Heading into this weekend's track activities at Richmond International Raceway, Kyle Busch
and Clint Bowyer
sat first and second in the driver rankings. After qualifying and a pair of practice sessions at the track Friday, the two are still sitting first and second. Solid practice times and top-10 efforts in qualifying for both drivers merely solidified their statuses as elite fantasy options this weekend. After all, Busch owns a series-leading 5.4 average finish at Richmond has won the spring race four years in a row. Meanwhile, Bowyer won the fall race at the track last year and has finished 12th or better in 12 of his 14 starts. Not to mention the fact that he has finished in the top 10 in all eight short track events since joining Michael Waltrip Racing
. Add it all up, and fantasy owners should try to make room for both drivers on their rosters.
While Busch and Bowyer held serve, Jeff Gordon actually jumped into the top five in the driver rankings. The two-time Richmond winner posted the fastest lap in Happy Hour and followed it up with a third-place run in qualifying. More importantly, Gordon has been dialed in at the short track recently. In his last 12 starts at Richmond, he has logged nine top-10s and six top-five finishes. Throw in the fact that he has finished third or better in four of his last seven starts at the track, and his upside is easy to see.
Two other drivers that moved up into the top 10 in the final rankings were Brian Vickers and Mark Martin. Both drivers will start in the top 10 Saturday, and Vickers qualified on the outside of the front row. Meanwhile, Vickers has been solid at short tracks lately, posting a 9.0 average finish in his last six starts. The fact that he is subbing for Denny Hamlin and will get to drive for a Joe Gibbs Racing team that has been excellent at Richmond only enhances his value. Martin on the other hand enters Saturday's race with seven top-10s in his last 10 Richmond starts, including three straight. Fantasy owners looking for a safe, reliable option to bolster their rosters should definitely consider the veteran.
Owners looking for more of a sleeper pick may want take a chance on Juan Pablo Montoya. With a 26.4 average finish in 2013, there is some serious risk involved, but he did vault solidly into the top 20 after cracking the top 10 in both practices and delivering a sixth-place effort in qualifying. It is also worth noting that Montoya has managed to finish in the top 20 in six of his last seven starts at Richmond so he isn't a stranger to posting decent numbers at the track.
Last but not least, Greg Biffle headlines the list of big names to avoid, and he plummeted outside the top 20 in the final rankings after a forgettable Friday at Richmond. After ranking outside the top 10 in both practices, Biffle qualified a dismal 33rd. To top it off, he has managed just a single top-10 finish in his last 12 starts at Richmond so it's not like there is much incentive to overlook the concerning practice speeds and poor starting spot.
About Brian Polking
Racing has been part of Brian's life ever since he can remember, and he spent his childhood at dirt tracks throughout Ohio and Kentucky watching his father race. NASCAR naturally became his favorite sport, and he has been following the Cup, Nationwide and Truck Series for most of his life. Brian majored in journalism and economics at Ohio State University and becoming a sports writer has always been his dream. Although he has covered everything from minor league baseball to the NCAA tournament, his passion has always been NASCAR. Brian has served as a NASCAR writer for a variety of sites, eventually becoming head editor of the NASCAR section for Fanball.com. His knowledge of NASCAR comes from his life-long love of racing, and he tries to add a personal touch to every article he writes. Brian is always up for talking NASCAR with anyone that wants to. Brian joined KFFL's team in 2011.
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