Fantasy NASCAR Race Preview: Toyota Owners 400

by Eric McClung on April 25, 2013 @ 13:00:00 PDT

 


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 managers would be wise to review the results from both Phoenix and Martinsville, which have already held their first events of the season. All four tracks host two races a piece, making this a key group of tracks when it comes to putting together a successful fantasy campaign.

Practice sessions: Friday, April 26, at 12 p.m. ET, 2:45 p.m. ET
Qualifying: Friday, April 26, at 5:35 p.m. ET
Race: Saturday, April 27, at 7:30 p.m. ET
Location: Henrico County, Va.
Shape: D-shaped oval
Length: 0.75 mile
Laps: 400
Turns: 14 degrees
Frontstretch: 8 degrees
Backstretch: 2 degrees

Drivers to keep an eye on

Kasey Kahne | No. 5 Quaker State Chevrolet | Hendrick Motorsports

Since 2011, Kahne has recorded an average running position of eighth or better in three of the four events held at RIR. He's been particularly strong during the spring with a pair of top-fives, spending all but 12 of a combined 800 laps running in the top 15. Kahne is coming off his second runner-up performance of the season, giving him four finishes inside the top five over the last six.

Brad Keselowski | No. 2 Redd's Apple Ale Ford | Penske Championship Racing

NASCAR driver Greg Biffle
Now Biffle, don't con me

Keselowski has yet to put together a dominant performance at Richmond, but it will happen much sooner than later. The Blue Deuce has improved in each of the last three RIR meets, going from 12th in the fall of 2011 to ninth and seventh last year.

Keselowski will have ace crew chief Paul Wolfe for at least this race before Penske's appeal of a six-race suspension is heard on May 1. Keselowski has yet to win this season but is knocking loudly on the door with four top-fives and seven top-10s in the eight races held thus far.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. | No. 88 National Guard Chevrolet | Hendrick Motorsports

In last year's Richmond events, Earnhardt finished as the runner-up in the spring and 14th in the fall after starting on the pole. Earnhardt's average running position actually improved from eighth to sixth from one run to the next thanks to 67 laps led. After opening the season with five finishes of seventh or better, Earnhardt has fallen outside the top 15 in the last three, despite some solid runs.

Kyle Busch | No. 18 M&M's Toyota | Joe Gibbs Racing

Busch has competed at RIR a total of 16 times in his career, remarkably finishing sixth or better 13 times. Rowdy has won each of the last four spring events after being the runner-up twice before. A crash last week at Kansas Speedway put a halt to five straight top-fives for Busch this season, highlighted by a pair of wins.

Clint Bowyer | No. 15 Toyota Care Toyota | Michael Waltrip Racing

Among all drivers in this week's field, Bowyer's career average running position of 10.2 at RIR ranks third. He's also the winner of last year's fall event with 88 laps led. Over his last five starts there, Bowyer has finished worse than seventh only once and qualified fifth or better a total of four times. Bowyer is coming off his third top-five of the season but has run well throughout the year.

Kevin Harvick | No. 29 Bell Helicopter Chevrolet | Richard Childress Racing

With Denny Hamlin (fractured back) ruled out this week, Harvick tops all other drivers with a career average running position of 7.5 at RIR. Happy is also a two-time Richmond champ, most recently laying a beat-down in the fall of 2011 in which he led more than half of the race. Despite the fact that Harvick is currently fourth-best this season in ARP, he's managed only one top-10 finish during his current streak of seven consecutive top-15s.

Mark Martin | No. 55 Aaron's Dream Machine Toyota | Michael Waltrip Racing

Over the last two years, Martin has qualified in the first three rows in all four RIR starts. He captured the pole for this race last year and finished eighth before adding a podium finish in the fall. This season, Martin has finished inside the top 15 in each of his last three starts and in four of his last five.

Ryan Newman | No. 39 Outback Steakhouse Chevrolet | Stewart-Haas Racing

Newman has quietly produced four finishes inside the top 15 over the last five races of the season. He's also been a sound middle-tier option at RIR with an average running position of 14th or better in all six races at the site since 2010. Newman may not challenge for a victory, but he should run well enough to challenge for another solid finish.

Temper your expectations

Greg Biffle | No. 16 American Red Cross Ford | Roush Fenway Racing

A ninth-place performance in the fall of 2012 was the first top-10 at RIR for Biffle since 2006. He rarely qualifies well here and often struggles to crack the top 15. Biffle is one of only three drivers to have finished all eight races of this season on the lead lap, but picks can be spent more wisely elsewhere in allocation formats.

Matt Kenseth | No. 20 Dollar General Toyota | Joe Gibbs Racing

Kenseth won last week's race at Kansas Speedway, but a rod that was 2.7 grams too light could cost him 50 points and his crew chief for six races. RIR isn't a location where Kenseth has done much damage recently, anyway. He scored a top-five finish at the site last fall, his first top-10 there since 2007.

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About Eric McClung

Eric McClung has been profiled by the FSWA for covering the fantasy sports spectrum and is a three-time award finalist. Over the years, he's 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. He's also captured the fantasy football championship in the KFFL staff league twice.

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