NASCAR Daily Fantasy Helper: Federated Auto Parts 400

If you are looking for an action-packed way to get your sports fix, NASCAR may be a great avenue to explore. Far from just driving in circles, some of the world's best compete nearly every weekend from February to November on tracks across America. NASCAR drivers are scored ultimately based on how they finish in the race, how many spots they advance from their starting position, and how many laps they finish and lead. Avoiding drivers who crash out of the race is a must, of course!

Here at numberFire, we've always got you covered for everything NASCAR DFS. Our track preview breaks down this week's venue, and we also have The Heat Check Fantasy Podcast, where Jim Sannes breaks down his favorite plays for Sunday's slate. Jim also has a current form and odds breakdown to review how NASCAR's best drivers are performing recently analytically.

A headache for daily fantasy owners took place last weekend at the Southern 500, when the two dominant cars of the night, Chase Elliott and Martin Truex Jr., crashed racing for the lead late, and that allowed the star of 2020 to add another sticker above his driver's window. Kevin Harvick led the last 32 laps and added his eighth win of 2020, punching hit ticket into NASCAR's next playoff round, although Harvick's spot was never in much doubt after such a dominant year. The next ticket will hoped to be punched by Elliott, Truex Jr., or any of the other 13 of NASCAR's playoff drivers on Saturday night at Richmond Raceway in Virginia.

This race's lineup was determined using NASCAR's weighted formula that combines owner points, last Sunday's finish at Darlington, and the fastest lap of each driver in that race, which puts Harvick on the pole for this event. All 16 playoff drivers will start in the first 16 spots, as will be the case for all playoff participants moving forward. Since pit stalls were selected solely by last week's finishing order, Harvick also has the premier pit stall choice for this weekend.

With 400 laps in this event, finding two -- or possibly three -- cars that can lead laps will be the optimal strategy for the event. Passing is fairly difficult, and tire wear is enormous, so place differential is a risky endeavor to look for considering the drivers in the back could easily be lapped in the first stage.

With that, let's preview the Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond.

High-Salaried Drivers

Martin Truex Jr. ($13,000): "MTJ" checks just about every box you could ask for in fantasy this weekend. He's trying to rebound after a week of controversy after wrecking Chase Elliott late last week. Truex swept both events at Richmond last year, leading a combined 295 laps in the two events. Those are his first two career wins at the track, but it was only a matter of time given that he has now led more than 100 laps in five straight races at this 0.75-mile oval. Given that he was the dominant car last week, has so much success at this track, and won at a short track earlier this year at Martinsville, Truex is the clear top-tier option of the weekend. He even offers a little pass differential upside from 14th on the starting grid.

Joey Logano ($12,200): The highest average finish at Richmond in the last five races at the track does not belong to Truex, however, but rather Penske Racing's Logano. Logano has an incredible streak of consistency given how easy it is to crash or cut a tire at a short track, as he has 12 straight top-15 finishes here. That consistency is nice, but at this salary, it is necessary to find upside. Logano has plenty of that, as well, starting from second. Logano has won three of the last eight stages at Richmond by virtue of running up front early and has won at the track twice before. The 2018 champion has not made much noise in 2020, with zero wins post-COVID-19 break, but he will look to get one and lock himself into the next round at his second-best track by average finish (behind only Las Vegas).

Mid-Salaried Drivers

Kyle Busch ($11,700): If Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Martin Truex Jr. is the clear number-one option, Kyle Busch is handily the second. Busch led at least 100 laps in both events here last year, as well, winning two of four stages along the way. His seventh-place finish at Darlington means that Busch has now finished 11th or better in each of the last seven races in which he finished despite plenty of bad luck mixed into a tough 2020 campaign for the reigning champion. What may be his largest advantage entering Saturday is the 250 laps he ran in Friday night's Xfinity Series race, which means Busch has track time that others do not given there is no practice in NASCAR's Cup Series the remainder of 2020. Last time Busch ran the Xfinity Series event the day before a race, he finished fourth and led 11 laps at Texas, which was arguably his strongest run of 2020. He starts 7th.

Jimmie Johnson ($10,000): Jimmie Johnson has struggled at several tracks the past few seasons, but Richmond has not been one of them. Johnson's 11 straight top-15 finishes here is one short of Logano's best active streak, and Johnson has had significantly lesser-performing equipment than Logano's Penske Ford in that time period. Johnson is starting 18th, which is right near the sweet spot of affording him pass differential upside while also keeping the seven-time champion in not much danger of going a lap down early if his car is performing fine. Johnson has top-12 finishes at all five tracks one mile or smaller in 2020, and Richmond fits that profile.

Low-Salaried Drivers

Christopher Bell ($8,400): Prior to this weekend, the last time the NASCAR's Xfinity Series took to Richmond Raceway was in 2019, when Bell delivered an absolutely dominant win. He led 238 of 250 laps in the September event at Richmond, and he led 32 laps in the May event before a tire issue. This season has been Bell's rookie year in the Cup Series, and it has been a successful one with five top-10 finishes for Leavine Family Racing, which has an alliance to JGR that has made Bell a pseudo-teammate of Truex, Busch, and Denny Hamlin. Bell will have a strong Toyota starting from 24th, and if he performs as well as he did last September in an Xfinity car, he should quickly ascend toward the front in this event.

Bubba Wallace ($6,000): In an emotional week, Bubba Wallace is saying goodbye to his current team at Richard Petty Motorsports, likely in pursuit of a better team after an impressive 2020 season for Wallace in several dimensions. RPM does not provide the same level of equipment as many of NASCAR's frontrunners, which forces Bubba to do his best work on short tracks and restrictor-plate tracks -- the configurations that allow for a driver's skill to outweigh the car he drives. Bubba has done just that on short tracks, with top-15 finishes in five of the last six short track races. Normally a starting spot of 30th would be a bonus to Wallace's DFS outlook, but there is more concern at Richmond about him going a lap down early as a result. However, given his strength at short tracks in 2020, Wallace should move past some slower vehicles early, and if he can remain on the lead lap beyond the halfway point in the race, he will contend for a top-15 finish at a very low salary.

Austin Swaim is not a FanDuel employee. In addition to providing DFS gameplay advice, Austin Swaim also participates in DFS contests on FanDuel using his personal account, username ASwaim3. While the strategies and player selections recommended in his articles are his personal views, he may deploy different strategies and player selections when entering contests with his personal account. The views expressed in his articles are the author's alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of FanDuel.