500. Five hundred. That’s how many laps the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series is set to run here at Martinsville Speedway on Sunday, and if that doesn’t excite you, I don’t know what will.
While many people have their eyes glued to the March Madness basketball games this weekend, us NASCAR junkies know that one of the best races of the season is upon us: the STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway! Any short track action is incredibly fun to watch, and this little half-mile track has given us some incredible finishes over the years, including the fall race last season when Joey Logano took the bumper to Martin Truex, Jr. to score the win (and, ultimately, the championship).
One important thing to note this weekend is the starting lineup. We all know how important place differential points are in DraftKings, and with this weekend’s condensed schedule at Martinsville, there’s a strong likelihood that there will be a few drivers starting from the back (and being scored from there by DraftKings). This is because NASCAR is doing tech inspection on Sunday morning, and if any car fails inspection once, that driver’s qualifying time is disallowed entirely. So as far as building DraftKings lineups for this weekend’s race, I’d probably wait until inspection is over, as any failures could have major implications when it comes to who to pick in Fantasy NASCAR.
The projections in this post have been updated after the inspection failures from Sunday morning. I’ve also added a few new notes.
Here are some helpful links to the practice speeds from this weekend:
DraftKings Strategy Tactics for Martinsville
Common sense tells us that the pole sitter at a short track has the ultimate advantage, and it’s huge for DraftKings. Not only are they leading early because of the pole position, but also leading a lot, since there are a ton of laps in this race. That equals quite a few dominator points. However, there’s an interesting trend going on lately with Martinsville: the pole sitter hasn’t been a great dominator option, especially in this spring race. Let’s look at the pole sitters over the last three spring races at Martinsville.
|2018||Martin Truex, Jr.||29||4||15.5||4||52.5|
Those numbers are terrifying, and it’s not like those drivers are mid-tier talent like Austin Dillon–two of the three are NASCAR champions. Now, the fall race has yielded better results for the pole sitters, but here’s a statistic for you to think about: only once in the last eleven races has the pole sitter put up the most dominator points, and it was Jamie McMurray (seriously) in the fall 2014 race.
Speaking of dominators, we typically see at least three dominators at Martinsville, but there have been cases where there have only been two. Obviously there’s going to usually be one driver that has more dominator points than the rest, but to have the top lineup on Sunday you’ll probably need at least two of the major dominators, depending on salaries.
Here’s a list of the drivers who scored 40+ dominator points over the last four races at Martinsville Speedway:
So now that we’ve gone over that, let’s get to the meat and potatoes of this post. Again, take everything below with a grain of salt; the drivers I love for GPP plays and my fades are based off of the qualifying results from Saturday. Even one failure during inspection on Sunday morning could screw everything up.
GPP Drivers I Love for the STP 500
Kevin Harvick ($10,800) – Okay, let’s just step back and take a look at what we have up front to start the STP 500: two likely dominators in Joey Logano ($11,300) and Brad Keselowski ($12,400), and a guy starting second in Aric Almirola ($8,700) that will probably go over-owned as an alternate dominator since Kyle Busch ($13,000) and Martin Truex, Jr. ($11,900) are so high in price. See where I’m going with this? The mass majority of DraftKings players on Sunday are going to completely overlook Kevin Harvick, who starts 4th and looks to have a very good car on the long runs; Harvick ranked 5th-best in 20-lap average during Happy Hour and 2nd-best in 30-lap average. Now, it’s been a while since Harvick put up a great performance here at Martinsville (he scored 82.5 DraftKings points in the spring 2016 race) but he’s won here in the past and has finished 10th, 5th, and 5th in the last three races at “The Paperclip.” Is this the weekend Rodney Childers and the #4 crew finally hit on something at Martinsville? I like being very heavy on Kyle Busch and Martin Truex, Jr. this weekend, but as far as an overweight off-sequence play goes, give me Kevin Harvick.
Chris Buescher ($6,500) – Is this an extremely risky play? Absolutely. But this is the type of pick that can be the difference between taking down a GPP and finishing 20th. Chris Buescher qualified 13th for Sunday’s STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway, which I will admit is incredibly high and would normally land him on my “full fade” list. However, let’s not forget that Martinsville is a different beast. With how quickly the leader puts cars a lap down at “The Paperclip,” sometimes just staying on the lead lap is half the battle. And you know what helps you stay on the lead lap? A good starting spot and pit stall. This season, Buescher has been nothing short of impressive each and every week. He’s finished 18th or better in every race since Daytona, and looking at this track specifically, he came home 11th in this race back in 2017 and 13th here in the fall race last season. And man, what a pivot off of Daniel Hemric ($6,600), who qualified back in 29th…
ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS AFTER INSPECTION ON SUNDAY
William Byron ($6,900) was the only “big name” driver that failed inspection on Sunday morning, and he’ll give up his original 6th-place starting spot and drop to the back. Byron will be scored from 35th and everyone else that originally qualified behind him *and passed inspection* will move up one spot from where they were on Saturday. This immediately makes William Byron a chalk play in DraftKings for the STP 500 at Martinsville, but you know me, I like to be a little risky. I’ll gladly take Ryan Newman ($6,800) as a pivot off of Byron in GPP contests. Not only does Byron have a tendency to hit the wall during races, but he could easily find himself a lap down early here on Sunday. Also, if you check out the projections below, they actually prefer Newman over Byron straight up. If Byron is at 40% ownership and finishes in the 30s, you’re probably going to have a very good day if you fade him.
Another GPP play I like more and more as I thought about it overnight is Denny Hamlin ($9,400). I view him in a similar light to Kevin Harvick, where people are probably going to be so focused on Logano/Truex/Keselowski that they’ll overlook and/or not be able to afford Hamlin. If you look at the projections chart below, though, the #11 Toyota is actually projected as the #5 dominator for today’s race, and it’s not like Hamlin doesn’t know how to get around this half-mile race track; Denny is a five-time winner at Martinsville speedway and has a 50% top 5 finish rate. He wound up 2nd here last fall and won Stage 1 in both races here at “The Paperclip” last season. My only concern is that patented late-race fade that always seems to happen with Hamlin, but at the same time, this #11 team is running extremely well this season, so maybe those days are over…
GPP Fade Options for Martinsville
Joey Logano ($11,300) – You shouldn’t be too surprised to see this name here if you read through the Strategy Tactics portion of this post. Now, let me be clear: I don’t hate Logano this week, and I’m by no means recommending a full fade here. However, I like being underweight on the pole sitter at Martinsville. Now you’re probably wondering how much I mean when I simply say “underweight.” It depends how much you think the field will own Logano, honestly. I’ve said time and time before that I’m no guru when it comes to ownership projections, but if Logano is at 35% on Sunday, I wouldn’t mind being at 20%. The fact of the matter is that it’s rare for the pole sitter at Martinsville to be the top dominator, and if you’re going to roster a driver for $11,300 in DraftKings, he better put up some massive points. This is Logano’s seventh front row start at Martinsville, and looking at his laps led over the last six, he has: 59, 21, 21, 207, 108, and 60. Four of those six wouldn’t get Joey into the winning lineup this weekend, and the #22 Ford isn’t good enough to lead 200+.
Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. ($7,200) – With Austin Dillon heading into Sunday as such a chalk pick in DraftKings, there may be some people that are looking to pivot off of him and go with someone like Stenhouse. Don’t do it. If you’re going to purposely stay away from Dillon this weekend, go with a safer (and better) option in Stenhouse’s teammate, Ryan Newman ($6,800). But now that we’ve got that cleared up…Ricky may look like a decent DFS play this weekend since he starts back in 25th, but not at Martinsville. Stenhouse owns a career average finish of 28.2 here, and although he did post top 10 finishes in both races here back in 2017, even a blind squirrel finds a nut everyone once in a while. I’d rather place a bet on the over/under lap number that Stenhouse hits the wall on Sunday than put him in my DraftKings lineup.
Martinsville STP 500 DraftKings Projections
You can click the headers below to sort the chart by that attribute. By default it is sorted by average projected FPTS.
|Driver||Starting Position||DraftKings Salary||Avg Proj FPTS||Avg. Projected Finish||Proj Laps Led||Proj Fastest Laps||Dollar Per FPT|
|Martin Truex Jr||8||$11,900||94.7||03.2||84||55||$126|
|Ricky Stenhouse Jr||24||$7,200||25.3||21.6||0||1||$285|