NASCAR Picks for Richmond
Length: 0.750 miles
Shape: D-shaped Oval
Location: Richmond, Virginia
Months of hard work will boil down to one race as the Cup Series heads to Richmond International Raceway Saturday night for the regular season finale. For the drivers currently in the Chase, Saturday night's race is the last bullet to dodge. For the drivers on the outside of the playoffs looking in, the race is the last chance to earn a spot in the Chase and compete for the title. Either way, the 12 drivers that will compete for the 2013 Sprint Cup will be set in stone when the checkered flag waves Saturday night.
It is also important for fantasy owners to keep in mind the situation each driver is facing heading into Saturday's race. After all, certain drivers like Jeff Gordon and Brad Keselowski are going to be in desperation mode as they attempt to make the Chase, and they are going to be willing to take serious risks as a result. On the flip side, a few drivers like Joey Logano and Greg Biffle simply need a solid finish to ensure themselves a spot in the playoffs, and they are going to take more of a conservative approach. For fantasy owners currently at or near the front of their leagues, playing it safe is probably the best option. For those that need to start making up ground, rolling the dice with drivers that have to try to win this weekend might be the way to go.
Kyle Busch, #18 Mars Brands/Interstate Batteries, Joe Gibbs Racing [Yahoo Class B]
Since joining the Cup Series, no driver has been in Busch's class at Richmond. His 6.5 average finish at the track is by far the best in the series, and in 17 starts, he has 12 top-five finishes. More important, Busch has eight top-two finishes at RIR, including four wins.
Clint Bowyer, #15 5-Hour Energy, Michael Waltrip Racing [Yahoo Class A]
Bowyer has always been one of the most reliable drivers at Richmond, and lately, he has been even better. His 9.1 average finish at the track is the third best in the series, and in 15 starts, he has 12 top-12 finishes. Meanwhile, Bowyer has finished seventh or better in five of his last six Richmond starts, and he is the defending winner of this weekend's race.
Kevin Harvick, #29 Budweiser/Rheem, Richard Childress Racing [Yahoo Class A]
He is going for a season sweep at Richmond this weekend after picking up his third career win at the track earlier this year. Harvick is also one of the most consistent performers at the track, and in his last 18 starts, he has finished 12th or better 16 times. Throw in his two victories in the last four races at RIR, and he should make an excellent fantasy option in all formats.
Matt Kenseth, #20 Husky/Dollar General, Joe Gibbs Racing [Yahoo Class A]
After going through a stretch of mediocrity at Richmond, Kenseth has been dialed in at the track the past couple of years. He finished fifth in the September event last year; and earlier this year, he finished seventh and led the most laps. Not to mention the fact that Joe Gibbs Racing drivers have historically been excellent at Richmond.
Jimmie Johnson, #48 Lowe's/Kobalt Tools, Hendrick Motorsports [Yahoo Class A]
Although Johnson hasn't been nearly as strong recently as he was when he won three races in four starts at Richmond from 2007 to 2008, he hasn't been bad either. He has finished in the top 15 in seven of his last eight starts at the track, cracking the top 10 four times during the stretch. Fantasy owners may want to save him for another week in survivor-type leagues, but in any other format, Johnson can still get the job done.
Carl Edwards, #99 Fastenal/Aflac/UPS/Subway, Roush Fenway Racing [Yahoo Class B]
Edwards has figured something out at Richmond the past few seasons. In his last seven starts at the track, he has logged six top-10 finishes. During the stretch, Edwards has cracked the top five on three occasions after failing to record a single top-five finish in his first 11 starts at the track.
Kasey Kahne, #5 Farmers Insurance/Quaker State, Hendrick Motorsports [Yahoo Class A]
A late wreck ruined his night at Richmond in the spring, but Kahne has been strong in a majority of his recent starts at the short track. He has three top-12 finishes in his last five Richmond starts, including a pair of top-five finishes. Don't be surprised if the former Richmond winner challenges for another top-five finish this weekend.
Kurt Busch, #78 Furniture Row, Furniture Row Racing [Yahoo Class B]
Busch has run hot and cold at Richmond throughout his career, but he looked solid in his first start at the track with Furniture Row Racing earlier this year. He ended up ninth in that race, and he was challenging for a top-five before he got tangled up with Tony Stewart. Busch is also a former winner at RIR, and he has plenty of upside this weekend.
Jeff Gordon, #24 Drive to End Hunger/Axalta, Hendrick Motorsports [Yahoo Class A]
There is something about the September race at Richmond that brings out the best in Gordon. He has finished in the top 12 in his last six starts in the event, posting a 5.3 average finish. He has finished fourth or better four times during the stretch, including a second-place effort last year.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., #88 National Guard/Diet Mountain Dew, Hendrick Motorsports [Yahoo Class B]
Richmond has always been one of Junior's best tracks. In fact, his three wins at RIR are his most at any track outside of Talladega. Meanwhile, he has reeled off three straight top-15 finishes at the short track, including a top-10 run earlier this year.
Joey Logano, #22 Shell-Pennzoil, Penske Racing [Yahoo Class B]
While he has been inconsistent at Richmond throughout his career, Logano certainly made the most of his first start at the track with Penske Racing. He finished a career-best third at RIR earlier this year, and as well as he has been running in recent weeks, a similar performance could be on tap. Logano has plenty of fantasy upside this weekend.
Denny Hamlin, #11 FedEx, Joe Gibbs Racing [Yahoo Class A]
Without a doubt, Hamlin is the ultimate boom or bust pick this weekend. The Virginia native is a two-time winner at his home-state track, and his 8.1 average finish is the second best among active drivers. However, he has been dreadful for the past several months, even at other tracks that are normally kind to him. Owners looking to play it safe this weekend should look elsewhere for help.