The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will travel to Richmond, Virginia this week for the Toyota Owners 400.
Richmond is a favorite track for many of the drivers and many fans as well. The .75-mile D-shaped oval is fast and requires a savvy crew chief to create the perfect setup for their car. Teams who gamble on pit row could find their way to Victory Lane Saturday night.
The drivers to watch this week will be the 10 drivers who participated in the Richmond tire test at the beginning of April. The drivers include Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Brad Keselowski, Clint Bowyer, Kyle Larson, David Ragan, Austin Dillon, Trevor Bayne, Aric Almirola and Casey Mears. Any time a driver can get extra laps on the track with the tires used in the race is an advantage heading into the weekend.
Here are my picks for the Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond.
Yahoo Group A Picks
There drivers from Group A of Yahoo Fantasy Auto Racing have won 21 races at Richmond. Fantasy teams should have no problem finding a good driver from this group.
Jeff Gordon should be a popular pick for the race Saturday night. Gordon finished second in both races at Richmond last year and led 173 laps. Do not be surprised to see Gordon secure his place in the Chase with a win at Richmond.
Kevin Harvick has been very good at Richmond, but it will be difficult to justify using him on a short track. Harvick is so good on the intermediate tracks that it would be smart to save your allocations with Harvick until the series races at Kansas in two weeks.
My sleeper pick this week is Dale Earnhardt Jr. He has three wins and 13 top-10 finishes at Richmond. Earnhardt usually finds his way to Victory Lane when people least expect it. That could be the case Saturday night.
Here are the two drivers I selected for Group A.
It will be hard to find a better selection for your team then Keselowski this week. He has a series-best driver rating in the last four races at Richmond. In the race last September, Keselowski won the pole, lead 383 of the 400 laps on his way to Victory Lane. It was one of the most dominant races of the season. Keselowski should be on every team this week.
The final spot for Group A came down to a decision between Jeff Gordon and Logano. I choose Logano because he has been the more consistent driver this season. Logano has not always been a great pick at Richmond, but he seems to have figured it out last season. He won the April race and finished sixth here in September. The Team Penske drivers will be excellent choices for your team.
Other good choices: Jeff Gordon, Kevin Harvick, Matt Kenseth and Jimmie Johnson
Yahoo Group B Picks
Group B will determine how well your fantasy team performs this week. Most teams will have the same drivers for Group A and Group C, but if you are able to select the right combination of drivers from this group you could quickly move up in your standings.
Most of the drivers who have won races at Richmond are in Group A. That does not mean there are not a few quality drivers to select from this group. This would be a good week to take a chance with some drivers you have not used much this season.
My sleeper pick for Group B is Kyle Larson. He performed well his rookie season at Richmond. Larson won the pole for this race last year and finished 16th. In September he qualified in the top 10 and finished 11th. Larson should qualify up front and finish near the top 10 again this week.
Here are the two drivers I selected for Group B.
Edwards is starting to find his rhythm with his new team and the fantasy teams who saved their allocations with him will soon be rewarded. Richmond has been a good track for Edwards. He has finished three of the last four races in the top 10, including one win. Edwards would be a great pick for your team Saturday night.
McMurray is one of the most underrated drivers in the Sprint Cup Series this season. He consistently runs in the top 10 and fantasy teams need to take notice. McMurray performed well in the last race at this track. He started 15th and finished fourth. McMurray could have similar results this week.
The No. 41 team has shown up at each track this season with one of the best cars. It should be no different this week. Busch has finished three of his last four races at Richmond in the top 10. He will be a favorite to run up front Saturday night.
It is difficult to recommend Bowyer because the No. 15 team has not shown much speed this year. This is Bowyers best track and he participated in the tire test earlier this month. Bowyer has two wins and finished 10 of his 18 starts in the top 10. If you plan on using Bowyer this season, there is no better track to do it than Richmond.
Other Good Choices: Kyle Larson,Kasey Kahne and Martin Truex Jr.
Yahoo Group C Picks
Group C has not been very difficult this season. Fantasy teams have been able to select David Ragan each week and only have to worry about finding one other driver for their team. That may not be the case in the future. Erik Jones may soon get his chance in the No. 18 car. For that reason, fantasy teams must continue to use Ragan while they can.
A popular pick this week will be Chase Elliott. He will once again be driving the No. 25 car for Hendrick Motorsports. He struggled in his first race at Martinsville and fantasy teams can expect the same this week. There are better choices in Group C for your team Saturday night.
Here are the two drivers I selected for Group C.
Ragan has done a great job filling in for Kyle Busch. He is currently 18th in the point standing. Fantasy teams who have used their allocations with Ragan have been rewarded. Joe Gibbs Racing has been the best team on the short tracks this season, so Ragan is the best choice for Group B. There is no reason to stop using the No. 18 this week.
The last choice for Group C came down to a decision between Justin Allgaier and Patrick. Neither driver has had much success at Richmond, but it really does not matter because most teams will use David Ragan in the race. This selection is about who can score qualifying points. I like Patrick over Allgaier for that reason.
Other Good Choices: Justin Allgaier and Chase Elliott
Fantasy Live Picks
The race Saturday night at Richmond is one of the shorter races of the season. The Toyota Owners 400 is a 300-mile race consisting of 400 laps. The number of laps is important for teams in Fantasy Live this week. The short race and the 200 points available for leading laps make starting up front very important.
The strategy this week is to wait until qualifying is complete to select your team. You will want the drivers who qualify well because they will have the premium pit stalls and the best chance to lead many laps. If you select the right combination of drivers, you could have one of your best scores of the season.
Here are the five drivers I selected for Fantasy Live for the race at Richmond:
Driver 1: Brad Keselowski $27.75
Driver 2: Matt Kenseth $26.00
Driver 3: Kurt Busch $23.75
Driver 4: David Ragan $12.50
Driver 5: Justin Allgaier $10.25
Pick to Win: Brad Keselowski
* Driver prices based on prices at Bristol
Fox Fantasy Racing
Richmond is a difficult track for qualifying. The D-shaped oval requires the car to be balanced in multiple turns. Most teams will struggle with qualifying setup, but be able to improve their cars during the race.
The strategy this week for Fox Fantasy Racing is to select some of the big name drivers who struggled in qualifying. These drivers should be able to gain track position and score bonus points for your team for finishing differential. Do not forget to select a couple drivers who start the race up front as well. This will allow your team to gain bonus points for leading laps.
Here are my selections for Fox Fantasy Racing for Richmond:
Driver 1: Brad Keselowski $12,200
Driver 2: Jeff Gordon $11,200
Driver 3: Jimmie Johnson $10,400
Driver 4: Kurt Busch $8,700
Driver 5: Tony Stewart $6,300
* Driver prices based on prices at Bristol