The NASCAR Cup Series playoffs are nearing, with only five races left in the regular season. Closing out July is Richmond Raceway, Cup’s second trip of the year to the .75-mile track.
Read on for my daily fantasy NASCAR DraftKings picks for the Cook Out 400, airing Sunday, July 30 at 3 p.m. ET on USA Network.
In April, Kyle Larson earned his first win of the year at Richmond, leading 93 laps in the process. Meanwhile, his Hendrick Motorsports teammate William Byron was in the top five when he got bumped by Christopher Bell late in the race.
It was quite different from last year’s August event, where the final 144 laps went caution free and Kevin Harvick hung on for the victory.
So, how should you prepare your DraftKings lineups this weekend? Well, as usual, look at Richmond’s track history and see who led laps and had fast cars. Also, check out similar short tracks to Richmond, ones that have mostly flat banking. Some examples of these are Phoenix Raceway, Martinsville Speedway and New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
And as is the case most weeks, Cup teams will have a small practice session (actually two, broken into two groups) and will qualify right after. Since this is a smaller track, drivers might run more laps, so you’ll be able to see who’s fast over a short run versus a long run.
Practice starts Saturday at 12:35 p.m. ET on USA Network, with qualifying shortly after at 1:20 p.m. on the same network.
Before I share my picks for Richmond, here’s a look back at Pocono Raceway:
|DraftKings Salary||Driver||DraftKings Score|
These scores don’t really reflect where the drivers ran for much of the race. Larson battled Denny Hamlin for the lead late when Hamlin slid up the track into the No. 5, causing Larson to hit the wall. Larson ended up finishing in 20th.
On the plus side, Hamlin won the race, while Erik Jones finished ninth after starting 24th.
Here’s a quick look at the rules for DraftKings:
The winner on the racetrack tallies 45 points, while second place gets 42, third 41 and so on. Tenth scores 34, while 11th gets 32 and decreases by one from there through 20th. This pattern repeats from 21st through 30th and again from 31st through 40th.
Additionally, drivers can earn or lose a point depending on where they started the race. For example, if Elliott started seventh and won, he would gain six points in addition to his finishing position points, totaling 51 fantasy points.
Drivers also can earn 0.45 points for each fastest lap and 0.25 for each lap they lead.
Here are the drivers you should consider for Richmond:
DraftKings Picks: Top Tier
Martin Truex Jr. ($11,000)
Career at Richmond: 34 starts, 3 wins, 9 top fives, 16 top 10s
Average finish at Richmond: 15.6
There’s a reason why Martin Truex Jr. is the most expensive driver on the slate. For starters, in each of the last four races at tracks 1.25 miles or less, he’s finished in the top five. That includes two wins at Dover Motor Speedway and New Hampshire where he led 68 and 254 laps, respectively.
Earlier this year at Richmond, the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing driver led 56 laps before ultimately coming home 11th. It ended his top-10 streak there, which lasted eight races from fall 2018 through last August. Truex accumulated three victories in that span: two in 2019 and the fall 2021 event.
I fully expect Truex to get out in front at some point this weekend.
Denny Hamlin ($10,500)
Career at Richmond: 33 starts, 4 wins, 17 top fives, 21 top 10s
Average finish at Richmond: 8.7
If you want to save a little bit of salary on DraftKings, perhaps you’ll be interested in Truex’s teammate, Hamlin. He has finished seventh or better in each of the last four 1.25-mile-or-less tracks. Though he hasn’t been as dominant as Truex, he’s still shown he can finish up front at the end of short tracks.
And while the No. 11 hasn’t had a long top 10 streak at Richmond, Hamlin does have 12 top-10 results in the last 15 races. This includes four consecutive top fives in 2021 and 2022 and a win last spring. He’s also led several laps in each of those four races, as he did in April. In fact, Hamlin probably could’ve contended for the win in April if he had no mistakes on pit road.
He has momentum on his side, winning last week at Pocono. Look for him to continue his strong runs at Richmond.
William Byron ($9,900)
Career at Richmond: 10 starts, 0 wins, 1 top five, 2 top 10s
Average finish at Richmond: 15.4
Byron was in the running for a top five when Bell made contact with the No. 24; Byron ended up 24th, the last car on the lead lap. He had a similar result at New Hampshire, only that time he and another car got together on pit road, which affected the handling of his car.
However, the 25-year-old does have some bright moments on short tracks this year. He won at Phoenix after leading 64 laps. Then, at Dover he was at the helm for 193 circuits before finishing fourth, while at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway, he placed eighth.
$9,900 is too low for Byron, since he’s run so well on these tracks.
(Also like Bell and Harvick.)
Chris Buescher ($7,700)
Career at Richmond: 14 starts, 0 wins, 1 top five, 1 top 10
Average finish at Richmond: 24.1
Chris Buescher generally finishes better than where he starts, as long as he doesn’t qualify in the top 10. For example, at both Gateway and New Hampshire, Buescher gained more than 10 positions in each race to finish 12th and 15th, respectively.
Unfortunately, at Richmond, he started seventh and crossed the line in 30th, though that was after he had to pit twice within a few laps for a loose wheel. He had a fast car that day, notching the second-most number of fastest laps.
Buescher showed last year just how fast he can be at Strawberry Hill, as he nearly closed in on Harvick for the lead before settling for third.
Aric Almirola ($7,300)
Career at Richmond: 22 starts, 0 wins, 2 top fives, 8 top 10s
Average finish at Richmond: 14.8
Aric Almirola (as well as most of Stewart-Haas Racing) has struggled to even get top 10s, as he only has one: a sixth at Martinsville. At Richmond, he may not have gotten a top 10, but he came close. He placed 13th after starting back in 32nd. On the other end of the spectrum, at New Hampshire, the No. 10 got into the lead briefly before a loose wheel caused him to hit the wall on a restart, ending his day prematurely. Who knows how he would’ve done if the lug nut was tightened.
On the plus side, Almirola has three top 10s in the last six Richmond races, including one last August when he drove from 32nd to eighth. He also was eighth in the fall 2020 race and finished sixth in spring 2021.
Almirola is a good option on DraftKings in this tier, depending on where he qualifies.
Erik Jones ($6,300)
Career at Richmond: 12 starts, 0 wins, 0 top fives, 1 top 10
Average finish at Richmond: 22.6
You may notice that this tier is a repeat from last week, and, well, you’re right. But I couldn’t resist choosing these two again. At New Hampshire, Erik Jones surged from 30th all the way up to 11th — a really strong run for the Legacy Motor Club driver.
He also finished in the teens at both Dover and Gateway, though the latter race was more beneficial on DraftKings (as he gained positions).
Hopefully these results helped to boost Jones’ confidence and skill on a track with less banking than others.
Michael McDowell ($5,900)
Career at Richmond: 24 starts, 0 wins, 0 top fives, 1 top 10
Average finish at Richmond: 30.5
Michael McDowell hasn’t finished worse than 22nd at tracks 1.25 miles or less this season. At New Hampshire, he gained a few spots to finish in 13th, while at Richmond and Gateway he claimed a pair of top 10s. Front Row Motorsports has brought some fast cars at these tracks this year.
It’s a good thing, too, since he appears to struggle at Richmond. McDowell’s lone top 10 came in that race earlier this season; before that, he was lucky to finish inside the top 20. Still, his results at the aforementioned smaller flat tracks indicate that another top 10 might be in sight.
About the author
Joy joined Frontstretch in 2019 as a NASCAR DraftKings writer, expanding to news and iRacing coverage in 2020. She's currently an assistant editor while continuing to write daily fantasy and news articles. A California native, Joy was raised as a motorsports fan and started watching NASCAR extensively in 2001. She earned her B.A. degree in Liberal Studies at California State University Bakersfield in 2010.
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