The Round of 8 of the playoffs kicks off this weekend when the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series heads back to Martinsville Speedway. The flat, half-mile oval will host Sunday’s First Data 500, and while the paperclip-shaped track might be the smallest and slowest on the schedule, you only need to re-watch the fall race here last year for a reminder of how much excitement could be on tap.
Martinsville is a physical track, and drivers will be bumping and banging on the track and on pit road, abusing their brakes and wrinkling fenders in the process. Track position is critical, and mistakes on pit road are tough to overcome. In fact, mistakes made during green flag periods will cost a driver multiple laps and likely ruin their entire afternoon.
When building a fantasy lineup, I like to target drivers who have a strong track record at Martinsville. Yes, some organization perform better than others here, but this isn’t necessarily a track where a driver runs well just because they are a big name for a big team.
With that in mind, this is one race where you can afford to be a little unconventional with your lineups. Whether you are trying to save some starts from certain guys in the Driver Group Game or want to try to gain some ground in Fantasy Live by avoiding the popular plays, you can build a Martinsville-specific lineup that doesn’t include all of the usual suspects.
Busch has been on a tear at Martinsville, reeling off six straight Top 5 finishes at the track. He has a pair of wins during that span and has led more than 180 laps three times. Busch won the fall race here last year and was the runner-up back in the spring. He’s the man to target in all formats this weekend.
His six Top 5s in the last 10 races at Martinsville are tied for the most in the series, and Keselowski has cracked the Top 10 in his last five starts at the track, leading more than 100 laps in two of the last three races here. He can carry a roster in season-long and DFS formats this weekend.
He is suddenly the hottest driver in the series, and Elliott could keep up his winning ways this weekend at Martinsville. After all, he led 123 laps here last fall before being dumped from the lead by Denny Hamlin in the final laps, and he picked up a Top 10 back in the spring. This is absolutely one of the weeks to use him as Group B in the Driver Group Game.
Hamlin has been a little more inconsistent at Martinsville in recent years, but he still has six Top 10s in his last 10 starts and is a five-time winner here overall. He also led 111 laps in the spring race this year and has led laps in four straight races here. At the very least, he should be one of the strongest non-playoff options for Fantasy Live.
He is re-emerged as a force at Martinsville since joining Stewart-Haas Racing. He has finished seventh or better in all three starts at the track with SHR, leading 215 laps and going to victory lane back in the spring. A season sweep can’t be ruled out, and Bowyer is in play in every fantasy format this weekend.