After a wild race at Darlington to kick off the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs, we’re off to Richmond Raceway this weekend for some Saturday night action with the Federated Auto Parts 400. We’ve already raced here at Richmond once this season, and it was the Hamlin/Truex show until Alex Bowman was able to steal the win late. Races here at Richmond typically aren’t too crazy, as I explained and mentioned a few times in the video this week.
As far as track type, Richmond is a short, flat track that is most similar to Phoenix. You can also add New Hampshire into the mix when analyzing data. There are other flat tracks that some may also add in there–Nashville, Martinsville, Pocono–but the best tracks to use when analyzing data for this Richmond race are the three first mentioned. Also, NASCAR is rolling with the 750hp again package this weekend, so you can look at that data as well.
*Please note: the picks and suggestions below are my opinions and strategy for the Slingshot Fantasy Auto Contest. These are not meant to sway your thinking in any way, but rather give you insight into the drivers I am most likely to pick on race day.*
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Slingshot Fantasy Auto Contest Picks for the Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond
Martin Truex, Jr. ($12,200) – You could also throw Denny Hamlin ($12,400) in with this designation, but I’m going to talk about Martin Truex, Jr. because he starts one spot behind Hamlin on Saturday night. Both are exceptional at short, flat tracks, and both are great here at Richmond, too. As far as Truex specifically, he’s led 100+ laps in seven of the last nine Richmond races, has two wins in the last five, and hasn’t finished outside of the top 5 at this track since early in the 2018 season. He’s got an average finish of 6.0 on the comparable short, flat tracks this season with a win at Phoenix and a 5th here at Richmond in the first race. Don’t forget: this race is at night, and Truex always performs better under the lights (like he needs any boost).
Joey Logano ($11,100) – Let’s take a look at the last seven races on short, flat tracks and the results that Joey Logano has posted: 4th, 3rd, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 3rd, and 1st. Need I say more? Logano is elite on this track type, and here at Richmond specifically, he’s finished 4th or better six of the last eight races, while also leading 45+ laps in four of the last six. JoLo has also ended up 4th or better in six of the last eight Stages at this track. On Saturday night, Logano’s #22 Ford will roll off the starting grid from 6th, but he should be able to challenge for a solid top 3 finish, if not a win.
Matt DiBenedetto ($8,200) – Penske Racing is very good at short, flat tracks. And since Wood Brothers Racing is basically just an extension of Penske, that means Wood Brothers Racing is very good at short, flat tracks. Earlier this season, DiBenedetto was able to grab his first career top 10 finish here at Richmond with a 9th-place finish in the April race, and looking at this track type specifically in 2021, he has an average running position of 11.5 (which is 11th-best) and an average finish of 11.3 (which is 10th-best). Even going back and including the four short, flat track races in 2020, Matty D has an average running position of 11.9 (10th-best) and an average finish of 11.1 (also 10th-best). He starts 28th on Saturday night. Hello place differential points!
Brad Keselowski ($11,000) – This pick is under the “Risky” category, but it really shouldn’t be. I just have concerns with how this #2 team is running and the downturn we’ve seen as the season has progressed. With that being said, like his Penske teammates, Brad Keselowski is really, really good at the short, flat tracks. In the seven races on them since the start of 2020, BK has the 2nd-best average finish (5.1) and the best average running position (4.8). This year on them, he has the 2nd-best average running position (6.2), but his 14th-place finish here in the first Richmond races brings his average finish down a bit. Kez starts 7th on Saturday night and should be able to compete for a top 5 finish if everything goes smoothly.
Christopher Bell ($9,500) – It’s Christopher Bell, so it’s always going to be a risky NASCAR Fantasy pick, but when you look at the short, flat tracks this season, it’s not as risky as you might think; Bell finished 9th at Phoenix earlier this year, 4th here at Richmond back in April, and then 2nd at New Hampshire in July. That’s pretty solid. If you want to throw in Martinsville and Nashville, the #20 Toyota came home 7th at “The Paperclip” and 9th in the “Music City.” On Saturday night, Bell will start from 10th but potential to move up if he can have a mistake-free race.
Aric Almirola ($8,500) – This season it’s been quite rare for Aric Almirola to be a viable option in Fantasy NASCAR, but the short, flat tracks have been his shining spot for the last two years. This season, Almirola won at New Hampshire, finished 6th here at Richmond, and came home 11th at Phoenix, and looking back at las season, he ended up 8th and 13th in the two Phoenix races along with posting finishes of 7th at New Hampshire and 8th here at Richmond. Almirola will start from 9th here on Saturday night, so that definitely makes him a risky pick in the Slingshot Fantasy Auto Contest, but if he can get some Stage points along with a top 10 finish, that’ll be a solid score for a driver priced at $8,500 in this game.
“Race Winner” Pick = Martin Truex, Jr. – If you remember back to the pre-Darlington podcast episode of Stacking Dennys, I said that Denny Hamlin was going to win Darlington and then Martin Truex, Jr. was going to win Richmond. The first part of that statement was true, now we just need Truex to bring home another victory here on Saturday night. He’s the favorite according to sportsbooks as well as my algorithm this weekend. Rolling with the #19 Toyota.