One or two drivers that can make or break a fantasy week, and I was reminded of that the hard way a couple of weeks ago at Darlington. I got solid performances out of sleeper picks like Kyle Larson, Marcos Ambrose, Ryan Newman and Jamie McMurray, but their efforts were largely wasted because of poor performances by Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano. Hamlin finished a career-worst 19th at Darlington while a tire issue dropped Logano from the top 10 to 35th.
I owned both drivers in Yahoo! Sports Fantasy Auto Racing and NASCAR.com Fantasy Live, and although I placed all five Fox Fantasy Auto Racing drivers in the top 20, Hamlin was my worst pick and my team captain. You only get to have a couple of big names on your roster each week, and when you miss with them like I did at Darlington, it makes it tough to put up a good score.
Heading into this weekend's race at Richmond International Raceway, I'll continue my recent trend of working multiple sleepers into my lineup as I try to save starts from some of the big names that I relied on early in the year. With eight races in the books, it is a lot easier to know which drivers and teams are running well, and when you factor that knowledge in with past performance, you get a pretty good idea of which drivers to target.
The fact that Richmond is a short track will further help the process to a degree because there are several drivers that are average picks most weeks that can challenge for top-10s at short tracks. On the flip side, there are some big names like Jimmie Johnson and Brad Keselowski that have performed below their usual standards at Richmond, and it is equally important not to waste a start from one of these heavy hitters.
Yahoo! Sports Fantasy Auto Racing
Kevin Harvick (A): Harvick is the defending winner of this weekend's race, and in addition to being the only driver with two wins in the last five races at Richmond, he has also been extremely consistent at Richmond. Since 2005, his 8.7 average finish is the third best in the series, and during the stretch, no driver has spent more time in the top 15. In a format that rewards a driver's finishing position above all else, I love Harvick's blend of reliability and upside.
Carl Edwards (B): He has scored more points than any other driver in the last six races at Richmond, and during the stretch, he leads the series in top-10s, top-five finishes and laps led. Not only is he running well at Richmond, but Edwards also has a knack for salvaging decent finishes even when he doesn't have a great car, which is a definite plus in this scoring system.
Tony Stewart (B): All three of his victories at Richmond came early in his career, but "Smoke" has remained reliable at the short track. Since 2004, his 9.0 average finish at Richmond is the third best in the series. Meanwhile, Stewart has four top-10s in his last five starts at the track, including two top-five finishes in his last three starts. He should be good for a top-10 this weekend.
Kyle Larson (C): Without any part-timers like Trevor Bayne or Jeff Burton scheduled to be in the field, I'm left to choose between Larson and Austin Dillon if I want any chance of a decent finish out of my C-List pick. I'll opt for Larson mainly because of how well he has been running lately. The rookie has four top-10s in the last five races.
NASCAR.com Fantasy Live
Kevin Harvick ($26.75): He has been my personal headache in this game because he seems to have mechanical issues whenever I pay for him while he seems to win whenever I decide to pass him up. Still, Harvick has been fast all year, and he leads all drivers in laps led and fastest laps run in 2014. Both those categories factor heavily into the scoring system of this particular game, and since he is also the defending winner of Saturday's race, I'll pay to make him the anchor of my team.
Joey Logano ($25.75): Logano has been a new man since joining Team Penske last season, and in his first start at Richmond with his new team, he finished a career-best third in last year's spring event. He has been even better in 2014, and he rolls into Richmond ranked fifth in fastest laps run and third in laps led. Logano has been a top-five driver in this format most of the year, and his price is still reasonable given his output.
Denny Hamlin ($23.25): Hamlin has been both dominant and consistent at his home-state track. His 8.9 average finish is the second best in the series, and his 114.8 driver rating is the best in the series. For the purposes of this format, I also love that Hamlin's 584 fastest laps run and 1,390 laps led are the most in the series at Richmond since 2005. By the way, Hamlin has piled up those series-leading totals despite missing three of the 18 races during the stretch.
A.J. Allmendinger ($17.50): He seems to be hitting his stride with JTG Daugherty Racing just in time to visit one of his better tracks. Allmendinger has three top-15s in the last four races, and he has seven straight finishes of 17th or better at Richmond, including top-15 finishes in both races last year. He has a legit shot at cracking the top 15 Saturday night, and there isn't another driver in his price range that I feel the same about.
Reed Sorenson ($6.75): Sorenson is coming off a couple of bad weeks, but for the year, he remains the biggest bargain in this format. For basically minimum salary, he has provided top-30 value on a regular basis. It's tough to beat that given the lineup flexibility his price tag provides.
Who are Brian's picks for Streak to the Finish and FOX?
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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