The West Coast swing is officially over, and short track racing is set to return as the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series heads to Martinsville Speedway this weekend. The shortest track on the schedule will host Sunday’s STP 500, and the flat, paperclip-shaped oval has a way of wearing out brakes and tempers over the course of 500 laps.
For fantasy purposes, a short track race is a golden opportunity to utilize some alternative options and get creative with your lineups. This is especially important Fantasy Live and the Driver Group Game because of the limit on the number of times you can use each driver.
Let’s face it. It’s typically the big names from the powerhouse teams who run up front at the bigger ovals the series has visited the last several weeks. The balance of power can tip a bit at short tracks and flat tracks, and Martinsville is both.
In formats like Fantasy Live and the Driver Group Game, you need to be smart about how you utilize sleepers and midrange options. You don’t want to be forced to use them late in the year simply because you are out of starts from the top options. You want to maximize their value throughout the season, picking and choosing your spots, and Sunday’s race could be one of those spots.
Busch has been locked in at Martinsville, reeling off five straight Top 5 finishes while compiling a 2.8 average finish. During the same stretch, he has picked up two wins and has led the most laps three times. Busch has been knocking on the door of a win all year, and he might get it done this weekend.
He is the defending winner of this weekend’s race, and over the last 10 races at Martinsville, his seven Top 10s are the most in the series. Keselowski has been even stronger recently, logging four straight Top 5s and leading more than 100 laps in both races here last year.
Although he hasn’t been as dominant at Martinsville as he was earlier in the year, Hamlin has still been one of the best at the track. He has finished eighth or better in five of his last seven starts here, picking up a win and leading multiple laps in six of the seven races.
Logano ranks fourth in points scored over the last 10 races at Martinsville, and that’s with a couple of Top 5 finishes being taken away by wrecks. Even if you don’t end up starting him, Logano could be a great source of qualifying points this weekend. In the last five races, he has four front row starts at Martinsville, including three poles.
Fresh off a dominating performance at Auto Club, Truex will try to continue his upswing at Martinsville. He has three Top 10s in his last five starts here, including a career-best second-place finish last fall, and he has led at least 27 laps three times in that span. I’ll probably be saving him for an intermediate oval in most formats, but you can expect a strong run out of him.
He came so close to winning at Martinsville last fall before being dumped by Denny Hamlin, but Elliott has quickly become one of the best flat track drivers in the series. Prior to leading 123 laps and almost winning the fall race, he led 20 laps and finished third here last April. He’ll be on my radar in all formats.
Harvick’s momentum finally ended with a wreck at Auto Club last weekend, and I’m not expecting him back in victory lane Sunday. He hasn’t been bad at Martinsville by any means, but he only has one Top 5 in eight starts here with Stewart-Haas Racing. Use this race as a chance to save a start from one of the top fantasy options.