Following Denny Hamlin‘s timely first win of the 2021 NASCAR Cup Season, the Series heads to Richmond for Saturday night racing under the lights. Let’s recap NASCAR’s tangle with “The Lady in Black,” the playoff picture and what to expect for NASCAR DFS for this Saturday evening in the Federated Auto Parts 400. Below are some of the best NASCAR DFS tips for this week’s race.
NASCAR DFS Federated Auto Parts 400 Preview
Hamlin Cashes in at Darlington
After a regular season with no victories, Hamlin found an opportune time to finally celebrate in Victory Circle. With one of the stronger vehicles on Sunday, Hamlin led four times for a total of 147 laps. More importantly for Hamlin, thanks to a caution in the midst of the final set of green-flag pit stops, Hamlin was able to inherit the lead on Lap 299 and lead the final 69 laps. However, Hamlin inexplicably slowed down in the final turn of Lap 367, setting himself up to lose the lead and the race. Luckily enough for Hamlin, Kyle Larson gave himself one last Darlington stripe as Hamlin was slowing up into turn-four.
Had Larson not faltered at the same time as Hamlin, Larson could have easily maneuvered around Hamlin or at the very worst, hit him with momentum and punted him into the inside wall of the front stretch. After losing the Xfinity race due to a late pit road penalty, winning the Southern 500 was sweet redemption for Hamlin and the No. 11 squad.
Larson’s night started slowly as it appeared the No. 5 team had opted for a setup suited for the evening portion of the race. On Lap 122 Larson grabbed the lead from Hamlin and would lead 156 laps, the most on the night. If not for Chase Elliott‘s cut-down tire, and subsequent dance with the wall, chances are high Larson retains the lead following pit stops and makes good on his outright odds across the betting market.
Despite his fourth-place finish, Martin Truex Jr. was a bit of a letdown on Sunday. After dominating this race in the Spring, and last year’s edition of the Southern 500, Truex turned in his quietest top-five of 2021, essentially playing no role in the fight for the lead. Despite turning in the fourth-most fastest laps, Truex’s issue was his average running position of 11th. Getting stuck in traffic is a death knell as per a driver’s chances to be a lap leader. Truex, his setup, or some combination of the two just never set himself up to overcome this.
Playoffs Post Darlington
Via Hamlin’s win, he is now locked into the second round of the playoffs. With “money in the bank”, Hamlin is free to play with his setup at Richmond. It is conjecture, but the No. 11 team could use Richmond as a testing ground for future setups at Martinsville and Phoenix – the final two events of the season. With his second-place finish and the most stage points of anyone on Sunday, Larson now sits 80 points above the 12th-place cut-off and 44 points above Truex.
Scrolling down the list, the story of where a driver sits in the playoff standings is whether they found the wall at Darlington or not. The foursome of Alex Bowman, Kyle Busch, William Byron and Michael McDowell all found the wall at different points throughout the race. Now all four sit below the cut-off line, even Bowman who won three times this season, and Busch who graced Victory Circle twice. One bad result at Darlington and all five drivers begin to find themselves in a hole.
Bowman and Busch’s deficit is barely a blip and William Byron is more than capable of erasing nine points this Saturday. However, Michael McDowell has a steeper hill to climb and is going to have to max out his No. 38 over the next two Saturdays if he has any hopes of competing in round two.
Toyota Owners 400
The second race, in the first round of the playoffs, gets underway this Saturday at Richmond. This will be the Cup Series’ second venture to Richmond this season. In the previous race, back in April, the story of the day was the dominance of the front row. In a clean race, especially compared to the week prior at Martinsville, Truex (first) and Hamlin (second) took advantage of their starting positions, clean air, pit stalls, and setups to put a chokehold on this event. The duo combined to lead 314 of 400 laps with Hamlin accounting for 207 of those laps.
Joey Logano had ascended to the lead on Lap 345 and was potentially on his way to victory before Kevin Harvick spun on Lap 382. After the restart, Hamlin took the lead only to lose it on Lap 391 to Alex Bowman who picked up his first win of the season. Although Hamlin, as well as lapped traffic, made the path to victory a bit more interesting on the final lap.
Although this race was months ago, it is worth noting that the drivers who performed the best at Phoenix and Martinsville, had dominant cars at Richmond. Logano led the most laps at Phoenix, finished second there, and then came to Martinsville and finished in sixth. Hamlin finished third at both Phoenix and Martinsville, before leading the most laps at Richmond and finishing second there. Truex led the second-most laps at Phoenix and won there, followed up at Martinsville with another victory, and was an early contender at Richmond before a pit road penalty nearly sealed his fate.
The lesson to take here is all three of these tracks were venues that were going to pop back up in the playoffs. Namely, Martinsville and Phoenix would be the two tracks to close out the 2021 playoffs. It makes sense that focusing detail on these venues, in this package, would be of utmost importance to title contenders. Performing well and winning races in the low-horsepower/high-downforce package is great. Yet that package is what the championship will be decided in. Regardless, ask Busch about 550-horsepower performance. Despite two victories in that package, he is currently out of the playoffs thanks to one wreck this past Sunday evening.
NASCAR DFS expectations for the Federated Auto Parts 400
In 16 races at Richmond, since 2013 when the Gen-Six car was released, only three times has a top-two lap leader emerged from beyond the ninth starting position. Compound this with all the playoff drivers starting in the top 16, and it is a near-lock that Saturday’s potential dominators are coming from upfront. With the starting grid getting based on Darlington results, DFS players can rightly assume that drivers starting up front, who just excelled in another 750-horsepower package race, are going to be the top contenders at Richmond on Saturday.
Lineup construction-wise, Richmond is going to lend itself to being a two-dominator build across both DraftKings and FanDuel. This was the picture from the Spring and if Darlington is any foreshadowing of things to come, cars do behave a bit different in the late afternoon compared to the evening. Someone may be well equipped to run in the fading heat of the day while someone else vaults to the front when the moon is over Richmond. Three dominator builds are on the periphery, but the viability of those builds will be dependent on how both sites structure salaries this weekend.
Thanks for reading to the end of this article! If you appreciate this free content and want to see more of it every day, you can help us out by sharing this article on social media!
Looking for more NASCAR DFS picks content? We have loads of articles, data, DraftKings and FanDuel cheat sheets and more on the Awesemo NASCAR DFS home page.
📽️ NASCAR DFS Picks: Live Before Lock Show for the Bass Pro Shops Night Race at Bristol | 9/18 at 3 p.m. ET
NASCAR DFS Ownership Projections for DraftKings and FanDuel
NASCAR Top Drivers Tool – DFS Dominators on FanDuel and DraftKings NASCAR DFS
NASCAR DFS Projections for DraftKings and FanDuel
NASCAR DFS Rankings for DraftKings and FanDuel
DraftKings NASCAR Cheat Sheet: Bass Pro Shops Night Race DFS Picks | 9/18
FanDuel NASCAR Cheat Sheet: Bass Pro Shops Night Race DFS Picks | 9/18
Gas-N-Go: NASCAR DFS Picks for the Bass Pro Shops Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on DraftKings + FanDuel