weekend’s race at Homestead-Miami Speedway, William Byron is the defending race winner of the Dixie Vodka 400. After winning two races in early 2022, Byron has experienced his fair share of ups and downs.

Nevertheless, he finds himself in the middle of a deep playoff run, with a legitimate shot at going to Phoenix to race for a championship.

I expect Byron to claim glory again by winning at Homestead for the second consecutive year. This time, the win will carry significant weight because it means fighting for a Cup title in two weeks. Is Byron ready to take this step? We’ll find out soon.

Sharpe : Ross Chastain is seeking out a win in order to make it into the final four for the Championship at Phoenix. As stated in my response in the “Podium Preview,” I think he has the focus and ability to stay ahead of the competition.

Sisoler : Hear me out. The 45 car has the chance to have three different drivers pick up victories behind the wheel in one year, something that is extremely rare, if not unprecedented, in the NASCAR Cup Series, and both of the 23XI Camrys look really quick this weekend with John Hunter Nemecheck picking a Cup Series best fourth-place qualifying effort on Saturday ahead of Ty Gibbs’ sixth-place effort, also a career best.

He had a rough rookie Cup season when he drove the 38 for Front Row in 2020, but I think there is a really good chance that JHN gets a modicum of redemption for that and shows why he’s been a tough driver to beat for KBM come Sunday.

Shoppe : After a disappointing run in Vegas, Chase Elliott and the No. 9 team will rebound with a win in Miami! Despite recent inconsistencies, the No. 9 team still stands out to me as the closest thing to a favorite as you can have this season!

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

Thanks as always to the TPF team for their amazing efforts this week! While we progress toward a new kind of normal, please do your part to curb the impacts of the pandemic by washing your hands and getting your COVID-19 vaccine or booster. By working together, we can minimize the threat of COVID-19 for ourselves, our loved ones and neighbors.

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. Ultimately, they are not indicative of TPF, the organization and its staff.

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Rob Tiongson is a 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 his eyes. From interviews to retrospective articles, if it's about anything with an engine and four wheels, it'll be here on TPF, by him or by one of his talented columnists who have a passion for racing. Currently seeking a sports writing, public relations, or sports marketing career, particularly in motorsports. He enjoys editing and writing articles and features, as well as photography. Moreover, he enjoys time with his family and friends, traveling, cooking, working out and being a fun uncle or "funcle" to his nephew, niece and cat. Tiongson, a graduate of Southern New Hampshire University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication, pursues his Master of Arts in Digital Journalism at St. Bonaventure University. Indeed, while Tiongson is proud to be from Massachusetts, he's an everywhere kind of man residing in Texas.

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