The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series makes a stop at Richmond Raceway this weekend, which means that for the second week in a row, we have to adjust our Fantasy NASCAR lineups for some short track racing.
Last weekend at Bristol, I recommended trying to take advantage of some mid-tier and sleeper drivers to save starts from the top options. The strategy worked particularly well in the NASCAR Fantasy Live game with both Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Alex Bowman coming away with stage points and Top 5 finishes.
Saturday night’s Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond might not be quite as chaotic as last weekend’s race at Bristol, but the attrition and the surprises are usually higher at any short track. With that in mind, I’m going back to the same strategy and will be trying to save some valuable starts from the high-end fantasy options.
At the very least, I think at least one of your Group B drivers in the Driver Group Game should be more of a midrange play. I also recommend using two or three middle-tier drivers in Fantasy Live. You obviously don’t have to worry about allocating your starts in the Slingshot game, but for the other two contests, Saturday’s race is another golden opportunity to set yourself up for long-term success.
NASCAR.com Fantasy Live
Logano has been the model of consistency at Richmond, cracking the Top 10 in nine of his 10 starts here with Team Penske while posting the best average finish of any driver during that stretch. Last year, he collected points in all four stages between the two races at Richmond, winning the spring event and finishing second in the fall. After qualifying third, he’s an easy choice this weekend.
His career numbers at Richmond are among the best in the series, and Hamlin has finished sixth or better in his last five starts at the track. He finished in the Top 5 in both races here a year ago, and he also finished in the Top 5 in two of the stages. The three-time Richmond winner starts fourth, and he showed Top 5 speed in Happy Hour. He’s always a risk for a penalty, but he’s got a shot at a win and a bunch of stage points. I’ll take the chance.
Elliott wasn’t on my radar coming into the weekend, but it’s impossible to ignore the speed he has been showing. Throw in the fact that he is starting on the front row, and he appears to have the car and the track position to pile up some stage points. I’m trusting the practice sheets and going with Elliott.
Sticking with my plan to try to get some solid starts out of a couple of mid-tier drivers, I’m going to take a chance on McMurray. He has five finishes of seventh or better in his last nine starts at Richmond, and his worst finish in that stretch is 16th. More importantly, he cracked the Top 10 in both practices and qualified eighth. I’m hoping he can grab some stage points and pick up another Top 10 at Richmond.
I took a chance on Bowman at Bristol, and it paid off as he finished fifth and collected some stage points. He’s running well and has now finished seventh or better in both short track races so far, so I’m going back to the well this weekend at Richmond. With Bowman starting 11th with a car that practiced in the Top 10, I think more stage points and another solid finish could be on tap.
Garage Driver – Martin Truex Jr.
Short tracks typically aren’t his strong suit, but he’s led the most laps in two of the last three races at Richmond, and he’s starting on the pole. In case he ends up dominating Saturday night and winning the stages, I need to have Truex ready to swap in.
Fantasy Racing Cheat Sheet Driver Group Game
I would love to keep running out Kyle Busch, but as great as his numbers are at Richmond overall, Logano has actually been more consistent. In the 10 races at the track since he joined Team Penske, Logano leads all drivers with nine Top 10s, a 6.1 average finish and two wins. With Busch inexplicably starting back in 32nd and Logano starting third, I definitely think I can save a start from Busch and still come away with a Top 5 finish.
None of my Group B picks performed like I had hoped in practice or qualifying, but I have to use someone, and Almirola has shown a safe floor all year. He has finished in the Top 15 in seven of the eight races this year, and he actually owns his best career average finish at Richmond. He’s starting 25th, but I think Almirola can work his way inside the Top 15 once again.
I would have liked to see a little more speed out of Newman in practice, but he’s starting in the Top 15, and I think I can squeeze a solid start out him at Richmond while saving one of the stronger options for another track. His 18 Top 10s here are tied for his most at any track, and his 11.8 average finish is his second-best mark at any track. Newman finished seventh and third in the two races at Richmond last year
I thought about rolling the dice on Daniel Hemric, but Bowman looks fast once again and is starting 11th. He’s already notched Top 10s in the first two short track races this year, and he appears to have a car capable of delivering another at Richmond. Meanwhile, William Byron and Darrell Wallace Jr. both seem to be making strides, so I’m feeling good about using Bowman now and having the other two to fall back on later in the year.