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For the Monster Energy Cup Series, there is one more regular season race before the NASCAR playoffs start at Chicagoland Speedway next week. Thirteen drivers are automatically in by winning a race earlier this year, and if things stay the same after this race, then Chase Elliott, Matt Kenseth, and Jamie McMurray will also be in. These final three will be racing hard to maintain their playoff positions, while drivers such as Joey Logano and Dale Earnhardt Jr. will look to knock one of them out with a win.
This weekend’s NASCAR Monster Energy Cup series race is the Federated Auto Parts 400 located in Richmond, Virginia. The Richmond Raceway is a flat short track, a three-quarter mile D-Shaped Oval. Comparable short flat tracks are the Phoenix and New Hampshire tracks.
My Top 5 Drivers for the Federated Auto Parts 400
Denny Hamlin($10,000): One of the top drivers for this race will be Denny Hamlin, who won this Fall race at Richmond last year, carrying that momentum into the playoffs. He also happened to win last week’s race. If you like the hometown narrative, Hamlin grew up in nearby Chesterfield, VA and considers the Richmond Raceway his home track. Earlier this year, he won at New Hampshire, a similar track to Richmond.
Kyle Larson($10,200): Larson was passed by eventual race winner Joey Logano in the Spring Race on lap 387 and could not make his way back to the front. In last year’s fall race, Larson started 2nd, and finished 2nd. He runs well at this track and with his performance this year, he could easily find his way to victory lane.
Kevin Harvick($10,500): Harvick specializes in flat short tracks. He dominates at Phoenix Raceway. He is 2nd in the Average Finish metric(Avg. Finish = 6.20) at Richmond in the past five races among active drivers. In six of the last seven races at Richmond, Harvick has finished in the Top 10. He will be highly owned, and is a definite cash play.
Kyle Busch($10,700): Kyle Busch grades well at Richmond Raceway. He has finished in the Top 10 in four of the last six races at Richmond. He has won at this track a total of four times. He will be an easy Top 5, but fitting him in your lineup with the other top drivers will be tough due to his high salary. I would pair him with Larson in your top cash lineup.
Joey Logano($9,200): Logano is a big story line at Richmond. He won the Spring race earlier this year, and seemed poised for a great year. But his car failed inspection, and his race win was “encumbered”(He is the winner of record for this race, but his automatic qualification for the playoffs was rescinded). Logano has struggled since then. Fortunately for Logano, Richmond is one of his best tracks and has the highest Average Finish in past five races at Richmond. Logano has won at this track two times, and practiced very well this week. He will be desperate and aggressive in this race, and could very well be the last man standing in victory lane.
Daniel Suarez($7,600): Suarez had an excellent day of practice in both sessions. He is only a rookie but has adapted well to any new track that he has run. In his only race at Richmond, he finished a respectable 12th place. Toyota cars have been running well since the summer and at this price, I would put him in all Cash and GPP lineups.
Kurt Busch($8,000): This savvy veteran also had an excellent practice session. He is 6th in Average Finish the past five races at Richmond, but is over $2,000 cheaper than his brother Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, and Kyle Larson. He has won this race twice and finished in the Top 10 in the past three races. He is a great bargain to use in all contests.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.($7,800): Dale Jr. is the perfect sleeper pick as he has had an overwhelmingly underachieving year thus far. His retirement tour is going poorly, and many DFS players such as yours truly have been burned by using him in lineups. Richmond Raceway is one of his favorite tracks and has won here three times. He is capable of winning here, and will be low owned for a perfect GPP play.