NASCAR Picks for Richmond
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NASCAR Picks for Richmond

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

The Cup Series heads back to Richmond International Raceway this weekend for Saturday night's Federated Auto Parts 400. The short track is already known for some hard side-by-side racing and the occasional bump-and-run, and since this weekend's race also happens to be the regular-season finale, an intense 400 miles is likely on tap as drivers not in the Chase try to do everything they can to get to victory lane and qualify for the playoffs. If you thought the action in the closing laps at Atlanta was wild, wait until Saturday night.

The atmosphere that the regular-season finale is going to create doesn't exactly bode well for fantasy owners. For one, drivers already in the Chase can afford to take a checkers-or-wreckers attitude this weekend. After all, points basically reset after Saturday. Meanwhile, drivers not in the Chase have to adopt a checkers-or-wreckers attitude because if they don't win Saturday, there will be no playoffs. Desperate moves on the track and on pit road seem almost inevitable, and the chaos that could ensue is unlikely to produce the calm predictable racing that makes it easy for fantasy owners to score a lot of points.

With that in mind, it might not be such a bad idea to avoid some of the bigger names this weekend in Yahoo! leagues and in other formats that limit the number of times a driver can be used. Playoff drivers are going to adopt a much different approach in two weeks when the Chase begins, and you don't want to throw away a start in the meantime.

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

He has made 19 starts at Richmond, and Busch has finished in the Top 5i n 13 of them, including a third-place finish earlier this year. More importantly, he is a four-time winner at the short track, and he has also finished second on four occasions. Meanwhile, Busch's 7.0 average finish at the track is the best in the series.

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

His 9.0 average finish at Richmond in the last 20 races is the second best in the series, and his 8.6 average finish in the last 10 races is the third best. Meanwhile, Harvick has piled up 18 Top-12 finishes in his last 20 starts at RIR, including four straight. More importantly, he is a three-time winner at the track with two wins coming in the last six races.

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

Kenseth was already improving at Richmond, and his move to Joe Gibbs Racing last year only seemed to speed up the process. In three starts at the track with JGR, he has finishes of seventh, sixth and fifth. In his last five starts at RIR, Kenseth has compiled a rock solid 6.8 average finish and hasn't finished worse than 11th.

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

Logano is gunning for a season sweep at Richmond this weekend, and after picking up a win at Bristol a couple of weeks ago, it seems safe to say that his move to Team Penske last year has boosted his value at short tracks. In fact, Logano now has two Top-3 finishes in three starts at Richmond with Team Penske.

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

Although he hasn't won at Richmond in more than a decade, Gordon has remained one of the most reliable drivers at the track. In his last 15 starts at RIR, he has 13 Top-12 finishes, including seven Top-5s. Gordon finished second at Richmond in April, and he owns a 5.8 average finish in his last four starts at the short track.

6. Brad Keselowski, #2 Miller Lite, Team Penske [Yahoo Class B]

Keselowski has been making steady progress at Richmond throughout his career. Overall, he has seven Top-15s in 10 starts, and all three of his Top-10s at the track have come in the last five races. More importantly, Keselowski finished a career-best fourth at the track earlier this year, and his upward trend suggests that his best is still to come.

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

He is the defending winner of this weekend's race, and Edwards has been on a nice little run at Richmond recently. In his last nine starts at the track, he has seven Top-10s, including three straight. During the stretch, he has finished sixth or better on five occasions.

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

While he hasn't dominated at Richmond, Junior has quietly been delivering solid finishes at the track the last couple of years. He has reeled off five straight Top-15s at RIR, compiling a 9.2 average finish during the stretch. Junior finished seventh at Richmond earlier this year, and another Top-10 run seems likely Saturday night.


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

The Virginia native is a two-time winner at his home-state track, and at times, Hamlin has been downright dominant at RIR, notching eight finishes of sixth or better in 16 starts. However, he has been in a bit of slump recently, finishing outside the Top 15 in his last three starts at the track and outside the Top 20 in his last two. Hamlin offers a ton of potential as a B-List option in Yahoo! leagues, but you may want to check the practice times to make sure he is dialed in.

10. Jimmie Johnson, #48 Lowe's/Kobalt Tools, Hendrick Motorsports [Yahoo Class A]

From 2007 to 2008, Johnson won three times in a four-race stretch at Richmond, but overall, he has remained inconsistent at the track. He has just four Top-10s in 11 starts since his last win at Richmond, and he has finished outside the Top 10 in his last four starts at the track. Johnson is capable of delivering a win whenever he gets behind the wheel, but fantasy owners will be better served saving him for another week in Yahoo! leagues and other similar formats.

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

Repeated tire issues led to Bowyer finishing dead last at Richmond in April, but his overall numbers at the track remain solid. He has three Top-10s in his last five starts at RIR, including a win in 2012 and a second-place run last year. Bowyer is also a two-time winner at Richmond for his career, and he has finished seventh or better six times in his last 10 starts at the track.

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

Newman has quietly been one of the steadiest performers at Richmond lately. In his last 11 starts at the short track, he has 10 Top-15 finishes, including six straight. During the same stretch, he has cracked the Top 10 seven times, finishing third and eighth in his two most recent starts.
 


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