It’s time for some Saturday night short track racing as the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series heads to Richmond Raceway for the Federated Auto Parts 400. The race will air on NBCSN on Sept. 21 at 7:30 p.m. ET.
The race marks the second of the sport’s 10-race playoff, adding to the intensity of an already action-packed event. Keep an eye on the drivers competing for a championship when filling out your daily fantasy lineup as the cream normally rises to the top at this time of year. These wheelmen have already risen to the challenge; the top nine spots in qualifying were all swept by championship-eligible drivers.
Richmond is known as a driver’s racetrack, meaning talent outshines equipment as the handling goes away during a long green-flag run. This 3/4-mile oval is also hard on tires, chewing up Goodyears during a race where cautions are few and far between. That means it takes a veteran who is good at managing his car to have a good run here. In fact, only once in the past nine races has a driver with less than 16 Richmond starts won the event.
FanDuel has put more emphasis on finishing position than other DFS sites. For this reason, it allows you to look at the entire field instead of just dominators and big movers.
Also, with only 0.1 points awarded for each lap led by a driver, the need for a dominator is less important when building a winning lineup. The 400-lap race will have a total of 40 points up for grabs in this category. Take note when building your roster and focus on mid-pack competitors who can climb up toward the front on race day.
Here are a few drivers to keep an eye on for Saturday night’s race….
ELITE TIER: $10,000 and up
Kyle Busch ($14,500)
Career at Richmond: 28 starts, 6 wins, 17 top fives, 21 top 10s
Average Finish at Richmond: 7.0
Yes, Busch is expensive, but he’s worth it. The 2015 Cup champion is already one of the all-time greats at Richmond — his six wins put him tied for the third most at the track and the best among active drivers. Two of those victories came in the past three races; he’s led laps in five straight.
Busch also has the best average finish among active drivers, thanks to having the most top fives and finishing in the top 10 in three-fourths of his starts at the 3/4 mile. Perhaps the most impressive of Busch’s accomplishments at Richmond is he’s never finished worse than 24th and completed all but one lap in his 28 starts.
Busch could dominate Saturday night. At the very least, expect his top-10 streak to continue as he tries to bounce back from an ugly playoff debut at Las Vegas Motor Speedway last weekend.
Denny Hamlin ($13,200)
Career at Richmond: 26 starts, 3 wins, 12 top fives, 16 top 10s
Average Finish at Richmond: 9.4
You can’t go wrong with any Joe Gibbs Racing car at Richmond, as the team has won six of the past eight races there. Hamlin, especially has been almost as good as teammate Busch. His three wins are tied for second and he has the second-best average finish among active drivers.
Hamlin, who grew up just down the road from Richmond Raceway, does have Busch topped in one category: he’s led the most laps among active drivers (1,659). In fact, he’s led 148 laps or more six times and paced the field for 381 of 410 laps in 2008. Hamlin has also been stellar in every short track race so far this season — he’s finished in the top five in all four of them and won the most recent event at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Look for the Virginian’s short track magic to continue at this home track.
Joey Logano ($13,000)
Career at Richmond: 21 starts, 2 wins, 9 top fives, 12 top 10s
Average Finish at Richmond: 11.1
Logano has the fourth-best average finish among active drivers at Richmond, and that’s despite him struggling at the track early in his career. Logano has been good here since joining Team Penske in 2013. In the past 11 races, he has two wins and the best average finish among active drivers (5.1).
The defending Cup champion has finished in the top 15 in 11 straight Richmond events and only placed outside the top 10 once in that span. He’s stepped it up even more as of late, running inside the top five in four of the past five Richmond races. That includes a runner-up finish in the spring event held earlier this year.
Don’t be fooled by a mediocre qualifying effort from Logano (28th). If anything, that puts position differential points into play for your roster. Logano could take the checkered flag up front this Saturday night and is certainly a great addition to your lineup.
ALL-STAR TIER: $6,000 – $9,999
Matt DiBenedetto ($7,700)
Career at Richmond: 9 starts, 0 wins, 0 top fives, 0 top 10s
Average Finish at Richmond: 30.3
The last time the Cup Series was at a short track, DiBenedetto was in position to win Bristol until a late charge from Hamlin relegated him to second place. With Richmond being a driver’s racetrack, helping some of the lower-tier teams, DiBenedetto could have another solid run on Saturday night. Don’t bet the house that he’ll win, but it wouldn’t be the biggest surprise if he did.
DiBenedetto’s consistency and fair price are the reasons he should be in your lineup. He has finished inside the top 20 in nine of the past 10 races and placed in the top 10 in six of the past 12. Expect the No. 95 to be a factor.
Ryan Newman ($7,500)
Career at Richmond: 35 starts, 1 wins, 7 top fives, 19 top 10s
Average Finish at Richmond: 12.5
Newman hasn’t been flashy or dominant in 2019, but he’s almost always there at the end of races — and that’s what matters for a good fantasy lineup. He enters Richmond coming off two straight top-10 finishes and has earned position differential points in nine of the past 10 races.
The 2003 Richmond winner has finished 11th or better in three of the four short track races in 2019, including a ninth at Richmond in the spring. Despite being a playoff contender, Newman’s price has stayed low. That means he is still the best bang for your buck in your fantasy lineup.
About the author
Michael Massie is a writer for Frontstretch. Massie, a Richmond, Va. native, has been a NASCAR superfan since childhood, when he frequented races at Richmond International Raceway. Massie is a lover of short track racing and travels around to the ones in his region. Outside of motorsports, the Virginia Tech grad can be seen cheering on his beloved Hokies.
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