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The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series heads to Martinsville Speedway this weekend, which means that for the first in 2019, we have to set our Fantasy NASCAR lineups for a short track race. Martinsville might be the shortest and slowest track on the schedule, but the flat, paperclip-shaped oval isn’t always a walk in the park.
The style of racing at short tracks lends itself to a few more wrecks and higher attrition, but at the same time, Martinsville is a track where a small group of drivers have been dominant for long stretches. There is always some risk with rolling out big names at a short track, especially in Fantasy Live and the Driver Group Game because of the limit on starts for each driver. There is also a big risk in fading these Martinsville studs and missing out on all the points they can pile up.
After seeing how qualifying played out, I’m going to be loading up on these Martinsville studs. I’d rather roster the drivers that appear poised to deliver strong performances than gamble on several middle-tier drivers and hope the big names all wreck.
Of course, post-qualifying inspection won’t happen until Sunday morning, so there is a chance that some of the drivers starting up front could be sent to the rear. This could necessitate some serious lineup adjustments in all the contests, but especially in Slingshot because of the presence of the place differential category.
Hit me up on Twitter at @BPolking throughout the morning Sunday with any questions about your season-long and DFS contests, and keep an eye out for any updates to my Fantasy NASCAR picks for the STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway.
NASCAR.com Fantasy Live
Busch hasn’t just been the best driver in the series in 2019, he’s also been the best driver at Martinsville for the last several seasons. He has seven straight Top 5 finishes here, winning twice and posting a 2.9 average finish during that stretch. Last year, Busch finished fourth or better in all four stages across the two races. He didn’t quite have the qualifying run I expected, but he had a Top 5 car on longer runs in practice. Plus, he should still be able to get towards the front in short order from the 14th spot. He has too much upside for me to leave off my roster.
He just keeps piling up strong finishes at Martinsville, and during his six-race streak of Top 10s here, Keselowski has five Top 5 finishes and a 4.5 average finish. He has also led 40-plus laps in three of the last four races at Martinsville, and he picked up points in three of the four stages a year ago, finishing second and fourth in the two stages in the spring race. After qualifying third, there’s no reason to expect him to slow down this weekend.
Logano is on the list of drivers who earned points in every stage at Martinsville last year, and he finished second and first in the two stages in the fall race on his way to a win. He’s been excellent at the track in general recently, and his seven Top 10s in the last 10 races here are tied for the most in the series. Starting from the pole, a repeat of his performance last fall could be on tap.
Martinsville has always been one of his best tracks, and in addition to his five wins, Hamlin has more Top 5s and more Top 10s here than at any other track on the schedule. More importantly, he always seems to run up front. Hamlin has led laps in 17 of his last 19 starts at Martinsville, and he finished in the Top 5 in all four stages a year ago, picking up a pair of stage wins. Starting fifth with a car that was fast in practice, I expect his Martinsville dominance to continue Sunday.
You can usually count on Bowyer to give you a solid run, but the trick for this format is to figure out where you can also get some stage points out of him. Martinsville could be one of those tracks. He is the defending winner of this weekend’s race, and Bowyer finished in the Top 10 in every stage here last year, cracking the Top 5 in three of them. He had the second-best 10-lap average speed in Happy Hour, and he will start 11th. Bowyer looks like a good bet to contend for another Martinsville Top 5 and to pile up some stage points in the process.
Garage Driver – Martin Truex Jr.
Heading into the weekend, I didn’t really expect to have Truex on my roster. Granted, he has three straight Top 5s at Martinsville, but he hasn’t necessarily been a short track ace. That being said, I can’t ignore the fact that he had arguably the best car on long runs in practice. He’s also starting in the Top 10, so he should have no issues piling up stage points.
Fantasy Racing Cheat Sheet Driver Group Game
Joey Logano (A)
It came down to Kyle Busch or Logano for my A spot, but I decided to leave the hottest driver in the series on my bench in favor of Logano. He grabbed the pole for Sunday’s race, and he went to victory lane at Martinsville last fall. Logano is also tied for the series lead with seven Top 10s in the last 10 races here. I think both drivers have Top 5 cars this weekend, but Logano’s track position could allow him to have the edge in stage points.
Denny Hamlin (B)
Hamlin is an elite Group B option, so maximizing the production from all of his starts is a must. Needless to say, using him at his best track just makes sense. Hamlin is a five-time winner here, and he has 19 Top 10s in 26 career starts. He has the ideal combination of reliability and upside, and he looks primed for another strong run after a Top 5 qualifying effort and strong practice times.
Clint Bowyer (B)
He is another one of the most dependable drivers in this tier, but Martinsville is a track where he is a legit threat to reach victory lane. He did just that in the March race last year, and Bowyer has finished seventh or better in three of his four starts here with Stewart-Haas Racing. Bowyer has backed up my confidence with excellent speed on longer runs in practice and an 11th-place qualifying run.
Ryan Preece (C)
Coming into the week, I was hoping that a short track like Martinsville would allow Preece to showcase his skills as a driver. He appeared to have a Top 20 car during practice, and a solid qualifying effort has him starting 16th. I know he’s been off to a slow start, but I like Preece to finish in the top half of the field Sunday.
Fantasy Racing Online Slingshot Fantasy Auto
Kyle Busch ($13,000)
The price tag is steep, but now that Busch is starting 14th, it only adds to his upside. His long-run speed in practice was excellent, so I think he will race just fine. Now, he has some place differential points to gain, as well. Busch has cracked the Top 5 in his last seven starts at Martinsville, and I expect the streak to continue.
Martin Truex Jr. ($11,700)
While a short track win has eluded him, Truex nearly won at Martinsville last fall and has finished fourth or better in his last three starts here. He also appeared to have the strongest car on long runs. I think he is one of the top threats for the win tomorrow.
Ryan Blaney ($10,600)
Blaney put together a couple of strong practice sessions, particularly on longer runs, so I was a little surprised to him qualify 18th. In the end, I think the starting spot just boosts the differential points he can earn. Blaney led 145 laps and finished third at Martinsville last March, and I think he has a good shot at another Top 5 Sunday.
Austin Dillon ($9,300)
I always feel a little dirty when I roster Dillon, but Fantasy NASCAR can make for some strange bedfellows. He starts way back in 30th, and he has actually been decent at moving forward at Martinsville. He has seven finishes of 18th or better in the last 10 races here, gaining at least 12 spots in six of those races. Dillon looked like a Top 20 driver on longer runs in practice, so the trend could continue.
Matt Tifft ($5,400)
I’ve had some success using Tifft as a punt play this year, and I’m going back to the well again. At best, he’s probably looking at a Top 25 unless attrition comes into play, but starting 32nd, a Top 25 well still result in some points. It really came down to had to Tifft and Truex or Jones and Hemric. I think Truex will make up the difference.