HOMESTEAD, Fla – The Homestead-Miami Speedway has been a popular spot to end the season. It’s all due to the nature of the racing that the race track provides. The track gets hot and slick and allows for multiple racing grooves. Unfortunately, that type of thrilling racing that we’ve seen over the years on the 1.5-mile track may look a lot different this weekend.
Homestead was a popular track among racing fans due to it being a slightly bigger Darlington. The faster way around the track was to ride around the top of the banking near the SAFER barriers.
Now, you may not be able to do that.
With this new racing package, the downforce levels are much higher than anything we’ve seen in the years past. Add lower horsepower and running the high line may not be the preferred line anymore. Plus, passing may be more difficult as the cars could encounter a lot of dirty air. How can they slip and slide like they used to with more downforce to catch them when they get out of hand?
Sunday’s race could look a lot different in that aspect.
“I just don’t see the characteristics being exactly how they have been in the past for the amount of laps and things that have happened when your car is good and when your car goes to falling off and things like that,” Kevin Harvick said on Thursday. “I think that those numbers are going to change. I don’t know exactly what that number will be as far as the crossover and falloff, but we’ll just have to see.”
So can this, the Ford EcoBoost 400 (3 p.m. ET/NBC/MRN/SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) will likely also end in regulation too. Since the start of the Championship 4 format in 2014, the season finale in Homestead has gone to overtime just once (2016). That’s surprising with how much is on the line of this race. But, if you go back to 2007, that race in 2016 is the only race that has ended past the 400 scheduled miles.
Knowing that the racing will look different and that the race though will end on Lap 267, finding the right setup has never been more difficult.
See, from 2014 though 2018, we knew that the race itself would have an end of the race caution. It happened every year. Four of the five years, we saw a caution inside of 15 to go. Again, we know that overtime wasn’t likely, so setting up your car for short run speed was the way to go. The race winners proved that.
The difficulty in the past has been, the race started during the day and ended at night. It was challenging to hit the right setup to be decent during the day portion of the race but at its best during the night and not fall too far behind to make up for it.
“The only problem with short runs is you got to stay on the lead lap during the day,” Harvick continued. “So you have to have some good balance and good adjustability built into your car.
“The short run has definitely been what’s won this race over the past few years, but having … the proper track position to take advantage of that short‑run speed is still necessary in the first half of the day.”
That all sounds simple enough right? Of course not. It was difficult in the past, but as Harvick warns, these are different racing packages this year. All the notes in the past are shredded.
“I don’t think these cars are going to race like what we have raced here before.”
That makes winning a championship in the Cup Series is a difficult as ever because of what’s thrown at a race team in Homestead. You literally have to hit it right in the end and can’t afford a step in the wrong direction in any facet.
It honestly puts a lot of pressure on the entire team. First, the crew chief to decide not only decide if you want short run speed or long run speed, but if you want to pit late or not too. With Homestead typically being abrasive on tires, does this new package make the tires fall off less, meaning you can go longer on a set of tires, which in turn means you can stay out of the pits late when needed. Secondly, the pressure then falls on the driver to not speed entering or exiting pit lane if they do decide to hit pit lane. Finally, the pit crew has the most burden of pressure to perform a perfect stop in the end, flawless to be exact, with no penalties.
It’s happened in literally all five years of the Championship 4. We’ve seen a late race caution change the complexion of the event. The race each year was also won by a Championship 4 member as well. That means that the first couple of stages, the playoff drivers remaining can just get by. It’s the ending where you need to be good.
If you get a late caution, you’ll need a good short run car that’s also good with night fall conditions as the race will likely end under the lights. You can compromise long green flag runs with the car not handling to the drivers’ liking in day time conditions, knowing that you’ll be able to make your car right for short run speed in the end.
Or, if you don’t get a caution, then the cars set up with long run speed will be the ones winning.