The sixth stop on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series circuit comes Sunday, at 2 p.m. ET at Martinsville Speedway for the STP 500.
The MENCS teams hit the track Friday at 11:30 a.m. ET for practice and then 4:35 p.m. ET for Coors Light Pole Qualifying. Here are nine drivers to keep an eye on for your DraftKings lineup as the series heads back east.
ELITE TIER: $9,500 and up
Jimmie Johnson ($10,600)
Martinsville: 30 Starts, 9 Wins, 19 Top 5s (63.3%), 24 Top 10s (80%)
Average finish at Martinsville: 7.3
Jimmie Johnson led 92 laps en route to his Championship 4 clinching win in the fall race at Martinsville last season. That win was one of nine career Martinsville victories in the Monster Energy Series. Johnson’s average finish of 7.3 is the best of all active drivers. In 30 races, Jimmie has finished within the top 10 in 24 of them.
His odds to place in the top 10 are great, especially when starting toward the front. In six of his nine wins, he qualified within the top 10.
Kyle Busch ($10,300)
Martinsville: 23 Starts, 1 Win, 11 Top 5s (47.8%), 12 Top 10s (52.2%)
Average finish at Martinsville: 14.1
Kyle Busch absolutely dominated this race last season. He led a race high 352 laps and picked up his first win of the season, and his first ever at the track. Busch is fifth among active drivers in average finish at Martinsville (14.1). Busch has three straight top-five finishes here, and five in his last eight races. He has not finished outside the top 15 at Martinsville since spring of 2012.
Denny Hamlin ($9,700)
Martinsville: 22 Starts, 5 Wins, 12 Top 5s (54.5%), 17 Top 10 (77.3%)
Average finish at Martinsville: 9.2
Hamlin made an early exit in this race last year after wheel hopping into the corner just before the halfway point. That 39th-place finish is just a minor blemish on an impressive Martinsville resume.
Hamlin has led laps in 16 of his 22 races at Martinsville. In fact, Hamlin is second among active drivers in total laps led at the Paperclip. He finished third here in the fall race in 2016, and has finished within the top five in three of the last four races. His last win at Martinsville came in 2015, from the 15th starting position.
ALL-STAR TIER: $8,000 – $9,400
Dale Earnhardt Jr. ($8,600)
Martinsville: 33 Starts, 1 Win, 13 Top 5s (39.4%), 18 Top 10s (54.5%)
Average finish at Martinsville: 12.9
Earnhardt Jr’s return to action has not gone smoothly. He finished 37th in the Daytona 500 and 30th at Atlanta. A pair of 16th-place finishes and a season best 14th two weeks ago is an improvement, but nothing special. Yet, there is no better track for him to bounce back than Martinsville.
In the past five races, Junior has an average starting position of 21.2, which is not ideal for short track scenarios. But, he has broken the narrative that it is tough to work forward at Martinsville. In those same five races, he has an average finish of 11.6. That includes a 36th-place finish following a multi-car wreck.
Earnhardt Jr. could be a dark horse candidate for position differential points this weekend.
AJ Allmendinger ($8,300)
Martinsville: 17 Starts, 2 Top 5s (11.8%), 5 Top 10s (29.4%)
Average finish at Martinsville: 18.9
Allmendinger was runner-up in this race a year ago. He made a late race push to catch Kyle Busch, but ran out of laps. That second-place finish tied his career high, set in 2012. In the fall race last season, he finished 10th. Another impressive finish notched his seventh top-11 finish in nine races.
While Allmendinger is known more for his Watkins Glen and Sonoma success, Martinsville is by far his best non-road-course track.
Jamie McMurray ($8,100)
Martinsville: 28 Starts, 2 Top-5s (7.1%), 15 Top-10s (53.6%)
Average finish at Martinsville: 16.3
Speaking of runners-up, McMurray finished second to Jeff Gordon in 2015. McMurray has a tendency to finish well at Martinsville when he starts outside the top 10, and then seems to fall off when he starts within. In the 12 races he started inside the top 10, he finished lower than his starting position in nine of them. Over the past five seasons, McMurray’s average finish at Martinsville is a solid 15.5. Expect him to finish around that mark again on Sunday.
BARGAIN TIER: $4,500 – $7,900
Ryan Blaney ($7,700)
Martinsville: 2 Starts, Two 19th place finishes
Average finish at Martinsville: 19
Ryan Blaney continued his hot start last week in California with a ninth-place finish. The second year driver is seventh in series points and has been a pleasant surprise to this point, both on track and in daily fantasy.
Blaney’s past performances at Martinsville have cause his salary to drop into the bargain tier threshold. In two career starts here, he has finished 19th in both. Blaney has clearly improved since last season, so it’s a great time to jump on him while he is cheap.
Erik Jones ($7,600)
Martinsville: First Career Martinsville Start
Erik Jones has come on strong in his rookie year. He has four straight top-15 finishes, and seems to be adapting better and better to the premier series as the races go on.
In order to see Erik Jones’ past numbers at Martinsville, we have to go back to his time in the Camping World Truck Series. He finished within the top 10 in all but one of his five races. His latest was in 2015, where he finished 10th.
Jones is a cheap, backend of the lineup driver with high upside to keep an eye on this weekend.
Paul Menard ($6,600)
Martinsville: 19 Starts, 2 Top-10s (10.5%) 7 Top-15s (36.8%)
Average finish at Martinsville: 19.9
Paul Menard surprised many in this race last season by qualifying fourth. Not only that, but he made his way to the front of the pack early in the race and led 10 laps. He managed to run toward the front for most of the day and finished eighth.
Menard is a sneaky target this weekend. He has four top 15s in his past six Martinsville races.
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