Welcome to Tireball Sports’ weekly edition of Fantasy Picks. This week the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series is at Richmond International Raceway for the running of the Federated Auto Parts 400. It is one last chance to make the Chase for win-less drivers or for those trying to make it in on points.
While NASCAR will say a lot of things this weekend, it really comes down to one spot open. Greg Biffle will either make it in via points or someone outside the top 16 will score a win and earn entry to the Chase.
With that precursor, we bring you the five to pick and three to avoid.
Jeff Gordon – Gordon ran second here in April and has been 11th or better in his last four starts at Richmond. Given how Gordon had been running leading into last we we would not even consider thinking about Atlanta as the beginning of a stumble. Gordon right now remains a candidate to win on a weekly basis.
Denny Hamlin – Sure Denny Hamlin has not been himself at Richmond with 18th or worse finishes there the last two years but if anyone knows how to get around the 3/4-mile track it is him. Hamlin will always be mentioned as a threat to win at Richmond and that has not changed. Fantasy leagues where Hamlin is just off the top layer offer a great option.
Matt Kenseth – A few years ago I would have been on the avoid Matt Kenseth at Richmond side. However in his last five starts here he has finished no worse than 11th. Lost in Kenseth’s late race gamble on old tires last week was that the No. 20 team has slowly turned things around and appear to be moving in the direction of a win. Kenseth probably will not win on Saturday night but his third top five in three races at RIR is possible.
Kevin Harvick – We suggested picking Harvivck last week and we will do it again this week. Harvick has three career wins at Richmond and his worse finish dating back to 2009’s spring race in a 19th place run. That means he usually stays out of trouble here. Since that finish he has two of his three wins here and has led laps in half of the races. Plus he has no reason not to go for the win, he is already in the Chase.
Clint Bowyer- Outside the top 16 Clint Bowyer is trying to race his way into the Chase. The easiest way is a win, else wise he falls into a point scenario with Biffle. With the exception of last years suspension and the mess that resulted because of it, Bowyer has been very good at Richmond. In fact his 25th place run at Richmond last September marked his career worse though a suspension failure this season forced him to finish 43rd. Bowyer has twice won at Richmond, something he will be trying to do again this week. In the races leading up to the suspension he had five finishes inside the top ten in his previous six runs.
Danica Patrick – Danica had a career best finish last week at Atlanta but do not expect her to best that in this one. Patrick’s best run at Richmond is a 29th and Richmond is a completely different beast than Atlanta.
Martin Truex Jr. – Truex has had good finishes at Richmond of late but as we said in the past that was driving for MWR. Until we see anything out of the No. 78 car at Furnite Row this is an easy avoid. Feeling like a gamble is in need? He was 10th at Richmond earlier this year for Furniture Row Racing.
Brian Vickers – We never bought into the fact that Brian Vickers could make the Chase this season. Neither should you. He has never been good at Richmond with jut three finishes inside the top 10 in 17 races. Vickers is not expected to be a contender this weekend but he has rarely been one this season anyway finishing with seven top ten 10 finishes in 25 starts this year.