Congratulations to Denny Hamlin who picked up his second win of the season on Sunday night and to Martin Truex Jr. who won the first two stages of the race and clinched the regular season championship and will now have at least 52 playoff points once the playoffs begin. That is a lot of points for the other drivers to make up once the playoffs start, so Martin will be the odds on favorite to win this year’s championship.
FEDERATED AUTO PARTS 400
This week the series heads to the Richmond Raceway for the regular season finale to lock in the playoff field. However, the playoff field is virtually set unless someone outside the top sixteen can win the race Saturday night at Richmond. No one can overtake those who are in the top sixteen by points in the final race of the regular season the way the points are right now, but a driver can still knock out one of the three trying to get in on points by winning this race.
Richmond is a three-quarter mile D-shaped oval fairly flat race track in Virginia that has hosted the final race before the playoffs for a number of years. I really don’t see a lot of excitement in this race unless one of the drivers who have not won a race this season and is outside the top sixteen can be a contender which could knock someone out of the playoffs. There are a couple of drivers who could win their first race of the season, but that is a tall order.
Denny Hamlin: I am going to pick Denny to win his second straight race heading into the playoffs. This team seems to be hitting their stride at the right time of the season, but Denny really needs to stop making mistakes when pitting. He missed the entrance to pit road in the race on Sunday which could have cost him the win. He also has more pit road speeding penalties than any other driver in the series and that can’t happen during the playoff stretch. He has three wins at this track and thirteen top ten finishes in twenty-two career starts here.
Kyle Busch: Kyle is perhaps the driver who has been the most consistent lately. He leads all active drivers with four wins at this track and he also has finished runner-up six times in his twenty-four starts at Richmond. He is going to do whatever he can to win this week and gain some valuable playoff points to try and cut into Truex’s lead. He is going to give Denny all he can handle this weekend when it comes to the end of the race.
Kevin Harvick: Kevin has won three times at this track and is on a bit of a run here himself. Although he hasn’t won here in the past six races he has finished in the top five in five of those six races. Kevin is another driver you want to keep on your radar this weekend as he tries to pick up some more playoff points. He ran well at Darlington last week, leading more laps in that race than any other driver, but faded at the end to finish ninth.
Joey Logano: This is Joey’s final shot at making the playoffs this season. He won the race here in the April race, but was found to have a violation on his rear suspension and NASCAR decided the violation was severe enough that they considered his win ‘encumbered’ and that it wouldn’t count towards getting him into the playoffs. However, he has won twice and finished in the top ten in his last seven starts at this track. I don’t know if he will be able to do it again because this team hasn’t run well since that violation was found, but he might be worth taking a chance on if you are looking to take a chance to get back in the running in your league.
Kurt Busch: Kurt had his best finish of the year since winning the Daytona 500 in February this past weekend in Darlington where he finished third. Kurt has a nice streak of finishes at Richmond where he has finished in the top ten in five of his last six starts here including one of his two wins. Getting a win here this weekend would go a long ways by giving this team a lot of confidence heading into the playoffs.
Martin Truex Jr.: Martin is still looking for his first win at this track and would love to add even more playoff points to his resume. As it stands right now, Martin has a thirty-two more playoff points than his nearest competitor. It is going to be hard for the rest of the field to knock him out of each round of the playoffs. Martin has also finished in the top ten at Richmond in four of his last five starts here.
Ryan Newman: Ryan’s lone win here came way back in the 2003 season. However, he has been running very well this year and picked up a win at Phoenix earlier in the season on a track that is somewhat similar to Richmond. He knows he needs to run even better if he wants to have a shot at winning a championship this season. In his career, Ryan has finished in the top ten in seventeen of his thirty-one starts at this track.
Kyle Larson: Kyle finished second in this race last year and has been running well the entire year. Although his runner-up finish last year is his only top ten finish in seven starts at Richmond this team is still a threat to win every week. This team is going to be a contender once the playoffs start due to the fact that they have run well on all types of tracks this year.
Jimmie Johnson: It’s the time of the year to start talking seriously about Jimmie again. Jimmie has three wins and twelve top ten finishes in his career at Richmond. The reining champion will be stepping up his game in the coming weeks as he looks to add another championship to his resume. This could be another type of test week for this team as they might try some things that could work for them in Phoenix during the playoffs.
Brad Keselowski: Brad will be looking to step up his program this week also. They haven’t run as well as they would like lately. Brad finished second in the race here in April and has finished in the top ten in five of his last seven starts at this track. I think this team will break out of their mini slump during the playoffs and win at least one more race this season.
YAHOO! FANTASY NASCAR PICKS FOR RICHMOND RACEWAY
Yahoo Driver Group A
- Denny Hamlin
- Kyle Busch
Yahoo Driver Group B
- Kurt Busch
- Ryan Newman
- Kasey Kahne
- Jamie McMurray
Yahoo Driver Group C
- Daniel Suarez
- Erik Jones
MY TOP-5 OVERALL AT RICHMOND RACEWAY
- Denny Hamlin
- Kyle Busch
- Kevin Harvick
- Kurt Busch
- Brad Keselowski
Dark Horse: Ryan Newman
Stay Away From: Ryan Blaney
Big 18: Kurt Busch