NASCAR Picks for Martinsville
Length: 0.526 miles
Location: Martinsville, Virginia
The third round of the Chase kicks off this weekend at Martinsville Speedway, and after Brad Keselowski's clutch victory at Talladega last weekend, it is pretty clear that the final weeks of the season are going to be filled with their share of drama. As far as this weekend is concerned, fantasy owners only have to worry about preparing for the final short track race of the regular season, but that isn't necessarily an easy task, especially after the March event that was highlighted by extreme tire wear. On the plus side, many of the top drivers in the series this season have also performed well at Martinsville historically, which should allow fantasy owners to build their lineups around a reliable core. Piecing in sleepers can be tricky, but in order to help out the process, I have highlighted those mid-level and sleeper drivers that are better options for fantasy owners that need to play it safe and those that are better options for owners that have to take some risks.
Jimmie Johnson, #48 Lowe's/Kobalt Tools, Hendrick Motorsports [Yahoo Class A]
While he isn't having a typical season, Johnson's numbers at Martinsville are impossible to ignore. In 25 starts at the track, he has a series-leading 5.2 average finish to go along with 22 Top-10s, 18 Top-5 finishes and eight wins. Earlier this year, Johnson led a race-high 296 laps on his way to a second-place finish, and in the last five races at the track, his 1,069 laps led are by far the most in the series.
Jeff Gordon, #24 Drive to End Hunger/Axalta, Hendrick Motorsports [Yahoo Class A]
He is the defending winner of this weekend's race, and Martinsville has been one of Gordon's best tracks throughout his career. In addition to his eight wins, he has a 7.0 average finish and has logged 34 Top-10s in 43 starts. Gordon has been even better recently, posting a 5.3 average finish in the last 20 races at Martinsville.
Joey Logano, #22 Shell-Pennzoil, Team Penske [Yahoo Class B]
Logano has been dominant during the Chase, compiling a 4.2 average finish through the first six races and picking up a pair of wins. Meanwhile, he finished fourth at Martinsville earlier this year, and he has finished as high as second at the track during his career. Expect his hot streak to continue this weekend.
Brad Keselowski, #2 Miller Lite, Team Penske [Yahoo Class B]
He pushed through to the next round of the Chase with his win at Talladega, and Keselowski could make the most of the opportunity, starting this weekend. After all, he has four Top-10s in his last five starts at Martinsville, including three finishes of sixth or better in his last four starts.
Denny Hamlin, #11 FedEx, Joe Gibbs Racing [Yahoo Class B]
His 8.8 average finish at Martinsville is the third best in the series, and in 17 starts, he has 14 finishes of 12th or better. More importantly, Hamlin has nine Top-5 finishes at the short track, including four victories. In fact, Hamlin has finished in the Top 3 at Martinsville seven times.
Kevin Harvick, #4 Budweiser/Jimmy Johns, Stewart-Haas Racing [Yahoo Class A]
Harvick has been dialed in at Martinsville recently, logging five finishes of seventh or better in his last seven starts at the track, including two straight. During the stretch, he has three Top-5 finishes, including a win. Harvick has also been one of the safest picks in recent months, finishing in the Top 15 in 12 of his last 13 starts.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., #88 National Guard/Diet Mountain Dew, Hendrick Motorsports [Yahoo Class A]
His title hopes came to an ugly end at Talladega, but Junior can still help fantasy owners down the stretch. In his last eight starts at Martinsville, he has logged six Top-10 finishes. During the stretch, has three Top-3 finishes, including a third-place run earlier this year.
Matt Kenseth, #20 Husky/Dollar General, Joe Gibbs Racing [Yahoo Class A]
He struggled at Martinsville for much of his career, but Kenseth has turned things around at the track lately. He has five straight Top-15s at the short track, compiling an 8.0 average finish during the stretch. Meanwhile, Kenseth has finished second and sixth in his last two starts at Martinsville so he offers some upside, as well.
Clint Bowyer, #15 5-Hour Energy, Michael Waltrip Racing [Yahoo Class A]
Since joining Michael Waltrip Racing in 2012, Bowyer has been on a tear at Martinsville. He has finished in the Top 10 in all five starts at the track with MWR, compiling a 5.8 average finish in the process. Bowyer has also cracked the Top 5 in three of his last four starts at Martinsville, including finishes of second and third last season.
Kyle Busch, #18 Mars Brands/Interstate Batteries, Joe Gibbs Racing [Yahoo Class A]
It will be interesting to see how Busch recovers mentally from being bounced from the playoffs when he seemed like a lock to advance, but on paper, he should have a solid showing this weekend. He has finished in the Top 15 in four straight starts at Martinsville, logging a pair of Top-5 finishes during the stretch.
Carl Edwards, #99 Fastenal/Aflac/UPS/Subway, Roush Fenway Racing [Yahoo Class B]
While he doesn't offer a ton of upside, Edwards has been a steady performer at Martinsville lately. He has seven Top-15s in his last nine starts at the track, including three straight. Granted, he hasn't had a Top-5 at Martinsville since 2008, but as long as he is being used as a complementary piece to a fantasy lineup, Edwards could get the job done.
Ryan Newman, #31 Caterpillar, Richard Childress Racing [Yahoo Class B]
Newman has quietly been on a roll for the last couple of months, logging nine Top-15s in his last 10 starts. More importantly, he has finished in the Top 10 in the last four races. Meanwhile, Newman has been a Top-15 driver at Martinsville throughout his career, and he even won at the track in 2012. He should at least sneak into the Top 15 this weekend.