Commentary

Good, Bad and Ugly: Ford 400

Updated: November 14, 2008, 9:56 AM ET
By Mark Garrow | Jayski.com

Mark Garrow provides drivers' trends for Sunday's Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Fla.

* Driver needs to qualify for the race based on time.
# Driver is eligible for the champion's provisional.

• This weekend, he's attempting his first Cup start at Homestead.
• He's averaged a 15th-place finish in three of the past four races. The only bump in the road was at Texas. You have to give him some serious consideration again for a budget pick with a Stock Car Challenge (SCC) value of 15.1. Somebody better hire this guy for next season or they're crazy.

• He's also attempting his first Cup start here this weekend.
• He's been around a 20th-place car in his past three outings, but none of those tracks (Loudon, Talladega, Martinsville) is even remotely close to Homestead. In fact, he hasn't run one intermediate superspeedway this year like Charlotte, Atlanta or Texas. To me, that makes him a total unknown and overpriced at 15.7 for SCC.

• Ambrose is attempting his first Cup start here.
• I think Ambrose should get some serious thought this week. He can run top-20, and with an SCC price of 12.1 that could help you add another heavy hitter. Another thing to remember about Ambrose this weekend is that he and Michael Waltrip's third team will be going all-out to hold on to 35th in the owner points and get a guaranteed starting spot in the first five races next season.

• Biffle had three consecutive wins here from 2004-06. He's driving the same car he drove to a runner-up finish earlier this season in California.
• The "Bif" is going to be bad to the bone on Sunday. I have him ranked second because I think he'll push to win and should run top-5. In SCC, he would be a great pick to go along with Carl Edwards. I would even drop Jimmie Johnson this week for Biffle.

• Blaney has made eight starts here. He has finished as high as sixth (2001 and 2005). Blaney has scored three top-10s.
• He was 12th a year ago and has some decent Homestead stats. Before you go too crazy, however, Blaney hasn't finished top-25 in the past three races on 1.5-mile tracks, and has only two top-10s all year and an average finish of 27.6. No wonder his SCC value is 14.7.

• Bowyer has two starts here, with finishes of 10th and 39th. He's driving the same car he drove to a fourth-place finish two weeks ago at Texas.
• I have Bowyer ranked 13th with a possible top-10. Here's my problem with Bowyer: He's going to be decent, but Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth are cheaper and should outrun him pretty easily. Same goes for Kevin Harvick, Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart and David Ragan.

• In nine starts at Homestead, Burton has three top-5s and four top-10s.
• I ranked Burton 10th but he's a tweener in SCC. Just above him, I love Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle, and below are Hamlin and Kenseth. All four should outrun Burton.

• In seven starts here, Busch has three top-5s and a win, with an average finish of 18.4. He was the runner-up in this race last year and is driving the same car he drove to a top-10 at Atlanta.
• Busch is definitely starting to get it together, but inconsistency from him can bite you. Look at the finishes in the past five races: third, 36th, sixth, 41st and second. In odd races, he's been great; even, look out below. Still, the third was at Charlotte and the sixth at Atlanta and that could bode well for him this weekend. His SCC value is cap-friendly at 18.2.

• Busch has three starts here with finishes of 41st, 38th and 20th.
• Forget about what he's done here in the past; I've got him ranked third and he'll go out with a blaze of glory this weekend. Not sure he can handle Carl Edwards, but I see him running up front and walking away with a top-5. In SCC, however, I'd still take Edwards and Biffle before him, so there is no way to fit Busch onto your team as the fourth-highest-valued driver at 22.6.

• In eight starts here, Dale Earnhardt Jr. has led 93 laps and has recorded two top-15s and four top-20s.
• I'm predicting Junior doesn't set the world on fire, but he does get a career best top-10 Sunday. That said, he's another SCC tweener with drivers just above and below I'd rather have.

Carl Edwards

• In his four Homestead starts, Edwards has two top-5s, three top-10s and his average finish is 7.8. He's driving the same car he drove to a runner-up finish at Kansas earlier this season.
• He's my No. 1 pick, and this boy is going to put the hammer down Sunday and try to lead the most laps and win to put all the pressure he can on Jimmie Johnson. This is a very good track for Jack Roush, and it'll be proven again this weekend with Edwards leading the way.

• Elliott has seven starts here, with three top-10s and a win (average finish of 16.4). He finished 28th in this race last year.

• Gilliland has two starts here with finishes of 33rd and 32nd.
• Since his runner-up at Sonoma, Gilliland has only three top-20s and has dropped his season-average finish to 26.2.

Jeff Gordon

• Gordon has four top-5s and seven top-10s in nine starts here with an average finish of 10.6.
• His string of four straight top-10s was broken with a blown engine last week. Gordon and the DuPont gang were starting to get their groove on. I don't see him challenging for a win or a top-5, but ranked him eighth because I see another top-10. His SCC price is not bad at 21.7. He might be worth it.

• Gordon has six starts here with an average finish of 27.7. He finished 27th in this race last year.
• His SCC value of 14.0 might arouse a little curiosity, but isn't that what killed the cat?

Denny Hamlin

• Hamlin has three starts here, finishing third in the past two races. He's driving the same car he finished ninth at Las Vegas.
• I've got Hamlin ranked fourth. Again, I don't think he'll have anything for Edwards and possibly Biffle, but everyone else is fair game. I also like his SCC value of 21.9.

Kevin Harvick

• In seven starts at Homestead, Harvick has two top-5s and four top-10s. The car he is driving has three top-5s and seven top-10s in nine starts.
• I ranked Harvick 11th. This is one of his favorite cars and it's a workhorse that has paid off again and again. His SCC value is 21.9 like Hamlin, but I like the 11 better.

• Hornish finished 37th in this race last year. He has three wins in seven IRL starts here.

• He's finished 22nd to 24th in the past three races on the 1.5-mile tracks. Not sure that's good enough to take a risk on, even if his SCC value is 13.9. Average finish on the year is worse than 29th, with just two top-15s and four in the top 20.

Jimmie Johnson

• He has collected two top-5s and five top-10s at Homestead. He has three wins with the car he's driving this weekend.
• Forget about Jimmie trying to win or even run top-5. He's going to find a nice place to "hide and ride" and maybe come home top-10. The last thing he'll do is push it this weekend, so I would drop him and find somebody who has nothing to lose and everything to gain.

• In four starts at Homestead, Kahne has one top-5 and one top-10. Kahne has earned one pole here and has never qualified worse than fourth.
• He was 13th last week at Phoenix, which his decent -- but other than Charlotte, what has he really done this year? Plus, he's a little more expensive in the SCC than the red-hot Jamie McMurray.

Matt Kenseth

• In eight starts at Homestead, Kenseth has posted one win, two top-5s and three top-10s. Kenseth led 214 laps last year en route to victory.
• He was fourth and ninth in the past two 1.5-mile races and I think he can run top-5 again this weekend. His 20.8 SCC value is pretty cap-friendly too. His worst finish in the past three races at Homestead is sixth and his average finish over that span is 3.3.

• Yet another driver who is attempting his first Cup start here.
• Keselowski finished a very respectable 19th in his Cup debut at Texas, and he seemed right at home on tracks this size. He was seventh in the Nationwide race at Charlotte and eighth at Texas. He nearly won the Nationwide race earlier this year at Vegas, but was spun out by Mark Martin. At 12.5 in SCC, keep an eye on how he qualifies and practices, because if you want to go low-low, this might be the guy.

• He's basically swimming around 25th place these days and that's not good enough to take a flier on him.

• In nine starts here, Labonte has four top-10s, three top-5s, a win and an average finish of 17.1. His last top-10 here was his win in 2004.
• He might be capable of a top-25, but at 17.2 in SCC that's too high a price to pay with several drivers underneath capable of outrunning him.

• Marlin has eight starts here with two top-10s, a top-5 and an average finish of 21.2. He finished 33rd in this race last year.

• He is attempting his first Cup start here.

Jamie McMurray

• Entering the weekend, McMurray boasts three top-5s and four top-10s in the past five races. In five visits to Homestead, he has two top-10s.
• J-Mac is on a roll, and I feel so good about him I've ranked him seventh. Somebody asked me last week if Jamie was for real, and I said yes. He'll prove me right again this weekend, and you've got to love that undervalued price tag of 18.5 in SCC.

• Mears led 75 laps en route to his career-best Homestead finish of fifth in 2005. Last season, Mears led one lap and posted a 16th-place.
• Mears was well on his way to a top-10 at Phoenix when he got wrecked late. I think he's a top-15 or a little better and is a little more attractive now that his SCC value was dropped to 17.4. It's his last race for Rick Hendrick and I think it will be a pretty good one for Mears.

• In two starts here, Menard has finishes of 17th and 35th.
• People keep trying to get me to give Paul a little more love because his SCC value is 15.3, but his average finish in the past five races is 24.2 and he hasn't really come close to finishing top-20.

• Montoya has two starts here with finishes of 34th and 15th.
• He had a halfway decent run at Phoenix last week, finishing 19th, but trouble has been finding him lately. He has wrecked in four of the past six and can't seem to find a way to finish as well as he runs inside the race. His SCC value of 16.0 is really cap-friendly if you want to take a huge risk.

• Nemechek has eight starts here with a top-5 and an average finish of 19.1. He missed this race last year and finished 13th in 2006.

• Newman has two top-10s in six starts at Homestead. He's driving the same car he drove to 10th at Chicago.
• I didn't give Newman a lot of love, ranking him 22nd. Lately, on tracks this size, he's been an 18th- to 22nd-place car. I can't see him jumping up and running top-10 this weekend. His SCC value has dropped to 17.5, but that still doesn't make him attractive to me.

David Ragan

• Ragan currently leads the series in number of laps completed. At Homestead, he has only one previous start in which he finished 10th. He's driving the same car he drove to an 11th-place at Texas.

• Again, this is a Roush track, so even if I rank Ragan last among the "Roush-keteers," that still could put him in the top-10 when it's over. His SCC price is 20.7, which isn't bad, but if it comes down to Ragan or teammate Jamie McMurray, go with McMurray. He has a cheaper price and should outrun Ragan by two or three spots.

• Raines has three starts here, with an average finish of 20.7. He finished this race 27th last year.

• Reutimann has one Cup start here, finishing 25th last year.
• I think his 10th at Texas will put Reutimann in decent shape here at Homestead. His 16.1 SCC value is very inviting, but let's hear what his crew chief has to say Sunday morning before we get too carried away.

• Riggs has three starts here with a top-10 and an average finish of 20.0. He did not make this race last year but finished seventh in 2006.

• In nine starts, Sadler has one top-10.
• After back-to-back top-10s at Kansas and Talladega, the bottom has fallen out on Sadler. He's maybe a top-25 car . His average finish in the past five races is an ugly 30.2.

• In seven starts here, Schrader has an average finish of 29.4. He did not race here last year and finished 29th in 2006.

• Smith will make his first Cup start at Homestead.
• He might be able to run top-25 but that's about it. Some might argue that would be good for a guy valued at 13.8 in SCC since you could match up with four heavy hitters, but I just don't see it.

• This will be Sorenson's fourth start at Homestead. His best finish of 16th came in 2006.
• He's run 31st or worse in the past four races, so don't go there.

• Speed is making his first start at Homestead. He is switching teams with Brian Vickers and will be guaranteed to make the race this weekend.
• In the Cup races he's run so far, Speed looks totally lost. He'll probably get it eventually, but it's going to take awhile.

Tony Stewart

• Stewart has nine starts here with four top-10s, three top-5s, two wins and an average finish of 12.2. His past three finishes here have resulted in finishes of 15th or worse.
• His wins here came when the track was flat, and he hasn't been as good on the banked version. He'll certainly run top-15, but not sure how much better than that. Kenseth is a little cheaper and I'd rather go with him.

• Truex has three starts here with two top-10s, a top-5 and an average finish of 13.3. He finished sixth here last year and was the runner-up in 2006.
• His only real "clinker" over the past five races was last week's blown motor at Phoenix. Otherwise, he's run around 15th, with a 10th at Martinsville and an eighth at Texas, which might set him up decently for here. I didn't give him a lot of love in the rankings and he could make me eat those words. I just don't think he's really a safe pick; there are others who might be better to work with.

*Brian Vickers

• In five starts here, Vickers has an average finish of 31.6. Vickers is switching to the 84 team this weekend in an effort to get that team in the top-35 in owners' points for next year. As such, he will be forced to make Sunday's race based on his qualifying time.
• If he makes the race, and he should, Vickers could be top-15 material. We need to find out if he's using the same team but just changed the decals on the car or if he's using Speed's team (while Speed uses Vickers' team). That could make a big difference in how you look at him, and we'll be on top of that for our Sunday chat.

Michael Waltrip

• During his career at Homestead, Waltrip has one top-5 and one top-10. His average finish is 29th.

Mark Garrow covers fantasy racing for ESPN.com.

Mark Garrow

Fantasy Racing
Mark Garrow covers fantasy racing for ESPN.com.