NASCAR Fantasy Fusion: Cook Out 400 at Richmond

When Denny Hamlin got out of his car after winning last week's race at Pocono Raceway, I had to do a double-take,  as the boos made me think of the good old days when Kyle Busch haters made their feelings known. I wondered if Kyle was somewhere thinking the same thing. Anyway, as all things Denny Hamlin this year, the win was controversial and history-making.

It was Denny's 50th Cup Series win, his seventh victory at Pocono, and Toyota's 600th win. Pocono Raceway was where Denny earned his first NASCAR Cup Series win at Pocono in 2006, his rookie year at JGR. He ended up sweeping both Pocono races that year.

As we pull into a literally hot and steamy race weekend in Richmond, I think we can depend on more than just the temperatures boiling over. But the real question is will Kyle Larson really race Denny differently after Denny ran Kyle up into the wall on a late-race restart at Pocono? Stay tuned.

Drivers with Most Top 10s (Last 5 Years):
By Race
All with 5 - Martin Truex Jr., Kevin Harvick, and Kyle Busch
Chase Elliott - 4
All with 3 - Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano, Kyle Larson, Brad Keselowski, and Aric Almirola

By Track*
Kyle Busch- 9
All with 8 - Martin Truex Jr. and Kevin Harvick
Denny Hamlin - 7
Joey Logano - 6
All with 5 - Chase Elliott, Brad Keselowski, Austin Dillon and Kyle Larson 
* Includes nine races from 2018 to 2022. Spring 2020 was not held.

Last Year's Pole Winner: Kyle Larson
Last Year's Race Winner: Kevin Harvick
The Likely Suspects: My Richmond Raceway go-tos include Kevin Harvick, Kyle Larson, Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano, and, Brad Keselowski.
My 2 Cents:  My no-brainer pick this week is a tie between Denny Hamlin and Kyle Larson. My next picks are Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, and Aric Almirola. I'll complete my team with Ryan Newman and Ty Gibbs.

My Final Four: Denny Hamlin, Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Busch, and Ty Gibbs.

Second-Look Driver: This week's second-look driver is Christopher Bell. Christopher Bell has been quietly having a great season. He is currently fourth in the driver's standings 20 points behind Denny Hamlin. Christopher won earlier this year at the Bristol dirt race. He finished runner-up in this race last year. In all he has four Top 5s and five Top 10s at Richmond Raceway with an average finish of 5.667, the second-best among active drivers.
Points to Ponder:
  • Joe Gibbs Racing’s Kyle Busch leads all active drivers in wins at Richmond with six victories (spring 2009, spring 2010, spring 2011, spring 2012, 2018 sweep) as well as in runner-up finishes with seven, and is tied with Kevin Harvick in Top 5s with 18.
  •  Kevin Harvick leads all active drivers in Top 10s at Richmond with 30, followed by Kyle Busch with 27, Denny Hamlin with 21, Joey Logano with 17, and Martin Truex Jr., with 16.
  • Christopher Bell (six series starts) leads all active drivers in the NASCAR Cup Series in average finishing position at Richmond Raceway with a 5.667.
  • Joe Gibbs Racing leads the NASCAR Cup Series in victories at Richmond Raceway with 18, followed by Petty Enterprises with 15 wins. 
  • Denny Hamlin leads all active NASCAR Cup Series drivers in laps led at Richmond Raceway with 2,206 laps led in 33 starts.
Remember, if you're playing Driver Group Game, make your initial picks by 12:50 p.m. ET on Saturday, July 20th, and your final picks by 3 p.m. ET on race day Sunday, July 30th.  
Enjoy the race!

Carol D'Agostino has been playing Fantasy NASCAR for 16 years. She launched  NASCAR Fantasy Fusion for Skirts & Scuffs in October 2011. Each week, Carol pores through statistics and combs through her personal notebooks to arm fans with analysis and picking strategies that will leave their friends wondering how they got so smart. Carol also does race coverage for Skirts & Scuffs at Richmond Raceway and occasionally at her home track, Dover International Speedway. She is also part of the distinguished NASCAR Expert Picks panel at formerly called Fantasy Racing Cheat Sheet.
When she isn’t wielding her fantasy-racing superpowers, you’ll find Carol hammering out a news release or creating a marketing strategy at a small niche public relations firm she founded called Purple Cat or executing downtown revitalization projects for a small town on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.
NASCAR Fantasy Fusion: Cook Out 400 at Richmond NASCAR Fantasy Fusion: Cook Out 400 at Richmond Reviewed by Carol D'Agostino on Friday, July 28, 2023 Rating: 5