Fantasy NASCAR race preview: Wonderful Pistachios 400

by Eric McClung on September 7, 2011 @ 18:16:46 PDT


Among the most popular venues with both drivers and fans, Richmond International Raceway, is a short, flat track with tight quarters that can lead to aggressive driving. The track allows for side-by-side racing and numerous passing opportunities. Like most flat tracks, brakes are among the most important pieces of equipment to monitor at Richmond.

Although much different in configuration, the three other flat tracks (Phoenix International Raceway, Martinsville Speedway and New Hampshire Motor Speedway) require many of the same skills to get around successfully. All four tracks host two races a piece making the group key for owners putting together a successful fantasy campaign.

Location: Henrico County, Va.
Shape: D-shaped oval
Length: 0.75 miles
Laps: 400
Turns: 14 degrees
Front stretch: 8 degrees
Back stretch: 2 degrees

Drivers to keep an eye on

Kyle Busch | No. 18 M&M's Toyota | Joe Gibbs Racing

In 13 career starts at Richmond, Busch owns a total of 11 top-fives, including five straight. Rowdy won three times in that span and has finished as the runner-up a total of four times over his career. Since loop data was introduced in 2005, his career average running position of 7.1 is second among all drivers. Busch is coming off disappointing results in the last two races after recording three consecutive top-three finishes. With a series-best four wins, Busch would be the top seed in the Chase at the moment but would gain even more ground with another Richmond victory.

Ryan Newman

Ryan Newman | No. 39 U.S. Army 9/11 Tribute Chevrolet | Stewart-Haas Racing

Since 2005, Newman has never held an average running position worse than 17th at Richmond. He only managed to finish 20th in the April race but ran 11th, on the average. In the four races prior, Newman had finished 11th or better in four straight. After qualifying on the pole, Newman won at Loudon in July, the most recent race held on a flat track. Prior to finishing 20th at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Tuesday, Newman recorded 97 percent or more of his laps in the top 15 in four of six starts.

Brad Keselowski | No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge | Penske Championship Racing

In four career Cup starts at Richmond, Keselowski owns a pair of top-15 finishes. More impressive, his average qualifying position is 7.5. In the Nationwide Series, he owns five straight top-fives with one victory. Keselowski is now on a serious roll with six consecutive top-10s with two wins. Over the last five, his average running position has not dropped below eighth.

Denny Hamlin | No. 11 FedEx Express Toyota | Joe Gibbs Racing

Among all drivers, Hamlin's career average running position of 5.2 at Richmond is easily the best. In the last four, he picked up a pair of wins and finished as the runner-up in April. After a season full of ups and downs, Hamlin might finally be settling in. With another win in his home state of Virginia, the No. 11 team will at least guarantee themselves a Wild Card spot in the Chase. Expect a championship-type effort from Hamlin with such much on the line.

A.J. Allmendinger | No. 43 Best Buy Ford | Richard Petty Motorsports

Since crew chief Greg Erwin was moved from Greg Biffle's team to Allmendinger, the No. 43 has only failed to finish worse than 22nd once with four straight finishes of 12th or better. Now sitting 13th in points, the Dinger has an outside chance of making the Chase. At Richmond, he has seen improved results in each of the last three starts, finishing eighth and seventh over the last two.

Clint Bowyer | No. 33 Cheerios Chevrolet | Richard Childress Racing

Entering the month of July, Bowyer sat eighth in points. However, over the last nine races, he's tumbled to 14th thanks to three DNFs due to crash while only registering one top-10 in that time. Richmond could give Bowyer the boost he sorely needs to get into the postseason. In 11 career starts at Richmond, his average running position has never dropped below 15th and has been seventh or better in three straight.

Martin Truex Jr. | No. 56 NAPA Brakes Toyota | Michael Waltrip Racing

After leading a dozen laps and registering an average running position of 10th at Richmond in April, Truex only managed to finish 27th after a late pit road speeding penalty. Over the past two seasons, those kinds have missteps have cost the No. 56 on numerous occasions but they've looked much better as of late. In just the last five races, Truex owns a pair of top-fives and four top-15s.

David Ragan | No. 6 UPS Ford | Roush Fenway Racing

Back in April, Ragan finished fourth at Richmond, his best result at the site since finishing third back in 2007. At Loudon, the most recent flat track race, Ragan finished a career-best 14th and was running sixth at the midway point. After running as high as third at Atlanta, Ragan finished 35th following a blown engine. Such equipment issues haven't been problems for the Roush camp this season. Donít hesitate in starting Ragan as your bottom-tier driver.

Temper your expectations

Kasey Kahne | No. 4 Red Bull Toyota | Red Bull Racing

Over the last six races, Kahne qualified on the front row three times but saw him finish no better than 18th in those starts. In April, Kahne had an impressive run at Richmond and finished third, his first top-five at the site since 2006. Plagued by erratic performances for much of the season, Kahne is a very difficult driver to gage at the moment.

Mark Martin | No. 5 Quaker State Chevrolet | Hendrick Motorsports

From 2008-09, Martin registered four consecutive top-five finishes at Richmond. In the three starts since, he's yet to finish better than 14th. Martin did hold an average running position of ninth back in April but he's only managed to exceed that mark just once in the 16 starts since.

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About Eric McClung

Eric McClung has been profiled by the FSWA for covering the fantasy sports spectrum and is a three-time award finalist. Over the years, he's made several appearances in print and on radio. McClung began contributing to KFFL in 2008 and currently serves as one of KFFL's featured fantasy NASCAR experts. He's also captured the fantasy football championship in the KFFL staff league twice.

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