Last week’s race in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series was a short track event at Bristol. This week, Richmond International Raceway, a 0.75-mile-long oval, will continue to make short track racing the focus of the Cup Series. Richmond, like Bristol, is a track known for its unique shape, but owners should play a similar strategy to last week. Expect plenty of driver contact that will cause wrecks and employ multiple lineups for the Toyota Owners 400, since a crash can easily ruin your fantasy day for one of your entries.
TOP PRICED PICKS
By this point of the season last year, Kyle Busch ($10,600) had two victories and failed to finish inside the Top 5 only twice. This season, Kyle Busch has no victories and only two finishes inside the Top 5 in eight races.
In 23 starts at RIR, Kyle Busch has four wins (most of active drivers), 17 Top 10 finishes, and 1,018 Laps Led, which is the third-most. In his last three starts at the site, Kyle Busch has an Average Running Position of 4.0, which is the best, 100% of Laps in the Top 15, which is the best, and the top Driver Rating of 117.6. Kyle Busch starts seventh and had the eighth-best 10 Consecutive Lap Average in final practice. Kyle Busch has great history at RIR but he has been performing worse than expected this season. Owners should expect Kyle Busch to earn a Top 10 due to practice speeds, but as the most expensive driver this week, there are better options out there.
Kevin Harvick ($10,400) is winless this season. In 32 starts at Richmond, Harvick has three wins, 20 Top 10 finishes, and 1,050 Laps Led, which is second-best of active drivers. Harvick has finished in the Top 5 in four of the last five Richmond races. In his last two seasons at RIR, Harvick has an ARP of 7.2, which is fourth-best, an Average Finishing Position of 6.5, which is second-best, and 132 Fastest Laps, also second-best, and 1,555 Laps in the Top 15, which is the most. Harvick starts sixth and finished in the Top 10 in three of the last five races. Richmond is a track that has always been favorable for Harvick and look for that to continue with a finish just outside the Top 5.
Kyle Larson ($10,300) continues to exceed expectations, as he remains the points leader. Larson starts 18th and was fastest in final practice. In six starts at RIR, Larson has one Top 5 finish and finished as low as 16th. This season, Larson has finished in the Top 10 in six of eight races. Larson has momentum and has looked good in practice, so he is a prime pick that owners should expect to finish in the Top 5.
Joey Logano ($10,100) is a reliable pick for fantasy owners looking for a driver to finish strong. Logano starts fifth. At RIR, Logano has finished in the Top 10 in the past six races at the site and has one win, and eight Top 10 finishes in 16 starts. In the last four races at the site, Logano has an ARP of 9.7, and 119 Laps Led, which is fifth-most of active drivers. This season, Logano is the only driver to finish in the Top 10 in seven of eight races. He is a very safe pick, especially for cash games. UPDATE: Logano has been moved to the rear because of a transmission change, and DraftKings will honor his starting position of fifth, so you now should consider fading him. .
Jimmie Johnson ($9,900) looks to get his third consecutive win this season. In 30 starts at Richmond, Johnson has three wins, and 12 Top 10 finishes. In his last four starts at the site, Johnson has an AFP of 6.5, which is fourth-best of active drivers, an ARP of 9.7, which is eighth-best, and a DR of 99.7, which is eighth-best. Johnson starts 17th and has a good chance of earning quality points based on Place Differential. Expect Johnson to be a solid pick that should finish in the Top 10 based on how he has performed in the last few weeks and overall recent history at RIR.
Penske Racing Driver Brad Keselowski ($9,700) has finished no worse than sixth in six of eight races this season. In 15 starts at Richmond, Keselowski has one win and six Top 10 finishes. In his last four starts at the site, Keselowski has an ARP of 7.4, which is fifth-best of active drivers, 1,502 Laps in the Top 15, which is second-most, and a DR of 103.0, which is seventh-best. Keselowski starts 15th and was 33rd in second practice. Keselowski has favorable history at RIR but has been looking slower throughout pre-race events, making him a pick to avoid.
Chase Elliott ($9,500) has been exceptional all season and look for him to continue to perform well this week. In three starts at RIR, Elliott has an AFP of 15.7, which is 13th of active drivers, and a DR of 72.9, which is 16th. This season, Elliott has finished no worse than 14th and will start 14th. Elliott’s history is not favorable at Richmond, however his momentum is hard to ignore.
Richmond is one of Denny Hamlin’s ($9,300) more successful tracks. In 21 starts, Hamlin has three wins, 12 Top 10 finishes, and 1,594 Laps Led, which is the most of active drivers. In his last four starts at the site, Hamlin has an AFP of 8.8, which is seventh-best, an ARP of 8.7, which is sixth, and 204 Laps Led, third-best in the series. Hamlin starts 16th and was seventh fastest in second practice. Expect Hamlin to finish close to or inside the Top 5 based on practice speeds and favorable history.
Martin Truex Jr. ($9,100) is looking for his first career win at Richmond. In 22 starts, Truex has seven Top 10 finishes, and an AFP of 20.5, which is 19th. In his last four starts at the site, Truex has 109 Fastest Laps, which is fourth-best, 193 Laps Led, also fourth-best, and a DR of 96.3, ninth-best in the series. Truex starts third and had the best 10 Consecutive Lap Average in final practice. Truex has five Top 10 finishes this season. Truex has been fast throughout all practice sessions and despite the unfavorable history at RIR, he is a pick owners should strongly consider for their lineups.
Clint Bowyer ($8,500) has not won a race at Richmond since 2012. In 22 starts at the site, Bowyer has two wins and 12 Top 10 finishes. This season, Bowyer has finished 13th or better in the last seven races and has four Top 10 finishes. Bowyer starts eighth and was 10th fastest in final practice with the ninth best 10 Consecutive Lap Average. Based on his speeds throughout pre-race events, Bowyer is a superb value pick that should finish close to the Top 5.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. ($8,300) made waves this week by announcing his retirement from Cup competition after the 2017 season. In 34 starts, Earnhardt has three wins, 14 Top 10 finishes, and an AFP of 13.2, which is eighth-best of active drivers. In his last three starts at the site, Earnhardt has an ARP of 12.2, which is 11th, and 81.3% Laps in the Top 15, which is sixth-best. Earnhardt starts 12th and had the 13th 10 Consecutive Lap Average in final practice. Earnhardt’s history and practice speeds indicate that he is likely to finish just outside the Top 10. Earnhardt is a decent pick but there are better options in this price range.
Rookie Erik Jones ($8,100) looks to become the first driver to get his first career win at Richmond since Kasey Kahne in 2005. Jones will be making his first career start at RIR. Jones will start 20th and was fourth or better in all practices. Jones has finished 15th or better in five of eight races this season. Jones has been fast throughout pre-race events and should finish inside the Top 10, making him a favorable value play.
BARGAIN PICKS $8,000 OR LESS
Jamie McMurray ($7,800) starts 10th and is searching for his first win since 2013. In 28 starts at Richmond, McMurray has seven Top 10 finishes, and an AFP of 19.6, which is 17th of active drivers. In his last four starts at RIR, McMurray has an AFP of 10.0, which is ninth-best, an ARP of 12.4, which is 12th, and a DR of 90.9, which is 11th. McMurray had the 10th best 10 Consecutive Lap Average in final practice. McMurray has been solid in pre-race events and looks likely to finish close to or inside the Top 10. Consider McMurray a very good value pick.
The penalties incurred by Austin Dillon ($7,400) before pre-race events will make him an amazing value play for owners. Austin Dillon failed pre-practice inspection an excessive number of times and will start from the back. Austin Dillon qualified 38th so this penalty will not affect him, and he will earn a lot of points based on PD. Austin Dillon had the 18th 10 Consecutive Lap Average in final practice, making him likely to finish inside the Top 20.
Trevor Bayne ($6,800) starts 29th. In four starts, Bayne has an AFP of 19.5, which is 16th, and he has never finished lower than his start position. In final practice, Bayne was 13th and had the 15th 10 Consecutive Lap Average. Based on practice speeds and history, Bayne is a notable value pick that is likely to gain a lot of points from PD.
Aric Almirola ($6,200) is a fantastic pick for owners looking for low value with good PD potential. In 10 starts at Richmond, Almirola has three Top 10 finishes. In his last four starts at Richmond, Almirola has an AFP of 15.5, which is 14th, an ARP of 19.5, which is 16th, and a DR of 74.2, which is 15th. Almirola will start 25th and was 20th in final practice. Look for Almirola to easily finish in the Top 20.
TOP 15 DRIVERS OVERALL FOR TOYOTA OWNERS 400 – BASED ON COMBINATION OF PROJECTED PERFORMANCE AND VALUE
1: Martin Truex Jr. ($9,100)
2: Kyle Larson ($10,300)
3: Denny Hamlin ($9,300)
4: Joey Logano ($10,100)
5: Clint Bowyer ($8,500)
6: Kevin Harvick ($10,400)
7: Erik Jones ($8,100)
8: Jimmie Johnson ($9,900)
9: Jamie McMurray ($7,800)
10: Kyle Busch ($10,600)
11: Chase Elliott ($9,500)
12: Dale Earnhardt Jr. ($8,300)
13: Austin Dillon ($7,400)
14: Trevor Bayne ($6,800)
15: Ricky Stenhouse Jr. ($7,000)