Richmond wonderful pistachios 400 fantasy NASCAR Preview and picksA= Really, Really Good Pick

Kyle Busch – In the last five Richmond races Kyle Busch has three wins and has finished in the top five every race. In these five races he has led 514 laps and has had success in every meaningful loop data category (2nd place average finish, 4th place average mid race running position, 5th place average running position, 125.9 driver rating). His success at Richmond isn’t just a recent thing. In his thirteen races here he’s only finished outside the top five twice. His 4.9 average finish puts him in nearly a league of his own. In April Kyle Busch won, led more than half the race (235 laps), and had a stellar driver rating (143.1). (Yahoo A Driver)

Denny Hamlin – Hamlin is a serious competitor every time NASCAR visits his home track. Denny Hamlin needs a solid race at Richmond so there’s high probability he won’t go all out for the win. Hamlin has the second best average finish in the series at Richmond (7.5) and he’s won the last two regular season finales. In the spring race this year he finished second, led 38 laps and he was the only driver who ran the entire race inside the top fifteen. (Yahoo A Driver) <– Where I’ll share my picks

A- = Really Good Pick

Jeff Gordon – Jeff Gordon used to be an unusable fantasy driver at Richmond. Bad things used to happen to him all the time. Earlier this year he finished 39th because he was involved in a wreck. At the midpoint of the race he was in first place and in my judgment he had a top three car. Before his wreck his Yahoo! race chart was very similar to Denny Hamlin’s. Since 2007 Gordon has finished in the top twelve every race with the exception of this springs race. (Yahoo A Driver)

Jimmie Johnson – Jimmie Johnson is either a hero or a zero at Richmond. He has a few middle ground finishes but not many. Johnson has three wins but seven finishes of 20th or worse. The positives about Johnson are that he’s been finding his Chase form in recent weeks and he’s finished 11th or better in the last four races here. Earlier this year Johnson started 30th and finished 8th. (Yahoo A Driver)

Ryan Newman – Richmond is a Ryan Newman track. He’s always been a natural here and on other similar tracks throughout his career. Newman won in 2003 and finished second in his first two starts at this short track. At New Hampshire this year Newman took the checkered flag and at Richmond’s other similar track Phoenix Newman visited victory lane there last year. You can pencil Newman in for a good finish. (Yahoo B Driver)

Carl Edwards – Edwards is easily the most promising Roush Fenway Racing driver at Richmond. He has three straight top tens (5th, 10th, 5th) and he’s finished in the top fifteen in 64% of his races. Since 2008 he’s only finished lower than 15th once. On similar tracks this year he’s also looked promising. He was fast at Phoenix (won the pole) and most likely had the best car but Kyle Busch took him out. Last fall at Phoenix he won by virtue of having the best car. At New Hampshire this year he finished 13th. (Yahoo A Driver)

VOTE for who you think will win at Richmond

B+ = Good Pick

Fantasy NASCAR Expert Picks
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Kevin Harvick – The 29 team certainly hasn’t been at its best this summer but Richmond has always been good to them. Harvick finished 12th this spring (13th place avg running position) and since the 2004 regular season finale he has only finished below that mark once. At Phoenix which is a similar track Harvick finished 4th with a damaged car earlier this year. Harvick won this race in 2006. (Yahoo A Driver)

Kurt Busch – Busch is a former winner but in the last three Richmond races he’s finished 18th, 18th and 22nd. In only one of those races he managed to finish on the lead lap. I expect him to be a good fantasy pick this week though by virtue of what he’s done on similar tracks this year. At Phoenix he finished 8th (led 31 laps) and at New Hampshire he finished 10th (led 66 laps). Despite his lack of recent success I think I’ll pencil him in for a top ten finish. (Yahoo A Driver)

Brad Keselowski – Brad has four races at Richmond under his belt. He’s either been really bad or really mediocre. His four finishes are 36th, 15th, 14th, and 38th. It’s important to note though that he’s never started worse than 9th at RIR. At New Hampshire he was good for the first 40 laps but a flat tire ruined his day.

AJ Allmendinger – SLEEPER ALERT, AJ has two straight top eight finishes at Richmond. His success here isn’t an isolated incident. New Hampshire is a similar track and he has three straight top twelve finishes there. Phoenix is another similar track and earlier this year he finished 9th. There’s no reason to think Saturday night won’t go well for Allmendinger. (Yahoo B Driver)

Clint Bowyer – Bowyer has finished sixth in the last two Richmond races. He’s also the spring 2008 winner thanks to Kyle Busch moving Dale Junior out of the lead. His 9.5 average finish is the fourth best in the series since 2004. What scares me about Bowyer is how he ran at New Hampshire this year. New Hampshire is a similar track and he looked as lost there as he did at Bristol (not good). (Yahoo B Driver)

Joey Logano – Logano finished a career best 4th at Richmond last year in this race. All Joe Gibbs Cars across the board are spot on at Richmond. Logano has raced here five times and although he only has one top ten he has never finished worse than 19th. This spring Logano finished 11th. (Yahoo B Driver)

B = Just A Tier Below The Good Picks

Tony Stewart – Tony Stewart has had lots of success at Richmond, but none lately unless you count one top fifteen finish in the last four races as good. Stewart has also had problems week in and week out for the last little bit so I know I certainly would be hesitant about picking him. In 2009 Stewart raced his way out of the Chase at Richmond and was behind all weekend. (Yahoo A Driver)

Marcos Ambrose – Ambrose has three good finishes to his name at Richmond. In his five races at Richmond he’s finished 11th, 22nd, 9th, 5th and 23rd. Earlier this year Ambrose never raced a lap inside the top fifteen. He’s been solid in recent weeks so it might be worth taking a look at him. (Yahoo B Driver)

Kasey Kahne – Kahne won his first race at Richmond in 2005. I know I was shocked back then that it was here and not at a 1.5 mile track. Earlier this year he finished 3rd and his teammate Brian Vickers has also had recent unprecedented success here. I think it’s clear that Red Bull has something figured out at Richmond. (Yahoo B Driver)

Juan Pablo Montoya – Montoya has finished in the top ten in three out of the last five races at Richmond. Despite his success he’s still relatively a risky pick due to the nature of how 2011 has been going for him. If qualifying points matter to you don’t overlook Montoya. In the last two Richmond races he’s qualified first and second. There’s fantasy value here but you’ll have to hold your breath. Montoya’s temperament on this style of track is a significant concern. (Yahoo B Driver)

Martin Truex Jr. – Truex is a high risk / high reward driver just like his former teammate Juan Pablo Montoya. He was strong earlier this year but his pit crew botched their final pit stop. Here’s his Yahoo! race chart to prove it. When you look at his chart you’ll realize he clearly was a top five driver. Despite finishing 27th he still had the 8th best driver rating. At New Hampshire (similar track) in July Truex came home with an 8th place finish. He’s definitely worth a spot on your team but he’s perhaps the most risky driver in fantasy NASCAR. (Yahoo B Driver)

Dale Earnhardt Jr. – In the last ten Richmond races Dale Junior only has one top ten finish. This spring he finished 19th and was clearly a not a top fifteen driver. His average running position was 17th and he only raced in the top fifteen for 37.3% of the race. Dale Earnhardt Jr. has three wins at Richmond. (Yahoo B Driver)

B- = You Can Pencil Them In For Around 20th

Matt Kenseth – Kenseth is a low teens driver at best at Richmond. His level of success isn’t even close to the amount Carl Edwards has achieved here. His last top ten was in the first COT race held at Richmond. His average finish in the last nine races is 20.7. From a fantasy NASCAR perspective his Chase missing 2009 performance is forever engrained in my head here at RIR. (Yahoo A Driver)

Jeff Burton – Burton won at Richmond in 1998 and throughout his career he’s lead nearly 1,000 laps. In the last three RIR races he’s led +11 laps a race. Earlier this year he finished 16th but he was closer to a 20th place driver. That’s what his Yahoo! race chart says. (Yahoo B Driver)

Brian Vickers – Vickers has four straight top twenties at Richmond (finishes of 10th, 20th, 7th and 15th). He’s also been a solid qualifier and has started in the top ten in three out of the last five races. In the race earlier this season he finished 10th and teammate Kasey Kahne finished 3rd. We’re getting towards the end of the season though and nobody finishes a season worse than Vickers. (Yahoo B Driver)

David Reutimann – Reutimann almost got his first career win here in 2008 but eventually he faded to a ninth place finish (Yahoo race chart). In that race he led 104 laps. Since then all of his finishes have been 15th or worse. Beyond his one good showing there’s nothing that should lead you to picking David Reutimann this week. (Yahoo B Driver)

Mark Martin – Martin’s had a solid career at Richmond but not since his 2010 slump started. Since then he’s finished 25th, 20th and 14th. He’s had some solid runs on non engineering skill tracks this season so I’m not writing him off on this fact. (Yahoo B Driver)

C+ = Got Some Question Marks Here

Greg Biffle – In the mid 2000’s Biffle had a very good stretch of races at Richmond (Five straight top eight finishes). Unfortunately were not in the mid 2000’s anymore. Since his last top ten here in 2006 Biffle has finished 13th or worse nine straight races. He’s also going to be a desperate driver at Richmond so look for him to do desperate things. Earlier this year Biffle finished 15th and had an average running position of 13th. (Yahoo A Driver)

C = Not Gonna Pick Him

David Ragan – Ragan has two top five finishes at Richmond and in April he finished 4th. The downside about Ragan is that all of his other finishes are lower than 17th. The reward in this circumstance doesn’t justify the risk. His average finish here is 19.9 but when you take away his two good finishes it’s 24.6. (Yahoo C Driver)

Jamie McMurray – McMurray is a high teens driver on his good days at Richmond. McMurray has only finished in the top fifteen once since 2006. He’s also a poor qualifier. (Yahoo B Driver)

Paul Menard – Menard’s best finish at Richmond was his first finish (16th). All of his other finishes are 26th or worse. With the way he’s been running since Indy what else do you need to know about Menard. Not picking him is the easy and the right thing to do. (Yahoo C Driver)