NASCAR heads to Richmond Raceway this weekend for Saturday night’s Toyota Owners 400. The three-quarter mile track is the third short track on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule.
The factors that go into building a winning fantasy team at a short track are much different than those at an intermediate or superspeedway.
First, it is important to pinpoint a few different dominator candidates — drivers who lead a chunk of laps and record the most “fastest laps” in a given race. DraftKings awards .25 points per lap led and .5 points per fastest lap. With 400 scheduled laps, there could be a handful of different drivers who dominate a portion of the race. Selecting the right drivers will give you a huge advantage over the rest of the fantasy field.
Here are a few drivers to keep an eye on for the Toyota Owners 400.
ELITE TIER: $9,500 and up
Kyle Busch ($11,400)
Richmond: 25 starts, four wins, 15 top fives, 18 top 10s
Average finish at Richmond: 7.4
Busch picked up his second consecutive MENCS win earlier this week at Bristol. He led 117 laps from the pole and has now earned a podium (top-three) finish in six straight races.
Expect the trend to continue at Richmond. Busch has the best average finish of all active drivers at the track and earned runner-up finishes in two of his last five starts there. Now, the MENCS points leader will look to do what Kevin Harvick did earlier in the season and win three races in a row. That makes him the clear favorite leading into race weekend and the number one choice for your roster.
Denny Hamlin ($9,800)
Richmond: 23 starts, three wins, 10 top fives, 14 top 10s
Average finish at Richmond: 9.6
Hamlin failed to overcome a loose wheel issue that popped up late in the race at Bristol. He had to pit from the front as a result and never recovered, finishing 14th. It’s the latest in a series of bad luck moments that have taken a toll on his season. After starting 2018 red hot, Hamlin has cooled off a bit; he’s got three straight results of 12th or worse that have dropped him to eighth in the standings.
Luckily, Hamlin’s hometown track of Richmond is also one of his best. He has three wins there, the most recent in 2016 and earns a top-10 finish 61 percent of the time. Last season was also a success, even though he didn’t find Victory Lane with quality performances of third and fifth. Hamlin is also the active leader in laps led at the track, leading a total of 1,653 over the course of 23 races. That’s nearly 600 more than second best.
Joey Logano ($9,500)
Richmond: 18 starts, two wins, seven top fives, 10 top 10s
Average finish at Richmond: 11.9
Logano has seven top-10 finishes in eight races so far this season, a total that ties him with Busch for the series lead. Even though he does not yet have a win, the driver sits second in MENCS points and is knocking on the door of Victory Lane.
Can it happen here? Logano had a tremendous 2017 season at Richmond. He won the spring race, then finished second in the fall in a last-ditch effort to make the NASCAR playoffs. While the win victory “encumbered” due to failing post-race tech inspection, his daily fantasy points remained. I’d expect a similar, “legal” effort this time.
ALL-STAR TIER: $8,000 – $9,400
Kurt Busch ($8,900)
Richmond: 34 starts, two wins, seven top fives, 15 top 10s
Average finish at Richmond: 15.5
We are seeing a bit of rejuvenation from Kurt Busch to start the year as the rise of Stewart-Haas Racing has made him a weekly contender. He has only qualified outside the top 11 once this season and that speed has carried over to race day. Busch has led laps in four of eight races to become a bit of a dark horse title contender.
The elder Busch has also finished top 10 or better in six of the eight races he has run at Richmond since joining SHR. That total includes a win in 2015 where he led 291 of 400 laps.
Ryan Blaney ($8,800)
Richmond: Four starts, one top 20
Average finish at Richmond: 30.2
Many expected Blaney to improve with the move to Team Penske this season, but he’s already exceeded expectations. The young talent has led over 100 laps in three races, two of which were short tracks, and was a contender to win February’s Daytona 500.
But those short tracks have dealt him a dose of bad luck. A few weeks after coming oh-so-close at Martinsville (third, 145 laps led) Blaney was wrecked by lapped traffic while leading the race at Bristol. The crash left him settling for a 35th-place finish, by far his worst of the year.
Blaney’s track history at Richmond is terrible, as his best finish of 18th came in late 2017. That checkered past may deter people from him in daily fantasy. But keep this fact in mind: Before that third-place run at Martinsville three races ago, Blaney’s average finish there was 17.75. To add to that, before leading 100 laps at Bristol, his best in-race performance in five career starts, the career average finish there was 22.2.
Ryan Newman ($8,100)
Richmond: 32 starts, one win, seven top fives, 18 top 10s
Average finish at Richmond: 11.8
Newman started 30th at Bristol and ended the day with a 10th-place result. Through eight starts this season, Newman now has two top 10s and two 11th-place finishes while establishing himself as a mid-pack driver.
He is a little more pricey this week due to the fact his No. 31 Chevrolet ran well at Richmond last season. Newman finished seventh in the first race and then jumped up to third in the fall. In eight races at Richmond with Richard Childress Racing, Newman also has five finishes of 11th or better.
BARGAIN TIER: $7,900 and below
Alex Bowman ($7,100)
Richmond: Four starts, one top 30
Average finish at Richmond: 33.8
Don’t trust those career numbers, mostly spent with lower-tier teams; Bowman has been a sneaky play up to this point. He finished a career-best fifth at Bristol earlier this week and also ran seventh at Martinsville. Bowman is the most consistent Hendrick Motorsports driver through eight races and those short track performances make him a great play at Richmond. This low price tag only adds to his value.
Daniel Suarez ($6,900)
Richmond: Two starts, one top 10
Average finish at Richmond: 9.5
Suarez’s injured thumb did not hinder his chances at Bristol; in fact, he found himself leading at one point. Suarez ultimately finished 11th, a new career best for him at Thunder Valley.
In two MENCS races at Richmond, Suarez has driven like a veteran. He finished 12th in his debut, then followed that up with a seventh-place finish in September. He is another cheaper driver with high upside this weekend.
Pre-Qualifying Optimal Lineup Example:
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