FOX Fantasy Picks: Richmond International Raceway
After the first of only two off weekends of the season, it’s time to get ready for another round of FOX Fantasy Auto Racing.
This weekend we’re going short track racing under the lights at Richmond International Raceway for the Toyota Owners 400. Coming off the break, many drivers are still looking for their first win of the season, while others are trying to turn things around before it is too late.
Remember, these are simply suggestions, so pick your team wisely, and best of luck. If you haven’t done so yet, be sure to sign up for FOX Fantasy Auto Racing, create your team and start playing today!
Without a doubt, Kevin Harvick is one of the top drivers in the Sprint Cup Series this year. The Stewart-Haas Racing driver is the only competitor with two wins, with two top fives and three top 10s to match.
Coming off his win at Darlington Raceway, Harvick is headed to yet another of his strong tracks. The defending race winner has a total of three Richmond victories, with seven top fives, 16 top 10s and an average finish of 11.3 to boot.
Harvick’s aggressive driving style has played out well in the past, perhaps most of all during last year’s late-race restart in which he took advantage of drivers with older tires and went from seventh to first with only two laps remaining.
If this team can avoid the mechanical issues that plagued it early in the season, Harvick should be a serious contender to score his third win of the season.
After another strange start to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season, Denny Hamlin heads to his home track looking for his first win of the season.
Although missing the Fontana race, the Joe Gibbs Racing driver has one top five, two top 10s, and has finished inside the top 20 in each of the seven races he has competed in this year. While many in the NASCAR garage would love to have those numbers, they’re not quite up to snuff for Hamlin.
"We’ve really came off two solid performances I feel like in the last few weeks between Texas and Darlington. We ran pretty solid — Martinsville was the one chink in the armor for us where it caught us off guard and where our short track package was," Hamlin said. "After the testing we did during the off week, I feel like it’s a good time for us to come here.
"We went from a very subpar car the first practice to, in just one hour later, we feel like is somewhere around a top-five car. We’re making gains and heading in the right direction," he said. "Just as a driver, I’m so impatient — you want things. I feel like I want to take advantage of things that are at these race tracks because these are the race tracks that we perform so well at in the past, but you want to have the best of the best."
The Chesterfield, Va., native has always run well at Richmond, with two wins and an average finish of 8.9. However, he finished a disappointing 18th and 21st, respectively, the last two events.
Despite those poor results in last year’s races and a bit of a disappointing start to 2014, Hamlin should be a threat for the win Saturday night.
Typically, a rookie on your fantasy roster would be risky move. Kyle Larson is not your typical NASCAR rookie. Through the first eight races of the season, Larson already has two top fives and four top 10s, with an impressive runner-up finish to Kyle Busch at Auto Club Speedway.
Making his Sprint Cup Series debut at Richmond, the young driver topped the speed charts in Friday’s opening practice session. Larson also has the No. 42 team led by crew chief Chris Heroy on his side that nearly won this race last year with Juan Pablo Montoya.
Larson has certainly been impressive so far in his rookie campaign, and expect that to continue Saturday night under the lights.
Richmond International Raceway has always been one of Clint Bowyer’s best tracks, with two wins and an average finish of 10.1. In fact, Bowyer has finished in the top two in two of the last three RIR races. However, it was his last trip to Richmond that has cast a black cloud over the driver of the No. 15 Toyota.
Following the controversy following last September’s "Spingate" incident, Bowyer heads back to Richmond looking to put it all behind him and focus on getting back to Victory Lane at one of his favorite tracks.
"Looking back over the years, you always have a track that fits your driving style and your confidence level is more for some reason, and this has always been the case for me," Bowyer said. "This is a fun racing weekend. The fan base is awesome. Night races are always extra special. I’m looking forward to having another good run here and shaking that off from last year. It was a bad deal and I get it."
Despite scraping the wall in Friday’s opening practice session, Bowyer was third fastest on the speed charts. Expect the Michael Waltrip Racing driver to be a factor for the win Saturday night, scoring some solid fantasy points for your team.
This week’s darkhorse pick goes to Kyle Larson’s Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Jamie McMurray. Although his Richmond stats are not as impressive as others, the driver of the No. 1 Chevrolet has had a solid start to the 2014 season.
Despite having only two top 10s in the last 10 Richmond races, McMurray finished fourth in September and was seventh fastest in Friday’s opening practice. He may not be a serious contender for the win, but McMurray could provide some solid fantasy points if he can put it all together Saturday night.
Obviously, drivers such as Jeff Gordon, Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards and Dale Earnhardt Jr. are also solid fantasy picks, too. However, they may be better suited for upcoming races. If you have been following our picks throughout the 2014 season, your allotted races for Gordon and Edwards are already used for the first 13 events.
As always, these are simply suggestions, so do your research, pick wisely, and best of luck. If you put more faith in the Las Vegas odds, check out this week’s ‘Let it Ride’ segment from NASCAR Race Hub: