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It's crunch time in the NASCAR Cup Series. NASCAR is heading to Richmond, Virginia to race at the Richmond Raceway. Phil Bobbitt is here to break it all down.
ANALYSIS

NASCAR Predictions and Picks: Should We Trust Ryan Blaney at the Federated Auto Parts 400?

Federated Auto Parts 400 Start Time, Where to Watch, and Odds

Date: Sunday, August 14

Time: 3:00 pm EST

Where to Watch: USA

Click here for Federated Auto Parts 400 Odds

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Federated Auto Parts 400 Prediction

Oh, baby. It's crunch time in the NASCAR Cup Series. There are three races remaining before the playoffs, and a couple of big-time names could be on the outside looking in. Most notably, Ryan Blaney and Martin Truex Jr. have yet to win a race, leaving one or potentially both out of the playoffs. The Cup Series has crowned 15 different race winners so far this season. With the race winners having near automatic access to bonus racing, the stakes have never been higher for these two drivers. In the Nascar points format, consistency is not always rewarded, as Blaney and Truex would be scored second and fourth, respectively. Love it or hate it, this breeds drama.

Gone are the days when the overall Championship could be wrapped up with several races remaining. This is the time of year to tighten up that seat belt and never lift off of the accelerator. Can Blaney or Truex punch their ticket to the big show this weekend? Or will some other driver snag the win and dash their hopes?

The answer is a resounding...it's too early to tell. Just like the truck series, we feel more comfortable playing on a couple of head-to-head spots before we see practice and qualifying on Saturday (545pm). We'll be using a data set comprised of the 2022 Richmond, New Hampshire, and Gateway, with a dash of Phoenix and Martinsville.

Federated Auto Parts 400 Pick

Ryan Blaney to finish better than Ross Chastain (-110) (Bet $110 to win $100)

*Odds available at DraftKings at time of publishing*

Ryan Blaney has the highest average finishing position among all drivers in this dataset at 7.6. Great start to this exercise. He also ranks first in driver rating and second in average fast laps. Additionally, Blaney sports the second-best average running position...trailing only his teammate Joey Logano.

Blaney was very strong during the first Richmond date. He led the most laps (128) and spent 99.5% of his day within the top 15% of the field but was on the wrong end of a poor pit strategy and finished seventh. Richmond is one of the more abrasive surfaces on the Nascar circuit and it eats tires for lunch...and dinner (probably). The point is, the more times you can slap tires on these things, the faster your race car will be.

Ross Chastain...the Series needed this guy in 2022. A fearless maniac behind the wheel, Chastain has injected life into Nascar with his numerous feuds with more than a few different drivers. In fact, whenever there is an on-track incident the offended drivers look for a way to blame poor Ross, even if he's nowhere near the action.

Rivalries are only fun though if you've got a fast wagon and a worthy opponent. Nobody cares if Cody Ware and BJ McCloud are duking it out. We can't even bet on that. Chastain and Blaney are probably on friendly terms, but I don't know for sure. I'm not in the garage area.

What I do know is that Chastain has been ridiculously fast this year. He is literally the only driver to outrank Blaney in 2022 green flag speed. But Chastain's average finish (8.4) in our dataset is behind Blaney (7.6), as is Chastain's average laps led (57.6 vs 26.8) and average fast laps (28.8 vs 13.2).

Chastain has been able to find victory lane twice this year and has put himself in a position to win a handful of others. Right now, Blaney needs to be the hungrier driver. We don't bet narratives here in the @speedwaysteve2 headquarters, but this is just reality. Blaney is a 'boom" candidate and will be bringing a fast Ford to the track this weekend (hopefully). It would be a monumental shame if Blaney misses out on the playoffs. But you need to win to be in this year!

We'll have another round of plays later in the week!

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Phil and Steve are lifelong buddies from the Philadelphia area. They specialize in all things motorsports and turned in a 131.3 unit profit in 2021.

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