Last week was a costly one for several playoff drivers. Since they were also the most expensive drivers in the field, it was costly for fantasy players as well. Kyle Busch, William Byron, Chase Elliott, and Alex Bowman each commanded a top-10 salary cap and all of them earned negative points. There is a reason Darlington Raceway is called “Too Tough to Tame”.
The Southern 500 is one of the reasons players set multiple rosters. The same kind of carnage can happen on a short track, but Richmond Raceway is not just any short track. This course has elements of a speedway as well, and while multi-car accidents are not impossible, they are a rarer than Bristol Motor Speedway, where the field heads next week.
In the Toyota Owners 400 this spring, only two drivers earned negative points and they were both priced well under $6k. There were a few bad bargains with price tags above the $8,333-average-per-driver mark, but mostly it was profitable to sign the marquee drivers.
Kevin Harvick ($9,400 this spring) earned 7.95 points, Kyle Larson ($10,300) earned 17.5, and Chase Elliott ($9,700) earned only 22 points and they were not worth the price. But the other two Hendrick mates Alex Bowman ($8,800/82.65) and William Byron ($8,500/36.7) deserved their roster spots.
Richmond is a rhythm track, so many of the same drivers who ran well this spring, will do so again.
Group A: Most Expensive (>=$10,000)
Denny Hamlin ($10,400)
There was a lot of optimism surrounding Hamlin this spring. He was coming off one of the best seasons of his career and heading to his home track, so the DraftKings managers made him the third-most expensive driver in the field with a cap of $11,000. If you managed the lower-middle and bottom tiers effectively, he was worth it because he earned the most points in the Toyota Owners 400 (133.8). This week, he’s $600 cheaper – largely because of his regular season struggles – and he’s coming off a win at Darlington. He is worth starting.
Martin Truex Jr. ($10,200)
The cap managers were even more enthusiastic about Truex this spring. His cap of $11,400 was the second-highest, but he earned nearly 40 points less. The value was not as great, but this week he is more than $1,000 cheaper and has the potential to bank the same number of points (96.05). If you build your roster from the bottom up and have enough money to take both Truex and Hamlin, go for it. If you can only afford one, Hamlin is the better value.
Group B: (Between $9,900 and $8,000)
Ryan Blaney ($8,600)
Team Penske has been strong on 450 horsepower engines and this week, NBC analyst Steve Letarte suggested you go all in on the organization. Joey Logano is too expensive to make him a good value in DraftKings and Brad Keselowski has been too erratic to bank on, but Blaney has a little momentum on his side with his two wins in the last regular season races. Last week, he also experienced trouble with brake fade that cost him a lap, but it was late enough in the race that he earned enough points to stay in the top five.
Kevin Harvick ($9,100)
We’re sticking with Harvick this week. Winning might still be a little bit in the future, but he is gradually starting to look like the driver we saw last year – and slowly but certainly the marquee drivers are getting back into their rhythm. Harvick gained nine spots in the points last week. Part of that was because of the struggles for the other drivers, but mostly it was because he ran well. His sole focus at the moment is on advancing to the next round and that will force him to make calculated, smart decisions.
Group C: (Between $7,900 and $6,500)
Aric Almirola ($7,500)
Almirola is embroiled in a fierce battle for 12th in the points. He currently sits in 11th, one marker behind Elliott and three ahead of 13th-place Bowman. He will spend a big part of the Federated Auto 400 looking over his shoulder, but like his teammate Harvick, Almirola cannot afford to make a mistake. This team will not gamble and that will keep them from having a legitimate shot at Victory Lane. On the other hand, it could produce a solid top-10 like it did in his last two Richmond attempts. Almirola finished eighth last fall and was sixth this spring.
Tyler Reddick ($6,600)
Reddick does not have the type of Richmond record that would normally recommend him. He has not yet cracked the top 10 in two starts and finished 20th this spring. Last fall, he was 11th – and he has the same motivation to run a conservative, solid race as the Stewart-Haas Racing title contenders. Reddick has been part of the Power Rankings top 10 [https://www.nbcsportsedge.com/edge/article/power-rankings/power-ranking-after-darlington-2] for nearly two-thirds of the season and that is because he makes smart decisions.
Group D: (Less than or equal to $6,500)
Ryan Newman ($6,000)
Newman is a solid short track racer and Richmond has been kind in the past. In terms of career average finishes on tracks where he has more than a handful of starts, it ranks second behind Darlington. His last two efforts there did not produce good results, however; Newman finished 23rd in this race last year and was 30th in the spring. He swept the top 10 in 2019, however, and has .611 top-15 average on short tracks over the course of the last 18 races.
Bubba Wallace ($6,300)
There are not a lot of good options in Group D this week, so instead of looking at raw stats, the decision needs to be made on the strength of the team. Nearly everyone at this level is lightly-funded. But that is not true of 23XI Racing and now that it’s been announced they will expand to two cars in 2022, even more resources are likely to get poured into the organization. Wallace is capable of earning a finish in the teens, and that is about all one can expect for this price point.
The top-10 points’ earners from the 2021 Goodyear 400 were: Denny Hamlin (133.8), Martin Truex, Jr. (96.05), Alex Bowman (82.65), Joey Logano (69.65), Aric Almirola (54), Christopher Bell (48.95), Brad Keselowski (46.2), Kurt Busch (46.15), Kyle Busch (43.2), and Matt DiBenedetto (42.45).
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