Fantasy NASCAR race preview: Capital City 400
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, April 27 at 12:00 pm ET, 2:30 pm ET
Drivers to keep an eye on
Everything is setup for another big time performance under the lights at Richmond for Hamlin, who owns an average finish of 7.6 in a dozen career starts at the site. In addition to winning at Phoenix, the first race of 2012 on a flat track, Hamlin finished sixth at Martinsville and is coming off a win last week at Kansas Speedway. Over the last five races at RIR Hamlin has won a twice. Over his career, he’s also held an average running position of eighth or better on 10 occasions and leads all drivers in that category with a 6.1.
Since loop data was introduced in 2005 Newman has never held an average running position worse than 17th in 14 races at RIR and has collected 11 finishes of 12th or better during that span. Newman was running well at Phoenix before making contact with Carl Edwards near the end of the race before capitalizing on a late caution and wild restart to win at Martinsville. While Newman had a possible top-10 finish brewing at Kansas but a bad tire forced him to pit late and end up 20th. A return to flat track racing comes at a perfect time for the No. 39 team to right last week’s wrong.
In a dozen career starts at RIR Bowyer's career average running position of 10.8 ranks fourth among all drivers. He's also finished 12th or better 10 times, including a win in the spring of 2008. An issue with cutting down tires kept Bowyer from being competitive at Phoenix while overly aggressive driving at Martinsville cost him a shot at a possible win. Overall, MWR cars are keeping pace with top teams in NASCAR and should remain near the front once again on Saturday night.
A late spin at Las Vegas Motor Speedway followed by crashes at Bristol Motor Speedway and Martinsville have kept Busch bogged down in the standings. He netted a sixth-place result at Phoenix and finished 11th and 10th, respectively, in the last two races of this season. Busch should keep things going at Richmond, where he's won half of the last six races. In 14 career starts he owns four runner-up performances in addition to 12 finishes of sixth or better, including six straight.
While Keselowski has yet to record a top-10 finish in his five career Cup starts at Richmond he has tallied three top-15s. There are signs that he's poised for a career-best finish this weekend thanks to a fifth-place result at Phoenix and a ninth-place finish at Martinsville. In the Nationwide Series Keselowski put together a streak of five straight top-fives until finishing 19th in last year's fall race. It’s just a matter of time before those types of performances show up at the next level.
Despite an average running position of 13th or better in six of the last seven races this season Gordon has only tallied three top-15s during that span. He finished eighth at Phoenix but a perfect example of his recent misfortunes came at Martinsville. After leading 328 of 515 laps Gordon ran out of fuel during the green-white-checkered finish and finished back in 14th. Since 2007 Gordon owns five top-fives and eight top-10s in 10 starts at RIR.
Even though Almirola will be making his first career Cup start at Richmond he's been solid on flat tracks this season. In fact, Almirola's best finishes of 2012 came with a 12th-place showing at Phoenix and an eighth-place finish at Martinsville, where he led three laps. In the last three Nationwide starts at RIR, Almirola owns an average finish of 10.7 and figures to be a respectable bottom-tier driver this weekend.
In addition to his runner-up performance at Martinsville, Allmendinger looks like a solid pick at Richmond thanks to his three consecutive finishes of 11th or better at the site. Following each of those RIR starts the Dinger held an average running position of 15th or better. In that span, Allmendinger's average finish of 8.7 ranks fifth among all drivers at RIR.
Temper your expectations
Indeed, Biffle is currently first in points and has finished no worse than 13th in any of the eight races held thus far, including third at Phoenix. However, his results at Richmond are a reason to take pause. In fact, Biffle's last top-10 at the site came in 2006. After finishing off the lead lap in both of the 2010 races, Biffle managed top-15s in each RIR event last year. Still, owners in allocation formats would be wise to keep him reserved for a track more suited to his strengths.
Despite leading 15 or more laps in each Richmond race last year Kenseth finished outside of the top 20 and off the lead lap each time. Since 2008 Kenseth is without a top-10 finish at RIR and owns just three top-15s in those eight starts. Kenseth is now riding a streak of three straight top-fives, including his best finish at Martinsville since 2002, but is a driver to target for races after the All-Star Race at tracks like Charlotte Motor Speedway and Dover International Speedway.
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. Follow @EricMcClung
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