The Round of 8 in the MENCS Playoffs will begin at Martinsville Speedway. Who will be the first driver to secure a spot in the Championship race at Homestead? This race always involves beating and banging but the intensity usually crosses the line when there is so much to race face. The short tracks always produce the best racing in the playoffs. The race can be seen Sunday at 2:30pm ET on NBC Sports Net.
The First Data 500 will have a condensed schedule this weekend. There will be two practices Saturday morning (9am ET on CNBC and 11:30am ET on CNBC). Qualifying will be at 4pm ET on NBCSN.
The MENCS last competed at Martinsville in March. The race was dominated by three drivers and it was not three drivers at the top of the point standings at the time. Martin Truex Jr. won the pole but was only able to lead 4 laps. Denny Hamlin dominated Stage 1. The No. 11 car led 111 laps, won Stage 1, finished 5th in Stage 2 and finished 12th in the race. Ryan Blaney took the lead early in Stage 2 and led 145 laps. Blaney finished 3rd. Clint Bowyer took the lead on lap 285 and it was game over after that. Bowyer led a race-high 215 laps and took home the Grandfather Clock.
Race Rewind at Martinsville: STP 500 (2018)
Martinsville is the shortest track on the circuit (.526 miles) and the flat, paper-clip shaped track provides some of the most aggressive racing of the season. It is a rhythm track and drivers either know when to get into the throttle and ease into the brakes of they don’t. The drivers with a history of performing well at Martinsville are likely to dominate the race Sunday. Seldom do we see a driver who has struggled at this track find a way to the front. Stick to the drivers who have a collection of Grandfather Clocks for your fantasy picks.
Here are my picks for Martinsville…
DraftKings NASCAR Preview
Dominators are very important at Martinsville. There are 500 laps in the race Sunday. That means there are 125 points available for leading laps and 250 points available for fastest laps. The trend at Martinsville is to have one driver lead 200 laps; another driver lead 125 laps and a final driver lead 90 laps. These three dominators tend to score an average of 70 fastest laps as well so we need to make sure we pay up for the top dominators Sunday.
The drivers I expect to be the top dominators this week include: Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski, Clint Bowyer, Martin Truex Jr. and Chase Elliott
The drivers who could be the top value picks (between $9k – $7K) for the race Sunday include: Kurt Busch, Ryan Blaney, Denny Hamlin and Jimmie Johnson
The drivers I expect to be the best cheap drivers (below $7K) for the race Sunday include: Matt Kenseth, AJ Allmendinger, Chris Bueschel and Michael McDowell
Top 15 DraftKings Drivers in Last 5 Races at Martinsville
|Avg. Finish||Laps Led||
|1. Kyle Busch||
|2. Brad Keselowski||
|3. Clint Bowyer||
|4. Jimmie Johnson||
|5. Alex Bowman||
|6. Martin Truex Jr.||
|7. Kevin Harvick||
|8. Austin Dillon||
|9. A.J. Allmendinger||
|10. Joey Logano||
|11. Chase Elliott||
|12. Denny Hamlin||
|13. Ryan Blaney||
|14. Ryan Newman||
|15. Paul Menard||
I will post my final DraftKings picks Saturday evening.
Fantasy Live Preview
My Fantasy Live picks keep rolling along. Currently my picks are beating 97.5% of the competition. My goal is to finish both the regular season and playoffs by beating 100% of our competitors and we are getting close. There are four races left so we need to keep the pedal to the metal and make a charge for the top of our league standings.
*Pick for the Pole*: Our pick for the pole needs to be in before qualifying at 4p.m. ET Saturday. My pick for the pole will be posted after the final practice Saturday (12:30p.m. ET) on the front page of this website.
Here are the drivers I have penciled in right now…
2 Playoff Drivers
My two Playoff Drivers will likely be Kyle Busch and Chase Elliott. Busch must be on every team even if he is the most popular pick in the game this week. Busch has finished 2nd, 1st, 2nd, 5th, 1st and 5th in his last six races at Martinsville. He has also led 837 laps in these races. There is a great chance he will win both stages and take home his 3rd Grandfather Clock.
Chase Elliott has been the best driver in the playoffs. He has won 2 of the last 3 races and he should have won this race last year. This is one of the best tracks for Hendrick Motorsports so I think it will be smart to play the only driver they have left in the playoffs. It would not surprise me if Elliott is the first driver to secure a spot in the championship race at Homestead.
2 Non-Playoff Drivers
My two Non-Playoff Drivers are likely to be Brad Keselowski and Denny Hamlin. Keselowski has been the 2nd-best driver at Martinsville (behind Kyle Busch) since 2015. Keselowski has finished 10th, 4th, 1st, 2nd and 5th in his last 5 races at Martinsville. I doubt Keselowski is done competing just because he has been eliminated from the playoffs. I am sure he would love to play spoiler and add another win to his 2018 resume.
Denny Hamlin has been very good in the October races at Martinsville. There is no doubt that Hamlin knows how to turn fast laps at his home track. The problem is that he usually makes mistakes in the pits. Hamlin is usually eliminated from the playoffs by the time the series competes at Martinsville in October and Hamlin runs a lot better when there is not pressure. He has finished 7th, 3rd, 3rd, 8th and 6th in his last 5 October races at the track. I expect Hamlin to run well Sunday.
If you are taking advice from people who say “use a Playoff Driver in the Garage” you are taking the advice from the wrong person. I have noticed that most of the “experts” suggest taking 3 Playoff Drivers for their team. The chances of the Playoff Drivers having problems is a lot less than the Non-Playoff Drivers so I will stick to my strategy of having a Non-Playoff Driver in the Garage this week.
My Garage Driver will likely be Jimmie Johnson. I know it is hard to trust Johnson but the No. 48 team said they want to win a race before the season ends. Their best chance is at Martinsville. Johnson has won 9 Grandfather Clocks in his career. He has competed in 33 MENCS races at Martinsville a 7.3 average finishing position. He can almost finish in the top 10 at this track while driving a dump truck. Johnson is a great insurance policy to have in the Garage Sunday.
Pole Winner: Joey Logano
Stage 1 Winner: Kyle Busch
Stage 2 Winner: Kyle Busch
Race Winner: Kyle Busch
Winning Manufacturer: Toyota
Fantrax Bronze Point Salary Cap Game Preview
There are only 4 races left in the season and we are running out of time to make it to the top of our league standings. The race at Kansas did not go as well as planned. I thought using Brad Keselowski over Martin Truex Jr. would pay off and it almost did until Keselowski had problems in the pits. The good news is that most people had a poor score at Kansas. Now it is time to bounce back and finish the season strong.
I will evaluate the drivers in the three practice sessions this week and post my lineup Saturday evening. Here are the drivers I have penciled in right now…
Martin Truex Jr.
If you need any further advice with your team, look for me on Twitter @MrFantasyNASCAR
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