The Cup Series had its regular schedule this week at Martinsville Raceway. The teams had 20 minutes of practice to dial in their cars and then they qualified for the Xfinity 500. Practice speeds typically do not translate to race speed much at Martinsville because most drivers will not be able to get the most out of their cars in the race because they will be stuck in traffic. They will not have “clean air” like they had in practice. What does matter at Martinsville is track position. I gave a bump in the rankings to the drivers who qualified up front and have the premium pit stalls at the tight pit road at Martinsville. The first race at Martinsville was a game of “follow the leader.” It could be the same Sunday.
Here is my starting lineup for the race at Martinsville…
GROUP A DRIVER
CHASE ELLIOTT (1): I have one allocation left with Elliott and I will use it this week since he will not be as good at Phoenix if he does not advance Sunday. Elliott has been a beast at Martinsville. He has led at least 185 laps in three of the last four races at Martinsville and averaged 18 Stage Points per race. The No. 9 car posted the third-fastest speed in practice and qualified second for the race. There is no reason to fade Elliott Sunday if you have any allocations left with the No. 9 car.
GROUP B DRIVERS
CHASE BRISCOE (4): Briscoe will likely have to win the race to make it to the Championship Four. Stewart-Haas Racing looked really good at Martinsville in April. Briscoe will be driving “Big Haas” this week. It is the car that Kevin Harvick took to Victory Lane at Richmond. Briscoe posted the eighth-fastest speed in practice and qualified third for the race. Briscoe finished ninth at Martinsville in April. He should finish in the top-10 again Sunday.
ARIC ALMIROLA (8): I really was not planning on using Almirola this week, but I took a chance with the No. 10 team since they were good at Martinsville in April and they have been good on the short, flat tracks this year. It looks like my gamble may pay off. Almirola posted the 10th-fastest speed in practice but he had the second-fastest car on the long runs. I was planning on using playoff drivers this week but the No. 10 car looks too good to pass up Sunday.
GROUP C DRIVER
ERIK JONES (1): I need a good race from Jones Sunday. He finished eighth in this race last year and he finished 13th at Martinsville in April. I would love another top-15 finish from Jones at Martinsville. He posted the sixth-fastest speed in practice and qualified 23rd for the race. Jones typically runs better than he practices, so there is a chance he could finish in the top-10 Sunday. I will roll the dice with the No. 43 car Sunday.
Good Luck This Week!
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