Another week, another short track. Isn’t this what the NASCAR gods wanted all along? With 400 laps scheduled, this will be another race where focusing on dominators will be important, though maybe slightly less than last week when we were looking at a 500-mile race. The environment that we will be dealing with here is rare for this track, but not like it hasn’t happened before. But this will be a day race at Richmond as opposed to its typical set of night races. The biggest difference here is how well teams can set the cars up for day races, which is typically different from setting up the cars for the cooler track temperatures for a night race. And yes, there is a difference. The best piece of analysis that I can give you, the reader, outside of the picks that will be shared here is to fade Anthony Alfredo. Last week, he benefitted from all of the wrecks and greatly overperformed his 42.3 driver rating. He is a backmarker car and needs to be treated like it right now. Keep that in mind when people go all-in on him again.
I’m starting to like Alex Bowman a lot because of the value of pit road at this track. He has one of the best pit crews this season, and he starts 24th
High Priced Drivers
Martin Truex – I get it; there will be an aversion to using Truex here because he is starting on the pole, and a world with no practice does not seem to have been too kind to pole sitters since May of last year. Maybe, this time will be different, at least according to any model you look at, mine included. After winning last week, he comes into this race with the third-best driver rating in the series over the last four races. We have seen him win at both flat tracks this season at Martinsville and Phoenix. We also see his track history driver rating at 128.78 in the last two years worth of races here. If a pole sitter is going to do well, then it will be Truex here at Richmond.
Kyle Larson – The guy has been wicked fast all season. This is why we should be using him starting in 6th at a track that he has always been good at throughout his career. If it isn’t going to be Truex scoring every single lap led and fast lap, then Larson has to be considered a top candidate to do so. He ran a solid race in inferior CGR equipment in 2017 when the series last ran a day race here. It also doesn’t hurt that his driver rating of 122.38 in his last four races is the best of any driver in the field. Larson will most certainly be a contender for the win.
Christopher Bell – You’ve probably read elsewhere that Bell was excellent here in the Xfinity series, which he was. He was also ok here by rookie standards in his first-ever Cup race back in September of last season when he finished with a 73.7 driver rating in much more crappy equipment than he has now with JGR. His price is meager for someone that has the potential to lead laps here. In fact, for $7800, he doesn’t have to do all that much to make value for you in a tournament. As long as there aren’t any catastrophic issues for him (and it’s NASCAR so that anything can happen), then he should end up in the winning lineup at such a low price.
Austin Cindric – Cindric will be a staple in many lineups, and for a good reason. Although this is only his third ever Cup race, he shapes up to be a great prospect after solid performances at Atlanta and Daytona (take the latter for what it’s worth). If nothing else, he is a driver starting in the last place that is getting some of the best equipment in the field. And equipment that does really well in this package if you look at other Penske drivers. Draftkings did a solid job by pricing him because, at $8600, you have to think about it. I think there is enough value on the slate to roster Cindric and still get two solid dominators to build with him.
Erik Jones – It’s hard to tell how much of Jones’ past performances here were talent-driven versus benefitting from the superior equipment he was given for these races by JGR. However, with him starting in 30th, I’m even okay using a lot of him in his RPM equipment. When we’re looking at his recent form overall and how well he has performed in this package at similar tracks, it’s safe to say that Jones makes for a great place differential play, preferably in tournaments. He carries too much risk for cash but does have top 15 finishing upside, which of course, will get him into the winning lineup if he does that.
Daniel Suarez – I liked Daniel Suarez a lot heading into last week’s race up until I saw that he was going to the back of the field for an equipment issue. If we want to look outside of the numbers for a second, it does look as if there is some solid cohesion for Trackhouse racing, especially for a new team. This can lead to this #99 car improving at a much faster rate than we should expect, though if we look at the numbers, we haven’t seen it so far. But it is also clear that he has been one of the most unlucky drivers in the series this season when it comes to wrecks. That’s why he has been finishing, on average, two spots worse than his driver rating would suggest, which further solidifies the bad luck. Also, and this can be because he was with JGR in the past, but this has been one of the better tracks for Suarez. Starting in 27th, there is certainly room for him to move up the field, and this may even make him a better play here than we were last week. Either way, $6600 is too cheap for what we can expect from Suarez.