After the Richmond race, I ambushed several unwitting playoff drivers to join me on the post-race podcast. Kyle Busch, Chase Elliott, Ryan Blaney, Brad Keselowski, Austin Dillon and Kasey Kahne discuss their thoughts on Richmond and the upcoming NASCAR playoffs.
I’m playing DraftKings this season and will be posting my picks here each week. Disclosure: If you want to play and sign up using this link, DraftKings will give my website a commission.
Last race’s results: Played $4 Brake Pad contest. Finished 100th of 3,400. Won $15.
Season results: $80 wagered, $95 won in 20 contests.
This week’s contest: $4 Brake Pad game (single entry).
— Martin Truex Jr. ($10,400): Oof. This was a tough call, because I ultimately had enough money under the salary cap to pick either Truex or Kyle Busch ($10,700) in this spot. I feel strongly Busch will have a great night (he has the best average finish of any driver at Richmond), but Truex should also run up front. So it’s really a toss-up here. I might even swap them at the last minute, as they were one-two in 10-lap average for final practice. Take your pick.
— Denny Hamlin ($10,000): The Toyotas are going to be strong, and I’m going all-in on that theory. My picks will be screwed if I’m wrong. In that sense, it came down to a decision between Hamlin and polesitter Matt Kenseth ($9,000). My tiebreaker for the slot was 10-lap average in final practice: Hamlin was ninth, Kenseth was 19th. But if you think Team Penske will have another strong Richmond performance, you could also pick Brad Keselowski or Joey Logano here (which was tempting).
— Erik Jones ($8,300): Like I said above, Toyotas figure to have a good night. Jones is one of the drivers who has to race his way into the playoff and will need the performance of his life to do so, but it’s possible. He wasn’t great in final practice and didn’t do 10 consecutive laps (he had a 60-minute penalty), but he was decent in first practice (eighth-fastest single lap).
— Dale Earnhardt Jr. ($7,800): My decision at this slot came down to Earnhardt or Kasey Kahne ($7,700), but Earnhardt actually might have a decent car this week (he estimated it was a sixth-to-12th-place car on Friday). He was 13th-fastest in 10-lap average for final practice and is obviously racing for a playoff spot for the final time in his career. Maybe there will be some magic.
— Daniel Suarez ($7,600): Again, it’s all about Toyota for my picks. I just envision them being strong here. If I’m wrong, it’ll cost me. But Suarez was sixth-fastest in 10-lap average for final practice and had the third-fastest single lap, so he may be good.
— David Ragan ($5,500): In order to make this expensive, Toyota-heavy lineup work, I needed a pretty cheap driver. I’m going with Ragan. He was 20th-fastest for 10-lap average in final practice and had the 14th-fastest single lap, which is very respectable. Plus, Ragan has three top-five finishes at Richmond — his best non-plate track.
What happened: NASCAR discovered a major infraction on Joey Logano’s winning car during post-Richmond inspection at its Research and Development Center, resulting in a huge penalty for the No. 22 team. Logano’s victory was ruled “encumbered,” which means he cannot use it to qualify for the NASCAR playoffs this fall, nor does he get the five playoff points for it. In addition, Logano was docked 25 regular season points and crew chief Todd Gordon was suspended for two races and fined $50,000.
What it means: This is the first time since the “encumbered” term entered the NASCAR lingo last fall that it’s really had playoff implications. This will be a key moment if Logano somehow misses the playoffs (unlikely) or turns out to need those five playoff points sometime this fall (more likely). Logano still gets the trophy and is the official winner of the race, just without the playoff benefits.
News value (scale of 1-10): Eight. This is pretty big, but you know what would be bigger? If NASCAR did the right thing and actually stripped the win entirely. Why should an illegal car still be allowed to keep the win? I’ll never truly understand that.
Questions: How much longer can NASCAR refuse to take the win away, especially when the race winner’s car is illegal enough for this severe of penalty? Is there any chance Logano’s championship hopes will be affected by this, or will he just shrug it off? Did NASCAR officials find this by chance, or were they looking for it?
I’m playing DraftKings this season and will be posting my picks here each week. Disclosure: If you want to play and sign up using this link, DraftKings will give my website a commission. Disclosure No. 2: I might be America’s worst daily fantasy player.
Last race’s results: Played the $3 Hot Rod game with a three entry max. Finished 600th out of 7,800 and won $7.
Season results: $15 wagered, $7 won in eight contests.
This week’s contest: $4 entry Brake Pad game with only one entry per player allowed.
— Kyle Busch ($10,600). He’s the most expensive at Richmond for a reason. Busch leads all active drivers in wins (four), top fives (15, including six second-place finishes) and average finish (7.0, more than three positions better than the next-closest driver).
— Denny Hamlin ($9,300). The hometown favorite won last fall’s Richmond race from the pole and has an average finish of 10.1 — second among active drivers. In addition, he was second-fastest for 10-lap averages in final practice.
— Matt Kenseth ($8,800). I’m making a big bet on the Toyotas this weekend, as you can tell. But he starts from the pole, and I’m really looking for a driver who can lead laps (which is so key on short tracks). Since moving to Joe Gibbs Racing, Kenseth has six top-10 finishes in eight races here. He was fourth-fastest in 10-lap averages in final practice.
— Erik Jones ($8,100). As long as he’s relatively cheap, I’m going to keep picking him every week. In Saturday’s first practice, he was fastest in both single-lap and 10-lap average, although he dropped to 14th in best 10-lap average.
— Ricky Stenhouse Jr. ($7,000). So cheap for how well he might run. Worth taking a chance on, especially because he was seventh in 10-lap averages for final practice.
— Aric Almirola ($6,200). If this pick works, it’s just going to purely be dumb luck. Almirola was the top driver left with the unused salary cap money (I ended up using all of it) since I spent so much on the Toyota drivers. He was 20th in both 10-lap average and single lap for final practice.