Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 10:04 AM
Best Bets - Richmond
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Each week during the Monster Energy Cup Series (MENCS) regular season through the Chase, we'll take a look at the best Fantasy plays, as well as Futures and Wagers when applicable, to get you ready for the upcoming race week.
The MENCS is back in the Old Dominion, heading off to Richmond International Raceway for the Toyota Owners 400 on Saturday. The race is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. ET.
Back in his home state, Chesterfield, Va. native Denny Hamlin (13/2) will be one to watch at RIR. According to NASCAR's Loop Data, Hamlin leads everyone in Driver Rating (112.0) across the past five races at Richmond, including a victory in the Federated Auto Parts 400 in Sept. 2016 during the span. Overall he has won three times at his home track in 23 starts, turning in 10 Top 10 finishes all but five of his outings resulting in a Top 20 showing. His worst start in the 23-race stretch is 24th, so he obviously has no DNFs. Hamlin leads all active drivers with 1,653 laps led, too. Over the past five runs he has led 263 laps, including 156 fastest laps, while turning 87.9 percent of his laps inside the Top 15.
Right on his heels is Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch (7/2), who is coming off a victory at the Food City 500 in Bristol this past week. Busch has posted a 109.3 Driver Rating over the past five starts at Richmond, leading 126 laps with a circuit-best 95.6 percent of those laps run inside the Top 15. Rowdy has visited Victory Lane in four separate occasions in his 25 starts at the track, posting a ridiculous 15 Top 5 runs while just one of his starts has resulted in a finish outside of the Top 20. Like Hamlin, Busch's worst finish was 24th, and he has led 1,057 laps with a circuit-leading 7.4 Average-Finish Position (AFP). He hasn't won at the track since April 2015, but he is always right there in the mix.
He might not have the experience of his teammates, but Daniel Suarez (100/1) joins his JGR teammates as one to watch this weekend. In his MENCS debut at the short track in 2017, Suarez posted finishes of seventh and 12th. Not too shabby, although never did lead a lap. JGR alliance member Martin Truex Jr. (15/2) hasn't had as much success at RIR over the years, although he has made strides recently. Over the past five starts he has a 101.2 Driver Rating, sixth-best among all drivers, while leading 391 laps which is the most of any driver during the five-race span. However, MTJ has no victories with just two Top 5 finishes and eight Top 10 finishes in 24 career runs. His AFP is a dismal 20.04, so he has work to do before fantasy owners make him a go-to driver at RIR.
Chip Ganassi Racing's Kyle Larson (13/2) has been a quick study over the years, and Richmond has been no exception. While it takes years for some to master short-track Cup racing, Larson has shown his chops early. He is seventh in Driver Rating (99.3) over the past five races at RIR, and he has one victory (last fall), two Top 5s, two Top 10s and an AFP of 10.4 in his eight career starts at the track. Larson has never finished worse than 16th in the capital city, leading 73 laps. CGR's Jamie McMurray (100/1) is a sleeper to watch. He ranks 10th in Driver Rating over the past five runs while posting three Top 5s, eight Top 10s and 19 Top 20s in 30 career starts at the track. He does lead all active drivers with four DNFs, so there is a measure of risk using Jamie Mac.
This might be the latest we've discussed Kevin Harvick (9/2) this season, but it's more due to trying to mix it up and not due to a lack of success by the No. 4 in Richmond. He has enjoyed himself over the years at the Virginia short track, posting three victories across 34 starts with a sparkling 10.4 AFP. He has managed 12 Top 5s while ending outside of the Top 20 on just three separate occasions, and he is just one of three active drivers to log 1,000 or more laps led. While his last victory at RIR came in the Toyota Owners 400 back in April 2013, Loop Data shows him fourth in Driver Rating over the past five races with a 103.9 mark.
Penske Racing's Brad Keselowski (10/1) has also enjoyed a measure of success at Richmond in recent seasons. He picked up a win in Sept. 2014 at the track, and over his past five starts he has run 93.3 percent of his laps inside the Top 15 with 125 laps and a 108.1 Driver Rating, good for third over the past five green flag drops at Richmond. Teammate Joey Logano (18/1) won the last time I attended a race in Richmond, taking checkers in April 2014, and he also won the spring race last season. Loop Data shows him in fifth over the past five Richmond runs, posting 50 laps lep with a 4.8 AFP and 80.7 percent of his laps run inside the Top 15.
Hendrick Motorsports has had a difficult 2018 as they rebuild with a bunch of new blood surrounding seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson (20/1). The No. 48 has yet to visit Victory Lane, and honestly hasn't been terribly close. However, it will take just one strong race to give the champ momentum, and Richmond could provide that jump. He has a 92.6 Driver Rating over the past five races to rank ninth among all active drivers, posting 44 laps led with a strong 8.4 AFP. He has won three times in Richmond over 32 starts, posting 13 Top 10s and 461 laps led. However, J.J.'s last victory at RIR was back in Sept. 2008 in the Chevy Rock & Roll 400.
Don't sleep on Ryan Newman (60/1) is a value for bettors and fantasy players, especially since he is fifth among all drivers in AFP at 10.4 over his career. He has won once in 32 career Richmond starts with 18 Top 10s and 29 Top 20s while leading 483 laps. Stewart-Haas Racing's Clint Bowyer (20/1) might also be quite the value. He won last time the MENCS was in the state of Virginia, taking checkers at Martinsville in March. He has been to Victory Lane twice in 24 career Richmond starts, posting a strong 11.8 AFP, eight among all drivers. Aric Almirola (40/1) is also a value play. While he hasn't won at the track in 12 tries, he has finished outside of the Top 20 on just three occasions while posting a strong 16.3 AFP.