It all comes down to this… well kind of. The NASCAR Cup Series is at Martinsville Speedway this weekend for the Xfinity 500, and this is the final race before the Finale. Currently, Kyle Larson is the only driver locked into the Phoenix Championship race, and while Denny Hamlin and Chase Elliott are looking solid on points, anything can happen on this half-mile paperclip race track. Martinsville is a short, flat track, and the other venues in that category include Phoenix, Richmond, and New Hampshire. With that being said, Martinsville is quite unique from the others, but the closest is probably New Hampshire.
*Please note: the picks and suggestions below are my opinions and strategy for the Slingshot Fantasy Auto Contest. These are not meant to sway your thinking in any way, but rather give you insight into the drivers I am most likely to pick on race day.*
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Slingshot Fantasy Auto Contest Picks for the Xfinity 500 at Martinsville
Martin Truex, Jr. ($12,300) – You should know the whole story by now: Martin Truex, Jr. used to not be great on short tracks, now he is. Here at Martinsville, Truex has won three of the last four races, and he probably had the 2nd-best car here last fall before a late issue relegated him to a 22nd-place finish. Over the last eight Martinsville races, Truex has posted six top 5 finishes and that 22nd is his only result worse than 8th. On the short, flat tracks this season, MTJ won at Phoenix, won here at Martinsville, finished 5th in the first Richmond race, won the second Richmond race, and finished 12th at New Hampshire despite wrecking in the rain early. Oh, and to top it all off, Truex is running the Moody Blue paint scheme this weekend (click here to see why that’s significant).
Ryan Blaney ($11,300) – Young Ryan Blaney will start 8th at “The Paperclip” on Sunday, the worst among the eight Playoff drivers who are actually racing for something (excluding Kyle Larson). So that gives him a little bit of place differential upside at one of his best tracks. Here at Martinsville, Blaney is a top 5 machine, finishing inside that mark in five of the last seven races, and ending up 5th or better in eight of the last ten Stages as well. Blaney won both Stages here at Martinsville in the first race this season while also leading 157 laps but had a late pit road penalty that relegated him to an 11th-place finish.
Joey Logano ($11,000) – All three Team Penske Fords are great here at Martinsville, so you can throw Brad Keselowski ($11,200) in here as well. But let’s talk about Joey Logano. He’s in a must win situation if he wants to compete for the Championship at Phoenix next weekend, and while that may seem like it could bring his risk factor up in NASCAR Fantasy contests, it makes us certain of one thing: he’s one of the few in the field that we know will be going 100% on Sunday no matter what. On the short, flat tracks this season, Logano hasn’t finished worse than 6th in the five races, and here at Martinsville specifically he’s finished 6th or better in every single race since the start of 2018 (when you exclude the 2019 races with that awful package).
Denny Hamlin ($12,500) – It’s going to take a major choke job out of James Dennis Alan Hamlin to not make it into the Phoenix Finale, and while I wouldn’t be surprised if that does happen, I don’t think it’s extremely likely. And while he is an elite racer here at Martinsville–Hamlin has five wins at “The Paperclip” and has more top 5s than not in 31 career starts–he still has nothing to race for on Sunday as long as he can finish 12th or so. I can see both scenarios happening: Hamlin winning this race, or falling back in the final laps just to get to Phoenix. As far as short, flat tracks go this year, Dennis has finished 2nd or 3rd in four of the five races and has led a series-high 714 laps. If he didn’t have the possibility of laying off the gas late here on Sunday he’d be a slam dunk NASCAR Fantasy pick.
Chase Elliott ($12,000) – Chase Elliott is in the exact same situation as Denny Hamlin this weekend (basically, give or take a couple points) but Chase is just a bit more risky in the Slingshot Fantasy Auto Contest because he starts 2nd. With that being said, Elliott is the defending winner of this fall race at Martinsville and also finished 2nd here earlier this year. On the short, flat tracks this season, Chase has three top 5 finishes in the five races and ranks 7th in average running position (8.8). He should be very strong early in the race on Sunday but, like Hamlin, I have concerns about Chase easing up in the end.
Christopher Bell ($10,000) – It’s Christopher Bell, so there’s understandable risk here, but I love the upside with picking him on Sunday. Bell brought his #20 Toyota home with a career-best 7th-place finish here back in April and is a perfect 5-for-5 this season when it comes to finishing inside the top 10 on the short, flat tracks. Additionally, CBell has momentum on his side, with four straight finishes of 8th or better in Cup Series action, and three top 5 finishes over the last seven. For perspective, this team has seven top 5s all season long thus far.
“Race Winner” Pick = Martin Truex, Jr. – Three wins on short, flat tracks this season and three wins in the last four Martinsville races overall. Plus the Moody Blue paint scheme. It’s hard to bet against that.