Last Updated Oct 27, 2022, 11:11 AM

NASCAR Dixie Vodka 400 Picks, Predictions

It’s the last 1.5-mile track of the NASCAR Cup schedule and it'll be at Homestead-Miami Speedway Sunday, and it’s the second race of the Round of 8 in the playoffs. Just three races remain on the season and the new NextGen car has shown to have its up and downs in performance and injury as two playoff drivers have had their seasons cut short due to concussion symptoms.

The good news about the NextGen car is that 19 different drivers have won races in the first 33 races -- everyone is equal, but the bad news is that the car may not be safe.

The new car also tore apart all past trends with drivers at certain tracks they like. Denny Hamlin at Martinsville, no dice. Kyle Larson on 1.5-mile tracks, no dice. Crew chiefs and car chiefs can no longer wiggle the rules with creative engineering. I always say if you’re not cheating, you’re not trying. 

But that’s all gone now, and it’s definitely not in the spirit of NASCAR origins. For goodness sake, NASCAR started by bootlegging liquor and the bootleggers needed souped-up cars to outrun the law. 

Hopefully, NASCAR will take off the handcuffs next season, let the teams be NASCAR again, let Larson roll again on 1.5s, and stop trying to be F-1. Enough of the six road races.

Most of us like stock car racing for what it is and what it’s been. Low-profile tires with a single lug nut have proven to cause lots of problems this season. Is there a real stock car at the sales lot with a single lug nut? Be true to what NASCAR is supposed to be.

NASCAR, fix it all, please. I want my NASCAR back, and I want the drivers safe. Throw in a Rockingham date on the schedule too,

Here’s a look at the BetMGM odds to win Sunday’s Dixie Vodka 400 in order with some commentary and quotes from a few of the drivers.

DIXIE VODKA 400 PICKS & PREDICTIONS

Denny Hamlin (7/1) has to have a great run this week because the 1.5s and 2-mile tracks have been his bread and butter in 2022. The new car has created a problem. He was the best at Martinsville but not so much this season. Not even a glimmer in April. If he doesn’t win or grab a top-five here, he’s in trouble, because his last hope is Martinsville next week, and I like desperation. He knows this, his crew knows this, and he’s a three-time winner at Homestead and the wins happened at all stages of his career. I’ll bet he’s looking forward to this race.

“I’m looking forward to Homestead,” Hamlin said. “We had a very good test there a few weeks ago and really felt like we unloaded as one of the best cars. After two days, the field kind of caught up to us a little bit, but I have a lot of confidence going there. I feel like the driver can make a difference just with the different lines you can run, so I think that fits into our strengths on top of just how strong we have been on these types of tracks this year.”

Tyler Reddick (7/1) is a bad man in Homestead. Give him a decent car and he’ll do amazing stuff with it there. He won back-to-back Homestead races in 2018-19 in the Xfinity Series and then in his first two Cup starts he finished fourth as a rookie in 2020 and was runner-up last season. He rides the high line against the wall that Larson rides and has had better success. I think he’s going to win this week so search for the best price.   

Chase Elliott (10/1) has never won at Homestead but he has a ninth-place average finish in six starts with two top-fives. I caution against him here because his only big success on 1.5s and 2-mile tracks was using the superspeedway package at Atlanta. But this guy is so smooth that I can’t visualize him not racing for his second title at Phoenix. He’s so calm, I just don’t know that his car is ready to win here.

"The good news is I feel like we have a really smart and talented group of guys that are going to work on it,’ Elliott said. “We’ve been talking a lot this week and if this weekend goes bad, I can assure you it will not be for a lack of effort. Great opportunity here for us right now and we’re still very much alive in this deal. We just need to go down there and just try to have a solid weekend. Do we have to go win the race? No, I don’t think you have to go win the race, but I think you put yourself in position, getting some solid stage points, being up front and being in the mix. Those are things that are going to hedge your bet of being happy after Martinsville (Speedway)."

Chase Elliott has finished outside the Top 10 in three of his last four races. (Getty)

Joey Logano (10/1) won last week for his third win of the season, but more importantly grabbed the first of four Championship 4 invitations. He’s going to be racing for his second Cup title at Phoenix on Nov. 6. He has a 14th-place average finish in 13 Cup starts with one win, and his first championship, and he’s had top-fives in four of the last five races I’ve grouped together. Win at Vegas, runner-up at Texas, fourth at Darlington, and fourth at Michigan. That’s a stacked deck. He can go all out for the win this week with nothing to fear.

In half of his eight Homestead starts Kyle Larson (10/1) had four top-fives with 330 laps led. His move was to rim-ride all the way around the track. Maximum speed and little movement help the tires stay fresher on long runs. I expect him to do some riding up top again but the new car has changed a lot about what we thought we knew based on the old car.

"I think this car is just a little different at Homestead-Miami,” Larson said. “Nothing crazy. I think running the wall is a little bit easier but maybe not way faster than it used to be compared to the other lanes. I still think it is just a lot easier to run the wall than before. You may see more people up there and it may be a little bit harder to pass than in the past."

Ross Chastain (10/1) has been stuck on two wins since winning at Talladega in April and along the way, he’s gained plenty of enemies among veteran drivers feeling they need to get paybacks due to his aggressive driving style that ruined some days. He’s been on the lowdown, keeping quiet and driving shackled, but Las Vegas was incredible. He led the most laps there again (68) and was runner-up. He’s going to be fast here again despite no special Homestead moments. Championship? He’s second in points. I think I like his arrogance.  

Ryan Blaney (10/1) is seventh in points now after a disappointing 28th at Las Vegas, but let’s not forget that he was fifth in the first stage and won the second stage, and led 39 laps. He was on his way to his first win of the season and a bump in points. I feel like he’s going berserk with just about every driver trying to bully him out of the way. He owes some paybacks for sure. One top-five in seven Homestead starts. I’m rooting for him. But I didn’t bet him to win this week.

DIXIE VODKA 400 BETTING RESOURCES

Date: Sunday, October 23, 2022
Venue: Homestead-Miami Speedway
Location: Homestead, Florida
Distance: 400.5 miles
Laps: 267
Network-Time: NBC - 2:30 p.m.
Defending Champion: William Byron

Christopher Bell (12/1) got caught up in Bubba Wallace’s road rage last week and it cost him in the playoffs. He’s all the way down to eighth in points and needs to probably win one of the next two races to advance to Phoenix for a shot at the title. He still has the most top-fives (11) among Toyota drivers. The key thing here is that he’s thinking win.

“As disappointing as Vegas was, if anyone can pull through, it’s our No. 20 group,” Bell said. “I expect to be extremely competitive again and am ready to tackle the challenge.” 

Just when I thought Kyle Busch (12/1) was going to pack it in and look towards 2023 with RCR Racing, he battles like old times through diversity and comes through with third place at his home track in Las Vegas. He’s not done yet by any means. In 17 Homestead starts he has five top-fives and 465 laps led with two huge wins that gave him his two season championships. I’ll bet he loves Homestead.

“For sure,” Busch said. “Obviously, any time you go back to a place where we got to celebrate not one, but two championships, those are great memories I will have, and my family will have, forever. It’s also just a fun place to race. I don’t think there’s any driver who doesn’t get excited to race there, you just have some many options on where to run. We’ve been very good there the last 10 races or so and hoping we can get our SKITTLES Lime is Back Camry TRD back to victory lane there. Would be special to get one more win with JGR and with Mars before we close the season out together.”

Kyle Busch has seen two straight 3rd place finishes. (Getty)

Martin Truex Jr (12/1) has no wins this season. No playoffs. So Naturally, he’s desperate for a win. He was seventh last week at Vegas and sixth at Michigan in August. He has a 9.9 average finish in 17 starts at Homestead that is fourth best among active drivers. He has a 2017 win and seven top-fives. I wonder how he feels about this weekend.

“I feel pretty good about this weekend,” Truex said. “Homestead has been a good track for us, and we were able to do the test a few weeks ago, so we should be good this weekend. I really enjoy the track; it’s got different options as far as where you can run, and the surface is worn out. That seems to be where we have been our best this season, so I’m looking forward to it.”

William Byron (12/1) won a Truck Series race at Homestead in 2016 and he won a Cup race there last season when the race ran in February. I think he can win this week in the new car based on his sixth at Kansas and seventh at Texas when he led 42 laps. He’s still alive in the playoff sitting fifth and out of the transfer position with two races to go so he’s got to score positive points or win. He has the luxury of winning at Martinsville in April with the NextGen car, so he might feel he has a crutch to fall back on. I’ll bet he’s excited.

"I’m excited to get back to Homestead-Miami this weekend,” Byron said. “Obviously, the last time we raced there we got the win, but a lot has changed since then. We did test there about a month ago with the Next Gen car and it went really well. I think we have a lot of notes that we’re going to be able to apply and have a good starting point for the weekend. We’re only a few points outside the cutline, so we don’t need to do anything drastic during the race either. We just need to show up, execute everything we can control and maximize all the points we can."

Kevin Harvick (18/1) is one of the best ever at Homestead with12 top-fives in 21 Cup starts leading 414 laps. He also had a 2014 win there which also gave him his only Cup Championship. It’s got to be his favorite NASCAR race, right?  

“I think the single best race has to be Homestead of 2014, just with the way everything went and the great call and the race at the end and everything that happened with coming to Stewart-Haas Racing that first year,” Harvick said. “All the adversity that we had at the beginning of the year, how fast the cars were, and then putting it all together in one day to win the championship, I think that single race is probably the one that I would circle just because of everything that happened and everything that it summarized and wound up, ultimately, with a championship at the end.”

DIXIE VODKA 400 CONTENDERS

Last week Noah Gragson (25/1) was 66-to-1 to win at his home track in Las Vegas, and now he’s been chopped to unbettable odds. I’ll search for better odds than what BetMGM is offering only because I know his Hendrick car is going to be fast. His crew chief sounds confident and I like that. 

"Homestead-Miami Speedway is unique from the mile-and-a-half tracks we visit,” said the No. 48 crew chief Greg Ives. “Thankfully, we learned a lot when we tested there last month. Our pit crew has been hitting their stride and we know that pit stops are going to be so important with the tire fall off. Noah (Gragson) likes running the wall and loves going to Homestead, so that confidence makes a huge difference. If we continue to maximize our opportunities and stay clean on pit road, I think we can put the No. 48 Ally Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 in victory lane."

Chase Briscoe (28/1) is still alive in the playoffs, started at the bottom, and now is sixth with two races to go after his fourth-place at Las Vegas last week. He has a great history at Homestead with a 2017 Truck Series win and a 2020 Xfinity Series win. All SHR Racing help is on deck to get this guy to Phoenix for the championship, the place he won his first career Cup race in March.

“Homestead is a place I definitely know how to get around, but I feel like we’re going to have to be better,” Briscoe said. “I don’t think we expected the tires to get so worn out at Las Vegas and to be slipping and sliding around as much as we were. It gets a little concerning because Las Vegas has way more grip than Homestead does, so we’ll have to work on some things, but I think there’s a lot we’ve probably learned from last weekend that we can apply. We were really good at the test a few weeks ago at Homestead. I was happy with what we learned, so we’ve just got to go down there and see where we stack up. The thing about testing is you can be really good but show up for the race and nothing works the way you planned. So, hopefully we’ll be good this weekend and can have a car that we can be really racey with and come out in a good place in points.”

Daniel Suarez (28/1) hasn’t done anything special in five Cup starts at Homestead, but the reason you might bet him to win is that he looked extremely racey last week at Las Vegas where he led three times for 31 laps and finished third in the first and second stages. He finished 16th, but he was better than that. Another 1.5-mile track this week. 

DIXIE VODKA 400 BETTING ANALYSIS

This is Austin Cindric's (40/1) first Cup race at Homestead and he’ll have a Ford set up perfect to Team Penske standards, but let’s repeat the saying,”we only bet Cindric to win on road courses and superspeedways.” 

Erik Jones' (50/1) best Homestead finish was third in 2019 but the reason I bet him small this week is because of what he’s done on the grouping of tracks I put together to be my top rating source. I lumped in the last five races on fast non-superspeedway tracks. Michigan, Darlington, Kansas, Texas, and Las Vegas are the five. He was eighth at Michigan, won at Darlington, sixth at Texas, and eighth at Vegas. He’s certainly live. Shop around for better numbers.

DIXIE VODKA 400 LONG SHOTS

A.J. Allmendinger (66/1) has had success at Homestead in 10 Cup starts with a top-five and three top-10s and he comes off a nice 9th-place finish at Las Vegas.

“I’m looking forward to getting back in the Cup car after what we did in Las Vegas as a team,” Allmendinger said. “Although it’s a completely different type of racetrack, I think we can go and be really good there.” 

Brad Keselowski (66/1) could be the wild card in this race. Test session, new car, speed recently found within the RFK Racing team. He has a 14.2 average finish in 14 Homestead starts with three top-fives and 155 laps.

“We’re expecting good things this weekend in Miami coming off a test there a while back that was really beneficial for our team, and should definitely give us an advantage and plenty of notes to work from,” Keselowski said. “It’s a place that carries so much speed, and couple that with a good setup, typically that’s a recipe for success. We’re excited for the weekend in our Violet Defense Ford.”

Chris Buescher's (66/1) best finish in six Cup starts at Homestead was 16th in 2019, but his best race by far was last season. He finished 19th but for a while he was the driver to beat. He led 57 laps and won the first and finished sixth in the second stage. New car this season but he’s shown speed, including a win at Bristol with it.

“We had a really good car at Homestead a year ago, picked up a stage win and I think surprised some people,” Buescher said. “We’ve come a long way since then, so we have high expectations entering the weekend. We have some great data from Brad testing there a few weeks ago, and it’s one of those places that’s really fun to drive if the handling is there.”

John H. Nemechek (66/1) will be substituting for Bubba Wallace who was suspended for driving crazy and also road rage in Las Vegas. Nemechek is getting a great car with all the testing info from the recent test session. I think a top-10 could be in order here.
Austin Dillon (80/1) - This has been one of his better Cup tracks over his career with a 12.5 average finish between eight starts which includes two top-fives. His teammate is the co-favorite to win so maybe some of what Reddick has rubbed off on this team. Dillon was 10th last week in Las Vegas.

DIXIE VODKA 400 TOP-5 FINISH PREDICTION

Top-5 Finish Prediction:

1 #8 Tyler Reddick (7/1)
2 #22 Joey Logano (10/1)
3 #11 Denny Hamlin (7/1)
4 #1 Ross Chastain (10/1)
5 #24 William Byron (12/1)

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