Short tracks are often considered wild cards.
The close confines of a course less than a mile in length often means drivers are in traffic for almost the entire race. Richmond Raceway is a little different, however. The sweeping frontstretch makes it behave more like an unrestricted, intermediate speedway. Of course, after last week’s carnage at Las Vegas Motor Speedway – that is not much of a consolation.
Add in the desperation factor for many of the playoff contenders after poor South Point 400 finishes and this week could be just as chaotic as last. Most experts think the Charlotte Roval could be even worse with several choke points predicted to be the scene of multi-car wrecks.
Players and drivers who survive the first three weeks of the playoffs, could find a much easier path to Homestead-Miami Speedway than originally predicted.
1. Joey Logano
Team Penske has been on a roll, but it's Logano's turn to win. He enters the weekend with nine consecutive top-10 results that includes two victories. The most recent of these came in spring 2017.
2. Brad Keselowski
It's hard to argue with three consecutive wins. Keselowski has not always had the best car in that span of races, but strategy and the strength of his team have come through.
3. Kyle Larson
Larson has been incredibly strong in the past two spring races. He finished second in 2016 and won last year's edition of this race. In the spring Toyota Owners 400, he finished seventh.
4. Kevin Harvick
Harvick should easily rebound this week at Richmond. In his last eight starts there, he has finished in the top five six times. His latest of three wins came in 2013 during the spring.
5. Denny Hamlin
With his back against the wall, this is Hamlin's best opportunity to win and secure a spot in Round 2 of the playoffs. He enters the weekend with six straight finishes of sixth or better at Richmond.
6. Kyle Busch
Busch won at Richmond this spring and is perfectly capable of doing so again. That victory is his only top-five in the last four Richmond races, however.
7. Kurt Busch
Busch was happy with the consistency this team has shown, but now that he's finished outside the top 20 in a playoff race, the No. 41 is going to have dig deeper than placing sixth to ninth.
8. Chase Elliott
Elliott has gotten progressively better on his track in the past two seasons. His second-place finish in the spring could be the precursor to another win if he plays the strategy right.
9. Erik Jones
Jones' playoff hopes hinge on just how quickly he can rebound from last week's accident and last-place finish. He had nine top-10s in the 11 races that preceded that
10. Martin Truex Jr.
While he made a strong statement last week with a third in the South Point 400, that is the first time in the last six oval races that he earned a top-10.
11. Clint Bowyer
This is a good week to take a risk on Bowyer. He enters the weekend with a five-race streak of top-10s on short tracks.
12. Ryan Blaney
Team Penske swept the top five last week at Vegas for the first time in their history. It's unlikely that will happen this week because Blaney has never earned a top-15 at Richmond.
13. Aric Almirola
He got off to a decent start on short tracks this spring with back-to-back top-15s. Unfortunately, Almirola's last two attempts were outside that mark with a worst of 31st at Bristol in August.
14. Austin Dillon
There are winners and losers in every scenario. The carnage last week at Vegas has given Dillon a chance to advance to Round 2 if he can stay out of trouble for two more weeks.
15. Ryan Newman
Keep a close eye on Newman this week because he could earn a third consecutive top-10 if he stays out of trouble in the Federated Auto Parts 400.
16. Jimmie Johnson
Even when it appears things might go his way, Johnson's luck is just … bad. Last week, he deserved a better finish than 22nd, but he couldn't avoid one of the many accidents that impacted playoff contenders.
17. Daniel Suarez
Suarez's appeal in the NASCAR Fantasy Live game comes from the fact that he is the only non-playoff driver in an organization as strong as Joe Gibbs Racing.
18. Jamie McMurray
He was well on his way to a third consecutive top-10 last week before a cut tire sent McMurray into the wall. His misfortune also eliminated one of the favorites to reach Round 3 of the playoffs.
19. Paul Menard
With his 10th-place finish last week at Vegas, Menard earned back-to-back top-10s for the first time since 2014 - a span of nearly 150 races.
20. Chris Buescher
Since Watkins Glen, Buescher has quietly been one of the top fantasy values with four top-20s and a 25th in the last five races.
21. Matt Kenseth
Kenseth will not earn maximum points at any level this week, but he might be a decent value under the right circumstances. He has finished in the top-20 in four of the last five oval races he started.
22. Alex Bowman
Most of Bowman's results on ovals since Watkins Glen have hovered around the 20th-place mark. That will not be enough to get him into Round 2 of the playoffs.
24. David Ragan
He won't anchor many rosters, but Ragan could be useful if he fits a salary cap niche. His last 10 oval track races ended with an average finish of 23.2.
25. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Stenhouse has finished in the 30s in his last two attempts this season. It's time for this team to start making preparations for 2019.
26. Ty Dillon
Dillon is a decent value on short tracks - eight of his 11 starts in the Cup series ended in results of 26th or better with a career best of 15th at Bristol.
27. Michael McDowell
McDowell lost his opportunity to capitalize on last week's high attrition at Vegas when he was swept into a late race accident.
28. Ross Chastain
Chastain is riding high after last week's career-first Xfinity win and 20th-place finish in the Cup series. He should be a better value than normal with that momentum.
29. Landon Cassill
Finishing 18th last week in Vegas, Cassill earned his first top-20 in his last 30 starts. With some luck, he could get a top-30 this week.
30. AJ Allmendinger
A 14th last week at Vegas was nice, but fantasy owners don't want to lose sight of the fact that was only his sixth top-15 in 27 races this year.
31, Matt DiBenedetto
In the last five races this year, DiBenedetto has scored three top-25s. His other two results were at the very back of the pack, however.
32. William Byron
It is difficult to handicap Byron much higher this week since three of his last five attempts were 35th or worse.
33. Cole Custer
Custer will make his first Cup start on a short track this week. In two previous tries, he has finished in the mid-20s both times driving for Rick Ware.
34. Corey LaJoie
Last week, LaJoie earned his best-ever finish on an unrestricted track and the second-best of his career on any course type with a 16th in the South Point 400.
35. Bubba Wallace
Four of Wallace's last seven races ended with him on the hook. Luck is unpredictable, but fantasy players have got to be a little concerned.
36. Jeffrey Earnhardt
In the past five races, Earnhardt has failed to finish in alternating events. If the pattern holds, one can expect another DNF from this team.
37. Gray Gaulding
Racing for Rick Ware this week will be the third different team for Gaulding on a short track in the Cup series in 2018. Communication is critical between driver and team, so use him only if he is one of the cheapest drivers in a cap game.
38. Timmy Hill
Hill has made nine previous starts in the Cup series on short tracks. In his last six, he has earned positive place-differential points with a best of 28th at Bristol in spring 2017.
39. Joey Gase
Gase's only other start at Richmond ended in an accident and last place finish in 2015. There is not enough data to support starting him.
40. Alon Day
After making a pair of road course starts for this team, Day is getting a shot on an oval. It will be interesting to see if his skills translate to this short track.