Fantasy NASCAR race preview: Federated Auto Parts 400

by Eric McClung on September 5, 2012 @ 17:12:50 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. Fantasy owners would be wise to review the results from both Phoenix and Martinsville, which have already held their first events this season. All four tracks host two races a piece making this a key group of tracks for owners when it comes to putting together a successful fantasy campaign.

Practice sessions: Friday, Sept. 7 at 12:10 pm ET, 2:45 pm EDT
Qualifying: Friday, Sept. 7 at 5:35 pm EDT
Race: Saturday, Sept. 8 at 7:30 pm EDT
Location: Henrico County, Va.
Shape: D-shaped oval
Length: 0.75 mile
Laps: 400
Turns: 14 degrees
Front stretch: 8 degrees
Back stretch: 2 degrees

Drivers to keep an eye on

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

For a driver looking to win his third race in a row, Hamlin couldn't ask for a better venue than Richmond. In 13 career starts, Hamlin has won a pair of races at RIR while recording a top-five finish more than half the time. The No. 11 crew hasn't exactly been consistent for much of the season but suddenly looks like the team to beat heading into the postseason.

Clint Bowyer | No. 15 5-hour Energy Toyota | Michael Waltrip Racing

Bowyer has only finished outside of the top 12 on two occasions in 13 career starts at RIR. Over the last six he's finished seventh or better. An electrical problem is the only reason Bowyer's streak of four finishes inside the top 10 came to a halt last week at Atlanta Motor Speedway. In fact, the team easily overcame starting from the rear of the field due to an engine change.

Kevin Harvick | No. 29 Budweiser Chevrolet | Richard Childress Racing

Last year at Richmond, Harvick won this event in dominating fashion with an average running position of third and led more than half the race. Back in April, Harvick qualified third at RIR and ran eighth, on the average, but finish 19th due to bad late race adjustments. After mediocre performance for much of the season, the return of crew chief Gil Martin has quickly paid off. Last week at AMS, Harvick finished fifth and led 101 laps.

Kasey Kahne | No. 5 Quaker State Chevrolet | Hendrick Motorsports

Over the last three Richmond races, Kahne has earned a pair of top-five finishes. Even though he scored a win at RIR back in 2005, his backstory at the site isn't that impressive until recently. After nine straight finishes inside the top 15, Kahne and the No. 5 team totally missed the mark at Atlanta, despite an excellent track record on intermediates. A quick bounce back is expected on a site Kahne has rediscovered.

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

Rowdy has finished seventh or better in three of the last four races this season and heads to a venue he's been stellar at. In 15 career starts Busch owns an average finish of 4.7 at RIR thanks to four wins over the last four years and a total of four runner-up performance since 2006. Last week at Atlanta, Busch looked dominant early but faded to a sixth-place finish.

Carl Edwards

Carl Edwards | No. 99 Kellogg's Ford | Roush Fenway Racing

Since 2010, Edwards has three top-fives at RIR and has not finished outside of the top 10. Back in April he led a race-high 206 laps after qualifying on the outside pole but was penalized for jumping a late restart. Prior to an engine failure at Atlanta the No. 99 was pretty running well and might have had a shot to record a fourth top-15 in six races under new crew chief Chad Norris. Edwards is a desperate driver and worth gambling on in any format that has seen his value decline.

Ryan Newman | No. 39 Quicken Loans Chevrolet | Stewart-Haas Racing

While Newman hasn't challenged for a win at Richmond recently he's been a very consistent performer with an average finish of 11.8 in 21 career starts. Newman has been wrecked the last two weeks but had been running under the radar with six straight finishes of 11th or better. Among middle-tier drivers Newman isn't a very exciting option but is pretty much a top-15 lock if rival cars avoid taking him out.

Mark Martin | No. 55 Aaron's Dream Machine Toyota | Michael Waltrip Racing

Coming off a quiet top-10 finish at Atlanta, Martin will look to sweep the pole at Richmond. Back in April he led 29 laps prior to finishing eighth, Martin's third straight finish inside the top 15 at RIR. In just 16 starts this season Martin has scored four poles and figures to grab another excellent starting spot this week.

Temper your expectations

Greg Biffle | No. 16 3M/Owens-Minor Ford | Roush Fenway Racing

Biffle may be the current points leader but he hasn't scored a top-10 finish at RIR since 2006. He's started third and second, respectively, the last two weeks but failed to finish better than 15th. With so many better tracks to start Biffle on he's best kept stored for another day.

Matt Kenseth | No. 17 Best Buy Ford | Roush Fenway Racing

Like his aforementioned teammate, Kenseth has also not done much of note at Richmond. His last top-10 at the site came back in 2007. The Chase is loaded with intermediate tracks, the type of venue the No. 17 team has run very well at over the years. Kenseth is another big name that can be avoided this week but heavily trusted down the stretch.

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About Eric McClung

Eric McClung has been profiled by the FSWA for covering the fantasy sports spectrum and is a two-time award finalist. He's also 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.

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