Through the first two weeks of the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season, there have only been first-time winners. Michael McDowell won the Daytona 500 in his 358th career start to open the year, and Christopher Bell drove to victory at the Daytona road course last time out.
The only other times when a Cup Series season has started with two straight first-time winners were 1949 and 1950, NASCAR's first two years, per Terrin Waack of NASCAR.com. Will that streak extend to three Sunday?
The Cup Series is heading to Homestead-Miami Speedway, with 38 drivers battling it out in Sunday's Dixie Vodka 400. Denny Hamlin is starting in the pole position, and he will be joined on the front row by Joey Logano. Bell will start third as he seeks his second consecutive victory.
Here's everything else you need to know about Sunday's race.
NASCAR at Homestead-Miami Information
Date: Sunday, Feb. 28
Start Time: 3:30 p.m. ET
Live Stream: Fox Sports app
Top Odds to Win
Denny Hamlin +500 (bet $100 to win $500)
Kevin Harvick +550
Chase Elliott +650
Martin Truex Jr. +750
Kyle Busch +850
Kyle Larson +850
Joey Logano +1000
Brad Keselowski +1300
Ryan Blaney +1600
Tyler Reddick +2200
Christopher Bell +2800
Alex Bowman +3300
William Byron +3300
Kurt Busch +4000
Austin Dillon +4000
Aric Almirola +5000
Complete list of odds available at DraftKings Sportsbook.
The last time Homestead-Miami hosted the Cup Series was in June, when Denny Hamlin started on the pole, led a race-high 137 laps and cruised to victory. It was the No. 11 Toyota driver's third win at the track—but first for seven years.
Because of COVID-19 protocols, only eight races on the Cup Series schedule will have practice and qualifying this season, with Homestead-Miami not being one of them. Hamlin was awarded the pole based on a metrics formula based on a driver's most recent finish, fastest lap at their last race, the car owner's previous finish and team owner points.
Hamlin may not have gotten to Victory Lane in either of the first two races this season, but he's the points leader heading into Sunday's race. He's the only driver to finish in the top five in both races, placing fifth in the Daytona 500 and third at the Daytona road course.
The 40-year-old is looking to win his first Cup Series championship this season. And while there have been fresh faces in Victory Lane to begin the year, perhaps Hamlin (who won seven races in 2020) or another frequent winner will end the streak of first-time victors Sunday. He said of Sunday's race, per Reid Spencer of NASCAR.com:
"I think it will be more status quo on where we were last year," Hamlin said of this week's race. "That doesn't mean me and Kevin [Harvick], since it's a mile-and-a-half, that we are going to dominate. With the mid-tier teams, this is where the resources that they don't have will come into factor a little bit more. ...
"We are about to get into a chunk of the season where you are going to start to see some of your normal winners in the bracket."
Since Homestead-Miami began hosting Cup Series races in 1999, Hamlin's three wins at the track are tied for the most, along with Greg Biffle and Tony Stewart. Kyle Busch (2019 and 2015), Logano (2018), Martin Truex Jr. (2017) and Harvick (2014) are among the other recent winners at Homestead-Miami who will be in Sunday's 38-car field.
Logano's win at Homestead-Miami in 2018 came when the track still hosted the final race of the playoffs, and the driver of the No. 22 Ford earned his first career Cup Series championship by winning that race. The stakes won't be as high this time, but Logano will have strong field position early.
If the streak of first-time Cup Series winners is extended to three, it could be because of Tyler Reddick, who finished fourth as a rookie at Homestead-Miami last year. The 25-year-old also performed well at the track during his time in the Xfinity Series, finishing fourth in 2017 and winning in both 2018 and 2019.
Reddick will have to overcome a poor starting position to have a strong run Sunday, though, as he will begin the race in 35th.
This is the earliest in the year that the Homestead-Miami race has been on the Cup Series schedule. From 1999 until 2019, the track hosted a race in November, while last year's event took place in June.
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