It’s setting up to be a very good race at Richmond Raceway on Saturday night, as we have good drivers starting at the front, in the middle, and at the back for the Toyota Owners 400. And in case you were wondering, no, this isn’t a “normal” Fantasy NASCAR weekend, so the streak there continues. The reason it isn’t normal is because Kyle Busch is starting 32nd this weekend, as his team tried to play strategy in qualifying but it backfired.
Busch’s quasi-teammate, Martin Truex, Jr., on the other hand, is on the pole for this weekend’s race (his fourth time starting from P1 this season) and the full starting lineup for Saturday night’s race can be found by clicking here. There were two practice sessions on Friday before qualifying, and you can find the practice speeds here: Practice #1 — Happy Hour. Be sure to read our in-depth practice notes as well for each of those sessions: Practice #1 — Happy Hour.
Final Top 25 Rankings for Richmond
1. Denny Hamlin – Starts 4th – DraftKings Price: $9,800
**Risk Factor: Low Risk**
Denny Hamlin and the #11 team had some more bad luck in Bristol last weekend, and despite probably having a top 5 car, they came home with a 14th-place finish. That makes it three straight races outside of the top 10 for Hamlin, and at tracks that he normally does very well at: Martinsville, Texas, and Bristol. I guess you can look at that one of two ways: the bad luck streak is going to continue, or this is the perfect week for Denny to turn things around. I’m going with the latter. Richmond is Hamlin’s home race track and he’s a three-time winner here. He has a career average finish of 9.6 here, and is one of just three drivers to be in that category (the other two being Kyle Busch and Daniel Suarez, who has just two starts here). Denny’s most recent victory at Richmond came in the fall race of 2016, but he did finish 3rd and 5th in the two races here last season. Those three finishes are part of a five-race streak of finishes 6th or better that he has going here. This weekend, the #11 Toyota started off bad but got better as the day went on on Friday. Hamlin was just 29th-fastest in Practice #1 and then 8th-fastest in Happy Hour. Hamlin’s ten-lap averages ranked 15th and 2nd in those two sessions, respectively. I don’t see Denny dominating the Toyota Owners 400 on Saturday night but I do think he ends up in victory lane.
2. Martin Truex, Jr. – Starts 1st – DraftKings Price: $10,500
**Risk Factor: Medium Risk**
Is it time to start worrying a little bit about Martin Truex, Jr.? Yeah, he has that win at Fontana, but it seems like the competition has closed the gap a bit between themselves and the #78 team. Still, Truex has rattled off five top 5 finishes in the first eight races this season, so I guess that’s not a lot to complain about. His record here at Richmond, though, is something to look into. Through twenty-four career starts here, Martin’s average finish is a lowly 20th, and he has just two total top 5 finishes. The good news, though? He’s getting better. Four of Truex’s eight top 10 finishes at Richmond have come in the last six races here, and he’s led a combined 391 laps in the last two fall events at this track. The bad news? Those are his only laps led in the last ten races. As far as this weekend goes, Truex unloaded strong, and that should have the competition worried. This #78 team usually doesn’t stray too far from their initial setups on race weekends, and with the condensed schedule, there’s a definite advantage to being fast from the beginning. Truex was 3rd-fastest in Practice #1 on Friday morning (and also had the 3rd-best ten-lap average) and then ranked 16th-fastest in Happy Hour with the 3rd-best ten-lap average again. There’s no reason to think of the #78 Toyota as anything other than a solid top 5 car, and he should lead a bunch of laps on Saturday night, too. For what it’s worth, though, Martin sat on the pole at Phoenix back in March and ended up finishing 3rd after leading three laps.
3. Kyle Busch – Starts 32nd – DraftKings Price: $11,400
**Risk Factor: Low Risk**
Rowdy’s recent run in the Cup Series is similar to how he does when he straps into an Xfinity Series car: complete domination. Since the Atlanta race in February, Kyle Busch hasn’t finished worse than 3rd in NASCAR’s top series, all the while leading 466 total laps and putting together one, if not the most impressive runs of his career. The only question now is: when will it stop? The answer: probably not this weekend, but his gamble during qualifying didn’t help anyway. Anyway, Richmond has been a great track for Rowdy over the years, and he actually owns the best average finish here by quite a large margin (7.4, over two positions better than Denny Hamlin’s 9.6). Busch has went to victory lane four times at this track, although it’s noteworthy that his last win came back in 2012. Still, Kyle is as close to a “lock” as you can get right now in Fantasy NASCAR, and he has another #18 Toyota hot rod this weekend; Busch was 7th-fastest in the first practice session here on Friday and followed that up being 14th-fastest in Happy Hour. In terms of ten-lap average, he ranked 4th-best in both sessions. He starts pretty far back in the back but should be up toward the front in no time on Saturday night.