Number Crunching Sunday’s Ford EcoBoost 400, Expect a New Winner, Late Race Caution, Late Race Lead Change

We’ve made it to the final race of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season. It’s Ford championship weekend at the Homestead-Miami Speedway. Sunday’s Ford EcoBoost 400 (3 p.m. ET/NBC/MRN) will wrap up what was a fantastic season in NASCAR’s premiere series. Four drivers head to the South Florida track with championship hopes on their mind. The top finisher this weekend out of Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski will be crowned the 2017 champion.

So, who will it be.

While I’ve wrote about each of their four chances using past starts for them at Homestead as well as what they’ve done throughout the season in 2017, what about other factors, you know, like trends. What do the trends say?

HOMESTEAD, FL – NOVEMBER 20: Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet, leads the field past the green flag to start the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 20, 2016 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo by Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images)

Well, one trend says that the champion this season will win Sunday’s race. Since this format was adopted in 2014, each Homestead winner was a Championship 4 member (Harvick -2014, Busch -2015, Jimmie Johnson -2016). Plus, 10 of the 13 Homestead playoff races have been won by a playoff eligible driver too. So, if you go by that trend, as well as the trend that out of the last six years, the only teams that have been to victory lane at Homestead was Joe Gibbs Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing and Hendrick Motorsports, then you’d see that the title would come down to Busch (JGR) or Harvick (SHR).

That wouldn’t be a surprise either, as both are previous winners at Homestead and both are making their third appearance in the final round. Truex, is making his second Championship 4 appearance while Keselowski is in his first.

Advantage Busch and Harvick.

But, another trend shows that neither Busch nor Harvick will win.

There hasn’t been a repeat winner at Homestead since 2010. Harvick and Busch have won in that timeframe. If that trend holds true, then Truex or Keselowski will win on Sunday instead. Truex, does race for Furniture Row Racing, but they have a technical alliance with JGR. That bodes well for him. Plus, Truex has never won at Homestead before. Based off the trends above, and if you count FRR with JGR, Truex is your winner.

Advantage, Truex.

But, there’s also this, since 2011, the driver who’s led the most laps in the Ford EcoBoost 400 has failed to win every time. Truex, has led 2,175 laps this season and has dominated intermediate tracks. Six of his seven wins have come on 1.5-mile circuits. He’s likely going to be up front and leading a ton of laps. Does this trend work against him?

Enter Keselowski. While he doesn’t have the speed in his No. 2 Ford like the other three, and Ford hasn’t won at Homestead since 2011. On top of that, Penske has never won at Homestead either, as that track is one of just two that the storied organization has never won at in Cup competition, Indianapolis being the other, the trends aren’t on Keselowski’s side.

But, the most dominant driver doesn’t win at Homestead. Jimmie Johnson led just three laps last year and won the title. Remember when I said the last seven Homestead races have been won by seven different drivers? Keselowski, wasn’t one of those seven. Also, the last three winners earned their first career Homestead win as well as the championship. Keselowski, wasn’t one of those drivers either. Ford has the most wins at Homestead (seven) and could give Keselowski a good enough car to contend.

Advantage, Keselowski.

The numbers say that he does have a chance too.

So, out of all of those trends, who has the best chances?

It’s hard to tell because you could make a case for all four with these. That means this race is going to be crazy close and hectic. Which leads me to my next point, chaos.

Since 2003, all but one race has had at least seven caution flags at Homestead. Furthermore, since this new format was put in place for 2014 and beyond, we’ve yet to see a final push to the checkered flag last more than seven laps. But, just one race over the last decade has gone to overtime.

So, that says expect a late race caution, but don’t expect it to push us to overtime.

That in turn creates intense action up front. While we’ve seen the final restart be inside of seven to go in every year of this new format, we’ve also seen the final pass for the lead occur in the last seven laps in all three years too. In fact, since 2009, we’ve seen at least 18 lead changes in every Homestead Cup race.

The trends say this then.

A ton of lead changes.

A lot of cautions.

A final caution inside of 15 laps-to-go.

A late race pass for the win by a Championship 4 driver.

All say, buckle up for some heart pumping action on Sunday.

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