Well, after last weekend’s wreck-fest at Bristol Motor Speedway, it’s safe to say that, in most leagues, I’m off to the worst start in my fantasy NASCAR career. I guess there’s only one way to go now: up. And it all starts this weekend at Richmond International Raceway. This is another short track race for the Sprint Cup drivers but we shouldn’t see nearly as many wrecks as last week because Richmond drives more like an intermediate track. Once again having a good handling race car will be as important (if not more) than having a lot of horsepower under the hood.
Fantasy Sleepers for Richmond
Danica Patrick – I can’t believe I’m saying this…Danica Patrick has impressed me thus far in 2015. I absolutely cannot stand the hype surrounding the only female racer in NASCAR’s top series but you have to give her credit: Danica currently sits 13th in the points standings and ahead of drivers such as Paul Menard, Carl Edwards, and her owner, Tony Stewart. We’re eight races into the 2015 season now so it’s not like she’s just had a fluke run or two, either. With her 9th-place finish at Bristol last week, Danica now has three straight finishes of 16th or better and that includes her season-best result of 7th at Martinsville a month ago. Yes, you read the right: in two of the (arguably) toughest races of the season thus far, Patrick has ended up 7th and 9th. Here at Richmond, she has amassed an average finish of just 27.3 over four career starts but Danica ended up 16th here last fall. She knows how to stay on the lead lap in most races and that allows the driver of the #10 Chevrolet to crank out top 20s and sometimes top 15s with ease. In The Showcase, Danica will receive 11 handicap points for Richmond, which is a great value if you’re willing to take the risk and put the #10 on your roster. We typically don’t see many people selecting Danica Patrick, though, and I’m guessing that won’t change on Saturday night, either.
Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. – Another driver that had a great night at Bristol last Sunday was Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. Like I said, horsepower isn’t as important at places like Bristol (and this week at Richmond) so organizations like Roush-Fenway Racing have less of a disadvantage on race day. Here at Richmond, Ricky started off strong during his rookie campaign, posting finishes of 16th and 10th in his first two Cup starts at this track. He followed that up with a 38th-place finish in the 2014 running of this event and was 26th here last fall. The good news? He started 7th in the latter event, so it’s not like he was bad all weekend. In addition to his 4th-place finish last week, Stenhouse now has four finishes of 15th or better over the last five Sprint Cup races. In many leagues, that’s some excellent value for a guy in Stenhouse’s tier in the fantasy world. In The Showcase, the driver of the #17 Ford will receive 10 handicap points for the Toyota Owners 400, which makes Ricky a solid sleeper pick if you think he can pull off another top 10 finish on Saturday night.
Aric Almirola – Here’s an across-the-board sleeper pick that everyone can get behind this weekend. Looking at the 2015 season as a whole thus far, the driver of the #43 Ford has been very, very good. And he’s not getting the recognition for it, which is one exact definition of a sleeper. We’re eight races into 2015 and Almirola has just one finish worse than 19th–a 26th-place effort at Las Vegas. He wound up 13th at Bristol last Sunday night which makes it three races in the last four that he has finished between 11th and 13th. Here at Richmond, Aric finished 10th last September and that’s his second top 10 in his last four starts at this track. His worst finish over that four-race span is 20th, by the way. In The Showcase, Almirola gets 8 handicap points on Saturday night, which is pretty good value for the top 10 potential that the #43 Ford has. If Aric can qualify up front for this year’s Toyota Owners 400, fantasy owners should definitely keep him in the back of their mind.