Homestead-Miami Speedway, Homestead, FL — February 28, 2021
The NASCAR Cup Series spends its 3rd week in a row in Florida. However, this week’s race is at Homestead-Miami Speedway, 300 miles out of Daytona. The Dixie Vodka 400 caps the early season events in the Sunshine State. That is the forecast for today, sunshine with almost no chance of rain and a hot race track to compete on.
Today’s 400.5- mile race is scheduled for 267 laps around the 1.5-mile speedway. Stages are set for 80/80/107 laps. Denny Hamlin(11) was supposed to start on the pole, but he will have to start from the rear for unapproved adjustments. Alex Bowman(48), Corey LaJoie(7), and James Davison(15) will join him as a result of various penalties.
The first two races this year have featured 1st-time Cup winners. Michael McDowell(34) in the Daytona 500 and Christopher Bell(20) on the Daytona Road Course. It would be a huge upset for that to occur today in Homestead. Expect a veteran with significant experience on this track to pull out the victory.
Joey Logano(22) and Bell lead the field to the green with the #22 Ford Mustang pulling away. Kevin Harvick(4) and Brad Keselowski(2) follow in a Blue Oval charge to the front.
Keselowski moves past Harvick into the 2nd spot, reminiscent of their late-race battle in the Daytona 500. Brad takes over the lead on Lap 13.
NASCAR scheduled a competition caution for after lap 25, as no practice was allowed on the weekend. Everyone came to pit road for tires, fuel, and chassis adjustments. Keselowski exited 1st, followed by Kurt Busch(1), Logano, Harvick, and Martin Truex Jr.(19).
Chris Buescher joined the Fords at the front of the pack with 33 laps to go in Stage 1. Buescher took over the top spot on Lap 53 and began to stretch his advantage.
With 16 laps to go, Davison’s engine expired and the caution flag displayed. The leaders pitted for fresh tires to set up a sprint to the end of the Stage.
William Byron(24) was officially credited with leading Lap 69 as his pit stall was on the other side of the start/finish line from Buescher. The first time anything but a Ford was at the top of the leaderboard. Buescher was 1st off pit road, followed by Keselowski, Logano, Truex, and Bowman.
Racing resumed with 8-laps to go. Buescher and Keselowski went side-by-side around to Turn 4 until Brad pulled out front. With 2 laps to go Buescher was back out front and the scramble for Stage points was on.
Buescher held on for the Stage win, only the 2nd of his career. Logano slipped to 7th. The green waved with 1 lap to go and 29 cars on the lead lap.
Stage 1 Results
|3||19||Martin Truex Jr.||2.278||8|
*Ford Mustang Drivers
The race off pit road again went to Buescher, with Keselowski, Bowman, Chase Elliott(9) making his first appearance in the Top 5 today, and Logano in line. The choose line is in effect today so the grid may get scrambled depending on driver lane choice.
With Buescher starting on the low side, he was able to beat Keselowski back to the line. A big run from Elliott put him in front on the next lap. Buescher’s car seems to take a few laps to reach its top speed and he easily regained the lead then pulled away from Elliott as cars settled into single line racing.
Hamlin overcame his forced start at the rear of the pack to take a spot in the Top 10. Two big names normally near the front, Kyle Busch(18) and Harvick are mired back in traffic running mid-pack in 18th and 19th.
Green flag pit stops began just before the halfway point of Stage 2. With service complete, Truex held the lead with 30 laps to go.
With 7 laps to go in Stage 2, LaJoie blew his engine and brought out the 4th caution flag of the day. Again, setting up a sprint to the Stage finish beginning with pit stops for fresh tires.
Truex exits pit road first, Hamlin, Kurt Busch, Byron, and Buescher follow. Byron manages to sneak in for the Stage win, with Hamlin finishing in 2nd blocking his teammate Truex which allowed Kurt Busch to take 3rd.
Stage 2 Results
|4||19||Martin Truex Jr.||0.363||7|
*Ford Mustang Drivers
The Final Stage
Most of the leaders stayed out, Truex chose to pit out of 4th place and returned to the track 18th. Two laps after the restart, Truex climbed to 5th with fresh tires on his race car.
On lap 199 Aric Almirola(10) and Ryan Blaney(12) got together in Turn 3. Almirola tried to complete a pass by sliding up in front of the #12 Ford Mustang. Blaney gave no ground and the pair come together. Neither driver lost control, but debris from the collision brought out the first caution for an accident during the race.
Hamlin was caught speeding on pit road, entering too fast. The penalty sends Hamlin to the rear of the field where he began the race. Kyle Larson(5) leads off pit road with Truex, Kurt Busch, Harvick, and Byron completing the Top 5.
The race restarts with 61 laps to go, fuel may be an issue near the end especially if the race goes to overtime as did the first two events of the year.
After running in the lead lap all day, Kurt Busch was forced to pit with a loose wheel. He lost a lap to the field, effectively taking him out of a chance at the victory.
Byron settled into the lead and put a gap between himself and the field. Logano and Keselowski pitted with 30 laps to go for fuel and fresh tires. However, no one else bit on that strategy. It will take a late caution to get the Team Penske Fords back into contention.
With 15 laps to go, Byron had stretched the interval from 1st to 2nd to almost five seconds. Tyler Reddick(8) made a late run but could not catch Byron who took the checkered flag and the 268th win for Hendrick Motorsports.
Byron was not a 1st-time winner, having taken the checkered flag in the Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona International Speedway in August 2020. He is the 3rd different winner in 2021 and the playoff picture has some interesting names at the top of the standings. Daytona 500 winner Michael McDowell finished 6th.
Next week the series stops at Las Vegas for a race in the desert outside Sin City.
Playoff Points Standings
Just like last year Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick lead the points standings. If the new winner every week trend continues the final half of the season should be very interesting as drivers may have to win to qualify and points go out the window.
|10||Martin Truex Jr.||96||+31|
|Playoff Cut Line|
|19||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.*||62||-5|
*Ford Mustang Drivers
Results of the 2021 Dixie Vodka 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway
|3||19||Martin Truex Jr.||3.989||267|
|13||47||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||19.167||267|