The second round of the playoffs are history and we are now down to eight drivers with a chance to win this year’s championship. Those eliminated this week were Ryan Blaney, Brad Keselowski, Kyle Larson, and Alex Bowman. All four of the Stewart-Haas drivers advance while Chase Elliott picked up his third win of the season and added another 5 playoff points to his stats.
FIRST DATA 500
This week the series heads back to the Martinsville Speedway for the running of the First Data 500. Martinsville is the shortest track on the circuit at .526 miles and has very minimal banking. Passing is tough to do here and the chrome horn often comes into play. There are two short tracks on the schedule for the third round of the playoffs which will make it tough on any driver who struggles on this type of track.
Once again the points will be reset for this round which will put Kyle Busch in first place one point ahead of Kevin Harvick and they will be followed by Martin Truex Jr. Then comes Chase Elliott, Clint Bowyer, Kurt Busch, Joey Logano, and Aric Almirola. Of these drivers I think Aric might be the one with the highest hill to climb as he only has six playoff points and hasn’t been the most consistent on the short tracks during his career.
Kyle Busch: I think Kyle is going to be the winner this week and qualify himself for the championship race. He has two wins, two runner-up finishes and six top five finishes in his last six starts at this track. A win here takes all of the pressure off of him until the final race of the season as he looks for his second championship. He will also be able to focus more on that final race without having to worry about what happens in the two races that lead up to the championship race.
Clint Bowyer: Clint won the race here this spring and hasn’t finished outside of the top ten here since joining Stewart-Haas last year. He had a worrisome day at Kansas last week as he was close to the cutoff line for most of the race, but prevailed in the end. He knows that he has a lot of points to make up on those ahead of him, but a win moves him into the championship race.
Brad Keselowski: I know Brad is disappointed that he didn’t qualify for this round of the playoffs, but that doesn’t mean he is giving up on the season. Brad has finished in the top five in four of his last five starts at Martinsville and could throw a wrench into the playoff hopes of other drivers by stealing a win away from one of them this weekend.
Martin Truex Jr.: Martin has two straight top five finishes here and doesn’t want to get in a situation where he is trying to make the final race on points even though he has a nice lead over five of the other drivers. Anyone below him who wins a race makes those points mean a little less and he would love to make it to the championship race in the last year for Furniture Row Racing.
Kevin Harvick: Kevin finished fifth in his last two starts at this track, but hasn’t been real consistent at this track throughout his career. He would love to win a race early in this round or at least finish in the top five once again so he doesn’t have the pressure of trying to win at Phoenix to make the championship race. I think there are better options for your fantasy team this week.
Joey Logano: Joey has started in the top six here in his last eleven races. He has four top five and six top ten finishes in his last nine starts here, but is still looking for his first win here. He might be someone to put on your roster for qualifying points and could be a surprise winner this week. If you are looking to have someone on your team that could possibly help you make a move in your league, Joey is that driver.
Jimmie Johnson: Jimmie has won nine times at this track and this is the type of track where speed isn’t a big factor. You need a car that handles more than you need speed here and that might just be the ticket to him breaking into the win column. I think he is going to finish in the top five and he could possibly pick up his first win of the season this weekend.
Denny Hamlin: Denny has five wins here himself and could be another surprise driver. The last few times he has been here he hasn’t had the setup he needs and is always wheel hopping going into the corners which takes him right out of contention. He is another driver you might consider if you are trying to make up ground in your league. He has led laps here in seven of his last eight starts which means he does run up front for a while.
Chase Elliott: Let’s not forget about the hottest driver on the track right now. Chase’s best finish here was a third last spring. He returned here last fall and led 123 laps before having some trouble and finishing a lap down in twenty-seventh place. Then he came back this spring and finished ninth in that race, so I think he is getting better and better here each time out.
Kurt Busch: Kurt has two wins at Martinsville in his career, but the last of those came nine races ago and he hasn’t finished in the top ten since. As a matter of fact, his win in 2014 was his last top ten finish here in his last twenty-five starts. He is my stay away from driver this weekend. If he pushes too hard this week he might find himself in a must win situation.
DRIVER GROUP GAME FANTASY NASCAR PICKS FOR MARTINSVILLE SPEEDWAY
Driver Group Game Group A
- Kyle Busch
- Brad Keselowski
Driver Group Game Group B
- Clint Bowyer
- Chase Elliott
- Ryan Newman
- Jamie McMurray
Driver Group Game Group C
- William Byron
- Chris Buescher
MY TOP-5 OVERALL AT MARTINSVILLE SPEEDWAY
- Kyle Busch
- Brad Keselowski
- Clint Bowyer
- Denny Hamlin
- Jimmie Johnson
Dark Horse: Joey Logano
Stay Away From: Kurt Busch
Big 18: Clint Bowyer