There are a lot of NASCAR Cup Series drivers excited about this week’s Dixie Vodka 400. After watching Michael McDowell and Christopher Bell likely claim playoff spots in the two races at Daytona International Speedway, a more traditional 1.5-mile layout has to feel like an oasis in the desert for NASCAR’s usual suspects.
Those usual suspects fill in the top spots on the board for this week’s race at Homestead-Miami Speedway. From 1999-2019, Homestead-Miami was the venue for the final race of the NASCAR season. It usually decided a championship. Now, the Dixie Vodka 400 goes from “Finale to February” with this year’s race on the final day of the shortest month.
You can bet on Sunday’s Dixie Vodka 400 at DraftKings Sportsbook and get a Welcome Bonus worth up to $1,000. At time of writing, only the outright winner odds were available, but as the week goes along, props, matchups, group matchups, and additional betting odds will be posted for your wagering pleasure.
Those outright odds show a traffic jam at the top of the board. Current points leader Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick are tied atop the board at +500. This is basically what we saw all of last season when Hamlin and Harvick combined to win 16 of the 36 races.
Martin Truex Jr. is +700, followed by Chase Elliott at +750, Kyle Larson at +800, and Kyle Busch at +900. It is a little bit surprising not to see better odds than +1400 on Brad Keselowski and really surprising not to see better odds than +1600 on Ryan Blaney. Keselowski’s Penske teammate and current rival Joey Logano is +1000.
The fact is that you probably don’t need to go much further down the board than those guys. While McDowell and Bell have won the first two events, this is less about the driver and a lot more about the car. Homestead-Miami Speedway is a standard-issue 1.5-mile track with flat straightaways and mostly boilerplate turns.
There are no great equalizers here. There were 18 lead changes last year among seven drivers, but only six cautions. The race was red-flagged twice for nearly three hours. There were only three cautions in the 2019 race and just five cautions in 2018.
The drivers don’t get bunched up often and when they do, the restarts usually go in favor of the best cars. Five drivers have wins here in the last 10 races and they are Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Truex, Harvick, and Logano. The top six guys in points in this race over that span are Hamlin, Harvick, Kyle, Truex, Logano, and Keselowski. If you want surprises, this is not the race for you.
The Handicap & Dixie Vodka 400 Picks
In looking at this race, it’s hard to say you can go wrong picking any of the top guys. Hamlin has two wins and eight top-10 finishes here in his last 10 races. Harvick only has one win, but also has six top-five finishes. That is more than any other driver in that span. Busch has two wins, including the championship race in 2019. Truex is tied with Busch for the second-most top-five finishes with five. Logano has four.
There will be some extra incentive from some of these drivers to get a win here. There are only six 1.5-mile races during the regular season this year. Even the big track race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway is on the road course. Michigan is the only other big oval track, though there are two races on the triangle at Pocono.
I do like Harvick to win one of the next four races on oval tracks, including one in Phoenix where he is the absolute best. Even though he’s one of the shortest prices, I like the +500 here on him.
As mentioned above, I think Blaney’s price is just too high at +1600. Blaney did not run well in either Daytona race, but he regularly had one of the fastest cars on the 1.5-mile tracks last season. He finished third here last year and was a steady factor throughout the stages.
Matchups will be posted later in the week, but guys like Elliott over Truex and Kyle Busch over Larson will likely be of interest to me. If you see a group matchup with Alex Bowman, that isn’t a bad look either. He’s had some 1.5-mile success and is driving the old 48 car of Jimmie Johnson.
The Dixie Vodka 400 starts on Sunday February 23 at 3:30 p.m. ET.