Saturday Night short-tracking racing ladies and gentleman! Last week produced an exciting finish at Bristol Motor Speedway and this weekend the series heads to Richmond International Raceway for a little racing under the lights before a breather and off-week while drivers and crews celebrate Easter with their families. Kyle Busch had damage on the very first lap and still found a way to get himself into position to win the race at the very end, which he did and now goes for his third straight at Richmond after sweeping both races in 2018.
Back to Bristol, it was an exciting race from the drop of the green flag to the checkered that saw multiple lead changes, contenders making hard contact and a few under-the-radar guys running inside the top 10 almost all day. I had Ryan Blaney to win and at one point he looked like the dominant car leading 158 laps, but with the late call to come to pit road rather than stay out came away with a 4th place finish, still good for that team but they want to break through with a win already this season. For the rest of my DraftKings picks I had Kyle Busch which despite his price and early contact is always a no-brainer especially starting 17th. He led 71 laps and oh, won the race, his brother Kurt went from 27th to the front of the field and a late call to stay out left him in a position to win another Bristol race, but still came away with a runner-up result. Larson & Stenhouse, usual Bristol strong performers had incidents early that caused them to fall off the lead lap. Larson fought all day to get back into the top 20 while Ricky finished the race in 33rd place and over 100 laps down with the time spent working on the car. My sleeper pick Matt DiBenedetto was running up in the top 10 all day and it was a great day for that team and driver at the track, they might’ve been able to score a top 5 if they would have stood out, but still a great day and great value on DraftKings.
This .75 mile Virginia short-track hosts two races per season and last year joined the list of tracks in the playoffs, meaning this weekend is huge for not only drivers searching for their first win and to punch their tickets, but also for those looking ahead at the opening round of the playoffs as Richmond follows Las Vegas and is before the Roval in the Round of 16.
When you look at the odds below, Kyle Busch is the heavy favorite at RIR, and for good measure. Much like Bristol, he owns this racetrack. In his 27 cup races at the Virginia track, he owns a staggering 6.93 driver average with 20 top 10’s, 17 top 5’s, 6 wins and over 1,000 laps led. Teammate Denny Hamlin isn’t too far off as the Virgina native has 3 career wins at the track his last coming in 2016, and has 15 top 10’s, 11 top 5’s and 1,659 laps led in his 25 cup races at the track. Kevin Harvick is also very good at RIR with an average finish of 10.06 in 36 races also capturing 3 career wins with 14 top 5’s and 23 top 10’s at the track. More recently, Joey Logano has been the man to beat at Richmond holding the best average finish of 5.25 with a win. Martin Truex Jr. has led the most laps over the last 2 years with 482 but doesn’t have a win to show for it. Maybe he can break through for his first with a new team on Saturday night.
Toyota Owners 400 Opening Odds:
-Kyle Busch 2/1
-Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski, Martin Truex Jr. 7/1
-Denny Hamlin 10/1
-Ryan Blaney & Chase Elliott 12/1
-Clint Bowyer, Kyle Larson, Aric Almirola 20-1
-Kurt Busch 25-1
-Erik Jones, Jimmie Johnson 30/1
-Daniel Suarez 60-1
-Matt DiBenedetto & Austin Dillon 100-1
DraftKings (Fantasy) Picks:
Kevin Harvick ($12,300): Harvick probably had the best car last week and would’ve contended for the win had it not been for the failed pre-race inspection and ensuring penalties. He’s on the pole for Saturday night and that Black Mobil 1 Ford is mad fast.
Ryan Blaney ($11,100): Blaney is expensive, but so are all the top drivers. He gets the edge here starting 29th with the condensed practice, but that team has still yet to put it together and I’d lean towards the 2 & 22 over the 12 in normal Fantasy Live lineups.
Denny Hamlin ($8,900): This is my sure-fire pick of the week. Any lineup you have this weekend needs Hamlin. That team is running great to begin the season, Denny has 3 wins at his home track and he starts 18th due to the condensed qualifying session. They’re much faster in race trim and I expect them to contend for the win.
Clint Bowyer ($8,600): Bowyer was really good last week at Bristol and looked like the car to beat. He’s great on short-tracks and with that speed starting 21st, he’s in my lineups. Easy call for the No. 14.
Aric Almirola ($7,700): The value here with the No. 10 is tremendous. They wrecked out on lap one last week through no fault of their own, but had ripped off 6 straight top 10’s prior to that. He finished top 5 here last fall and starts 15th, find a spot for Aric!
Ryan Newman ($6,900): Newman finished top 10 last week and will look to build off of it at another short track. His career average finish at Richmond is 13.04 with 18 top 10’s. Oh and he starts 31st on Saturday night.
Ty Dillon ($6,100): Dillon and the No. 13 team scored a top 15 last week and took the first stage. If you’re looking for a value play this week, Dillon is it starting 30th going for three straight top 15’s at short-tracks.
Denny Hamlin: Outside of Kyle Busch, Hamlin has been the most consistent driver this season. He’ll be looking for win No. 3 on the season to match his teammate on Saturday night and with their recent form and how fast that car was in race trim, I’m backing the 11 car for the Richmond night race.