STP 500 at the “Paperclip”

Martinsville is a 0.526 mile paperclip oval that measures the shortest on the Monster Energy Nascar Cup Series circuit. The width of the track is only a scant 55 feet, with 800 ft. long straightaways. There is very little to no banking (11 degrees) in the turns, and it all leads to fantastic short track racing. Nascar is using the abbreviated version of the new rules package, which includes the spacer, but not the aero ducts. There are nine former winners entered this week…JJ, Hamlin, Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, Logano, Bowyer (defending spring race winner), Keselowski, Harvick, and Newman.

Kyle Busch is fresh off of back-to-back victories at Phoenix and Fontana, and in case you thought we might get a break from his domination this weekend… well, I’d say it’s unlikely. Currently, Kyle Busch has a series-leading 2.8 average finish over the last six Cup Series races overall, and this week we’re heading to Martinsville Speedway for some short track racing. His average finish at Martinsville over the last six races? 2.5. Rowdy hasn’t finished outside of the top 5 at Martinsville since the 2014 season, and that’s unlikely to change on Sunday.

We’ll need to be very careful fading too many drivers and using punts at Martinsville. Cars in the back will go down laps fast and furiously. There are precious few low tiered drivers that we will want to look at. We can’t plan for a race of attrition, because most wrecks here aren’t the type that take out half of the field. Punts will need to be used, but understand we’re looking for drivers that will gain 5-8 positions throughout the race to pay off value.

As always, my articles are directed at DK gpp formats, but I will be around in chat to discuss FD options and cash plays for those players interested. Let’s get to it. In keeping with the direction we, at FTA, are moving in, these five drivers make up the general core of my plays this week.

Kyle Busch – Busch is an elite driver at Martinsville who’ll be the favorite heading into the weekend. He’s won here twice in the past 6 races and sports an average finish of 2.5 at Martinsville over that time frame. Dominator points? He’s led 937 laps and has finished in the top five each and every one of the last seven races. Betting against Busch on Sunday isn’t advised. He’s been steady all week on the speed charts, though he didn’t post a 30 lap average. He also won the truck race here this week, for yet another win this season. Kyle rolls off in 14th, and even though he’s going to be difficult to fit into lines this week, I’ll definitely have several shares.

Clint Bowyer – Bowyer won here last spring. He’s a better than average short track specialist, and while his season, like the other SHR drivers, hasn’t measured up, Martinsville could be just what the doctor ordered. He has a top five average performance here over the last two years. He led 215 laps (which is an amazing number in a single short track event) in the race he won, and nearly swept the stages that day as well. He finished 3rd in the race prior that one in the fall of 2017. He’s been at or near the top of the speed charts all weekend, having laid down a new track record in the early practice, and posted the 2nd best 10 lap average as well as the 3rd best 30 lap average in happy hour. Bowyer starts 11th on Sunday and I’ll have a large share of him this week.

Austin Dillon – Dillon has had a rollercoaster of results at Martinsville over the last two years, everything from a top ten to a couple of 30th place finishes. He’s had a great start to 2019 comparative to his career averages, but most of his best races come on bigger, drafting tracks. His viability this week will depend on where he starts and whether he can provide some positional value. His ceiling this week should be expected to be low to mid teens, but with a floor in the upper 20’s. Use with caution. Dillon slipped and qualified 30th. If he even comes close to his projections, he’ll be the best positional value in the race. If he fits in your lines, he’s about as solid of a pick this week as it gets.

William Byron – Byron had a great race in California. If he can keep it rolling, he might surprise this week. His history here isn’t that great, but it wasn’t incident free. He ran much better than his final results here. He also typically runs better on short tracks. DK thankfully kept his salary down this week and we can find some lower tier value with him. Think mid teens ceiling and a floor of around 20th. He tagged the wall early in the first practice, but chose to make repairs and put up times squarely in the middle of the field in happy hour. He Qualified a very quick 6th, but failed tech inspection this morning and will start from the rear. That immediately led me to add him to my core group of drivers to work with when putting lineups together.

David Ragan – Ragan is about as good as any other punt in the field at Martinsville. His history suggests he is capable of a low 20’s finish, but Martinsville is brutal on cars starting in the back. Ragan has looked like one of the better options in his price range throughout practice here at Martinsville. He’ll always need to qualify in that sweet spot to be viable, and this week he starts 25th. I don’t think a 20th place finish is out of the question.

The following drivers are not in my “core” this week. but I will most likely have a share or two of each.

Martin Truex Jr. – Truex should be considered for all lines this week. He has average finish of 3.0 over the last three races here, and came from the back last fall to finish 3rd. Truex is an intermediate track specialist, but has done very well on short tracks too. His lack of a short track win doesn’t hurt his overall DFS value here. He swept the speed charts in happy hour, posting the best 10, 20, and 30 lap averages. Don’t overlook him when putting lines together this week. He always brings dominator potential to the table every week as well. That should be no different this week. Truex starts 9th, and is solidly in my core lineup again this week.

Kevin Harvick – Harvick comes to us at an insane value this week, with DK having slashed his salary. On one hand, it’s understandable, as Martinsville isn’t Harvick’s best track, but he still runs well here, having finished in the top ten in just shy of 50% of his starts, including the three most recent races here. Harvick has struggled at times this year and is still looking for that first win of the season. I don’t think it’s going to be here at Martinsville, but he should still grab a top five/ten finish by race’s end. On the other hand, SHR has looked good throughout practice, and Harvick ended happy hour with the 2nd best 30 lap average.

Denny Hamlin – Hamlin needs to be on everyone’s radar this week. He has an incredible stat of having finished in the top five here in 50% of his starts. He’s also won here 5 times in 26 career starts. He’s as close to a lock to finish top ten as anyone else in the field. He finished 2nd in the most recent race here, and is a solid choice for dominator points as well, having led a fair share of laps here in recent years. In typical Hamlin fashion, trouble has found him at times over the years, but he likes this track, and has a very good record here to back it up. His speeds are right there near the top of the charts, as expected.

Ryan Blaney – Blaney is a member of Team Penske. That tells you quite a bit right there. They’re simply dominating right now. Blaney himself doesn’t have near the track record his teammates have at Martinsville, but he’s no slouch either. He finished 3rd here back in 2018, and has run well in nearly all of his races here. He’s young and aggressive, which can get you in trouble at Martinsville, but I think a top ten is a solid expectation for Blaney this week with a chance at a top five. He’s been in the top ten of the speed charts most of the weekend. Blaney qualified 18th, which is a fantastic starting position to get value out of.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – Ricky is a young, aggressive driver who loves short track racing. Analyzing that first sentence tells you all you need to know about Ricky here at Martinsville. He’s about as much of a poster child for the cliché “high risk equals high reward” as you can expect to find in Nascar this week. He’s top ten good IF…he can keep from wrecking. He’s had incidents in 6 of his last 8 races here. The two that he didn’t? Both were top tens. At his salary, that could help take down a gpp. I think his projected range is realistically something like mid to high teens, but that top ten is still right there. You just need to ask yourself, how willing are you to go the “high risk equals high reward” route?

Daniel Hemric – Hemric, at times, looked like the rookie we expected this past week. He has immense talent, and is in good equipment. He’s still in a learning curve, but making strides. His value week to week will always depend on his starting spot. For most rookies it’s a matter of starting far enough back to provide positional value, while not starting so far back that being lapped early becomes a problem. Hemric has had marginal results here in the lesser Nascar series, and I would project his finishing range anywhere from the high teens to mid 20’s on race day.

Matt Tifft – Tifft is slowing carving out a DFS reputation for himself. He’s been in several winning gpp lines already this year. He’s driving inferior equipment, but is priced so low, that he has been a viable punt nearly every week. It’s mainly due to the fact he’s still a better play than the other drivers in his price range. He has virtually no history here at Martinsville, so use with caution. He had a middling result here in a truck race several years ago, with a few slightly better truck series results in the years prior to that. Like so many other punt options, it’s all about where he starts when the green flag drops. He hasn’t looked good in practice, posting times in the range of 30th best.

Fades for me this week are Kurt Busch, and Kyle Larson.

Possible Dominators this week are Logano, Keselowski, Truex, and Kyle Busch.

Movers this week are Austin Dillon, Kyle Busch, and Blaney.

My pick to win the race is Brad Keselowski (but watch out for Rowdy!).


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