NASCAR Picks for Richmond
Length: 0.750 miles
Shape: D-shaped Oval
Location: Richmond, Virginia
After back-to-back races at 1.5-mile tracks, drivers and fantasy owners will face a much different challenge this weekend when the Cup Series heads to Richmond International Raceway. After all, speed and down force take a backseat to bumping and banging and the brake pedal at the 0.75-mile short track. As with any short track, Richmond also tests the patience of the drivers, and the mental strain is only made worse by the track's multiple racing grooves. Drivers can spend lap after lap running side by side, and with the driver in the outside lane often pinching down any potential challengers, being able to drive underneath and complete can be a chore. By the time the checkered flag waves, there is usually a lot more taking than giving going on.
For fantasy owners, the trip to Richmond will likely involve some heavy roster reshuffling. Several of the drivers that excel at the intermediate ovals haven't enjoyed the same level of success at Richmond, and several drivers that are just average at the bigger ovals are actually studs at RIR. More importantly, a short track brings open the door for fantasy owners to take advantage of some different sleeper options. In either case, don't be afraid to shake up your lineup this weekend, even if you have been putting up big point totals in recent weeks. Any good crew chief will tell you that the key to sustaining success is to stay ahead of the changing track conditions.
Kyle Busch, #18 Mars Brands/Interstate Batteries, Joe Gibbs Racing [Yahoo Class B]
Busch has been nothing short of incredible at Richmond. In 16 starts at the track, he has compiled a series-leading 5.4 average finish. He has also logged 12 top-five finishes at the track, including four wins and four second-place finishes. Plain and simple, there isn't a safer bet for a top-five finishes this weekend than Busch.
Clint Bowyer, #15 5-Hour Energy, Michael Waltrip Racing [Yahoo Class A]
He has always been reliable at Richmond, and lately, Bowyer has been even stronger. His 9.6 average finish at the track is the third best in the series, and in 14 starts at the track, he has finished 12th or better 12 times. In his last seven starts, Bowyer has finished seventh or better five times, and he picked up his second-career win at Richmond last fall.
Carl Edwards, #99 Fastenal/Aflac/UPS/Subway, Roush Fenway Racing [Yahoo Class B]
Although Richmond was a trouble spot for Edwards for a while, he has been in a groove at the track lately. He has finished in the top 10 in five of his last six starts at the track, picking up three top-five finishes during the stretch. Meanwhile, Edwards has an 8.2 average finish during the six-race span compared to a 14.9 average finish at the track for his career.
Kasey Kahne, #5 Farmers Insurance/Quaker State, Hendrick Motorsports [Yahoo Class A]
His first-ever Cup Series win came at Richmond back in 2005, and in the last couple of seasons, Kahne has be closing in on another win at the short track. He has finished 12th or better in three of his last four starts, and more importantly, he has finished in the top five in his last two spring races at the track.
Matt Kenseth, #20 Husky/Dollar General, Joe Gibbs Racing [Yahoo Class A]
His career numbers at Richmond aren't outstanding, but there are reasons for fantasy owners to be very optimistic. For one, he finished 11th and fifth in two starts at the track last year. More importantly, Saturday will mark his first start at the track with Joe Gibbs Racing, and considering the success of the other JGR drivers at Richmond, Kenseth should keep the good times rolling with his new team.
Jeff Gordon, #24 Drive to End Hunger/Axalta, Hendrick Motorsports [Yahoo Class A]
Since the start of the 2007 season, not many drivers have been better at Richmond. In the 12 races during the stretch, Gordon has finished in the top 10 nine times. He also has four finishes of third or better in those races, including two top-three finishes in his last three starts at the track.
Brian Vickers, #11 FedEx , Joe Gibbs Racing [Yahoo Class B]
Vickers will get the start in the No. 11 again this weekend after Denny Hamlin didn't receive medical clearance. That being said, the drop in fantasy production shouldn't be huge. After all, Vickers has finished 11th or better in five of his last six short track starts and has two top-10s in his last four starts at Richmond. There is no reason he can't deliver a top-10 finish Saturday night.
Brad Keselowski, #2 Miller Lite, Penske Racing [Yahoo Class A]
He is definitely trending in the right direction at Richmond, finishing 12th, ninth and seventh in his last three starts. Overall, Keselowski has five top-15 finishes in seven starts at the track. Granted, he is still looking for his first top-five finish at Richmond, but Keselowski pretty much rolls out of bed and lands somewhere in the top 10 these days.
Jimmie Johnson, #48 Lowe's/Kobalt Tools, Hendrick Motorsports [Yahoo Class A]
Johnson has been on a rollercoaster ride at Richmond throughout his career. His has a very atypical 16.5 average finish at the track, but he also has three wins. That being said, he has just one top-five finish in the eight races since his last victory. Fantasy owners should never make a habit of betting against Johnson, but Richmond is certainly not his best track.
Mark Martin, #55 Aaron's Dream Machine, Michael Waltrip Racing [Yahoo Class B]
The veteran has been on his game at Richmond recently. He has four straight top-15 finishes at the track, and he has improved his result in all four starts during the stretch. Last year, Martin finished eighth and third at Richmond, and he should be a solid addition to fantasy rosters this weekend.
Kevin Harvick, #29 Budweiser/Rheem, Richard Childress Racing [Yahoo Class A]
He has been rock solid at Richmond throughout his career, and his 10.2 average finish in the last 20 races at the track is the best in the series among drivers that have started all 20 races. Harvick is also a two-time winner at the track, and in his last seven starts, he has five top-10s. He may not be a lock for a top-five finish, but fantasy owners can count on a useful run.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., #88 National Guard/Diet Mountain Dew, Hendrick Motorsports [Yahoo Class B]
The good news is that Junior is a two-time winner at Richmond, and he finished second at the track last spring. On the flip side, his runner-up effort was his only top 10 finish at the track since the start of the 2009 season. Junior definitely has a lot of upside, but it would be nice to see some more consistency.