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Homestead: Best of four wins

11/15/2014

Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Denny Hamlin (from left), Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano and Ryan NewmanHere are the projections for Sunday's Sprint Cup race at Homestead. Our projection system takes into account, among other factors, drivers’ past performances at the current track, prerace on-track activity (practices and qualifying) and probability of finishing the race. All of the data is then adjusted for the track type (in this case, a 1.5-mile oval) and time of year.

Projected Top 15 at Homestead

After last week’s eliminations, Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano and Ryan Newman remain in the hunt for the title. Everything is on the line Sunday as the best finisher among the four will win the Sprint Cup Championship. All odds are according to Westgate Las Vegas Superbook.

The case for Harvick (5-4 odds)

Harvick eclipsed 2,000 laps led for the season in his win at Phoenix last week, joining Jimmie Johnson (2009) in reaching that milestone in the Chase Era. Harvick also leads all drivers this season in fastest laps (1,196) and driver rating (109.9). With 35 races in the rear-view mirror, Harvick turned it on last week when it mattered most, and perhaps the biggest factor in his favor Sunday is the performance of the No. 4 car in prerace workouts at Homestead: He finished first, second and eighth in practice, and he rolls off fifth.

Best career Homestead finish: second, twice. Projected season finish: Champion (projected race finish: first).

The case for Hamlin (7-2 odds)

Hamlin finished second in points in 2010, the only driver among the four remaining to have finished second or better. Despite a win at Homestead last season, his track history is uneven: He finished outside the top eight in each of the previous three races. Hamlin should be a strong contender Sunday, however, as the No. 11 car was on average seventh-fastest in prerace activity, and Hamlin’s average Homestead finish since 2005 is nearly three spots better than his average running position (14.0).

Best career Homestead finish: first, twice (defending race winner). Projected season finish: second (projected race finish: third).

The case for Newman (6-1 odds)

Newman could become the first driver to win a Cup championship without winning a race during the season, and he would be the first driver since Kurt Busch in 2004 to win a Cup Series title after finishing outside the top 10 in points the previous season. Historically, Homestead is not his strongest track, and his average running position since 2005 (13.8) reflects his on-track activity this season: an underwhelming 12th-fastest on average, including 12th in final practice in race trim.

Best career Homestead finish: third, 2012. Projected season finish: third (projected race finish: seventh).

The case for Logano (9-4 odds)

At 24, Logano would be the third-youngest driver to win a Cup Series championship and the youngest since Jeff Gordon in 1995. Logano leads the series in wins (two) and average finish (6.5) on 1.5-mile tracks this season, and he has improved at Homestead in each of his last few tries: from 39th in 2010 (crash), to 19th in 2011, to 14th in 2012, to eighth last season. Despite the positive trend, with 267 laps until a champion is crowned, Logano might not improve quickly enough to contend for the title.

Best career Homestead finish: eighth, 2013. Projected season finish: fourth (projected race finish: 11th).