NASCAR Picks for Martinsville
Length: 0.526 miles
Location: Martinsville, Virginia
The early-season scheduling carousel continues this weekend as the series shifts from the massive 2.0-mile Auto Club Speedway to the smallest track on the schedule. Martinsville Speedway will host Sunday's STP 500, and in addition to the track's tiny half-mile layout, its flat corners and paperclip-shaped layout makes it a unique challenge for drivers and teams. Martinsville is particularly rough on brakes, and when you throw in a narrow pit road that can be just as treacherous as the track itself, a promising day can go in the wrong direction in a hurry.
The track's unique layout also has some fantasy implications as a trio of drivers have absolutely mastered Martinsville and stand head and shoulders above the rest of the competition. The three have combined to win 12 of the last 15 races at the track, including three straight. As a result, you pretty much have to build your fantasy roster around at least one of those three drivers if you have any hope of having a successful week. You still have to round out your roster with some solid sleeper additions, but the clear separation between the top three options and everyone else makes a few your selections no-brainers.
Jimmie Johnson, #48 Lowe's/Kobalt Tools, Hendrick Motorsports [Yahoo Class A]
His numbers at Martinsville are almost unfair. In 24 starts, Johnson has eight wins, 17 top-five finishes and 21 top-10s to go along with a series-leading 5.3 average finish. Somehow he has actually been better the last 20 races at the track, compiling a series-leading 3.8 average finish. Johnson is the defending winner of this weekend's race, and he really needs to be owned in every format.
Jeff Gordon, #24 Drive to End Hunger/Axalta, Hendrick Motorsports [Yahoo Class A]
Gordon won at Martinsville last fall, adding to an incredible resume at the short track. In 42 starts, he has eight victories and 34 top-10s. He also has a 6.8 average finish at Martinsville overall and a 5.0 average finish in the last 20 races at the track. Get him in your lineup this weekend.
Denny Hamlin, #11 FedEx, Joe Gibbs Racing [Yahoo Class B]
Outside of the Hendrick Motorsports duo of Johnson and Gordon, nobody has been better at Martinsville lately than Hamlin. He is a four-time winner at the track, and his 8.1 average finish ranks third in the series. In 16 starts at Martinsville, Hamlin has finished eighth or better 13 times.
Brad Keselowski, #2 Miller Lite, Team Penske [Yahoo Class B]
He has never had a bad run at Martinsville, and Keselowski seems to keep getting better at the track. He has a 10.4 average finish eight starts and has never finished outside the top 20. More importantly, he has six finishes of 12th or better at the track, including four straight top-10s. Keselowski finished sixth and fourth in two starts at Martinsville in 2013, and it might not be long before he ends up in victory lane.
Clint Bowyer, #15 5-Hour Energy, Michael Waltrip Racing [Yahoo Class A]
Since joining Michael Waltrip Racing in 2012, Bowyer has been on fire at Martinsville. He has finished in the top 10 in all four starts at the track with MWR, compiling a 5.0 average finish. Bowyer has finished in the top five in his last three starts at Martinsville, including finishes of second and third last year.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., #88 National Guard/Diet Mountain Dew, Hendrick Motorsports [Yahoo Class A]
Junior has been enjoying a solid stretch at Martinsville. In his last eight starts at the track, he has six top-15 finishes, including five finishes of eighth or better. Meanwhile, Junior has been at his best in the spring event, finishing in the top three in twice in the past three seasons.
Kevin Harvick, #4 Budweiser/Jimmy Johns, Stewart-Haas Racing [Yahoo Class A]
He has always been pretty solid at Martinsville, but lately, Harvick has taken his performance at the track to another level. In his last seven starts at the short track, he has finished sixth or better four times. During the stretch, he picked up his first win at Martinsville in the spring of 2011.
Kyle Busch, #18 Mars Brands/Interstate Batteries, Joe Gibbs Racing [Yahoo Class A]
Although he has been a little boom or bust at Martinsville, there is no denying Busch's upside. Since the start of the 2007 season, he has finished in the top five in seven of his 14 starts. Granted, he also has six finishes outside the top-20 during the stretch, but he has finished in the top 15 in his last three starts at Martinsville. Busch can be a strong option depending on the format, but in Yahoo! leagues, it is tough to justify using him ahead of some other A-List options.
Matt Kenseth, #20 Husky/Dollar General, Joe Gibbs Racing [Yahoo Class A]
While Martinsville has never been his best track, Kenseth has been enjoying a pretty strong stretch at the track recently. He has four straight top-15s, and more importantly, he has two top-five finishes during the stretch after managing just a single top-five in his previous 16 starts. Kenseth isn't the ideal A-List option in Yahoo! leagues, but he could have one of his better Martinsville runs this weekend.
Tony Stewart, #14 Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1, Stewart-Haas Racing [Yahoo Class B]
He missed the fall race at the track last year while recovering from a broken leg, but Stewart could return with a bang this weekend. After all, he is a three-time winner at Martinsville, with his most-recent win coming in the fall of 2011. He could make a strong addition to rosters this weekend.
Greg Biffle, #16 3M/Bondo, Roush Fenway Racing [Yahoo Class B]
Biffle was absolutely awful at Martinsville early in his career, but he has suddenly come into a mini hot streak at the track. He has reeled off five straight top-15 finishes, including three straight top-10s. Biffle is still looking for his first top-five at the track so he is limited; that being said, he could be a sneaky source for a top-10 this weekend.
Ryan Newman, #31 Caterpillar, Richard Childress Racing [Yahoo Class B]
While Newman had a miserable year at Martinsville in 2013, he has been solid at the track for the most part. He has a 15.3 average finish at the track in 24 starts, and in his last 10 starts, he has finished 11th or better six times. Newman has also won at Martinsville, taking the checkered flag in the spring of 2012.