The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series begins the round of eight this week at Martinsville Speedway for the First Data 500. On the shortest track in the Cup Series, owners must expect crashes and a lot of driver contact at Martinsville. There are only four races left this season and because of that, watch for the remaining drivers in the playoffs to take big risks to capture a win to advance to the final round.
TOP PRICED PICKS
Martin Truex Jr. ($11,200 on DraftKings) claimed his series-leading seventh victory of the season at Kansas last week. In 23 starts at Martinsville, Truex has seven Top 10 finishes, which include three in his last five starts at the site. Since 2005 at Martinsville, he has led the 10th-most Laps at 240. Truex had the eighth-best 10 Consecutive Lap Average in first practice, and had the second-best 10 Consecutive Lap Average in final practice. Regardless of where he qualifies, Truex is a threat for a Top 10 finish based on practice speeds compared to the rest of the field and overall performance this season.
Kyle Busch ($11,000) is one of the best picks for Martinsville. He has finished in the Top 5 in his last four starts at the site. In 24 starts at Martinsville, Kyle Busch has 13 Top 10 finishes, one win, and 1,116 Laps Led, which is third of active drivers. Since 2005 at Martinsville, Kyle Busch has the third-most Fastest Laps at 624, the third-best Average Running Position of 11.6, and the third-best Driver Rating of 101.3. He had the best 10 Consecutive Lap Average throughout practices, was fifth in first practice, and eighth in second practice. Kyle Busch’s practice speeds indicate the he will qualify close to the front, making him a contender to win and to lead plenty of laps.
Jimmie Johnson ($9,800) is the defending winner of this week’s race. In 31 starts at the site, Johnson has nine wins, 24 Top 10 finishes, and 2,839 Laps Led, all of which are the best of active drivers. Since 2005 at Martinsville, Johnson leads all drivers in Average Finishing Position at 7.1, ARP at 8.0, Fastest Laps at 1,118, Laps in the Top 15 at 10,743, and DR at 116.9. Johnson was 13th in the 10 Consecutive Lap Average in first practice and had the third-best 10 Consecutive Lap Average in final practice. Johnson’s history is unrivaled at Martinsville and if he qualifies outside the Top 10, he will be a very good pick. If he starts in the Top 10, expect him to finish there.
Brad Keselowski ($9,600) is the most recent victor at Martinsville, winning earlier this spring. In 15 starts at the site, Keselowski has one win and nine Top 10 finishes. At Martinsville, Keselowski has the fifth-best ARP of 13.2, the seventh-most Fastest Laps at 343, and the fifth-best DR of 93.7. Keselowski was sixth in first practice and seventh in final practice. Keselowski has looked solid throughout practices compared to other drivers and that indicates a Top 10 finish, regardless of qualifying position.
Chase Elliott ($9,400) scored his best career finish of third at Martinsville earlier this season. In four starts at Martinsville, Elliott has two Top 15 finishes. In the last six races in 2017, Elliott has four Top 5 finishes including three runner-ups. He had the fifth-best 10 Consecutive Lap Average in first practice and was second in final practice. Elliott has quietly been consistent in recent races this season and had good practice speeds compared to other drivers. Watch for Elliott to qualify in the Top 10 and to finish in that range.
Denny Hamlin ($9,200) performed consistently well in the most recent round of the playoffs, finishing sixth or better in the last three races. In 23 starts at Martinsville, Hamlin has five wins, 17 Top 10 finishes, and 1,387 Laps Led, which is second of active drivers. Since 2005 at the site, Hamlin has the second-best AFP of 10.1, the second-best ARP of 9.8, the second-most Laps in the Top 15 at 9,224, and the second-best DR of 106.6. Hamlin was first in first practice and was 12th in the 10 Consecutive Lap Average in final practice. Martinsville is one of Hamlin’s best tracks and his practice speeds point to another Top 10 finish for him.
MID-RANGE PRICED PICKS
Clint Bowyer ($8,800) started eighth and finished seventh in first start at Martinsville with Stewart-Haas Racing earlier this season. In 23 starts at Martinsville, Bowyer has 13 Top 10 finishes. Since 2005 at the site, Bowyer has the ninth-best ARP of 14.5, the sixth-most Laps in the Top 15 at 7,483, and the ninth-best DR of 88.7. He had the fourth-best 10 Consecutive Lap Average in first practice and was fourth in final practice. Bowyer has shown speeds indicative of a Top 5 finish and just like in the spring race, look for Bowyer to qualify there as well.
Jamie McMurray ($8,500) has three Top 10 finishes in his last five Martinsville starts. Since 2005 at the site, McMurray has the ninth-most Quality Passes (Passes of cars in the Top 15 under green flag conditions) at 613 and the ninth-most Laps in the Top 15 at 7,063. McMurray was eighth in first practice and sixth in second practice. Watch for McMurray to qualify in the Top 10 and to finish around there based on his practice speeds.
Ryan Newman ($7,400) has three Top 10 finishes in his last four starts at Martinsville. In 31 starts at the site, Newman has one win and 15 Top 10 finishes. Since 2005 at Martinsville, Newman has the eighth-most Laps in the Top 15 at 7,164, the seventh-most Quality Passes at 768, and the 10th-best DR of 86.2. Newman was third in first practice and 11th in final practice. Newman has been solid at Martinsville in the past and his practice speeds signify a Top 10 finish.
Daniel Suarez ($7,200) made his first start at Martinsville in the spring, starting 19th and finishing 32nd. He has finished in the Top 15 in six of his last seven races and he has improved on his previous results when he revisits a track. He had the ninth-best 10 Consecutive Lap Average in first practice and had the 13th 10 Consecutive Lap Average in final practice. He has looked decent compared to the rest of the field in practices, but his price makes him an appealing pick with a high chance of finishing in the Top 15 due to practice speeds.
Chris Buescher ($6,800) started 33rd and finished 11th in the Martinsville spring race. He has finished in the Top 20 in the last three races this season, including a finish of sixth last week at Kansas. He was 18th in first practice and 24th in second practice. Expect Buescher to qualify outside of the Top 20 and to finish in the Top 20 based on practice speeds.
A.J. Allmendinger ($6,000) has the distinction of being the only bargain choice to have three consecutive Top 10 finishes at Martinsville going into this week’s race. Since 2014, Allmendinger has only one finish worse than 11th . He was ninth in first practice and 12th in final practice. Allmendinger’s practice speeds are comparable to drivers with a much higher price than him and he has been strong at Martinsville in the past. He is the best bargain to go for this week.
Aric Almirola ($5,900) has finished in the Top 20 in four of his last five Martinsville starts. In 17 starts at the site, Almirola has 10 Top 20 finishes. Almirola has finished in the Top 10 in the last two races this season. He was 28th in first practice and ninth in final practice. Expect him to finish in the Top 20 based on the practice speeds.