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Through the Field: Back to the Track

by Elliot Hicks

At this point, you’ve realized I’ve been a longtime racing fan, following the sport closely since I was a kid.

What you may be surprised to know is that I hadn’t been to a NASCAR race in more than a decade until this weekend.

I, along with fellow In-Between Media staff member and “The Backroad” co-host Jared Bakaysa, have made the trek to Richmond Raceway for the race weekend.

While the Cup and Xfinity races are taking place Saturday, we made the trip to the facility a day early to get a lay of the land. To get some souvenir shopping out of the way and check out the Whelen Modified Series race.

I’m writing this watching the open-wheeled modified cars race by us in Turn No. 1. I’m also thankful that I bought a cheap pair of earplugs after making the rookie mistake of leaving my normal pair back home in Pennsylvania.

Thinking of how important that NASCAR has been in the spectrum of my sports fandom and life as a whole, it’s crazy that I hadn’t been back to the track for a top-tier racing event since August 2011 at Pocono Raceway. The raw atmosphere of seeing a track in person is worlds different than watching the races on television.

The best advice I can offer you is just to get out to the racetrack. If you’re already a race fan, it helps to remind you why you fell in love with the sport in the first place. And if you’re bringing someone new to a track for the first time, it’s the best way to turn them into an instant fan.

The excitement only continues with the Xfinity and Cup doubleheader coming up on Saturday with the Cup Series entering the second race of the first playoff round. We should be headed toward an entertaining day of racing. Here are your best bets.

Best Fantasy Bets for Xfinity and Cup Doubleheader

Joe Gibbs Racing Team:  All of the four-car stable of Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) are in the playoffs. Not to mention every one of their drivers has had ridiculous amounts of success at Richmond. Denny Hamlin is going for two wins in a row and another win at his home track.

Kyle Busch has won six times in the Cup Series here. He has finished in the top 10 in more than 75 percent of his career starts at the track. Martin Truex Jr. has dominated multiple races at Richmond, sweeping the 2019 events. And Christopher Bell won three Xfinity races at Richmond. If the bet is JGR versus the field, I’m taking JGR.

Brad KeselowskiProceed with some caution when playing the No. 2 car in fantasy lineups. I think Brad Keselowski is the weakest Penske car at the moment. He’s shown very little confidence in his team’s ability to contend for a championship. But Keselowski is the defending winner of the fall Richmond race and also won at the track in 2014. The team will be searching for momentum and will bring their best to Richmond.

Kyle Larson:  I know I’m taking the easy way out by picking the best driver in the series right now. But Kyle Larson has had success at Richmond even before his time with Hendrick, winning in 2017 in the No. 42. It’s obvious Larson’s next victory in 2021 is coming sooner rather than later. Don’t be surprised if it happens tonight.

Thanks for reading. For more fantasy NASCAR and life advice, follow me on Twitter, @EHicks39, or check out more of my work at Elliot-Hicks.com.

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