NASCAR Picks for Richmond

NASCAR Picks for Richmond

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Track Info:
Length: 0.750 miles
Shape: D-shaped Oval
Type: Short
Location: Richmond, Virginia

After an off week, the Cup Series returns to action Saturday night at Richmond International Raceway. The 0.75-mile short track has been called the "action track" over the years in large part because the lack of banking forces drivers to lean on each other through the corners, which inevitably leads to some bruised egos and battered cars over the course of 400 laps. While the race may ultimately come down to hard racing and even a bump-and-run in the final laps, getting in position to win requires smart pit strategy and avoiding mistakes. After all, track position can often trump speed while an unscheduled pit stop can ruin a driver's night in an instance.

From a fantasy standpoint, Richmond is a bit of a curveball. Big names like Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth and Brad Keselowski have all performed below their typical standards at Richmond, opening the door for fantasy owners to build their lineups around some different drivers this weekend. In Yahoo! leagues and in other formats that limit the number of times a driver can be used, this can actually be a blessing in disguise. After all, it should still be possible to have a big night at Richmond while saving starts from many of the fantasy juggernauts.

1. Kevin Harvick, #4 Budweiser/Jimmy Johns, Stewart-Haas Racing [Yahoo Class A]

Harvick is the defending winner of this weekend's race and a three-time winner at the track overall. Harvick is also the only driver with multiple wins at Richmond over the past five races, and during the stretch, he has four finishes of 11th or better. Meanwhile, his 9.7 average finish at the track since 2004 is the fourth best in the series. Harvick has eight top-12 finishes in the last nine races.

2. Carl Edwards, #99 Fastenal/Aflac/UPS/Subway, Roush Fenway Racing [Yahoo Class B]

He won at the track last fall, and no driver has been better at the track in the last six races. During the stretch, he leads all drivers with a 6.8 average finish, three top-five finishes and six top-10s. He has also scored a series-leading 231 points in the last six races at Richmond and has led a series-high 376 laps.

3. Kyle Busch, #18 Mars Brands/Interstate Batteries, Joe Gibbs Racing [Yahoo Class A]

Although his last three outings at Richmond have been below his typical standards, his overall record at the short track is still stout. His 7.2 average finish is the best in the series, and in 18 starts, he has 13 finishes of sixth better. More importantly, he has four wins at Richmond and has finished second on four other occasions.

4. Jeff Gordon, #24 Drive to End Hunger/Axalta, Hendrick Motorsports [Yahoo Class A]

Gordon hasn't won at Richmond in more than a decade, but he has remained one of the most-consistent drivers at the track. In his last 14 starts at RIR, he has piled up 12 top-12 finishes. During the stretch, Gordon has 10 top-10 finishes at the track, including six finishes of fourth or better.

5. Denny Hamlin, #11 FedEx, Joe Gibbs Racing [Yahoo Class B]

The Virginia native has enjoyed a lot of success at his home-state track. Hamlin's 8.9 average finish at Richmond is the second best in the series, and in 16 starts, he only has three finishes outside the top 15. More importantly, he has eight finishes of sixth or better a Richmond -- including a pair of victories since 2009.

6. Clint Bowyer, #15 5-Hour Energy, Michael Waltrip Racing [Yahoo Class A]

Bowyer is a two-time winner at Richmond. Since the start of the 2004 season, his 10.1 average finish is the fifth best in the series. For his career, Bowyer has 13 top-12 finishes in 16 starts at the short track. Meanwhile, he has three finishes of seventh or better (including a pair of top-two finishes) in four starts at RIR since joining Michael Waltrip Racing in 2012.

7. Matt Kenseth, #20 Husky/Dollar General, Joe Gibbs Racing [Yahoo Class A]

Richmond was never his strongest track early in his career, but Kenseth has been dialed in the past couple of years. He has four straight finishes of 11th or better at RIR, including three straight finishes of seventh or better.

8. Dale Earnhardt, Jr., #88 National Guard/Diet Mountain Dew, Hendrick Motorsports [Yahoo Class A]

He is a three-time winner at Richmond for his career. Although his most-recent win at the track came in 2006, Junior has been running well at the track recently. He has finished in the top 15 in each of the last four races at RIR, and during the stretch, he has compiled a 9.8 average finish.

9. Ryan Newman, #31 Caterpillar, Richard Childress Racing [Yahoo Class B]

In the last 10 races at Richmond, Newman has been one of the most-consistent drivers at the track. He has just one finish outside the top 15 during the stretch, and his 10.2 average finish ranks fourth in the series. Newman enters Saturday's race at RIR with five-straight top-15s at RIR, including a third-place run last fall.

10. Kurt Busch, #41 Haas Automation, Stewart-Haas Racing [Yahoo Class A]

Busch has been a little up and down at Richmond, but he is coming off a year when he finished ninth and second in two starts at the track while driving for Furniture Row Racing. This weekend, he will be driving much-better equipment as he prepares to make his first start at RIR with Stewart-Haas Racing. The last time the series visited a short track, Busch was in victory lane at Martinsville. He definitely has some upside.

11. Joey Logano, #22 Shell-Pennzoil, Team Penske [Yahoo Class B]

He has either been really good or really bad at Richmond, but there are a couple of reasons to be optimistic about his chances this weekend. For one, he finished a career-best third at RIR last spring in his first start at the track for Team Penske. Meanwhile, Logano has enjoyed an excellent overall start to the 2014 season. Don't let his inconsistent numbers at Richmond until now scare you off.

12. Tony Stewart, #14 Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1, Stewart-Haas Racing [Yahoo Class B]

A broken leg kept him out of the Richmond race last fall, but Stewart could return to the track with a bang this weekend. After all, he is a three-time winner at the short track for his career. His 9.0 average finish at RIR since 2004 ranks third in the series. Stewart has four top-10s in his last five starts at Richmond (including two top-five finishes in his last three starts), and he should be good for a solid result this weekend.