Short track racing is back as the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season heads to Martinsville Speedway this weekend. The flat, paperclip-shaped oval is the smallest and slowest track on the schedule, but it can also be one of the most exciting. Between the bumping and banging on the track to a narrow, dangerous pit road, Martinsville has provided more than its fair share of memorable moments over the years.
Turning our attention to DraftKings, the dominator categories come front and center in a big way this weekend. Sunday’s STP 500 is scheduled for 500 laps, which means there will never be more points available in the laps led and fastest laps run categories than there will be this weekend.
History says that at least one driver is going to lead more than 100 laps this weekend, and there is a decent chance one driver will lead 200 or more. In each of the last five races here, a driver has led more than 175 laps, and 10 total drivers have led over 100 laps in a single race. Seven of them have started in the Top 10, and all 10 of them started 17th or better.
The bottom line is that you have to be aggressive in going after the dominator categories, and this is the type of race when it may take a lineup of three dominators to compete for in larger GPPs. There are just so many laps that these categories can allow multiple drivers to post big point totals. Even if we have another crazy qualifying session like we did last weekend at Auto Club, which I don’t expect to happen here, I’d still put more emphasis on the dominator point than on place differential points.
Qualifying will go a long way to helping determine the top dominator plays and the best options for cap relief, but in the meantime, here are the drivers I’ll be targeting ahead of the STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway.
Kyle Busch ($11,000)
Busch has been the man to beat at Martinsville the last couple of years, posting a 2.8 average finish during a run of five straight Top 5 finishes. He has two wins during that span and has led at least 184 laps in three of the last four races here. Busch now ranks third overall in both laps led and fastest laps run, and as well as he has been running in 2018, I expect him to his totals in both dominator categories this weekend.
Brad Keselowski ($10,100)
He is the defending winner of this weekend’s race, and Keselowski had a shot at sweeping both races here last year, leading more than 100 laps in both events. He also leads all drivers with seven Top 10s in the last 10 races here, and he has four straight Top 5s. The flat track savant ranks fifth in fastest laps run and sixth in laps led at Martinsville, and I expect Keselowski to deliver some more dominator points this weekend.
Chase Elliott ($9,900)
When most fans think of Elliott and Martinsville, they are going to remember him being dumped from the lead in the closing laps of the fall race by Denny Hamlin. However, he actually put together two strong showings. He led 20 laps and finished third in the spring race, and he led 123 laps in the aforementioned fall race. Elliott also ranks in the Top 5 in terms of percentage of laps led and fastest laps run at Martinsville. There is plenty of dominator potential here.
Joey Logano ($9,500)
Aside from a couple of races when he was wrecked while battling in the Top 5, Logano has been on a roll at Martinsville since 2014. He has led a lap and recorded multiple fastest laps in all eight races during that stretch, leading 50-plus laps four times and recording at least 25 fastest laps six times. You should be able to count on Logano for a chunk of dominator points this weekend.
Denny Hamlin ($9,400)
Hamlin is a five-time winner at Martinsville, and he currently ranks second in both dominator categories at the track. Granted, he hasn’t been quite as dominant here in recent years, but he does have five Top 10s in his last seven starts, picking up a win and three Top 3 finishes. He’s also led laps in six races in that span, leading 40-plus three times. Hamlin should provide at least a few dominator points this weekend, and as fast as he has been in 2018, I wouldn’t rule out a vintage performance.
Clint Bowyer ($8,300)
All of the Stewart-Haas Racing cars have speed right now, and this is a track where Bowyer could flex some serious muscle. He finished seventh and third in two starts here last year, and for his career, he ranks sixth in fastest laps run and seventh in laps led. Bowyer could have sneaky dominator potential this weekend, and he will be on my radar no matter where he qualifies.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. ($7,300)
His career numbers at Martinsville are ugly, and in 10 starts, he has a 28.2 average finish and has finished dead last three times. However, he bucked the trend in a big way last year, notching a pair of 10th-place finishes and gaining at least 12 spots in both races. I’m not sold on Stenhouse as a sudden Top 10 option at Martinsville, but at this price, he’s someone you need to keep in mind if he starts outside the To 20, especially at this price.
A.J. Allmendinger ($6,400)
I can count on one hand the number of tracks where I have decent expectations for Allmendinger, but he’s been excellent at Martinsville. He has finished 11th or better in six of his last eight starts here, and in the spring race last year, he gained 24 spots on his way to a sixth-place finish. If he qualifies in the middle of the pack or worse, he could be one of the top bargains this weekend.
Darrell Wallace Jr. ($6,200)
Since his runner-up finish at Daytona, Wallace has been toiling in the middle of the pack, but he could make some noise again this weekend. He is a two-time winner at Martinsville in the Truck Series, so he knows how to get around the paperclip. He’s also confident, which can mean a lot for a younger driver. If Wallace starts deeper in the field, I’ll definitely have some exposure.
Cole Whitt ($5,200)
Although he drives for a low-budget team, Whitt holds his own at Martinsville. He has cracked the Top 25 in five of his last six starts here, and he has gained at least five spots five times in that span and at least 10 spots four times. Unless he has an unexpectedly strong qualifying effort, Whitt will be my preferred punt play this weekend.