NASCAR action returns to the state of Virginia for the first of two straight short-track events, this Sunday’s being at Richmond Raceway. Let’s preview all of the on-track activity and review the information DFS players will need to prepare their NASCAR Fantasy Picks for this weekend’s Toyota Owners 400.
NASCAR DFS Preview: Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond
Toyota Owners 400 Information
- Track: Richmond Raceway
- Location: Richmond, Virginia
- Length: 0.75-mile, D-shaped oval
- Banking: 14 degrees in the turns
- Race Distance: 400 laps (80/235/400)
- Dominator Points:
- DraftKings: 100 – laps led, 180 – fastest laps
- FanDuel: 40 – laps led
- Past winners: Martin Truex Jr. (Fall-2021), Alex Bowman (Spring-2021)
- Betting favorite: Chase Elliott +800 (BetMGM)
- Entry List: All 36 Chartered Teams including AJ Allmendinger (16), Garrett Smithley (15), Landon Cassill (77), and Greg Biffle (44) for 37 entrants in total
- Weather: High of 64, mostly cloudy
- Watch: FOX
- Listen: MRN (MRN.com, NASCAR.com, NASCAR Sirius/ XM Channel 90)
On Track Schedule (All Times Eastern)
- Saturday, April 2
- 10:30 a.m.: practice
- 11:05 a.m.: qualifying
- Sunday, April 3
- 3:30 p.m.: green flag
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NASCAR DFS Preview: Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond
Through six races, NASCAR has held events at a 2.5-mile superspeedway (Daytona), a non-drafting two-mile superspeedway (Auto Club), a regular intermediate 1.5-mile venue (Las Vegas), a one-mile flatter oval (Phoenix), a drafting intermediate track (Atlanta) and a 3.426-mile road course (Circuit of the Americas). Basically, every type of track that could be raced at in the Generation Seven car has been attempted, including the 0.25-mile bullring inside the Los Angeles Coliseum. For this weekend, NASCAR takes its aim back to the short-track scene for 400 laps around the 0.75-mile-long D-shaped oval in Richmond, Virginia.
When one gives a quick look over the Richmond RaceSheets, three drivers immediately jump off the page: Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, and Martin Truex Jr. – coincidentally, all three veterans of Joe Gibbs Racing. Over the past three years, or five races, at Richmond, these three drivers account for three victories, 10 top-five finishes and 255/400 laps led on average. Another name does pique interest in Brad Keselowski but his season has gotten so far off the rails with his new joint venture with Jack Roush that it is hard to envision Keselowski finding his old form at Richmond. Regardless, if the Generation Seven car were anything close to what was raced last season, picking betting favorites and preemptive potential lap leaders would be a cinch.
However, NASCAR in 2022 is not NASCAR from 2021. While the old guard is certainly not struggling, as Chase Elliott leads the driver’s points standings, Kyle Larson has a victory, there has been a noticeable lack of competition on their part. Especially, for older drivers who do not stray from the Cup scene into Xfinity, Trucks or other types of racing (modifieds, midgets, sprint, etc.). Through these six races, the story of 2022 has been the younger crowd; Erik Jones at Auto Club Speedway, Tyler Reddick and Ross Chastain at Las Vegas, Chase Briscoe at Phoenix, William Byron at Atlanta and Chastain again at COTA. Meanwhile, veterans like Keselowski and Hamlin seem to be stuck in a perpetual mire, a prediction that Hamlin made in the preseason that has become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Looking Back to Phoenix
If 2022 data does matter more than what has happened over the past five races at Richmond, then the race to dig into is Phoenix, as it is the closest corollary track to Richmond of this year’s six events. Phoenix just happens to be the only race where rostering the pole sitter was the correct decision in DFS. Granted, Ryan Blaney won the pole at a track that he has historically performed well at, but he was able to do what no other pole sitter has done in 2022 – lead the bulk of laps (143/312). Elliott performed well too. After starting 19th, he raced his way to the lead for 50 laps before falling towards the end and ending his day in 11th despite sitting in second place with 31 laps to go.
The surprise of that day was winner Briscoe, who led the second-most laps (101) and held onto the lead despite multiple late restarts. What should be more surprising for Briscoe is the fact that he has publicly stated his disgust with this track in the past. He had little success there in the Xfinity Series. However, on that Sunday in Arizona, Briscoe was able to make the most of a car that showed plenty of speed in practice and continued to run fast during the race, especially towards the last quarter of the race as his car ranked first in green-flag speed. By the end of the day, the top four drivers all ranked top 10 in average green flag speed rankings while also showing top 10 speed during the Saturday practice session.
Thus the question remains should the top drivers from Phoenix be on DFS players’ radar (Briscoe, Reddick, Blaney, Chastain, Elliott), or should more focus be on who shows up to Saturday’s practice session with top 10 speed? Chances are the answer to that question is both, as in the same drivers who show up with top-tier speed week in and week out will be the ones to top the charts on Saturday.
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