GFT Facts & Stats Friday: NASCAR Cup Series playoff race at Homestead-Miami Speedway
20 October 2023
By Bob Francis, Managing Editor
Go Full Throttle Racing News
HOMESTEAD, FL — The 1.5-mile Homestead-Miami Speedway is the site for this weekend’s NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs’ second race of the Round of 8, the 4EVER 400 Presented by Mobil 1, this Sunday at 2:30 p.m. ET on NBC, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio (Channel 90). Hendrick Motorsports’ Kyle Larson is the first driver to earn a spot in the Championship 4 Round with his victory last weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, leaving three positions still up for grabs heading into Sunday.
This season will be the 18th year Homestead-Miami Speedway has hosted a NASCAR Cup Series Playoff race (2004–2019, 2022–2023). The 2023 season marks the second-time (2022–23) the second-race in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs Round of 8 has been hosted by Homestead-Miami Speedway (Race №34 of the season and eighth of the postseason).
Homestead-Miami Speedway (2022) is the fourth different track to host the eighth-race in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs; joining Phoenix Raceway (one race: 2004), Texas Motor Speedway (16 races: 2005–2020), and Kansas Speedway (one race: 2021). Prior to the 2022 season, Homestead-Miami Speedway hosted the season finale race of the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs from 2004–2019 (16 races).
Track Length: 1.5 Miles
Race Length: 400 Miles (267 laps)
Grandstand Seating Capacity: 47,000
First Race: Nov. 14, 1999 — Pennzoil 400
Banking in Corners: 18–20 degrees (variable)
Banking on Straights: 4 degrees
Frontstretch: 1,760 feet
Backstretch: 1,760 feet
Qualifying & Race Records
Qualifying: Brad Keselowski, Ford, 181.238 mph (29.795 secs.); Nov. 14, 2014 (Round 1 of 3)
Race: Jeff Gordon, Chevrolet, 142.245 mph (2:48:56); Nov. 18, 2012
Most Wins: 3 — Greg Biffle, Tony Stewart, Denny Hamlin
Most Poles: 3 — Denny Hamlin
Most Top Fives: 12 — Kevin Harvick
Most Top 10s: 19 — Kevin Harvick
Go Full Throttle NASCAR AI Driver Rankings
All the NASCAR Cup Series on-track activity this weekend will get going with practice and Busch Light Pole Qualifying on Saturday, October 21 at 9 a.m. ET and can be viewed on the NBC Sports App.
Championship 4 Clinch Scenarios: Homestead-Miami edition
To decide this season’s NASCAR Cup Series champion the current Round of 8 contenders, not named Kyle Larson, have just two chances left — this weekend at Homestead- Miami and next weekend at Martinsville Speedway — to earn one of the three remaining spots in the Championship 4 Round of the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs. Hendrick Motorsports’ Kyle Larson punched his ticket to the Championship 4 with his big win last weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, the second-time in his career the 2021 series champion has earned a spot in the final postseason round (2021, 2023). This weekend, the 4EVER 400 Presented by Mobil 1 (Sunday at 2:30 p.m. ET on NBC, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) offers 400.5 miles (267 laps) for the competitors to battle it out. Here is a look at the clinch scenarios for the drivers vying for a spot in the next round.
The following driver has clinched a spot in the 4-driver field of the next round: Kyle Larson.
Can Clinch Via Points
If there is a repeat winner or a win by a driver who cannot advance to the next round, the following drivers could clinch by being 56 points above the 3rd winless driver in the standings. The same point requirements listed below would hold true if a new win comes from among William Byron or Martin Truex Jr.
· William Byron: Could only clinch with help
· Martin Truex Jr.: Could only clinch with help
If there is a new winner from Denny Hamlin or another winless driver lower in the standings but still eligible to advance to the next round, the following drivers could clinch by being 56 points above the 2nd winless driver in the standings.
· William Byron: Could only clinch with help
Can Clinch Via Win
The following drivers would clinch on their win alone: William Byron, Martin Truex Jr., Denny Hamlin, Christopher Bell, Tyler Reddick, Ryan Blaney, Chris Buescher.
Kyle Larson looks to become third active Cup champion with multiple titles
It’s an exclusive list with just 17 names on it all-time, and currently, only two active drivers (Joey Logano and Kyle Busch) have earned a spot on the prestigious list. This season, Hendrick Motorsports’ Kyle Larson has become the first Playoff competitor to secure his spot in the Championship 4 Round, and ultimately, is looking to add his name to the impressive list of NASCAR Cup Series champions with multiple titles. Larson’s last appearance in the Championship 4 Round in 2021, proved to be a fortuitous one, as the California native earned his first NASCAR Cup Series championship that year. But before he starts counting his titles, he will need to get through this weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway, but don’t expect him to slow down, as he is the defending winner of this Playoff race (2022).
“Obviously it’s nice to win and lock in, so you can focus on Phoenix,” said Larson. “At the same point you really can’t look too far ahead of yourself. There’s still two other races before then. I put a lot of pressure on myself going to Homestead. I want to have a great run there. I want to dominate honestly. I want to win both stages by 15 seconds and win the race by 30 (smiling). That’s my goal. … I just put a lot of pressure on myself and our team to not get complacent and treat every race like it means something.”
Larson has made nine career starts at Homestead-Miami Speedway putting up one win (2022), and five top fives. His average finish at the 1.5-mile track is 10.7 and he has spent 529 laps out front.
“I’m glad I won and locked in, but I like that now I can go to Homestead, Martinsville and just race,” said Larson. “You’re not really focused on points. You can be a little more aggressive now, trying to, yeah, just win really is the goal. At the same point, you don’t want to piss anybody off before we get to Phoenix, so that’s also a goal, is to race everybody fairly and not be a part of the story really the next couple weeks, other than winning would be great.”
If Larson were to win the title this season, he would join the below drivers as a multiple season champion.
Wins leader William Byron looks to make Champ 4 for first-time in his career
Now that his Hendrick Motorsports’ teammate, Kyle Larson, has already beaten him to the punch when it comes to securing his spot in this year’s Championship 4 Round, William Byron, the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series wins leaders — with six victories this season — is looking to secure his spot in the final Playoff round for thew first time in his career. And with his triumphs throughout the postseason so far, this might just be the year he does it.
This season has been a career-year for Byron, in 33 starts he has posted three poles, six wins, 13 top fives and 19 top 10s. He leads the series in stage wins with eight. His average finish this season is 11.3 and he is looking to become the fifth different driver at Hendrick Motorsports to earn a spot in the Championship 4 Round all-time; joining Jeff Gordon (2015), Jimmie Johnson (2016), Chase Elliott (2020, 2021, 2022) and Kyle Larson (2021, 2023).
Homestead-Miami Speedway is up next on the schedule and William Byron and №24 Chevrolet team led by crew chief Rudy Fugle are ready for it. They won at the 1.5-mile South Florida track in 2021 and sat on the pole and finished 12th their last season. In total, Byron has made five starts at Homestead-Miami, putting up one pole, one win and two top 10s.
Struggling to stay afloat, Truex Jr. looks to right postseason ship at Miami
Joe Gibbs Racing’s Martin Truex Jr., the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series Regular Season Champion, has been struggling through the first seven races of the Playoffs posting his first top-10 finish last weekend at Las Vegas. Now, the New Jersey native is looking to right his Playoff ship this weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway and earn his spot in the Championship 4 Round the sixth-time in his career (2021, ’19, ’18, ’17, ‘15). Truex currently ranks third in the postseason standings following the Round of 8 opener at Las Vegas and is up +2 points on the Championship 4 Round cutoff heading into this weekend.
“I love South Florida and love going down there (Homestead-Miami Speedway),” said Truex Jr. “A lot of great fans. It doesn’t feel like fall when you go down there, it feels like summer, so that’s an added bonus.”
So far, Truex hasn’t had the postseason run he expected after winning the Regular Season Championship, making seven starts and putting up just one top-10 finish. His average finish during the Playoffs this season is an unrecognizable 19.4. But Homestead-Miami is one Truex’s better tracks and this weekend his postseason fortunes could turn.
“Recent success is always important,” said Truex. … “Definitely have a lot of confidence going there (Homestead-Miami) with our Bass Pro Shops Camry. I feel like we have a good notebook from last year to go off of. It’s a place where I think we can make something happen.”
Truex has made 18 series starts at Homestead-Miami Speedway collecting one win (2017), seven top fives and 12 top 10s. His average finish at the 1.5-mile track is a stout 9.667 — best among Playoff contenders.
“You can run all over and it’s really low-grip and it wears tires out,” said Truex when referring to Homestead-Miami. “You really have to manage your car and your tires throughout runs. Be able to move around the track and find lines that work for you. It’s a big challenge and I enjoy tracks like that.”
Deja Vue: Denny Hamlin teeters Championship 4 Round cutline in Miami
Just like last season, Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin heads into the eighth race of the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs at Homestead-Miami Speedway teetering the Championship 4 Round cutline in fourth, this time just two points up on his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Christopher Bell in fifth place. Hamlin wasn’t able to earn a spot in the final round last season, but this year is hoping to get his fifth career appearance (2014, 2019, 2020, 2021) in the Championship 4.
Hamlin will be one to watch come Sunday, Homestead-Miami Speedway is one of his best tracks. In 18 career NASCAR Cup Series starts at the 1.5-mile speedway in South Florida, he has collected three wins (2009, 2013, 2020), five top fives and 12 top 10s. His average finish at the track is 9.833 is second-best among Playoff contenders and he has led 397 laps.
Outside Looking In: Bell, Reddick, Blaney and Buescher are below the cutline
With the first race in the books of the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs Round of 8 and two races to go, the postseason contenders below the Championship 4 Round cutline have quite the challenge set before them as they try to earn their position in the final round. Following the Round of 8 opener at Las Vegas, Joe Gibbs Racing’s Christopher Bell finds himself in fifth place, two points back from his JGR teammates Martin Truex Jr. in third and Denny Hamlin in fourth (currently tied in points at 4,070). Joining Bell below the Championship 4 cutline are 23XI Racing’s Tyler Reddick in sixth (-16 points), Team Penske’s Ryan Blaney in seventh (-17 points) and RFK Racing’s Chris Buescher in eighth (-23 points), but keep in mind only two more spots can be earned by wins leaving at least one spot reserved for a driver to get in on points.
Christopher Bell (№20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota) heads to Homestead-Miami Speedway ranked fifth in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoff standings following Las Vegas, two points back from the Championship 4 cutoff. This year, Bell is looking to make the Championship 4 Round for the second consecutive season (2022) in his career.
“I think I saw we’re minus two, so we’re not out of it by any means,” said Bell following his runner-up finish at Las Vegas.
In 33 starts this season, Bell has managed to put up a season-to-date Driver Rating of 91.1 (fifth-best) and post one win (Bristol Dirt), nine top fives, 17 top 10s, and a series leading six poles. He has four stage wins, has led 573 laps and has earned an average finish of 12.8.
Looking to Homestead-Miami Speedway, Bell has one top-10 finish in three starts at the 1.5-mile track. His average finish at Homestead-Miami is 13.0, seventh-best. Plus, he ranks in the top-20 in two pre-race Loop Data categories: Average Running Position (15.418, 14th-best) and Driver Rating (75.1, 16th-best). He finished 11th in last season’s Homestead-Miami race.
Tyler Reddick (№45 23XI Racing Toyota) flies down to Homestead-Miami Speedway this week ranked sixth in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoff standings following Las Vegas, -16 points back from the Championship 4 cutoff. This year, Reddick is looking to make the Championship 4 Round for the first-time in his career and become the first driver from 23XI Racing to make the final Playoff round.
In 33 starts this season, Reddick has put up a season-to-date Driver Rating of 90.3 (sixth-best) and post two wins (Austin, Kansas), nine top fives, 15 top 10s and two poles. He has six stage wins, has led 469 laps and has earned an average finish of 15.5 this season.
Looking to Homestead-Miami Speedway, Reddick has posted two top fives and two top 10s. His average finish of 13.667 at Homestead-Miami is ninth-best. He also ranks in the top-10 in two key pre-race Loop Data categories: Average Running Position (12.963, 10th-best) and Driver Rating (93.0, eighth-best). Plus, he has also won twice at the South Florida track in the NASCAR Xfinity Series (2018, 2019).
Ryan Blaney (№12 Team Penske Ford) arrives at Homestead-Miami Speedway ranked seventh in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoff standings following Las Vegas, -17 points back from the Championship 4 cutoff. This year, Blaney is looking to make the Championship 4 Round for the first-time in his career and become the third different driver from Team Penske to earn spot in the Playoffs’ final round; joining Joey Logano (2022, ’20, ’18, ’16, ’14) and Brad Keselowski (2020, ‘17).
In 33 starts this season, Blaney has procured a season-to-date Driver Rating of 85.9 (seventh-best) and has put up two wins (Charlotte and Talladega), five top fives and 15 top 10s. He has won four stages, has led 362 laps and has managed an average finish of 15.2.
Looking to Homestead-Miami Speedway, Blaney has put up one top five and one top 10 in eight starts. His average finish of 18.625 at Homestead-Miami is 16th-best, and he ranks in the top-15 in two key pre-race Loop
Data categories: Average Running Position (15.836, 15th-best) and Driver Rating (79.7, 14th-best).
Chris Buescher (№17 RFK Racing Ford) heads to Homestead-Miami Speedway ranked eighth in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoff standings following Las Vegas, -23 points back from the Championship 4 cutoff. This year, Buescher is looking to make the Championship 4 Round for the first-time in his career and become the first driver from RFK Racing to make the final Playoff round all-time.
In 33 starts this season, Buescher has posted a season-to-date Driver Rating of 84.5 (eighth-best) and has collected three wins (Richmond, Michigan, Daytona), eight top fives and 15 top 10s. He has a single stage win, has led 237 laps and has an average finish of 12.2.
Looking to Homestead-Miami Speedway, Buescher has put up one top-15 finish in seven starts. His average finish of 19.714 at Homestead-Miami is 18th-best, he ranks in the top-25 in two key pre-race Loop Data categories: Average Running Position (20.527, 22nd-best) and Driver Rating (64.1, 21st-best).
NASCAR Cup racing in South Beach
Groundbreaking for Homestead-Miami Dade Motorsports Complex — as the track was originally named — began August 24, 1993. The original configuration of Homestead-Miami Speedway was a four-turn, rectangular paved oval based on Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s layout.
The first race held at Homestead-Miami Speedway was a NASCAR Xfinity Series event on November 5, 1995 — the inaugural Xfinity Series race was won by NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Jarrett (Ford, 92.229 mph). The first NASCAR Cup Series race at Homestead-Miami Speedway was held on November 14, 1999 — the inaugural Cup Series race was won by NASCAR Hall of Famer Tony Stewart (Pontiac,140.335 mph).
The 2002 season was the first year the Championship Weekend was held at Homestead-Miami Speedway, with all three of NASCAR’s national series holding their season finale at the same track. The track would host the season finale weekend from 2002–2019. In total, there have been 24 NASCAR Cup Series races at Homestead-Miami Speedway, one per season since 1999.
A total of 15 different drivers have won the pole in the NASCAR Cup Series at Homestead-Miami Speedway, and five have won multiple poles. Driver David Green won the first NASCAR Cup Series pole at Homestead-Miami Speedway in 1999 at a speed of 155.759 mph (34.669 sec.) in a Pontiac owned by Tim Beverly. Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin leads the NASCAR Cup Series in poles at Homestead-Miami Speedway with three poles (2015, 2017, 2018). Of the 15 NASCAR Cup Series pole winners at Homestead-Miami Speedway four will be active this weekend.
A total of 16 different NASCAR Cup Series drivers have won at Homestead-Miami Speedway, and five different drivers have won more than once at the 1.5-mile track. Greg Biffle (2004, 2005, 2006), Tony Stewart (1999, 2000, 2011) and Denny Hamlin (2009, 2013, 2020) lead the NASCAR Cup Series in wins at Homestead-Miami Speedway with three wins each. Of the 16 NASCAR Cup Series race winners at Homestead-Miami Speedway seven of them are active this weekend, and four are active Playoff drivers — Denny Hamlin, Kyle Larson, William Byron and Martin Truex Jr.
Final Four: A look at the Playoffs’ Championship 4 Round
This season just one driver has secured their spot in the Championship 4 Round of the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs (Kyle Larson) but let’s take a look at who has previously earned a spot throughout the years in the prestigious and exclusive round that grants the postseason contenders that one shot at the title.
The inception of the elimination-style format of the Playoffs in the NASCAR Cup Series took place in 2014, and since then, just 14 different drivers have earned a spot in the Championship 4 Round, with seven of the 14 securing multiple appearances in the final round.
Four drivers are currently tied for the NASCAR Cup Series most Championship 4 Round appearances at five each — Joey Logano (2022, ’20, ’18, ’16, ‘14), Martin Truex Jr. (2021, ’19, ’18, ’17, ‘15), Kyle Busch (2019, ’18, ’17, ’16, ’15) and Kevin Harvick (2019, ’18, ’17, ’15, ‘14). Truex is the only one of the four this season that has an opportunity to break the tie and solely take the lead in Championship 4 appearances. Denny Hamlin with four Championship 4 appearances (2021, ’20, ’19, ’14) has the opportunity to earn his fifth appearance and possibly tie for the lead as well.
The record for the youngest driver to earn a spot in the NASCAR Cup Serries Championship 4 Round is held by Joey Logano, who earned his first appearance in the Championship 4 in 2014 at the age of 24 years, 5 months and 23 days. The second youngest was Chase Elliott in 2020 at the age of 24 years, 11 months and 11 days. The record for the oldest driver to earn a spot in the Championship 4 Round is held by NASCAR Hall of Famer Jeff Gordon, who earned his spot at the age of 44 years, 3 months and 18 days. The average age of a driver making their first appearance in the Championship 4 Round is 32-years old.
This season, four of the eight drivers vying for a spot in the Championship 4 Round are looking to make their first appearance in the final round — William Byron, Tyler Reddick, Ryan Blaney and Chris Buescher.
Also, in total, seven organizations have qualified for the Championship 4 Round in the NASCAR Cup Series from 2014–2022. Joe Gibbs Racing leads the series in number of drivers they have placed in the final round (five) and number of appearances they have earned in the Championship 4 Round (14). Each season four spots are available and since 2014 Joe Gibbs Racing has secured 14 of the possible 36 total Championship 4 Round spots (38.8%).
This weekend’s NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs’ second race of the Round of 8, the 4EVER 400 Presented by Mobil 1, this Sunday at 2:30 p.m. ET on NBC, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio (Channel 90).