1) Matt Kenseth (Starting – 3rd)
Richmond Fantasy Spin – Matt Kenseth will be one of the favorites to win at Richmond. Since he’s joined Joe Gibbs Racing he’s transformed into an elite competitor at shorter flat tracks. New Hampshire is the last venue of this track type visited and at that track he raced his way to victory lane. For the season on this track type he’s finished in the top ten every race and has a 5.0 average finish. Recently at Richmond he’s performed at an extremely high level that you’ll read about below. If he has an incident free race look for him to challenge for the win. In Happy Hour Kenseth’s ten lap average ranked as the 2nd best. On Saturday he’s starting in 3rd. The last two times he started in the top 3 at Richmond he’s led 352 laps (finished 1st) and 140 laps (finished 7th).
Richmond Track History – Prior to joining Joe Gibbs Racing Matt Kenseth was a low double digit driver at Richmond. Since he’s been in a Toyota he’s been a consistent top ten performer. In the #20 he’s finished in the top 7 in 6 of the last 7 races. This spring Matt Kenseth finished 7th and earned the 8th best driver rating despite having battery problems. Last fall Matt Kenseth was an elite dominator who nobody had anything for. In the race he finished 1st, had a 1st place average running position, earned the best driver rating and led 352 laps. In spring 2015 he ran well. He finished 7th, had a 7th place average running position and earned the 5th best driver rating. In fall 2014 Kenseth was top ten strong but he slapped the wall hard which sent him to the garage for repairs. In the four Richmond races prior to that he finished between 5th and 7th.
Yahoo A Driver / DraftKings $9,900
2) Kyle Busch (Starting – 9th)
Richmond Fantasy Spin – Look for Kyle Busch to be tough to beat at Richmond. He performs at an elite level and it’s arguably his best track. Currently at Richmond he has back to back runner-up finishes. On Saturday night I think he’ll be top five good, and potentially compete for the win. This season at shorter flat tracks Kyle Busch has been one of the premiere performers. In the three races held on this track type in 2016 he’s scored the 2nd most points, has 4.7 average finish, 3.0 average running position, has led the most laps (286) and has run the second most fastest laps. In practice he had a great car. His ten lap average speed rank between the two sessions ranked as 1st (Practice #1) and 4th (Happy Hour) best respectively.
Richmond Track History – Kyle Busch has an extremely impressive track record at Richmond. He has 4 wins, has finished in the top five 68% percent of the time and in the top ten 73% percent of the time. His overall average finish over his 22 starts is 6.9. This spring Kyle Busch had a great car and strength wise he ranked #2 in our exclusive PROS Rankings. He had a great chance to win but in the final turn Carl Edwards nudged him up the track and denied him the win. When the race reached its conclusion he finished 2nd, earned the 2nd best driver rating, had the second best green flag average speed and led 78 laps. Last fall Matt Kenseth drove away from the field easily, but Kyle Busch was the “best of the rest.” In addition to finishing 2nd he earned the 2nd best driver rating, had a 4th place average running position and led 9 laps. His next most recent race was in fall 2014 and in that event his team was operating in “R&D mode” and that led to him finishing an uncharacteristic 14th. In spring 2014 he finished 3rd.
Yahoo A Driver / DraftKings $10,600
Further Recommended Reading – Post Practice Predictions (another fantasy take), Speed Cheat Sheet, Happy Hour Notes, Happy Hour Speeds, Practice #1 Notes, Practice #2 Speeds, Asterisk Mark Report, PROS Rankings, Scouting Report,
3) Denny Hamlin (Starting – 1st)
Richmond Fantasy Spin – You can count on Denny Hamlin to have a strong showing at Richmond. He’s an elite talent at shorter flat tracks and the #11 team has been performing at very high level for about two months now. Over the last seven races he’s scored the most points, has finished in the top ten every race and has a 5.3 average finish. In 3 of the last 4 races he’s finished in the top 4. One attribute I like about Hamlin is how well he’s run at shorter flat tracks this year. For the season at these venues he’s one of four drivers who have finished in the top ten every race and has a 6.0 average finish. On Saturday night Denny Hamlin will be top five good and compete for the win. In practice he had a strong car and seemed happy with how it performed. In Happy Hour his ten lap average ranked as the 3rd best. On Saturday night Denny Hamlin is starting on the pole. That’s a big advantage because starting up front here has been crucial for success in recent years. The last four Richmond races have been won from a top 4 starting position.
Richmond Track History – Richmond is Denny Hamlin’s home track and he’s been very successful here. In his career at RIR he has two wins and has finished in the top ten 55% percent of the time. Currently he has back to back 6th place finishes. This spring he ran well throughout the race and in addition to finishing 6th he earned the 7th best driver rating and had an 8th place average running position. It should be noted his race wasn’t incident free. During the first round of pit stops he was caught speeding on pit road which dropped him from 3rd to 17th. Last fall Hamlin had a torn ACL but that didn’t slow him down. He started deep in the field and raced his way towards the front. In addition to his 6th place finish he earned the 4th best driver rating and had a 6th place average running position. Prior to that event Hamlin was in a slump here. In the five races before that event he finished between 18th and 22nd.
Yahoo A Driver / DraftKings $9,500