Photo: Logan T. Arce/ASP, Inc.

Up to Speed: Dixie Vodka 400 at Homestead Preview

By David Morgan, Associate Editor

After spending the past two seasons bouncing around to different dates on the schedule, Homestead-Miami Speedway is back in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs with Sunday’s running of the Dixie Vodka 400.

From 2002 to 2019, Homestead served as the season finale and once again this season, it will serve a pivotal role in the championship as the midway point of the Round of 8. Should any of the seven drivers not yet locked into the Championship 4 win on Sunday, they will claim their chance to race for a title at Phoenix.

The 1.5-mile oval came into existence in the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew in the early 90’s, with the Cup Series making its first appearance at the track in 1999. Since undergoing a reconfiguration in 2003, Homestead has provided some great racing on its progressive banking on one of the true ovals on the circuit and that has only gotten better as the asphalt has aged.

Intermediate tracks have been the Next Gen car’s bread and butter this season, so Sunday should be another entertaining race with major championship implications on the line.

By the Numbers

What: Dixie Vodka 400, NASCAR Cup Series Race No. 34 of 36

Where: Homestead-Miami Speedway – Homestead, Florida (Opened: 1995 – First NASCAR Cup event: 1999 – Reconfigured: 2003)

TV/Radio: NBC, 2:30 pm ET / MRN and Sirius XM NASCAR Channel 90

Track Size: 1.5-mile oval

Banking: 18 to 20 degrees in turns, four degrees on straights

Race Length: 267 laps, 400.5 miles

Stage Lengths: First stage – 80 laps, Second stage – 85 laps, Final stage – 102 laps

Pit Road Speed: 45 mph

Pace Car Speed: 55 mph

2021 Race Winner: William Byron – No. 24 Chevrolet (Started 31st, 102 laps led)

Track Qualifying Record: Brad Keselowski – No. 2 Ford (29.795 seconds, 181.238 mph – November 14, 2014)

Top-10 Driver Ratings at Homestead:

  1. Kyle Larson – No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet – 108.1
  2. Martin Truex, Jr – No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota – 106.7
  3. Kyle Busch – No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota – 106.6
  4. Kevin Harvick – No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford – 100.7
  5. Tyler Reddick – No. 8 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet – 99.5
  6. Denny Hamlin – No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota – 99.0
  7. Chase Elliott – No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet – 94.1
  8. William Byron – No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet – 92.1
  9. Joey Logano – No. 22 Team Penske Ford – 90.9
  10. Brad Keselowski – No. 6 Roush Fenway Keselowski Ford – 90.3

NASCAR Cup Series Points Standings:

  1. Joey Logano (Locked into Championship 4 – Las Vegas win)
  2. Ross Chastain (+18)
  3. Chase Elliott (+17)
  4. Denny Hamlin (+6)
  5. William Byron (-6 below cut-off)
  6. Chase Briscoe (-9)
  7. Ryan Blaney (-11)
  8. Christopher Bell (-23)

From the Driver’s Seat

“I am really looking forward to Homestead,” said Ross Chastain. “After this weekend in Vegas and having such a strong car, I can’t wait to get to Florida. I was talking with my engineers earlier last week and they were really pumped about the car we were bringing to Las Vegas and I think we proved how good it really was, so that gives me a ton of confidence for Homestead.

“We tested there a couple of weeks ago and I got several laps in and practiced running the wall, which is great. The team told me they were prepared to fix the car if I got into the wall so I could really go out there and find the limits.”

Last Time at Homestead

William Byron may have started deep in the field, but as the sun set on South Florida last February, the driver of the No. 24 Chevrolet was untouchable at the front of the field, streaking to a 2.777-second victory over Tyler Reddick.

Reddick used the high line to his advantage to try and close the gap on Byron in the late stages of the race, but it was too little, too late by the time the checkered flag flew.

Martin Truex, Jr. finished in third, followed by Kyle Larson, and Kevin Harvick rounding out the top-five finishers.

“I mean, where do I start? I think honestly the work and the effort goes back a long ways,” said Byron. “Getting Rudy on board and just having a guy like that to work with. We really think the same way, and it helps us in a lot of ways to progress through races and communicate well and work through the off-season.

“I’d say it’s a lot to do with off-season prep, and as soon as we got into the race the track was super slick to start. We had to start pretty far back but made our way up and just had to keep adjusting on the car and kind of finding those little bits.

“I think the 19 was really strong to start the race. The 17 was surprisingly really good, so we had to kind of work on that and had a really good restart the last one. The 2 pushed me super hard down the backstretch and the car was just good enough.

“It’s cool when you have cars like that and you can make moves and make them stick. Love this racetrack; it’s really fun.”

Weekend Schedule (All Times Eastern)

  • Saturday, October 22
    • NASCAR Cup Series Practice (10:05 am – Streaming on NBC Sports App)
    • NASCAR Cup Series Qualifying (10:50 am – Streaming on NBC Sports App)
  • Sunday, October 23
    • Dixie Vodka 400 at Homestead (2:30 pm – 267 laps, 400.5 miles – NBC)

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David Morgan is the Associate Editor for Motorsports Tribune. A 2008 graduate from the University of Mississippi, David has followed NASCAR since the early 90’s and became hooked at an early age after attending his first race at Talladega Superspeedway in 1993. He has traveled across the country since 2012 to cover some of the most prestigious events both IndyCar and NASCAR have to offer, with an aim to only expand on that in the near future.