Homestead Miami Speedway, 2006 - image: Jared SmithEnlarge Photo
Heading into Sunday’s season-ending NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Homestead Miami Speedway, it seems all but certain that Brad Keselowski will earn his first-ever Sprint Cup Championship (which would also be the first Sprint Cup Championship for team owner Roger Penske).
To do so, Keselowski only has to finish in 15th place or better, or in 16th place with a single lap led. If he leads the majority of laps, then a 17th place finish is good enough to seal the deal for the Penske driver. The win would also be the first for a Dodge driver in decades, which is especially fitting since Sunday is the automaker’s final NASCAR race.
That means Keselowski will likely drive a very defensive race. He’s finished in 15th spot or better in 29 of this season’s 35 races, meaning it’s reasonable to expect a similar performance from him on Sunday.
On the other hand, NASCAR.com points out that Keselowski’s average finish at Homestead is 20.2, meaning (perhaps) that Jimmie Johnson isn’t out of contention yet. Still, no Hendrick Motorsport driver has ever won at Homestead, though Johnson has racked up three podium finished there over his career.
While the 1.5-mile oval isn’t known for spectacular crashes the way that Talladega or Daytona is, a lot can go wrong over the course of 267 laps. If Keselowski is to win, his primary strategy must be to avoid trouble by running up front or keeping to the back for much of the day.
Run up front, and you risk using up tires more quickly, as well as sucking down more fuel. Run at the back, and eventually you have the challenge of clawing your way up to 15th place to take the title. One of these strategies will likely prove to be the right one, but the question is which will Penske put into play on Sunday?
Sunday’s weather calls for cloudy skies, temperatures in the high sixties and a 40-percent chance of rain. If Miami isn’t in your weekend travel plans, you can catch the race on ESPN, beginning Sunday at 2:00 p.m. Eastern.
Image credit: Jared Smith, CC 2.0.