Fantasy Talk: Richmond
This is a new feature discussing the best drivers put on your fantasy team for this weekend’s race. Drivers are broken down by A, B, and C List categories and based off of Yahoo’s listings.
Don’t blame me if you pick these drivers and have a bad week. Chances are I took the same drivers as well and I’m in the same boat you’re in.
For each category I’m going to give the drivers you should put on your team, plus a “wild-card” driver as a maybe, and a driver or two to avoid for this week’s race.
This week the Sprint Cup Series goes short-track racing again. They take on the three-quarter mile D-shaped oval of Richmond International Raceway. It’s the final race before the Chase and it’s sure to be wild.
A-List Drivers to Have:
Denny Hamlin: Hamlin is one of the best drivers in the series on short-tracks. He has multiple wins at Richmond and Martinsville and just added a win at Bristol. But he might just be THE best at Richmond. Hamlin has two wins, seven top-fives, nine top-10s, and two poles. He leads all drivers in average running position (6.1), driver rating (117.2), fastest laps (521), and average green flag speed (116.921 mph). He’s also very hot right now with two straight wins. He has a very good chance of entering the Chase on a three-straight win streak.
Kyle Busch: Kyle is just about as good at Richmond as his teammate Hamlin is. He has four wins, 12 top-fives, 13 top-10s and one pole. His average finish at RIR is a 4.7. He’s second in average running position (7.3), driver rating (116.1), fastest laps run (503), and average green flag speed (116.901 mph) only to Hamlin. Busch is usually a very smart pick here, and should be again on Saturday. He cannot afford to have a bad race if he wants to make the Chase. To make it easy on himself, all Rowdy needs to do to make the Chase is win. And the odds of him doing that on Saturday are in his favor.
A-List “Wild-Card” Drivers:
Kevin Harvick: Harvick isn’t really a “wild-card” by definition at Richmond. However, he isn’t as definite as Hamlin and Busch are. Harvick has two wins here, six top-fives, 14 top-10s and a pole. He won this race last year, which currently stands as his most recent win in the Cup Series. Harvick is third to Hamlin and Busch in average running position (7.4), driver rating (111.6), fastest laps run (421), and average green flag speed (116.763 mph). However, Harvick does lead the series in the most laps in the top-15 category (5,525), and in quality passes with 488. He’s struggled this season, but he was a contender for the win at Atlanta last week and it seems that having Gil Martin back is already making a difference.
Jeff Gordon: Much like Harvick, Gordon doesn’t fit the definition of a “wild-card.” Gordon has two wins, 15 top-fives, 24 top-10s, and five poles at Richmond. He finished third in this race last year, but had a car capable of winning. Just like Kyle Busch, Gordon is fighting for a berth in the Chase. If he wins, he’s in. He needs a winning run on Saturday night. It would be great for your team if you have him should that happen.
A-List Drivers to Avoid:
Brad Keselowski: Granted, Brad’s Cup career is still in the very young stages, but he has yet to run well at Richmond. Keselowski has no wins, no top-fives, one top-10, and an average finish of 20.7. Even if he was just decent here, why would you want to take him over Hamlin, Busch, Harvick, or Gordon?
B-List Drivers to Have:
Since Yahoo lets you take four drivers in the B List, we’ll discuss the four drivers you must have on your team.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Earnhardt has always been pretty good at Richmond. He has three wins, nine top-fives, and 11 top-10s to his name here. His average finish is a decent 13.9. Junior has had one of his best seasons this year, he’s solidly in the Chase, and is looking to have a strong run in the final regular season race.
Clint Bowyer: Bowyer is another driver that’s always run well at Richmond. He has one win, one top-five and seven top-10s here. His one win came back in 2008 (Remember when Kyle Busch spun out Earnhardt Jr. racing for the win?), but most of his top-10 finishes have come after that.
Kasey Kahne: Kahne is decent at Richmond, but he’s almost always good to have regardless of what track it is because he always qualifies so well. Kahne has one win at Richmond, four top-fives, seven top-10s and one pole. With an average finish of 18.4, he may not be the best to driver to start for your team, but you should have him just in case.
Martin Truex Jr.: Truex hasn’t exactly set the world ablaze at Richmond throughout his career. He has no wins, one top-five, and two top-10s with an average finish of 24.4. But this has been a renaissance year for Truex. He’s already clinched a Chase spot and has come very close to getting his second career win. He just missed it last weekend in Atlanta. He’s a bit of a risk to take at Richmond, but it could pay off.
B-List “Wild-Card” Drivers:
Ryan Newman: Newman shouldn’t be a “wild-card” but is one because of his recent finishes. Entering Bristol two weeks ago, Newman had control of the second wild-card spot in the Chase. Two weeks later, Newman’s only way to make the Chase is to win. It’s mathematically impossible for him to catch and pass Gordon or Kyle Busch to get the second wild-card spot on points due to crashing in Bristol and in Atlanta. Newman’s stats at Richmond are very good though. He has one win, five top-fives, 12 top-10s and one pole.
Joey Logano: Logano finds himself in the same boat as Newman. If he wins on Saturday, he’s in the Chase. The odds are against Logano, who has no wins, one top-five and one top-10 at RIR, but he needs a strong run. If you’re looking to save starts for some of your other drivers, Logano may be a decent driver to use in place of them.
B-List Driver to Avoid:
Paul Menard: Menard has no wins, no top-fives, no top-10s, and an average finish of 27.5 at Richmond. He’s terrible here. And in a year that’s seen Richard Childress Racing struggle across the board, this certainly isn’t the place to even think about taking Menard.
The C-List is largely a toss-up. The main drivers worth taking are Sam Hornish Jr, Bobby Labonte, Aric Almirola, Landon Cassill and Casey Mears.
AJ Allmendinger’s suspension has been a blessing for fantasy players. His replacement, Sam Hornish Jr. has been excellent in his few starts as interim driver. He’s given fantasy players a decent option in a very weak C-List. Statistically, Hornish is not very good at most race-tracks, but he’s run very well for his role this season. You can ignore the stats for him. Use him just about every week you can, but remember to still try to conserve your starts for him.
The other C-List driver I’d recommend for this weekend is Landon Cassill. Cassill has had his ups and downs this season, as has any other C-List driver, but it seems that Cassill is on an upswing. His last two finishes were a 24th and 20th at Bristol and Atlanta respectively. He also finished 20th at Richmond in May.