This is it! The final week of the season.
The final time I'll dig through NASCAR's statistical advance, scrounge through NASCAR.com and check out Yahoo! Fantasy NASCAR stats in hopes of calculating a winning formula.
This weekend's all about Carl Edwards and Tony Stewart, but that doesn't mean there won't be 41 other cars on the track for the Ford 400.
Kasey Kahne reminded us that there's more than just two cars out there when he broke a long winless slump at Phoenix last weekend. Sure, Stewart led the most laps and Edwards looked good until a slow pit stop landed him behind Kahne late. But, there are still plenty of good drivers out there that could steal some thunder this weekend.
Let's hope, for the sake of excitement, that either Edwards or Stewart pulls out the win. The reality is that if one of those two wins the race, he'll win the championship, regardless of the other's finish. That makes for a fitting symmetry for the final race.
There's nothing more awkward than watching someone, like David Ragan, for example, win the race and burnout in celebration of an 18th-place finish in the standings, while Edwards or Stewart are trying to keep the spotlight shined on themselves for the Cup trophy.
Yet, it's not an unreasonable scenario to expect that we'll see someone celebrating a championship, while another simply celebrates a race win. From a fantasy NASCAR perspective, you'll also need more than just the No. 14 or the No. 99 to seal up the championship this weekend. You'll be paying attention to all your drivers out there.
*In case you're new to this segment, check out my first fantasy post on how the system works.
Strategy: NASCAR only visits Homestead once a year and it's always to close out the season. By this point in the season, most drivers know what they have under them. There aren't many unknowns, so that breeds consistency over the years at Homestead. A good crew chief can use the book he has from Homestead to make the adjustments he sees fit on a setup that has been refined for success over the course of the season. In a concise sentence: go with the drivers that usually perform well here.
#14 Tony Stewart - "Smoke" has five straight top-10s and is racing for a championship. He's always worth considering these days, especially since you probably have starts left after his slow early season.
#29 Kevin Harvick - Harvick has an average finish of 7.9 at Homestead thanks to five top-fives and eight top-10s in 10 starts.
#99 Carl Edwards - With the championship on the line, Edwards is on one of his best tracks. He has two wins and six top-10s in seven starts. He averages a finish of 5.7 and has the best driver rating at 117.5. For what it's worth, I think he'll win this race and the championship.
#18 Kyle Busch - How bad has it gotten for Busch? He's in last among Chase drivers and NASCAR's statistical advance inadvertently left him off a chart of Chasers this week. Who knows? Maybe it wasn't inadvertent.
#4 Kasey Kahne - Have you seen how this kid's been racing lately? He's finished sixth or better in six of the last seven races!
#33 Clint Bowyer - Bowyer has six top-10s in nine Chase races. He's not a stand out at Homestead, but his average finish here is right on par with his career average, so he doesn't raise any red flags either.
#43 AJ Allmendinger - 'Dinger has the most average fantasy points on the B-List, thanks to two top-10s in three starts. It's a small sample size, but he's there if you don't have many other options.
#56 Martin Truex Jr. - Truex Jr. has the second best driver rating of anyone (including the A-List) at Homestead with a 107.4. He's a great option since you probably haven't zeroed out his starts.
#83 Brian Vickers - I think we all liked Vickers and were pulling for his comeback after the medical issues in 2010. However, I'm sick of him wrecking everyone else out of the race and I have to assume that the field feels the same way. I wouldn't be at all surprised to see him end up in the wall this weekend.
#88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. - He's never, ever had a top-10 here in 11 starts. He has an average finish of a terrible 24.2 and that only includes a single DNF that would have dragged that number down.
#6 David Ragan - Ragan gets the nod over Paul Menard because he has one top-10 to Menard's best finish of 17 at Homestead. Honestly, you should have used up enough allocations on both that you only have one left to start...at best.
#21 Trevor Bayne - Let me clarify, here's who I think you start if you have allocations left: Ragan, Menard, Regan Smith. However, if you've used all of them up, then Bayne's as good of an option as any of the remaining drivers, and I have to assume you have a start left for the No. 21.
#36 Geoffrey Bodine - This is a joke pick, sort of (I mean he seems to end up in the wall each week). Honestly, though, if you're in a situation where you have allocations left on more than one driver between Ragan, Menard or Regan Smith and you're looking for my advice: my advice would be to have used those allocations earlier in the year.
My Preliminary Roster
A - EDWARDS (1), Stewart (8)
B - KESELOWSKI (1), TRUEX JR. (6), Bowyer (1), Newman (1)
C - SMITH (1), Bayne (8)
*Number in parenthesis are allocations remaining.
Drivers with zero allocations remaining: Earnhardt Jr. (B), Kahne (B), Menard (C), Ragan (C).