Following Kevin Harvick‘s victory at Darlington, NASCAR makes the quick jog north to Virginia. The second race of the first round of the playoffs commences under the lights of Richmond for the Federated Auto Parts 400. Therefore, let’s dig into this week’s NASCAR DFS preview for Richmond. However, first we need to recap the playoff standings following the Southern 500.
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Let’s be honest, I’m still tilting. I know you are too. Darlington was tough enough just trying to nail the right combo of dominators.
However, to see those two (Chase Elliott, Martin Truex Jr.) tangle up with one another late and finish near the 20s was a cherry on top of the NASCAR DFS pie for Sunday evening. But whatever potential money was to be won on my part fails to compare to what happened to their playoff prospects.
|MARTIN TRUEX JR.||6||16||16|
Truex and Elliott now sit fewer than 20 points above the 12th-place cut-off. That perhaps is not such a big deal now, but it could become one in the second round. Austin Dillon made a big jump with his second-place finish, now sitting eighth in playoff points. Considering how his evening started, it’s crazy to think the No. 3 team was able to turn their evening around. They literally started the race with right side and left side tires mixed up.
On the other hand, Ryan Blaney and the No. 12 team was not so fortunate. After being forced to start at the rear, Blaney could never overcome track position. Now Blaney sits tied with Matt DiBenedetto 17 points to the negative for the final transfer spot. Meanwhile, three of the Stewart-Haas Racing drivers not named Kevin Harvick are all hovering around the 12th spot.
Prepping for Richmond
This is going to be an odd week for research and analysis. One, a lot of people are going to be under-prepared because the NFL season starts Thursday. So many people are going to be wrapped up in setting up lineups for their season-long NFL leagues that NASCAR DFS is going to the back burner. Add in the bulk of lineups players will be doing on Sunday for the NFL main slate, and NASCAR just might be an afterthought to most casual players.
Second, Richmond is its own unique snowflake. No other track in the Cup Series circuit has the measurements of Richmond: three-quarters of a mile. If looking for corollary tracks, you could consider Martinsville, but it’s shorter and flatter. You might also consider the New Hampshire race from July. However, Loudon is a mile in length and has progressive banking. In terms of apples, New Hampshire is a better comparison than Martinsville.
Our usual saving grace for Richmond is that we have a spring race to help gauge expectations for the fall race. But the spring race was canceled due to COVID-19 and given to another venue. That leaves us looking at races from 2017-2019, which of course incorporates races that didn’t have the 750-horsepower package. While I will be using those races, I think our best bet is to see which tire package Goodyear uses and see where else they used that package.
If you’ve followed a theme in 2020 with the 750-horsepower package, it’s that this short track package races more like the car from 2018 than last year’s package. Therefore, let’s look back at those two night races to gauge expectations for this Saturday night.
This was the ninth race of the 2018 season, commencing on April 21. Truex started on the pole leading the first 38 laps. He would go on to lead three other times that evening for a grand total of 121 laps. While those 121 laps were the most laps led by any driver that evening, they were by far the fewest number of laps led by the top lap leader in any Richmond race during the Generation 6 era.
In total, there were 16 lead changes among seven different drivers. The top three lap leaders all started within the first six positions leading a total of 311 laps. However, eventual winner Kyle Busch led just 32 laps, matching his starting position that evening.
The 28th race of the 2018 season and second of the playoffs. Harvick started on the pole and led the first 40 laps before losing the lead to Truex. Despite finishing second and holding an average running position of second, Harvick would never see the lead for the remainder of the evening. Those 63 laps Truex would go on to lead were part of his night-leading 163 laps. Oddly enough, after losing the lead shortly after the halfway point (203), Truex would only go to lead one more lap the entire evening.
Following a wreck-filled Sunday afternoon at Las Vegas, Richmond was a quiet evening with just one real-life caution — a single-car accident on lap 327. This in turn led to long green flag runs — 94.2 laps on average with 16 lead changes among eight drivers. Kyle Busch would go on to win that night after leading 92 laps, none of which occurred until after lap 287. This would set up a sequence where Busch and Brad Keselowski traded the lead before Busch set in on lap 364.
One of the constants we saw in both 2018 races that went away in 2019 is the number of dominators. Both 2018 races saw four drivers lead 10% or more of the race. Meanwhile, in 2017 and 2018 races, that number dwindled to three. So for your most important NASCAR DFS decision, dominators, you could possibly expand that number to four. At a minimum, we know we’ll be looking for two on both DraftKings and FanDuel. However, with 400 laps, we could very well be looking for four.
In the Spring 2018 race, the optimal lineup included three dominators (sans Truex) and Busch. Had Truex not lost 10 positions in the final laps of that race after leading 121 laps, then that optimal probably only has two dominators plus Busch. Interestingly enough, the fall 2018 optimal was just a two-dominator build. The drivers who led the third- and fourth-most laps failed to be optimal based on FFPK and cheaper drivers starting in the 20s and finishing in the top 10.
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