NASCAR Fantasy Blog


NASCAR Fantasy Preview: Richmond

September 03, 2013, Dan Beaver, NASCAR.com

What drivers should be at the top of the fantasy wishlist for this weekend's race at Richmond.

Related: Watch this week's Fantasy Preview Show

And then there was one.

The 2013 race to the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup was as exciting and hard to predict as any that preceded it, but soon the business at hand will switch to NASCAR’s version of the playoffs. Six drivers are locked in. Eleven drivers are left to contest those final six spots like a game of musical chairs with really bad odds. If past Federated Auto Parts 400s are any indication, it will come down to the final lap before all of the contenders are known.

Knowing who is in or out is important to fantasy owners. Take a moment to examine the Chase clinching scenarios for Richmond because the further down the list a driver is, the more likely chance there is that his team will gamble.

Richmond International Raceway may be the perfect venue to host NASCAR’s final regular season race. It is a short track that thinks it is a superspeedway and drivers have multiple options for getting around the three-quarter-mile oval. Two- and three-wide racing is not uncommon and if teams can get their cars to work both high and low, passing seems to come effortlessly for some.

Make no mistake though; this is a short track and peril lies around every corner. At the end of the night, the drivers who entered the Federated Auto Parts 400 without a guaranteed position in the Chase will be mentally and physically drained. And some of them will have earned top-10 points in the NASCAR Fantasy Live game en route to qualifying for the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

Rank

Driver

Power Avg.

1.

Jimmie Johnson 9.02

2.

Jeff Gordon 9.11

3.

Kyle Busch 9.56

4.

Denny Hamlin 10.68

5.

Matt Kenseth 10.78

6.

Clint Bowyer 11.22

7.

Kevin Harvick 12.11

8.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. 13.27

9.

Kasey Kahne 14.29

10.

Carl Edwards 14.42

11.

Brad Keselowski 14.61

12.

Ryan Newman 14.66

13.

Juan Pablo Montoya 15.23

14.

Martin Truex Jr. 16.73

15.

AJ Allmendinger 16.95

16.

Joey Logano 17.12

17.

Jamie McMurray 17.13

18.

Mark Martin 17.56

19.

Greg Biffle 17.72

20.

Brian Vickers 18.30

21.

Jeff Burton 18.49

22.

Kurt Busch 18.65

23.

Paul Menard 21.73

24.

Aric Almirola 21.74

25.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 21.88

26.

Marcos Ambrose 23.16

27.

David Ragan 26.49

28.

David Reutimann 26.75

29.

Casey Mears 29.67

30.

David Gilliland 32.90

31.

Dave Blaney 33.66

32.

Danica Patrick 34.14

33.

Travis Kvapil 34.14

34.

Landon Cassill 34.91

35.

David Stremme 37.08

36.

Michael McDowell 38.22

37.

JJ Yeley 38.24

38.

Josh Wise 38.83

39.

Tony Raines 38.91

40.

Mike Bliss 39.13

41.

Timmy Hill 39.31

42.

Ryan Truex 39.64

43.

Joe Nemechek 40.20  

The Favorites

It is fairly rare for Kevin Harvick to be listed as a favorite. It is not as if he has struggled on a number of occasions this season, but often hindsight has the best view of his strongest runs. His consistency on most tracks makes him a driver to watch nearly every week, but he lacks the dominant statistics that make for a number one seed. Richmond is an exception. Harvick enters this weekend as the winner of the spring Toyota Owners 400 as well as the fall 2011 Wonderful Pistachios 400.

In his last 17 attempts on this track, Harvick has earned 14 top-10s and a 12th. Better still, he has been strong in categories that pay points in the NASCAR Fantasy Live game. In the past 17 races, he has spent 6,310 laps in the top 15 which he converted to the most quality passes of anyone in the field. His 575 quality passes are bolstered by 445 fastest laps run, which is third on that chart. All in all, Harvick is a must have for this week’s roster especially after his strong run last week in Atlanta. This week, Harvick is worth the expense.

Kyle Busch is another statistically great driver at Richmond. He has the second-most fastest laps run during the past eight years behind his teammate Denny Hamlin, but while the No. 11 team is suffering through a slump that makes them difficult to activate, Busch and the No. 18 have been a consistent front runner and are coming off a victory last week. Busch has been just as strong in recent Richmond events as well. In the last six races on this track, he has led 102.3 laps on average, recorded 30.5 fastest laps run, and 33.3 quality passes. He has even added points in regard to place differential in those events, improving by more than seven positions from his average starting spot of 15.5.

Carl Edwards is considerably cheaper than either Harvick or Busch, but he has been just as productive in recent seasons at Richmond. With a rocky start to his season, his salary cap has taken a while to catch up to his recent results and he is more than $3.00 cheaper than his principal competition this week, but when one adds together the average laps led, fastest laps run, quality passes, and place differential, he is wedged right between those two drivers. Fantasy players should make a choice between Harvick or Busch as the anchor to their roster, but they can go ahead and pre-select Edwards for one of the top three slots.

Dark Horses

Jeff Gordon has been in this position too often in the past several seasons. Last year, he made a dramatic late-race charge through the field from 15th on lap 360 to second on lap on lap 397. In that span of nearly 40 laps, Kyle Busch was also attempting to pick his way through the field from the 18th-position on lap 360, but he could only managed a 16th-place finish in the final rundown. Busch was expecting much more as the defending winner of the spring 2012 race; Gordon finished only 23rd in that same event. Gordon’s effort in 2011 was nearly as dramatic and he finished third in that season’s Richmond fall event to secure his Chase spot after struggling in the spring. While Gordon would rather not be in this situation, his desperate charges have earned a lot of points in those fall events. No one should rearrange a roster to accommodate him, but Gordon should be started if he fits into a player’s salary cap.

Denny Hamlin is simply too appealing statistically to not get mentioned at all this week. He tops the charts both during the past eight years and the most recent six races. During the past three years, if one adds up his average laps led, fastest laps run, quality passes, and place differential, those categories have produced an average of 243 points per race. His teammate Busch is second in line with 173 points per race and that is a gigantic gap. Hamlin is still looking to regain some semblance of momentum, but even though he finished poorly in the most recent short track race at Bristol Motor Speedway, he ran strong before getting clipped by Brian Vickers, cutting a tire, and triggering a massive accident.  

Underdogs

The Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol was filled with underdogs. An eight-car accident on lap 448 that was triggered by the contact between Vickers and Hamlin eliminated several strong contenders and made room for some unlikely bargains to score top-20s. David Ragan finished 12th, Travis Kvapil was 16th, and David Stremme was 17th. Each of those drivers ran strong at various points during the race and certainly deserved the break they were given in the final 50 laps, but it is unlikely lightning will strike again this soon. While a second strong run would be a feel-good story, players only want to gamble in the final regular season race if they already have a commanding lead in their league.

Ragan may be the exception to that rule, however. His Toyota Owners 400 ended in a 20th-place finish and he will earn a moderate amount of points if he qualifies in the back half of the pack and scores a positive place differential.

Casey Mears has been an attractive dark horse for much of the season and even though his salary cap has risen nearly $2 in the past eight weeks to $12.25, he is beginning to look like a bad value on short tracks. His first two attempts this year in the Food City 500 at Bristol and the STP Gas Booster 500 at Martinsville Speedway ended in results of 15th and 16th respectively. His last two efforts have not been nearly as strong. He sustained crash damage two weeks ago at Bristol, but this team simply missed the setup at Richmond in April. The No. 13 team qualified 40th, lost a lap before a tenth of the race was in the books, and never regained it before finishing 30th.

If a player is looking for a bargain, pay attention to Ragan, but also to Dave Blaney and Landon Cassill. They each finished in the low- to mid-20s in the spring Richmond race and could repeat on Saturday night. 

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