Short-tracks have always been a fan favorite on the NASCAR schedule, and this weekend at Richmond International Raceway is certainly no exception. One of the most unique and quirky tracks on the circuit, RIR was designed for side-by-side racing and lots of passing. Many drivers use this event as a practice for the race here in September, which is the last race before the Chase. But no matter how each team will look at this race, the Capital City 400 is sure to be a thrilling crash-fest, much like last year.
Located in Richmond, Virginia, this is the second-oldest facility on the schedule. While there has been a regular annual date here since 1953, the track opened in 1946, behind only Indianapolis Motor Speedway for that title. RIR is currently a .750 mile oval, but it has had two prior configurations, at .500 and .542 miles. Banking in the turns is a relatively flat 14 degrees, the curved front straightaway is just a tick over 8 degrees, and the backstretch is 2 degrees. Overall, those dimensions make this one of the flattest track on the Cup schedule. As I said before, this is a track perfect for passing, with the surface 60 feet wide. That is wider than most tracks under 1 mile! Pit road speed limit on this tricky oval is 45 mph.
One thing to watch for Saturday night is for bumping and banging. In fact, big crashes happen quite often on this small track. Jeff Burton on the hectic racing: “I’ve never seen anything like the 14-car incident last year. ... Everyone is just so close in the Sprint Cup Series and it is so competitive. Most of these restarts are so aggressive and when things happen on the restarts, it causes major pileups.”
When making choices for your Fantasy teams, look at past stats from short tracks and even a few flat tracks, such as Phoenix International Speedway. Among the front-runners you should have on your team are Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, and Jimmie Johnson. First of all, Hamlin is the driver I think everyone should have on every one of their teams this week. On top of winning last week at Kansas, he's had tremendous luck here, with an average finish of 7th and a pair of wins. In his worst race where he finished 24th, he led 381 laps, but had a flat tire. Kevin Harvick is also a good choice, with a pair of wins, including a victory last fall in which he led 202 laps. Along with 14 top tens, he just has a good sense of when and where to make moves on smaller tracks like this. Jimmie Johnson has seemed to break out of his slump as of late, having another consistent run last week. At Richmond, he has had even better luck, also with three wins and five top 5s. Since 2007 when you subtract the three races that he’s had problems his average finish is 5th.
Those to stay away from include drivers such as Paul Menard and Bobby Labonte. Thankfully for most Fantasy owners there are no truly bad picks among the normal front-runners in the series. Paul Menard has struggled here throughout his career, having finished in the top 25 only once and that was in his first race back in 2007. He has an average finish of 28th, good enough for only 51st of all drivers who have competed since 1975. Bobby Labonte is not a very smart pick either, as his last top twenty finish was back in 2008. Labonte isn’t exactly the best qualifier at Richmond either. Since 2005 he’s only started in the top ten once and his average starting position is 29.4.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup series has a typical Saturday night racing schedule for this weekend. Two practices take place on Friday, the first at noon and the second immediately after at 2:30pm. Qualifying is on Speed that evening at 5:30pm. FOX's broadcast the Richmond Capital City is For Lovers 400 (400 laps/300 miles) begins Saturday evening at 7:00pm. The green flag is scheduled to drop at approximately 7:46pm. All times ET.