2017 Martinsville Speedway, First Data 500
There are now eight drivers and four races left this season to determine a champion. Martin Truex Jr. won yet another race on a mile-and-a-half track and added five more playoff points to his resume for the third round. This round will feature three different track types. The first race of this round will be run at Martinsville Speedway, which is the shortest track on the Cup circuit at just over a half-mile. Follow this up with another mile-and-a-half track and the final race of this round will be on a one-mile track.
My predictions for the contenders for the championship after this round will be Truex, Busch, Hamlin, and Kevin Harvick. However, Johnson could knock out Hamlin by winning the race this week at Martinsville. These are the two most consistent drivers at this track and I will have both of them on my roster. I just think Hamlin has been a little bit better in the playoffs where Johnson has struggled a bit yet. I just don’t think Blaney and Elliott are good enough on the short tracks at this point in their careers to make it through this round and Keselowski is another driver who has been struggling through the playoffs so far.
FIRST DATA 500
As I mentioned earlier, Martinsville Speedway is a .526 mile speedway in Martinsville, VA. It has very low banking and is a place where it is difficult to pass without using the bumper. If a driver gets out of the bottom groove, they will probably lose multiple spots on the track before they can find a way back to the preferred lane. Qualifying spots are also going to be huge this week because it is just too easy to get lapped if you start towards the back on the pack because of all the traffic and how hard it is to pass here.
Denny Hamlin: I am picking Denny to win the race this week at Martinsville. Denny has five wins and has led almost 1,400 laps here. He has been more consistent in the playoffs than some of the other driver who also run well at this track on a consistent basis and that is why I am picking him to win this race. He has also finished in the top five in twelve of his twenty-three starts here and anyone who can do that in more than half of his starts at any track needs to be on your roster.
Jimmie Johnson: Not to be outdone by Denny, Jimmie has nine wins, nineteen top five, and twenty-four top ten finishes in only thirty-one starts. He has also led more than 2,800 laps here. He won this race last season, but it was his only top five finish in his last six starts. This is the time of the year that this championship team seems to put everything together and another win here would mean getting a shot at his eighth championship.
Kyle Busch: Kyle has finished in the top five at Martinsville in each of his last four starts. This is the team that is still in the playoffs that has been the closest to Truex most of the time this year. All of these teams know that a win gets them into the championship race and they can’t wait to try and get in on points after the Phoenix race. There just isn’t enough leeway with eight drivers fighting for four spots and with the point cushion Truex has.
Brad Keselowski: I think Brad might have to win this week or at Phoenix to make it to the championship race. Brad won the spring race here and has finished in the top five in four of his last five starts. If they have any trouble here or at Phoenix I think they are out because they haven’t run very well at the intermediate tracks in the second half of the season. He can win one of the two races I mentioned and really needs to if he wants to advance.
Martin Truex Jr.: Martin added another five playoff points last weekend at Kansas and by winning the pole there he got to pick his pit stall for this race. That is another huge thing at this track because the pit stalls go all the way around the track. It is a very difficult place to have a clean pit stop and being at the end of the row gives the driver the advantage of not having to worry about getting around another car when leaving their pit. Martn has also run pretty well here lately finishing in the top ten in three of his last five starts.
Ryan Newman: Ryan has one win, eight top five and fifteen top ten finishes in his thirty-one starts at Martinsville. Ryan hasn’t been the most consistent driver on the track this season, but he did pick up his win at Phoenix which is another of the shorter flatter tracks on the circuit. I think he is a good driver to have on your team, especially in the Yahoo league where premium drivers are getting scarce.
Kevin Harvick: Now that we are talking about shorter flatter tracks we can’t forget Kevin. He has been so dominant at Phoenix that he should be able to run well at Martisville too. However, this hasn’t really been the case. Kevin’s lone win here came back in the spring of 2011. He has only finished in the top five in three of his thirty-two starts, but in the top ten in fourteen of those races. I think he is looking ahead to Texas and especially Phoenix to get his win in this round.
Matt Kenseth: Matt got knocked out of the playoffs when the team had too many men over the wall trying to fix the damage he sustained late in the race at Kansas. Otherwise he and Jimmie Johnson were fighting for that final spot. Matt is still looking for his first win at this track and is still looking for a job for next season. What better way to audition than winning a race at the end of this year? Matt has fourteen top ten finishes in his thirty-five starts here.
Jamie McMurray: Jamie is another driver looking for his first win at this track and would like to get a win this year too. He has been pretty consistent here coming away with fifteen top ten finishes in his twenty-nine career starts. This team has been running pretty well lately and might have made the third round if they hadn’t gotten caught up in a couple of huge wrecks that took them right out of the playoff chase. He is a good dark horse to have on your team this week.
Clint Bowyer: Clint was hoping to have a much better season that he turned out to have. I think Clint is at his best on this type of track though and they have shown they have the speed in their car to compete. He just seems to have a lot of bad luck in races where he is getting caught up in somebody else’s mistakes on the track and it takes him out of contention. He has run very well here on a consistent basis, finishing in the top ten in thirteen of his twenty-three starts.
YAHOO! FANTASY NASCAR PICKS FOR MARTINSVILLE SPEEDWAY
Yahoo Driver Group A
- Denny Hamlin
- Jimmie Johnson
Yahoo Driver Group B
- Ryan Newman
- Jamie McMurray
- Clint Bowyer
- Kyle Larson
Yahoo Driver Group C
- Ty Dillon
- Daniel Suarez
MY TOP-5 OVERALL AT MARTINSVILLE SPEEDWAY
- Denny Hamlin
- Jimmie Johnson
- Kyle Busch
- Brad Keselowski
- Kevin Harvick
Dark Horse: Ryan Newman
Stay Away From: Kurt Busch
Big 18: AJ Allmendinger