Martinsville Speedway, the oldest track on the NASCAR Cup Series schedule, is the site of this week’s STP 500. Martinsville is known for high amounts of driver contact and tempers flaring between competitors. It is highly possible to see a new rivalry born like the one between Chase Elliott and Denny Hamlin last season, as Martinsville is known for starting rivalries.
CUP SERIES RACE PREVIEW FOR STP 500
Post-Saturday Qualifying Update: Qualifying was cancelled due to rain and the starting lineup is set based on owner points. Here are the drivers to watch based on where they start.
Martin Truex Jr. starts first ahead of Kyle Busch. Truex was fastest in both practices and finished second in his last Martinsville start. Truex’s practice speeds indicate that he will be the dominator of the race, leading several laps right from the beginning. Busch was third in first practice and fourth in final practice. He will finish in the Top 5.
Place Differential is hard to take advantage of at Martinsville due to the small track length making it hard to pass, but some drivers will have fast enough cars to do so. A.J. Allmendinger was 13th in first practice, sixth in final practice and he starts 25th. Ty Dillon was 12th in first practice, 14th in final practice, and starts 32nd. Jamie McMurray ($7,100) starts 26th, was 16th in first practice, and eighth in final practice. Chase Elliott ($9,900) starts 21st, was sixth in first practice, and 15th in final practice. These drivers have displayed practice speeds indicative of finishes well ahead of their starting positions, making them good picks that will pick up plenty of PD points.
Martinsville is one of Kyle Busch’s ($11,000 on DraftKings) strongest tracks in recent years. He has finished in the Top 5 in each of his last five starts at the site, which includes two wins. Since 2016, Kyle Busch has led 1,342 Laps, which is the most of active drivers. In his last six starts at Martinsville, Kyle Busch has the second-most Fastest Laps at 273, the fourth-most Laps in the Top 15 at 2,463, the best Average Running Position of 4.0, and the highest Driver Rating of 128.3. He was third in first practice, fourth in final practice, and had the second-best 10 Consecutive Lap Average in final practice With four Top 10 finishes in the last four races this season including two finishes of second, Kyle Busch has the momentum to compete for the win.
Martin Truex Jr. ($10,700) has finished in the Top 10 in four of his last six Martinsville starts. In 24 starts at the site, Truex has eight Top 10 finishes. In the last three seasons at Martinsville, Truex has the fifth-most Laps Led at 239, the third-best ARP of 8.0. and the fourth-best DR of 100.5. Truex finished second in his last start at Martinsville, which is his best career finish at the site. He was first in both practices and had the third-best 10 Consecutive Lap Average in final practice. After dominating last week’s race at Auto Club, Truex will compete for the win based on his practice speeds.
Brad Keselowski ($10,100) is the defending winner of this week’s race. In his last four starts at Martinsville, Keselowski has finished fifth or better. He also has finished sixth or better in three of the last four races this season. In the last three years at Martinsville, Keselowski has the second-best ARP of 6.6, the most Fastest Laps at 379, and the second-best DR of 117.0. Keselowski was second in both practices and had the best 10 Consecutive Lap Average in final practice. Keselowski’s recent consistency and his practice speeds point to a Top 3 finish.
Denny Hamlin’s ($9,400) five wins at Martinsville rank second of active drivers. In 24 starts at the site, Hamlin has 18 Top 10 finishes and 1,394 Laps Led, which is second of active drivers. In the last three seasons at Martinsville, Hamlin has the fifth-most Fastest Laps at 160 and the second-most Quality Passes (Passes of cars in the Top 15 under green flag conditions) at 229. Since 2016, Hamlin has the fourth-best AFP at 10.8 at all short tracks. Hamlin was eighth in first practice and 18th in final practice. Hamlin is one of the best performing drivers at short tracks and Martinsville is his best of all short tracks statistically. As long as he does not crash like in his last two spring starts at the track, he will deliver a Top 10 finish based on history.
Jimmie Johnson ($9,100) has finished 12th or better in four of his last five Martinsville starts, which includes his last win at the track in 2016. In 32 starts at Martinsville, Johnson has nine wins, 24 Top 10 finishes, and 2,863 Laps Led, all of which are best of active drivers. In the past two years at Martinsville, Johnson has the fourth-most Quality Passes at 199 and he has the fourth-best Place Differential at 31 in the last four races. He also has the third-best AFP at 9.3 at short tracks the past two seasons. Johnson was 20th in first practice and 28th in final practice. Johnson used to dominate Martinsville years ago and despite not being as outstanding now, his overall consistency at the track is too good to ignore. Johnson may not qualify well based on practice speeds and will be a good Place Differential option.
MID RANGE PRICED PICKS
Clint Bowyer ($8,300) finished in the Top 10 in both Martinsville races last season. In 24 starts at Martinsville, Bowyer has 14 Top 10 finishes. Since 2005 at the track, Bowyer has the fifth-best ARP of 14.0. Bowyer has finished 11th or better in three of the last four races this season. He was 11th in first practice, 10th in final practice, and had the fourth-best 10 Consecutive Lap Average. Considering his past success and the finishes he captured last season as well as his practice speeds, Bowyer will compete for a Top 10 finish.
Ryan Newman’s ($7,900) lone victory at Martinsville came in 2012. In 32 starts at the site, Newman has 15 Top 10 finishes. Newman also had the second-best AFP at short tracks last season at 8.6 and he has the third-best AFP in the last four Martinsville spring races at 13.1. Newman has three Top 10 finishes in his last five starts at the site. Newman was fourth in first practice, fifth in final practice, and had the sixth-best 10 Consecutive Lap Average in final practice. Newman is one of the more consistent drivers at Martinsville, and I expect him to continue his consistency by finishing in the Top 10.
Austin Dillon ($7,700) has two Top 5 finishes in the last two Martinsville spring races. In eight starts at the site, Dillon has five Top 15 finishes. He has the highest Place Differential at 67, and the fourth-best AFP at 9.8 in the last four Martinsville races. He was 21st in first practice, 16th in final practice, and had the ninth-best 10 Consecutive Lap Average in final practice. Austin Dillon will compete for a Top 15 finish based on practice speeds.
Paul Menard ($6,800) has three Top 20 finishes in his last four Martinsville starts. In 21 starts at Martinsville, Menard has 11 Top 20 finishes. Menard was 23rd in first practice and 17th in final practice. He is racing with better equipment this season compared to prior years, therefore expect Menard to finish in the Top 20.
A.J. Allmendinger ($6,400) is the best bargain play for Martinsville. He has three Top 10 finishes in his last four starts at the track. Allmendinger was 13th in first practice and sixth in final practice. As long as he avoids crashing, he will compete for a Top 10 finish based on recent history and practice speeds.
Ty Dillon’s ($5,600) best finish in two starts at Martinsville is 22nd. Ty Dillon was 12th in first practice and 14th in final practice. His practice speeds look the best out of all drivers in his value range, making him one of the best bargain plays.