The 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoffs roll on this weekend, and the second race of the postseason will be a short track event at Richmond Raceway. Normally, the site of the final race of the regular season, the three-quarter-mile oval will host Saturday night’s Federated Auto Parts 400.
Back in April, a mostly uneventful race erupted into chaos in the closing laps. For the first 354 laps, the only two cautions were for the end of Stage 1 and Stage 2, but there were four cautions from laps 355 to the overtime finish at lap 402. All the late cautions and restarts allowed a bunch of cars to get back on the lead lap and really jumbled up the field.
As a result, I’m not putting as much stock into the final results of the April race here as a I normally would. Instead, I focused more on average running position and the other loop data categories when evaluating the first Richmond race.
While it is impossible to predict if Saturday’s race will unfold the same way, short tracks are naturally more chaotic, and the pressure of the playoffs is only going to ramp up the intensity. With that in mind, this isn’t a bad race to try to use some alternative options in the Driver Group Game, and after sticking to the Big 3 at Fantasy Live last weekend at Las Vegas, I’ll be willing to cast my net a lot wider at Richmond depending on how things are going.
- Kyle Busch, M&M’s
He had to start 32nd in the spring race at Richmond, but he still managed to get to the front and pick up his fifth career win at the track. Busch owns a series-best 7.2 average finish at Richmond, and he has 16 Top 15s and 19 Top 10s in 26 career starts. Busch should be an elite fantasy option in all formats this weekend.
- Joey Logano, Shell-Pennzoil
Logano led 92 laps and finished fourth at Richmond in the spring, continuing his incredible run at the short track. He has now reeled off nine straight Top 10s, including three straight Top 5s, and Logano has picked up a pair of wins during that stretch. If you have used up the Big 3 in the Driver Group Game, target Logano as an alternative.
- Kevin Harvick, Jimmy Johns/Busch Beer
He has been the model of consistency at Richmond, notching 12 straight Top 15s at Richmond and cracking the Top 5 in four of the last five races here. His safe floor and high ceiling make him an ideal option for the Driver Group Game and Fantasy Live.
- Brad Keselowski, Miller Lite/Discount Tires
Since teaming up, I’m not sure anyone has been better at using strategy and being in the right place at the right time than Keselowski and Paul Wolfe. They are firing on all cylinders right now, and they have won the last three races heading into Richmond when they didn’t have the best car in any of those races. Keselowski has six straight finishes of 11th or better at Richmond, so I don’t expect the hot streak to end this weekend.
- Kurt Busch, Monster Energy/Haas Automation
The restarts late in the race didn’t work in his favor, but Busch led 98 laps and had the third-best average running position in the spring race before ending up 11th. His seven Top 10s in the last 10 races here rank second in the series, and his 520 laps led are the third most. This is a great spot to use him in the Driver Group Game.