The Chase for the Sprint Cup Series championship moves to Martinsville Speedway for the final short track race of the 2016 schedule. In the first race back in early April, it was Joe Gibbs Racing’s Kyle Busch ($10,700) picking up his first-career victory at the paperclip, as the No. 18 dominated by leading 352 of the 500 laps after starting from the Lucky No. 7 position. Busch posted an average speed of 80.088 mph in a race with just eight cautions, fastest average speed since 1996 at the track. After eight straight races of Chevy domination from April 2011-Oct. 2014, Toyota has picked up the checkered flag in two of the past three stops at the Virginia short track.
The Martinsville fans get a special treat this weekend, too, as Jeff Gordon ($8,800) steps back behind the wheel of the No. 88 machine for the injured Dale Earnhardt Jr. (concussion). Gordon has a legitimate chance at the victory, as he has been stellar at Martinsville in recent seasons. According to NASCAR’s Loop Data, Gordon is No. 1 in Driver Rating over his past four starts at the track with a 112.6, leading 186 laps while turning 81.1 percent of those laps inside the Top 15. His Average-Finish Position (AFP) of 6.0 is best among all drivers. He is a solid mid-tier DFS selection, and a must-have C-list option in Yahoo! Sports leagues. Gordon leads all active drivers with nine Martinsville wins in 46 tries, and he has 37 Top 10 finishes. That includes his last appearance in Nov. 15, when he hauled home a grandfather clock for his winning effort in a caution-marred race.
(DraftKings.com salaries in parentheses)
Gordon’s longtime teammate, Jimmie Johnson ($10,500), will be pleased to have the veteran driver back behind the wheel, as he looks to equal Gordon’s win total of nine at Martinsville. J.J. has rattled off eight victories with 18 Top 5s and 23 Top 10s in 29 career starts, good for a 7.52 AFP. He has tailed off slightly over the past five starts at the track, but he still brought it home ninth in the spring race. He hasn’t won since the April 2013 STP Gas Booster 500, but one should never overlook him for Fantasy purposes at this track. He and Gordon have dominated at Martinsville for years, and the rest of the field is just starting to catch up. Johnson is a bargain at $26.00 in NASCAR’s Fantasy Live to build a team around.
Penske Racing’s Joey Logano ($9,800) looks to carry over his momentum from a win at Talladega last week. The racing is obviously completely different from the restrictor-plate track to the shortest track on the circuit, but Logano has shown an ability to adapt over the past few seasons. He is nipping at the heels of Gordon in terms of Driver Rating, too, posting a 110.4 mark with a Cup-leading 435 laps at Martinsville over his past five outings. He has also turned 84.8 percent of his laps inside the Top 15, best among all drivers. He has never won in 15 career starts, but he qualifies well at the track and has improved dramatically in recent seasons at a short track which takes time to master.
Like his teammate, Brad Keselowski ($9,600) has never won at Martinsville in 13 career starts. Unlike his teammate, though, Keselowski is still dealing with a learning curve and he hasn’t exactly figured out the nuances of the Virginia short track just yet. He finds himself outside of the Top 10 in Driver Rating over the past five starts, and he has just three Top 5s in 13 starts while posting just 171 laps led. The good news is that he has zero DNFs and a 14.7 AFP, but you can get more bang for your DFS buck elsewhere.
Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick ($10,300) checks in fourth with a 104.3 Driver Rating over his past five starts at the short track, leading 265 laps during the span with a 14.6 AFP. Surprisingly, in 30 career starts, Harvick has just one win back in the April 2011 race. He is still pretty good at the track, posting 14 Top 10s and 22 Top 20s with 628 laps led and a 15.9 AFP, but he isn’t as dominant as he is at other tracks. With a high salary and low Fantasy points per dollar spent average, it’s best to build around another five-figure DFS option.
JGR’s Denny Hamlin ($10,000) is third among all drivers with five wins and a 9.5 AFP in 21 career starts at Martinsville, as the Chesterfield, Va. always puts a show on for his home-state fans. He has 11 Top 5s and 16 Top 10s in those 21 starts while leading 1,315 laps. He is a must-have Fantasy option, and you can save a little bit of salary since he is the fourth-most expensive option on the board. If you can squeeze him into your No. 2 spot on DraftKings, you’re going to be in good shape.
Matt Kenseth ($9,200) has never won in 33 career starts at Martinsville, but he has a respectable 15.1 AFP with 12 Top 10s and 24 Top 20s while leading 465 laps. He is a solid, yet unspectacular Fantasy option. Teammate Carl Edwards ($8,900) is in the same boat, posting zero wins with just one Top 5 in 24 career starts, yet he has 20 Top 20s and a solid 15.5 AFP. He doesn’t run well at Martinsville, but Edwards rarely has an awful finish, either. Still, for Fantasy purposes, Kenseth and Edwards are nothing more than mediocre options at Martinsville and you can do better.
Among the lower priced drivers, HScott Motorsports driver Clint Bowyer ($7,700) has posted two Top 20 finishes over his past three outings, and he looks to build on that momentum in Martinsville, a place he has traditionally done pretty well. While he isn’t inside the Top 10 in Driver Rating over the past five starts, he has a 14.2 AFP over his career at Martinsville to rank sixth among all active drivers. He has never won in 21 starts, but he has four Top 5s, 12 Top 10s and 16 Top 20s. As a No. 5 or 6 driver option, he is a solid play at this price level.
Richard Childress Racing’s Ryan Newman ($7,800) might not be in the Chase, but he has six straight Top 20 finishes, and has been running fairly well lately. He has a win with eight Top 5s and 14 Top 10s in 29 career starts at Martinsville, good for a 15.0 AFP which has him ranked 10th among all active drivers. At this price range, he is a solid play for DFS and Seasonal Fantasy owners. At Martinsville, you need a veteran presence with a calm demeanor, and perhaps no one else fits that description better than Newman.
Newman’s teammate, Paul Menard ($6,400), is the best of an ugly lot in the $6-7K price range, as all other options are a waste. Menard is a solid play after turning in a 20th at Kansas and 13th at Talladega. Half of his 18 career Martinsville starts have resulted in Top 20 finishes, and he has two Top 10s with a 19.6 AFP. Just don’t expect to see the No. 27 out front, as he has just 10 laps led in 18 starts.
Chip Ganassi Racing’s Jamie McMurray ($7,900) could surprise, as he has 14 Top 10s and 19 Top 20s in 27 career starts while leading 201 laps. He has never won, but with a 16.6 AFP, he ranks 14th among all active drivers. Richard Childress Racing’s Austin Dillon ($8,100) has just started to cut his teeth at the track, but he is making big strides. In five starts, he has a Top 5 and four Top 20s while leading six laps and turning in a respectable 18.0 AFP. He has an impressive fourth-place run in the spring race, and is a strong mid-tier play for Fantasy owners.
JTG Daugherty Racing’s A.J. Allmendinger ($7,300) has been mighty impressive over his past two races, posting an eighth-place finish at Kansas and following that up with a 10th-place showing at Talladega. He carries a lot of momentum into Martinsville, where he was a runner-up in the spring race. Allmendinger might not get a lot of attention from the casual Fantasy player this week, but he has been running strong and is a must-have at this price level.
Roush Fenway Racing’s Greg Biffle ($7,100) managed a 12th-place finish in the spring run at Martinsville, and he had a decent 15th-place finish last weekend in Talladega. Biffle won’t challenge for the win, and likely won’t lead many laps, but as a No. 5 driver and salary saver, he also won’t hurt your Fantasy squad. At $17.25 in NASCAR’s Fantasy Live, he isn’t a bad mid-tier option, allowing you to stack the bottom of your lineup with mid-tier guys.
Lastly, 18-year-old Gray Gaulding ($4,900) will make his Sprint Cup debut at Martinsville. He was signed to the Roush Fenway Racing developmental program back in April, and is set to drive the No. 30 car for the The Motorsports Group. Gaulding will also start in Phoenix and Homestead-Miami. I watched Gaulding race at Bowman Gray Stadium in the K&N Pro Series East race back in 2013, and he had a killer instinct as a newly-licensed driver at 16 years old. He finished eighth, just ahead of Daniel Suarez, the first Mexican driver to win a NASCAR race this season on the Xfinity Series in Michigan. Gaulding has a ton of talent and he might be in line to be the next young gun like Kyle Larson on the Cup Series. Stay tuned.
NASCAR FANTASY LINEUPS FOR MARTINSVILLE
|No.||Driver||DraftKings Salary||No.||Driver||Fantasy Live Salary||No.||Yahoo! Sports Driver|
|1||Jimmie Johnson||$10,500||1||Denny Hamlin||$26.50||1||Jimmie Johnson|
|2||Denny Hamlin||$10,000||2||Jimmie Johnson||$26.00||2||Ryan Newman|
|3||Jeff Gordon||$8,800||3||Jeff Gordon||$23.25||3||A.J. Allmendinger|
|4||Ryan Newman||$7,800||4||A.J. Allmendinger||$15.75||4||Jeff Gordon|
|5||A.J. Allmendinger||$7,300||5||Gray Gaulding||$5.00|