The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series travels to Richmond, Virginia this week for the Federated Auto Parts 400. The race can be seen Saturday night at 7:30pm ET on NBC Sports Network.
I am still working my way towards the top 99% for the 6th straight year. I will get there if I continue to score over 300 points each week. My team scored 313 points at Darlington and now my Yahoo Fantasy Auto Racing picks are beating 98% of the entries (7,190 points).
The race Saturday night is the final chance for teams to secure their spot on the playoffs. This tends to make the race more unpredictable than the spring race at Richmond. Joey Logano won the first race and he needs to win Saturday night if the No. 22 team wants to secure a playoff spot. Other drivers on the bubble include Jamie McMurray, Clint Bowyer, Erik Jones and Daniel Suarez. These drivers will be risky picks this week since they are likely to gamble to win the race.
I looked at momentum in last four races, driver ranking at Richmond, average finishing position in the last five races at Richmond and the spring race results at Richmond to determine my drivers for the race Saturday night. When I entered all of the stats into my model, here is the top 15…
- Denny Hamlin
- Kevin Harvick
- Kyle Busch
- Matt Kenseth
- Brad Keselowski
- Kyle Larson
- Martin Truex Jr.
- Joey Logano
- Kurt Busch
- Jamie McMurray
- Ryan Newman
- Jimmie Johnson
- Clint Bowyer
- Daniel Suarez
- Kasey Kahne
I recommend using as many of these drivers as possible for your team this week.
Here are my picks for the Federated Auto Parts 400 …
Yahoo Group A Picks
There are many good picks in Group A this week. I really like the Toyotas this week because they have had the most speed this summer. I am saving my allocations with Martin Truex Jr. since he essentially has nothing to race for this week. The No. 78 team has already clinched the 15 playoff points for winning the regular season championship.
Kevin Harvick has been very consistent at Richmond and he is a good pick this week. He has finished three consecutive races in at the track in the top five and he should finish in the top five again Saturday night. I think the Fords at a little slower than the Toyotas so I am leaving Harvick off the team until they find a little more speed.
Joey Logano won the last race at Richmond but I have no confidence in him this week. The No. 22 team has not been the same since their win was encumbered at Richmond. Logano must win to make the playoffs and the team lacks the speed to get it done Saturday night.
Here are my allocations left with the drivers in Group A: Kyle Busch (3), Martin Truex Jr. (3), Brad Keselowski (3), Kevin Harvick (6), Joey Logano (6), Denny Hamlin (8), Jimmie Johnson (9), Matt Kenseth (9), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (9)
Denny Hamlin (8)
Hamlin is a native of Virginia and all signs point to him going back to Victory Lane Saturday night. The No. 11 team will have momentum after winning the race at Darlington. Hamlin is also the defending race winner of the night race at Richmond in 2016. Hamlin has finished 8 of the last 11 races this summer in the top four. That is quite the hot streak. I should have stuck with my gut and went with Hamlin last week. I am not making the same mistake twice. Hamlin is my pick to win Saturday night.
Kyle Busch (3)
Busch should be the biggest competition for Denny Hamlin for the win Saturday night. Busch has been hit or miss in his recent races at Richmond. The Joe Gibbs Racing Toyotas are running well right now so I expect Busch to be up front this week. It also helps that Busch needs to stay in front of Kyle Larson and finish second in the points to earn extra bonus points for the playoffs. Rowdy has four wins at Richmond and he could add another one Saturday night. I want two Toyotas for my Group A drivers and I trust Busch over Matt Kenseth this week.
Other good choices: Kevin Harvick, Matt Kenseth and Martin Truex Jr.
Yahoo Group B Picks
There are only two really good choices in Group B this week (Kyle Larson and Kurt Busch). I am down to two allocations with Larson and I need to save them for Dover and Homestead. Larson has only qualified in the top four once at Richmond so I see no need to use him for qualifying points this week.
I will be using Kurt Busch and pairing him with three veteran drivers. I am hoping one of them runs well in practice and makes for a good choice in the race.
Here are the allocations I have left in Group B: Jamie McMurray (1), Ryan Blaney (1), Kyle Larson (2), Chase Elliott (4), Kurt Busch (3), Clint Bowyer (5), , Austin Dillon (6), Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (6), Ryan Newman (6), AJ Allmendinger (7), Kasey Kahne (8) and all the rest 9.
Kurt Busch (3)
Busch is starting to heat up at the right time of the season. His average finishing position in the last four races is 6.25, including two consecutive top-five finishes. Busch has been very good at Richmond too. He has finished five of his last six races at the track in the top 10, including a trip to Victory Lane in 2015. I expect Busch to keep his momentum going and finish in the top 10 again this week.
Ryan Newman (6)
Newman is running as well now as he has all season. Newman finished 4th at Michigan, 6th at Bristol and 7th at Darlington. He does not always qualify well but he finds his way to the front at the end of the races. Newman qualified 13th, led 25 laps and finished seventh in the spring race at Richmond. I expect another good run from the No. 31 team this week.
Jamie McMurray (1)
McMurray is in the transfer spot for the playoffs so he needs a good run Saturday night. McMurray ran a lot better earlier in the season than he has been running since the pressure of the playoffs has hit the team. McMurray finished sixth in the spring race at Richmond and seventh in the night race in 2016. Another top-10 finish should lock up his playoff spot as long as a driver behind him in the standings does not win the race. McMurray is a risky pick this week but I expect the team to overcome the pressure and finish in the top 10 Saturday night.
Clint Bowyer (5)
Bowyer is the driver I have the least amount of confidence in this week. He must win the race to make the playoffs so he is a boom or bust driver. I imagine that Stewart-Haas Racing will give him the best car they have this week in order to get Bowyer to Victory Lane. My plan is to select him for my team and make sure his practice speeds are top 10 before I use him in my lineup.
I thought about using Chase Elliott or Kasey Kahne in this spot but the Hendrick Motorsports Chevys seem to be lacking speed right now.
Other good choices: Kyle Larson, Chase Elliott and Kasey Kahne
Yahoo Group C Picks
My Group C picks comes down to allocations. Erik Jones and Daniel Suarez are the best choices but I am quickly running out of starts with them. Last week I gambled with Ty Dillon and it paid off. I plan to use the same strategy this week.
Here are the allocations I have left in Group C: Erik Jones (1), Daniel Suarez (2), Ty Dillon (4), Michael McDowell (5), David Ragan (8) and the rest with 9 allocations.
Ty Dillon (4)
Dillon will be my starting driver in the race Saturday night. Last week Dillon qualified 25th and finished 13th. I am not going to worry about where he starts the race. I am confident that Dillon can drive his way inside the top 15. Dillon ran a lot better than his results in the spring race at Richmond. I plan to use Erik Jones and Daniel Suarez in the playoffs, so I will use Dillon this week.
Daniel Suarez (2)
Suarez is in a win or bust situation this week. He is far enough out of the playoffs that he must win the race Saturday night in order to make the playoffs. That makes him a risky pick. The No. 19 team was very good at Richmond when Carl Edwards was behind the wheel and Suarez ran well in his first race at the track. Suarez qualified 12th and finished 11th. I plan to use Suarez for qualifying points only. I will only use him in the race if he looks very fast in both practices and qualifies up front.
Other Good Choices: Erik Jones and Michael McDowell
I will post my final picks for Yahoo Fantasy Auto Racing Friday after qualifying.
If you need any further advice with your team, look for me on Twitter @MrFantasyNASCAR
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