The Cup Series will travel to Martinsville Speedway this week to continue their short track portion of the schedule. This track has a history of producing some historic races, but the Gen-7 car did not produce much passing (unless a driver used the “Hail Melon”). The cars will use the new short track aero package this week. This means the cars will have 30% less downforce, making them harder to control and easier to pass. I love this little track. I sure hope the new aero package gets the racing back to what it has been in the past at Martinsville. The NOCO 400 can be seen Sunday at 3 pm ET on FS1.
STRATEGY FOR MARTINSVILLE
The lineups lock Saturday at 4:45 pm ET. That means we get to see 15 minutes of practice, but we must click on the “submit” button. It would be nice to take advantage of the on-track speeds we get to see Saturday, but there is simply not enough time for me to analyze the speeds, write an article and get it published before our lineups lock Saturday. That is why I am posting the article now and not during the practice session Saturday.
Hendrick Motorsports led 397 of the 403 laps at Martinsville last year (Chase Elliott led 185 laps and William Byron led 212 laps). Hendrick Motorsports led 265 of the 317 laps at Phoenix and the HMS car led 228 of the 400 laps at Richmond earlier this season. It is obvious that Hendrick Motorsports has the advantage on the short, flat tracks so I plan to use many of their drivers in my lineups this week.
Chase Elliott will return to the seat of the No. 9 car Sunday. Elliott would be a lock for all lineups if he was returning from a broken leg. I wish we could see him in practice and qualifying before we had to decide to use Elliott in our lineups, but that is not the case. I will take a “wait and see approach” with Elliott. If he looks good in practice, I will play him in Fantasy Live, but I need to fade him in the Driver Group Game.
Here are the picks for the NOCO 400 …
DRIVER GROUP GAME LINEUP
GROUP A DRIVERS
WILLIAM BYRON (7): It will be tough to pick against the Hendrick Motorsports drivers this week. Byron dominated the short, flat track races at Phoenix and Richmond earlier this season and he dominated this race at Martinsville last year when he led 212 laps, scored 18 Stage Points and went to Victory Lane. Byron has been the best driver in the Cup Series this season. There is no guarantee that his hot streak will continue all season, so I will use another allocation with the No. 24 car Sunday.
DENNY HAMLIN (9): Hamlin is always a good pick on the short, flat tracks in his home state of Virginia. He had one of the fastest cars in the race two weeks ago at Richmond and the No. 11 car should be fast again this week. Hamlin led 203 laps, scored 20 Stage Points and finished fifth in the last race at Martinsville. I would not be surprised if Hamlin had a similar race Sunday.
(CONTRARIAN PICK) CHRISTOPHER BELL (8): Bell will have momentum after his win last week at Bristol. He also won the last race at Martinsville. Bell led 150 laps, scored 11 Stages Points on his way to Victory Lane last October. I expect most people will use William Byron, Denny Hamlin or Joey Logano. Bell could be the contrarian pick that outscores the other drivers in Group A Sunday.
GROUP A DRIVER RANKINGS: 1) William Byron 2) Denny Hamlin 3) Chase Elliott 4) Christopher Bell 5) Kyle Larson 6) Joey Logano 7) Ryan Blaney 8) Ross Chastain
GROUP B DRIVERS
ALEX BOWMAN (8): Do you like consistency? Bowman has finished six of the eight races this season in the top-10. The only races he failed to finish in the top-10 were at the Superspeedway in Atlanta and last week on the dirt. He should be good again this week, not that the draft is not in play and there is no dirt on the track. Bowman won at Martinsville in 2021, so he knows how to get around this tricky track. I really like the Hendrick Motorsports drivers this week, so I will have the No. 48 car in my lineup.
MARTIN TRUEX JR. (8): It has been 52 races since Truex went to Victory Lane. He has only won four races out of the 80 races with James Small on top of the pit box. The good news is the races he has won were at Richmond, Phoenix and Martinsville (these are all short, flat tracks). If Truex is going to win, it will be on a short, flat track. Truex led 56 laps at Richmond two weeks ago. The No. 19 car should be fast again this weekend.
BRAD KESELOWSKI (8): It wasn’t long ago when Keselowski was destroying the field at Martinsville. He led 446 of the 500 laps at Martinsville in 2019. He knows how to dominate this race “if” his car is good. Keselowski wasn’t very good at Martinsville last year, but RFK Racing found some speed during the offseason. Keselowski finished 10th two weeks ago at Richmond. The No. 6 car should spend a lot of time in the top-10 Sunday and score well for your Driver Group Game lineup.
KYLE BUSCH (7): I thought about taking a chance with Aric Almirola, because his stats at Martinsville are pretty good, but I know I would not be able to pull the trigger and use him over Alex Bowman, Martin Truex Jr. or Brad Keselowski if they had speed in practice. Busch has not been great at Martinsville in a while. I doubt I will use Rowdy in my starting lineup, unless he smokes the field in practice. I do think he has a good chance to qualify up front and score some bonus points. That is why Busch is in the lineup this week.
(CONTRARIAN PICK) CHASE BRISCOE (8): I thought about using Briscoe this week, but I am kind of worried about his finger. He said on SiriusXM that they built him a cast to race at Bristol and it worked OK, but he still had a lot of pain. Martinsville is one of the toughest tracks physically on drivers, so Briscoe is going to need to tough it out this week. His stats at Martinsville are good, so if he can get through the pain, Briscoe should be able to finish in the top-10.
GROUP B DRIVER RANKINGS: 1) Alex Bowman 2) Martin Truex Jr. 3) Brad Keselowski 4) Kyle Busch 5) Kevin Harvick 6) Chase Briscoe 7) Aric Almirola 8) Bubba Wallace 9) Austin Dillon 10) Tyler Reddick
GROUP C DRIVERS
RYAN PREECE (8): Preece is a short track ace. He has had a lot of success at Martinsville in the modified series and he should be very good in his Stewart-Haas Racing Ford. Preece finished 12th at Phoenix and 18th at Richmond earlier this year. Martinsville fits his driving style and this has been a decent track for Stewart-Haas Racing.
TY GIBBS (8): Martinsville has been a good track for Joe Gibbs Racing and Gibbs is starting to figure out how to compete against the Cup Series drivers. He has finished the last three races in the top-10. Gibbs drove the No. 23 car for 23XI Racing last year at Martinsville. He started 26th and finished 19th. Gibbs has improved a lot from that race. He should be able to finish in the top-15 Sunday, with top-10 upside.
(OTHER CHOICE) AJ ALLMENDINGER (6): Allmendinger has had some good runs at Martinsville in his career. The best way to pass drivers at Martinsville is to out-brake them in the corners. This is a similar driving style to road course racing. Few drivers in the field are as good as Allmendinger at outbraking the competition. He would be a good driver to take a chance with if Josh Berry is not available in Group C.
GROUP C DRIVER RANKINGS: 1) Ryan Preece 2) Ty Gibbs 3) AJ Allmendinger 4) Michael McDowell 5) Zane Smith
* Be sure to check back Sunday morning for my starting lineup.
TRUCK SERIES PICKS
XFINITY SERIES PICKS
*Lineups did not lock until 20 minutes into practice. I was able to get Cole Custer into my lineups. I would use Custer over Nemechek if you can.
Good Luck This Weekend!
Follow me on Twitter @MrFantasyNASCAR
If you like Fantasy NASCAR, LIKE my Fantasy NASCAR Tips Page on Facebook