DraftKings DFS NASCAR Picks: Goody’s Headache Relief Shot 500
The Chase for the Sprint Cup Series Championship rolls into Martinsville, Va. for the Goody’s Headache Relief Shot 500, as we get closer to crowning a champion. We’re now down to the final four races of the 2015 season, and the final short track run. A lot is on the line this weekend, and I wish I were there.
If you’re reading this column you’re obviously a fan of NASCAR in some form or another. If you have never been to Martinsville, do yourself a favor and make plans to do so. The people are friendly, the tailgating is top-notch, the entire track can be seen from any seat and the action is fast, frenetic and LOUD. Races are loud at most venues, but especially so at this track. And, although they have changed in recent seasons, the famous Martinsville hot dog is the best, not in NASCAR, but in all of sports. Just trust me. I am a fat guy, and I know my food. I’ll take a Martinsville hot dog over a Fenway Frank or Dodger Dog any day of the week.
So back to the real reason why you’re here. Jeff Gordon ($10,300) has been the top dog at Martinsville for a number of years, winning eight grandfather clocks in 45 career starts while checking in with an Average-Finish Position (AFP) of 6.9. He has finished outside of the Top 20 just three times and he has never had a DNF in his career at the paper clip. The venerable Gordon leads all active drivers wtih 3,741 career laps led. Wouldn’t it be a storybook finish to his career for the championship contender to win at one of his favorite and best tracks, launching him closer to a title? It could happen, and he is a very good DFS play. He will go off fifth after turning a qualifying best speed of 97.896 mph.
Nipping at his heels over the past five stops at Martinsville has been Matt Kenseth ($9,900). While Gordon tops the Driver Rating category (113.2) in the past five starts at the Virginia run, NASCAR’s Loop Data shows Kenseth in second (111.2), running 86.8 percent of his laps inside the Top 15. Only Denny Hamlin ($10,200) has been better during the span, appearing in the Top 15 in 90.2 percent of his races over the past three seasons at Martinsville. Hamlin is also second among all active drivers with five checkered flags at the short track.
The normally reliable Jimmie Johnson ($10,400) is also right there in Driver Rating (110.0), and like his teammate Gordon he leads all active drivers with eight career victories. Johnson has an AFP of 7.3 and he also has finished outside of the Top 20 on just three separate occasions in 27 career starts.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. ($9,200) has just one grandfather clock to his name in 31 career starts, but he always seems to be in the mix. He has recorded 12 Top 5 finishes while running in front for 972 laps. He picked up significant speed in practice Saturday after qualifying 22nd Friday. He should scoot up rather nicely Sunday, earning plenty of DFS points with several laps led and Place Differential points. Among the bigger name drivers, Little E is almost a must-play despite just the lone win in his career at the track.
Joey Logano ($10,500) has been a buzzsaw lately, winning three straight races at Kansas, Charlotte and Talladega. What’s impressive is that he has wins not only at intermediates/tri-ovals this season, but superspeedways, a road course and the short track at Bristol. He should be considered in DFS, regardless of track type, and Martinsville is no exception. Over the past five starts he is fifth in Driver Rating at 105.3, running inside the Top 15 in 84.2 percent of his laps. Only three other drivers have been better in AFP at Martinsville since the start of the 2013 season. Oh yeah, and the No. 22 sits on the pole for Sunday’s race.
Other drivers with strong Driver Rating’s over the past five starts at Martinsville include Kyle Busch ($10,000) at 99.8, Kevin Harvick ($10,600) at 97.6 and Jamie McMurray ($7,900) at 95.0. The latter is a strong mid-tier DFS play considering he has led 201 laps in 25 career starts with 18 Top 20s. Jamie Mac will start in his No. 1 on the second row Sunday.
Brad Keselowski ($9,400) does not rank in the Top 10 in Driver Rating over the past five starts at Martinsville, but he has managed a respectable 14.0 AFP in 11 career starts, finishing outside of the Top 20 on just two occasions. Kes is set to start 11th Sunday afternoon.
ON THE DOWN LOW
It has been a lost season for Stewart-Haas Racing’s Tony Stewart ($6,900), posting just two Top 10 finishes in 33 starts in what is expected to be his penultimate season running Cup. He hasn’t really factored in over the past five stops at Martinsville, but over his career he has a respectable 13.8 AFP with three wins and 1,234 laps led. He also has 10 Top 5s in 32 career starts, which makes him a sleeper pick. He clapped the wall in the second practice session and suffered significant damage after finishing eighth, so he will start the race in the back of the pack in a backup car. That makes him an intriguing DFS pick since he should pick off plenty of drivers to move up the leaderboard while gaining valuable Place Differential points.
Stewart’s former teammate Ryan Newman ($7,100) has one win at the short track, and he has managed 12 Top 10s in 27 career starts with an AFP of 15.5. He is a tremendous sleeper as a No. 5 or 6 driver for Sunday’s race, and he qualified well. He will go off seventh in Sunday’s run.
Clint Bowyer ($7,300) has actually never won at Martinsville, but he has come close. He ranks fourth among all active drivers with a 12.1 AFP, posting 12 Top 10 finishes in 19 career starts at the clip. He has led 356 laps over his career and checks in sixth in Driver Rating over the past five starts at the venue while running 83.6 percent of his laps inside the Top 15. He is a great value play at this price level, perhaps more so than Smoke since Bowyer has 13 Top 10 finishes in 34 races this season.
Aric Almirola ($5,800) was surprisingly good in qualifying, as his No. 43 Ford will start eighth Sunday afternoon. He hasn’t been much of a factor at Martinsville in the past, posting just one Top 5 in 13 career starts with a rather middling 22.9 AFP. However, the Richard Petty Motorsports team has made tremendous strides with their short-track package, and Almirola was fourth in the last short-track stop at Richmond in mid-September. He has also finished in the Top 20 in all five of his short track races this season, so as a No. 6 driver he might be a guy many others discard because of his overall struggles, but who helps you to the top of the pack.