The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series travels to Richmond, Va., this week for the Toyota Owners 400. While the last race at Darlington was one of the longest on the schedule (500 miles), the race at Richmond is one of the shortest (300 miles). It will be another Saturday night special under the lights for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series on April 26.
The race last September at Richmond came down to tire wear, and the race Saturday should be no different. The cars produce so much speed that it becomes difficult for the drivers to keep the tires from wearing out.
Brad Keselowski was able take care of his tires and lead 142 laps but was unable to secure the victory. Carl Edwards took advantage of Clint Bowyer’s alleged intentional spin out to race his way to Victory Lane.
The key to your fantasy lineup this week is to select drivers who will start up front. Track position will be one of the keys to winning the race Saturday night. Pit stops at short tracks are always difficult because of the small pit stalls. Drivers who qualify up front with have their choice of the premium pit stalls for the race.
In Fantasy Live, drivers who lead a lap score .5 points. With 400 scheduled laps in the race, that could turn into many bonus points for your team. Make sure you check out Jayski.com after Happy Hour practice to see which drivers have the fastest speeds. Predicting which drivers will lead the majority of the laps will be the key to a great score for Fantasy Live.
Racing for the Win
1. Carl Edwards: Edwards won the last race at Richmond and should be the favorite again this week. Edwards has become the best driver in the series on the short race tracks. He already has a win this year at Bristol and finished both races at Richmond in the top six last season. Edwards will join Kevin Harvick as the second driver in the series to secure his place in the Chase with his second victory this season.
2. Kevin Harvick: Harvick is one of the easier drivers to predict this season. He will show up to the race track with one of the fastest cars in the field, and if he can avoid mechanical problems, he will be racing for the win. Harvick has three victories at Richmond and could easily add another win Saturday night.
3. Kyle Busch: Busch used to use Richmond as his playground. He finished 13 of his first 15 races at the race track in the top six, including four wins. In the last two seasons Busch has an average finish position of 15th. Joe Gibbs Racing will bring fast cars to the race track this week, so expect Busch to return to his old self Saturday night.
4. Matt Kenseth: Kenseth has been very good at Richmond since joining Joe Gibbs Racing. In the last four races at the track, Kenseth has the second-best driver rating (104.3). This season Kenseth finished 13th at Bristol and sixth at Martinsville. He will be one of the drivers to beat Saturday night.
5. Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Do not be surprised to see Earnhardt visit Victory Lane again Saturday night. Earnhardt has three wins at Richmond and has been fast at every race track this season. He finished third in the last short track race at Martinsville. Earnhardt will be one of the drivers to watch and is a great choice for all fantasy teams.
6. Jeff Gordon: Gordon has had better luck in the fall races at Richmond than he has in the spring races. In the last three fall races, Gordon’s average finishing position is 4.3. His average finishing position in the last three spring races is 24.3. Gordon seems to have found the fountain of youth this season, so expect him to race up front like he did early in his career in the spring races at Richmond and not like the last three seasons.
7. Clint Bowyer: Richmond is one of Bowyer’s best race tracks. He has a series-best driver rating of 114 in the last four races at the race track. The Michael Waltrip Racing cars have not been able to figure out the new aerodynamics package for the 2014 cars, but based upon his past success at Richmond, Bowyer should be able to finish in the top 10 while driving a dump truck.
8. Denny Hamlin: Hamlin loves to race in his home state of Virginia. He has two wins and nine top-10 finishes in his 15 career starts at Richmond. Hamlin has not dominated the short race tracks this season like he has in the past. He finished sixth at Bristol and 19th at Martinsville. He will qualify up front and finish in the top 10 this week.
9. Tony Stewart: Stewart is one of my sleeper picks this week. He probably will not qualify well (his average starting position at Richmond is 17.8), but he will make his way to the front at the end of the race. Stewart has the second-best average finishing position and the fifth-best driver rating in the last four races at Richmond. Stewart may not run up front all night, but history is on his side that he will be there at the end.
10. Brad Keselowski: Richmond has not been one of Keselowski’s best race tracks. In his career he has an average starting position of 11.2 and an average finishing position of 20.1. In his championship season, Keselowski had his best stats at Richmond. He finished both races in the top 10. Keselowski is having another career year this season, so expect another top-10 finish from him Saturday night.
11. Kurt Busch: Busch had a great race at Richmond last September. He started second and finished second. I doubt he will be that good this week, but he did win the last race at a short track at Martinsville. Busch will just miss out on a top-10 finish this week.
12. Ryan Newman: Newman has not run well this season on the short race tracks. He finished 16th at Bristol and 20th at Martinsville. Richmond is Newman’s best short race track. He has an average finishing position of 11.4. Newman finished in the top five in the last race at Richmond. He probably will not have the same results this week, but he should easily finish inside the top 15.
13. Jimmie Johnson: It is hard to believe Johnson is still looking for his first win of the season. Johnson has three wins at Richmond, but recently he has struggled. Last season Johnson finished both races outside the top 10. He only has one top-10 finish at the race track in his last four starts. Johnson cannot be that bad again this week.
14. Aric Almirola: Almirola is my sleeper pick this week. The No. 43 team has been great this season on the short race tracks. Almirola finished third at Bristol and eighth at Martinsville. He may not finish in the top 10 this week, but a top-15 finish should be expected from Almirola Saturday night.
15. Joey Logano: Logano started seventh and finished third in this race last season. It was only his second top-10 finish in his 10 career starts at Richmond. Logano is almost a guarantee to start inside the top 10. He has started every race this season where knockout qualifying was used in the top 10. He will have a hard time this week staying in the top 10. Expect a top-15 finish from Logano this week.
16. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.: Stenhouse has two career starts in the Sprint Cup Series at Richmond. He finished his first race in the top 10 and his second race inside the top 20. He finished second earlier this season at Bristol. He may be worth a gamble for your fantasy team this week.
17. Kyle Larson: I have decided to never count out Larson at a short track. He has only competed in two races at Richmond. Both races came in the Nationwide Series last season. He finished eighth and 14th in the two races. The Nationwide race Friday night should help Larson finish in the top 20 Saturday night.
18. Marcos Ambrose: Which driver has the best average finish on the short race tracks this season? If you answered Ambrose, you would be right. Ambrose finished fifth in the races at Bristol and Martinsville. He is having a great season on the short tracks, but history is not on his side. Ambrose has not finished inside the top 15 in his last six races at Richmond.
19. Kasey Kahne: Kahne ran well in this race last season. He started 21st and raced his way to a top-five finish. Kahne has struggled this season. He only has two top-10 finishes in the first eight races. One of his top-10 finishes came at Bristol, so there is a chance he will run well. The risk is not worth the reward for your fantasy team. There are safer drivers to choose from this week.
20. Greg Biffle: One of the surprising stats about Biffle is that he has never won on a short race track in his 69 career starts. The chances of him changing that stat this week are slim. Biffle’s average starting position at Richmond is 18.3 and his average finishing position is 17th. Do not expect Biffle to run up front this week.
Trying to Stay on Lead Lap
21. Austin Dillon: Dillon has never competed in the Sprint Cup Series at Richmond. He does have experience in five races in the Nationwide Series. His best finish in the Nationwide Series is sixth. A top-20 finish for Dillon this week would be an accomplishment.
22. AJ Allmendinger: Allmendinger has been an average driver at Richmond in his career. His average starting position is 18.8 and his average finishing position is 20.7. This season Allmendinger has finished both races on the short race tracks outside the top 10. He will finish just outside the top 20 Saturday night.
23. Brian Vickers: Vickers did not run well at Richmond last season. He finished both races outside the top 20. His average finishing position at the race track is 18.3. Expect Vickers to finish in the top 25.
24. Paul Menard: Menard finished in the top 10 in the last short track race at Martinsville, but I would not expect him to finish that high this week. Menard has not been very good at Richmond in his career. His average starting position is 27.1 and his average finishing position is 24.5. Do not expect much more than a top-25 finish from Menard this week.
25. Martin Truex Jr.: Truex has not been very good at Richmond in his career. He has 16 career starts with only three top-10 finishes. His average finishing position at Richmond is 22.63. Truex will not finish inside the top 20 Saturday night.
26. Jamie McMurray: McMurray only has one top-five finish at Richmond. It came in the last race at the race track, though, so there is some hope for McMurray, but I would not count on him this week. So far this season McMurray finished 38th at Bristol and 42nd at Martinsville. His short track stats do not make him a good pick this week.
27. Justin Allgaier: Allgaier has never competed in the Sprint Cup Series at Richmond. In his 10 career starts in the Nationwide Series at the race track, Allgaier has an average finishing position of 15.5. He will take his rookie lumps this week but should be able to finish inside the top 30.
28. Casey Mears: Mears has not run well on the short race tracks this season. He finished 27th at Bristol and 24th at Martinsville. He will produce the same type of results at Richmond Saturday night.
29. David Gilliland: Gilliland may be worth picking as a value pick this week. He will not finish inside the top 20, but he should be able to keep his car in one piece and finish inside the top 30. He finished both races this season on the short race tracks inside the top 26.
30. Danica Patrick: Patrick has two career starts at Richmond in the Sprint Cup Series. She finished 29th in her first start and 30th in her second. Expect the same results for her Saturday night.
Yahoo Fantasy Auto Racing Picks
Group A: Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch
Group B: Carl Edwards, Denny Hamlin, Tony Stewart, Brad Keselowski
Group C: Kyle Larson, Austin Dillon
Fantasy Live Picks
Carl Edwards, Denny Hamlin, Tony Stewart, Kyle Larson, Reed Sorenson
Fox Fantasy NASCAR Picks
Captain: Carl Edwards
Driver 2: Clint Bowyer
Driver 3: Kurt Busch
Driver 4: Jeff Gordon
Driver 5: Tony Stewart
If you need any further advice with your team, look for me on Twitter @MrFantasyNASCAR
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