For more than two decades, the Homestead-Miami Speedway crowned the NASCAR Cup Series champion. This year, the South Florida 1.5-mile track again will contribute mightily to the championship cause, hosting Sunday’s 4EVER 400 Presented by Mobil 1 (2:30 p.m. ET on NBC, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) with an automatic bid into the season finale Championship 4 on the line.
Kyle Larson earned the first position among the four drivers who will compete for the 2024 title with a win in last week’s Round of 8 opener at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. This week is another opportunity to claim a spot, and four of the current eight playoff competitors have won at Homestead-Miami in just the past six races there.
Larson is the defending champion and his Hendrick Motorsports teammate, championship points leader William Byron, won in 2021. Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Denny Hamlin won most recently in 2020 and Martin Truex Jr. in 2017. And these four drivers also happen to be the top four ranked competitors coming into the weekend.
The 2021 NASCAR Cup Series champion, Larson, already secured his bid into the Nov. 5 Phoenix title finale and Byron sits atop the standings with a nine-point advantage over fifth place Christopher Bell in a tightly-contested ranking. Truex, the regular-season champion, and Hamlin are tied, only two points up on their JGR teammate, Bell.
23XI Racing’s Tyler Reddick is sixth, 16 points off the top four, followed by Team Penske’s Ryan Blaney (minus 17) and RFK Racing’s Chris Buescher (minus 23) with only this week’s 400-miler at Homestead-Miami and next week’s 500-lapper at the historic Martinsville, Va., half-miler remaining to see which four drivers will be eligible to compete for the season title.
A race victory from any of the Playoff drivers is an automatic bid into the Championship 4, with the highest-ranked drivers in the championship standings filling out the remaining title-eligible lineup.
The Homestead-Miami mile-and-a-half began hosting NASCAR Cup Series races in 1999. Hamlin has competed in 18 races at Homestead, and his three poles (2015, 2017, 2018) and three victories (2009, 2013, 2020) are tops among all active drivers. Hamlin has failed to finish in the top 10 only six times in his 18 starts there and was seventh in last year’s race.
In Truex’s 18 starts at homestead he has that championship-clinching victory in 2017, but also three runner-up finishes (2006, 2018 and 2019). He’s finished sixth or better in five of the past six races. In 2019 he led a race-high 103 of the 267 laps, only to finish runner-up. He was sixth last fall.
“It’s a track I feel good about,” said Truex, driver of the No. 19 JGR Toyota. “Recent success is always important. Now racing with the NextGen car we raced there for the first time last year. That went really well, and we were in position to win that race late and we had some issues getting spun on pit road that took us out of it.
“Definitely have a lot of confidence going there 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.”
Of note, Byron’s victory in 2021 was particularly impressive in that he led a race-best 102 laps en route to the win, even though he started 31st on the grid. Only one other race winner has started farther back on the grid; Hamlin won from a 38th place start in 2009.
Only two drivers have won back-to-back races on the Homestead 1.5-mile speedway. NASCAR Hall of Fame member Tony Stewart won the first two NASCAR Cup Series races there in 1999 and 2000, and Greg Biffle won three in a row during the 2004-06 seasons.
Kyle Busch, who was eliminated from 2023 Playoff competition after the previous round, joins Hamlin as the only other multi-time Homestead NASCAR Cup Series winner (2015 and 2019) among active drivers. Add in his NASCAR Xfinity Series wins (two) and CRAFTSMAN Truck Series victories (three) and Busch is the overall winningest driver at the track.
Several championship contenders have turned in big days in South Florida beyond the NASCAR Cup Series, however. Reddick, in particular, has a fantastic history at the track, winning NASCAR Xfinity Series races in 2018-19 to claim back-to-back series championships. And he did it driving for two different teams (JR Motorsports and Richard Childress Racing).
Larson won the NASCAR Xfinity Series race in 2015. Byron won the 2016 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race there.
This weekend marks a NASCAR Playoff triple-header with all three series competing at Homestead-Miami. The NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series races Saturday at noon (FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) followed by the NASCAR Xfinity Series at 3 p.m. (USA Network, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
Practice for the NASCAR Cup Series race is scheduled for 9:05 a.m. ET on Saturday, followed by two rounds of qualifying at 9:50 a.m. ET.