OBSERVATIONS: Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway
Through the years, Homestead-Miami Speedway has continuously put on some of the best racing of the season, making it a fitting location to crown the champions as we close out the year. With ISM Raceway set to become the title venue in 2020, the 1.5 mile oval put on perhaps the best NASCAR Xfinity Series finale of all time.
With the track slowly aging, it has made grip a premium, resulting in a speed difference when you slap on four new tires. Though the track’s widening grooves allow you to watch competitors run from all the way around the bottom, to ripping the top lane. This, combined with a great evolution of talent in NASCAR right now, was the perfect recipe.
Through the night, “the big three” as they were dubbed – Tyler Reddick, Cole Custer, and Christopher Bell – battled back and forth for the top spot. They would each get a chance to pace the field whether through strategy, winning the race off pit road or pure speed. Though unlike other tracks where the leader would get out front, the conditions allowed for challenges to happen back in return.
Reddick and Bell had a thrilling battle back and forth to start the third stage, with Bell trying to take Reddick’s line away to stop the ensuing challenge for the top spot. Though the highlight of the night belongs to Reddick and Custer. After coming off pit road together, the pair quickly made work of Bell, before going back and forth for a number of laps. From giving each other the slide job, to trying different lanes, it was everything you’d want in a title race in watching the contenders go head-to-head.
Though in the end, it was Reddick that got the upper-hand as he took the lead, and ultimately drove away from Custer following contact with the outside wall. Seeing the now two-time series champion run the top line lap after lap is a thing of beauty. Even Custer admitted defeat in saying, “Tyler—he can rip the top here. That’s about all you can say about it.”
To run mere inches off the wall and not make contact, knowing a single slip-up could result in trouble, takes tons of concentration and a really well handling car. But yet the driver of the No. 2 Tame The Beast Chevrolet continues to make it look like second nature. It was why he was the favorite entering the weekend following the same performance last season.
Although it is his second title in a row, this one is a little sweeter as you can see how much Reddick has evolved as a driver. After becoming a surprise champion in 2018, he put himself in position all year long with Richard Childress Racing and found the consistency that he was missing.
Bell, on the other hand, is certainly going to be looking back at these past couple of weeks in a different nature due to a pair of costly mistakes. He sped on pit road and spun at ISM Raceway to cost himself a win there after dominating early, while he missed pit road under green and cost himself valuable time at Homestead. It did not ultimately be the title factor due to the handling of the No. 20 Toyota going away over the course of the long run, but those are mistakes you would not expect out of a driver who won eight events this past season.
With all three of these drivers moving up to the Cup Series, the real winners are the fans because they are going to get to witness probably one of the best, and closest battles for Rookie of the Year that they have had in the past couple years. That said, the series is still in good hands with another young crop ready to rise to the occasion. Chase Briscoe and Noah Gragson were evident of that on Saturday night with top-five runs.
As for the series, the decision to move the finale from Miami to the desert puzzles a lot of people, considering that last week’s racing at ISM Raceway was a little lack-luster other than the crazy restarts. That is something that certainly will need to be addressed.
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