April 24, 2013

FANTASY: Start Up the Toyotas, Owners

Toyota Owners 400 Fantasy Preview


You needn't look back any farther than the most recent race to
find the last Toyota to visit victory lane at Richmond. (Getty)
For whatever unknown reason, some manufacturers seem to have an advantage at certain NASCAR tracks.  Seven of the last eight races at Richmond International Speedway (RIR) have been won by a driver in a Toyota, which makes me wonder if it's more than just coincidence that this weekend's race is called the Toyota Owners 400.

While I wonder about the above, what I know is that with many of this week's favorites being in the manufacturer's car, it wouldn't be a simple coincidence if a Toyota visited victory lane on Saturday night.  Here's a look at the drivers, Toyota or not, that can help your Yahoo! Fantasy Auto Racing roster this weekend:

The Track


Richmond is a short track at only 0.75 miles.  The 400 in its name represents laps, not miles (it is a 300-mile race).  As is the case on many short tracks, the same drivers seem to dominate over and over again.  In fact, while I made a big deal out of seven of the last eight races being won by Toyotas, in truth, that has a lot to do with Kyle Busch having won four times and Denny Hamlin twice.

The X-Factor


It's night race.  This will be a factor anytime NASCAR goes under the lights because cars and tires respond differently when the sun is shining bright, as opposed to when running under the night sky.  The cars run practice and qualifying during the day and it's not until the sun sets after the green flag drops that drivers will first start to notice the areas that need adjusting in the changing conditions.  The team that adapts the fastest could give their driver a huge advantage.

Fantasy Strategy


This is the same for every short track: go with the drivers that tend to dominate.  It's a good week to use up allocations on your big name drivers, if they've shown a prowess for running up front at Richmond.

A-List


Start


  • #2 Brad Keselowski - He might only have two career top-10s at Richmond, but both of them came last year and he registered a 12th in the race before them.  He seems to have a beat on this track, even if he's not dominant.
  • #15 Clint Bowyer - On a surprisingly weak A-list, last September's race winner seems like a good choice.  He's won twice at RIR, sports an average finish of 9.6 and drives an aforementioned Toyota.
  • #24 Jeff Gordon - His 14.4 average finish at Richmond is a little ho-hum, but with 25 top-10s in 40 starts at the track, he's a fairly safe pick.

Park


  • #14 Tony Stewart - Despite three wins at this weekend's track, it's impossible for me to endorse a driver that hasn't finished better than 17th in the last five races this season.

On Pit Road


  • #11 Denny Hamlin - It seems as though he's out this week, but if he does go, then he's definitely worth the start.  He has nine top-10s in 14 Richmond races, good for an 8.1 average finish.

B-List


Start


  • #18 Kyle Busch - Richmond is Shrub's track.  He has four wins and 12 top-fives in 16 starts at the track, which is good for an average finish of 5.4.
  • #39 Ryan Newman - The Rocketman has been an afterthought for much of the season, but his 11.4 average finish can't be ignored.  He's not an odds-on-favorite, but he is a startable option.
  • #55 Mark Martin - One win in 54 starts at RIR all but ensures he won't visit victory lane, but 30 top-10s in that time ensures a respectable finish.  Considering Martin has put up respectable finishes week after week this season, he should keep that rolling.
  • #88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. - Bad luck has found the No. 88 car in recent weeks.  While he might not have won at Richmond since 2006, he does have three wins at the track in total and took the pole there last September.  This weekend should be an opportunity for him to turn his bad luck around.

Park


  • #11 Brian Vickers - As a part-time driver, Vickers has raced better than his stats for the past two seasons, but his 24.9 average finish at Richmond is cause for concern.  (Also note that if Hamlin does somehow sneak back into the car this weekend that you'll be left high and dry with Vickers on your roster.)
  • #56 Martin Truex Jr. - He might be racing well right now, but he hasn't finished better than 21st in his last five starts at RIR.

C-List


Start


  • #17 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. - For lack of a better option, Stenhouse might be the go-to this weekend.
  • #51 AJ Allmendinger - He's finished 17th or better in his last five races at Richmond.  That's a pretty good option for the C-list.

Park


  • #34 David Ragan - Among C-list drivers, Ragan has the most average fantasy points in the last 10 Richmond races.  However, most of those came with Roush Fenway Racing.  He's 31st in the points this season and isn't anything more than an afterthought.


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Drivers are listed by car number and not necessarily in rank order.

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