The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will travel to Martinsville, Virginia this week for the STP 500.
Martinsville is one of the best race tracks on the schedule because it is similar to the tracks most of the drivers grew up racing on.
The story last week at Auto Club Speedway was the driver’s ability to save their tires. This week the story will be brakes. Teams must find horsepower down the front and backstretches, but be able to roll through the corners without overheating the brakes.
Short-track racing is always fun to watch because there is not much space on the track to make passes, so drivers occasionally will have to make space by moving other out of the way. It will be important for drivers to do this without tearing up their cars. Those who can drive “aggressively patient” will win the race.
Here are my picks for the STP 500 at Martinsville.
Yahoo Group A Picks
The race at Martinsville will provide fantasy NASCAR players a lot of good choices in Group A of Yahoo Fantasy Auto Racing. The track has awarded 23 Martinsville grandfather clocks to the drivers in from this group. There is a good chance that this week’s clock will also go to a driver from this group.
Kevin Harvick now has eight consecutive top-two finishes. The No. 4 team is one step ahead of their competition, but his streak will likely come to an end Sunday. Martinsville is not one of Harvick’s best race tracks. He finished 33rd in this race last fall.
Denny Hamlin is a native of Virginia and he usually performs well at his home track. He has four wins at Martinsville, but his last was in 2010. If you want to take a chance with a driver your competition may not have, Hamlin is your driver.
My sleeper pick in Group A is Ryan Newman. It will be hard to justify using Newman over the other drivers from this group, but Newman ran well here last fall. He started ninth and finished third. He is a longshot to go to Victory Lane, but almost a lock for a top-10 finish.
Here are the two drivers I selected for Group A.
Johnson is the best pick for Group A. He has eight wins, 18 top-five finishes and 22 top-10 finishes in his 26 career starts at Martinsville. Johnson has a series-best average finishing position and a series-best driver rating at the track. Johnson has led 2,746 laps, so he knows his way around Martinsville and he should be on your team this week.
The last spot for Group A was a decision between Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Gordon. Earnhardt won the last race at Martinsville and would be a great pick for your team. I decided to go with Gordon because he has more success at the track and he needs a win worse than Earnhardt.
Gordon has eight wins, 28 top-five finishes and 35 top-10 finishes in his 44 career starts at Martinsville. He is my pick to win the pole and almost a lock for a top-five finish.
Other good choices: Dale Earnhardt Jr., Denny Hamlin, Matt Kenseth, Ryan Newman and Joey Logano
Yahoo Group B Picks
The popular picks for Group B the first five races of the season have been Carl Edwards, Martin Truex Jr. and Kasey Kahne. This will be a good week to take a break from these drivers and select some drivers you may have not used this season.
Since most of the drivers who have had success at Martinsville are from Group A, fantasy teams will need to be creative when selecting their team. If you look past the names and focus on the stats from the drivers in this group, there are some gems to be found.
Here are the two drivers I selected for Group B.
It has been hard to trust Bowyer this season, but if he is going to have a good run it will be this week. Bowyer has six consecutive top-10 finishes at Martinsville. Although he has never won a grandfather clock at the track, he is always competing for the win at the end of the race. This is an excellent week to get a start from the No. 15 team.
Busch has been hit or miss in his career at Martinsville. He would not be denied a trip to Victory Lane in this race last year. Busch was aggressively competing with Brad Keselowski during the race. The two drivers made contact with each other numerous times during the race. Busch was able to overcome the incident and drive the No. 41 car to his second win at the race track. He looks motivated this season to add another win the track Sunday.
Allmendinger has proven he can run up front this season. Martinsville races much like a road course, and we all know how Allmendinger knows his way around those types of tracks. He has finished four of the last five races at Martinsville in the top 11. That is pretty good production from a driver you may not use all your allocations with.
Can fantasy teams trust Stewart this week? Stewart has three wins in his career at Martinsville and one of his best races last year came at this track. He qualified fourth and finished fourth in the race last fall. If Stewart is ever going to turn around his season, Martinsville has to be the track for it to start.
Other Good Choices: Jamie McMurray, Carl Edwards, Kasey Kahne and Greg Biffle
Yahoo Group C Picks
Selecting a driver for Group C this week will not be difficult. As long as David Ragan is driving the No. 18 car, he must be one of your Group C drivers. Fantasy teams must decide which driver is the best to go along with Ragan. This week there are many good selections.
A popular pick this week will be Danica Patrick. She has not had much success at Martinsville. Last season she finished both races outside the top 30. There are better choices for your team.
Chase Elliott will be making his Sprint Cup debut this week. Martinsville is a difficult track for a driver to make his first start. He will have a good car, but I would not expect a top-25 finish from him Sunday.
Here are the two drivers I selected for Group C.
Ragan ran well at Martinsville last year. In October he started 29th and finished in the top 10. This week he will have a better car than he had last season with Front Row Motorsports. This could be Ragan’s best finish of the season.
Allgaier has been the best selection for Group C in the last two races. He finished 18th at Phoenix and 12th at Auto Club. Allgaier finished 23rd and 17th in his two starts at the race track last season. Allgaier is a good pick for a top-20 finish Sunday.
Other Good Choices: Danica Patrick and Chase Elliott
Fantasy Live Picks
The next month of racing will be the most important stretch of races for people playing Fantasy Live. Three out of the next four races will be at short tracks consisting of a huge number of laps. The race at Martinsville will have 500 laps, which means there will be 250 bonus points available for leading laps. If you are able to find the drivers that leads the most laps, your team can score a vast amount of points in the short-track races.
It will be important for fantasy teams to look at where the drivers will start the race before you select your team for Fantasy Live. Track position and where a driver pits the car are very important at Martinsville. The best strategy is to select drivers who start the race up front.
Here are the five drivers I selected for Fantasy Live for the race at Martinsville:
Driver 1: Jimmie Johnson $27.00
Driver 2: Kurt Busch $22.00
Driver 3: Clint Bowyer $23.25
Driver 4: Martin Truex Jr. $18.75
Driver 5: Justin Allgaier $9.00
Pick to Win: Jimmie Johnson
* Driver prices based on prices at Auto Club Speedway
Fox Fantasy Racing
Fox Fantasy Racing will not be easy this week. This game only awards teams one point for a driver leading a lap, so your team will not earn a huge amount of bonus points like in Fantasy Live. The only way to finish with a high score is to find the drivers who start the races in the middle of the pack and can finish up front. Since most of the good drivers will qualify up front, fantasy teams will have their work cut out for them at Martinsville.
My strategy this week will be to select a couple of the drivers who start up front and some of the big name drivers who qualified poorly. It is risky to select drivers who have to make their way through the field because the leader starts lapping cars quickly at Martinsville. If you want a chance for a high score this week, this is the strategy that is best for your team.
Here are my selections for Fox Fantasy Racing for Martinsville:
Driver 1: Dale Earnhardt Jr. $11,200
Driver 2: Jimmie Johnson $10,800
Driver 3: Carl Edwards $9,600
Driver 4: Kurt Busch $8,600
Driver 5: Clint Bowyer $9,400
* Driver prices based on prices at Auto Club Speedway