NASCAR’s top circuit heads to Martinsville, Virginia this week, the half-mile paperclip-shaped track that’s endeared itself to fans for decades. But this place, while producing tragedy off it, has also endeared itself to one team owner over the past decade… Rick Hendrick. It’s a bittersweet place for HMS, losing 10 people in a horrific plane crash just outside the speedway in 2004 but whose duo of Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson have combined to win 13 races here.
With that kind of record, you know everybody is going to have these two on their fantasy rosters this weekend. But after spending the points to get them, where do you look with what you have left to round out your team?
Don’t worry; I’ve got all the answers for you. Read below as we look at the studs, the mid-level guys who are gonna get you to the top, and the big dud of the week you are gonna want to avoid on Sunday!
Jimmie Johnson – JJ has run 16 races at Martinsville. In the spring of 2002, he finished 35th; in the other 15 races, his worst finish is ninth! Within those 15 races, 12 have resulted in top fives and six have been victories. You definitely want to grab this guy for Sunday!
Jeff Gordon – Team Hendrick must have just been asleep at the wheel in 2002 because along with JJ’s 35th-place run, Gordon posted a 23rd. Since 1995 – with the exception of that 2002 race – Gordon has finished no worse that 12th at Martinsville. He has 13 top-eight finishes in the last 15 races, and of those 13, 11 are top fives, with three wins, three seconds and three thirds. Again, grab this guy for Sunday!
Who’s Gonna Carry You
Regan Smith – While not off to a great start in 2010, Regan has a career average finish at Martinsville of 20th, and has a history of keeping his car in one piece (just four DNFs in 64 career starts). His point value is also still low in most leagues, so if you grab him and he posts a top-25 finish, he’s well worth the price you pay. And let’s face it: after getting the two Hendrick cars, you probably don’t have a lot of points left to spend.
Jamie McMurray – McMurray loves Martinsville. Two years ago, he came to this race sitting outside the Top 35 in the points standings after an awful start – and he still posted a top=10 qualifying effort and finished eighth to move back into the Top 35. In McMurray’s six spring races at the paperclip, he has finished in the top 10 five times, with his only blemish being in 2005. He’s good for a top 20 – if not a top 10 – so get him on your team this weekend.
Paul Menard – Menard doesn’t have a great history here, but he is having a heck of a 2010 season. For a guy that has flirted with the Top 35 bubble for the early part of his career, the four-year veteran has certainly turned it around this season. Menard has finished no worse than 18th so far and collected a top five at Atlanta a few weeks ago. Based on that momentum, I say put him on your team now and ride his streak as long as you can.
Who’s Gonna Bury You
Kyle Busch – While Busch does have two top-five finishes here in the last five events, he also has two finishes worse than 38th. Throw in a 24th, and he’s just not worth the price you are gonna pay to have him on your roster this week. Besides, Busch just hasn’t been Kyle Busch this season, and the JGR organization as a whole seems to have some major issues to contend with in 2010 (just three top-10 finishes in fifteen attempts between Busch, Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano).
If you are in a league that only allows you to pick a driver a certain number of times (meaning you already burned up the two studs this week) some other options you may want to look at are Tony Stewart, Jeff Burton and Clint Bowyer. Burton has posted three straight top 15s, and Bowyer has three consecutive top 10s to his credit. Stewart, in the last nine spring races, has put up seven top 10s, with three of those being top fives.
So, there you have it! Now you know who you want and who you don’t for this Sunday’s race at Martinsville. Set your rosters with confidence, knowing come Monday you are gonna have office bragging rights for another week. Good luck, and we’ll see you next Thursday!