NASCAR heads to Martinsville Speedway this weekend for Sunday’s STP 500. The half-mile paperclip-shaped track is one of the toughest on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule.
The factors that go into building a winning fantasy team at a short track are much different than those at an intermediate or superspeedway.
First off, it is important to pinpoint a few different dominator candidates — drivers who lead a chunk of laps and record the most “fastest laps” in a given race. DraftKings awards .25 points per lap led and .5 points per fastest lap. With 500 scheduled laps, there could be a handful of different drivers who dominate a portion of the race. Selecting the right drivers will give you a huge advantage over the rest of the fantasy field.
Here are a few drivers to keep an eye on for the STP 500.
ELITE TIER: $9,500 and up
Kyle Busch ($11,000)
Martinsville: 25 starts, two wins, 13 top fives, 14 top 10s
Average finish at Martinsville: 13.1
Busch was a winner at Martinsville the last time the series was in town. In fact, he has won two of the last four races at the track, also finishing inside the top five in five consecutive Martinsville races. He was the top dominator in three of those events.
Busch has been dominant in 2018, leading 209 laps, but has yet to find Victory Lane. He finished second at both Las Vegas and ISM Raceway before running third last weekend at Fontana. That gives him tons of momentum heading into the race weekend and at some point, the No. 18 team will cash in.
Brad Keselowski ($10,100)
Martinsville: 16 starts, one win, six top fives, 10 top 10s
Average finish at Martinsville: 12.4
Keselowski won the first Martinsville race of 2017 and led 116 laps in the process. Like Busch, he also has a four-race top-five finish streak.
The Team Penske Fords have been a bit off on speed to start the season. However, being a bit behind on horsepower will not be a major factor at Martinsville. Short tracks are all about knowing when to be patient and when to be aggressive; Keselowski is one of the best in the sport at doing just that.
Joey Logano ($9,500)
Martinsville: 18 starts, five top fives, seven top 10s
Average finish at Martinsville: 14.2
Coming off a down year, one where he missed the NASCAR playoffs, Logano has burst out of the gate in 2018. The driver of the No. 22 Ford has finished seventh or better in four of the five races thus far and is ranked third in the MENCS point standings.
Logano has started sixth or better in all ten races at Martinsville since moving to Team Penske. During that stretch, he has four top-five finishes and has led laps in eight of those events. He’s a sure bet for at least a consistent performance on your roster Sunday.
ALL-STAR TIER: $8,000 – $9,400
Denny Hamlin ($9,400)
Martinsville: 24 starts, five wins, 12 top fives, 18 top 10s
Average finish at Martinsville: 10.0
Hamlin has five wins at Martinsville, which ranks him second among all active drivers. He has finished inside the top 10 in 18 of his 24 starts, an impressive 75 percent.
Aside from a 17th-place finish at Las Vegas, Hamlin has also run top six in every race of 2018. With the dominance of Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. last weekend, that’s left his consistent performance under the radar. He could be a sneaky DraftKings play this weekend.
Jimmie Johnson ($9,100)
Martinsville: 32 starts, nine wins, 19 top fives, 24 top 10s
Average finish at Martinsville: 7.7
The ninth-place finish last weekend at Auto Club Speedway was exactly what Johnson needed after an atrocious start to the season. The seven-time series champion was competitive and ran consistently inside the top 10 all day long.
Johnson is the active leader in wins at Martinsville with nine. He also has an average finish of 7.7 in 32 career starts at the track.
The price tag is still high this week, but Johnson will be worth it – especially if he shows up strong in practice leading up to the race.
Clint Bowyer ($8,300)
Martinsville: 24 starts, five top fives, 14 top 10s
Average finish at Martinsville: 14.0
In two races at Martinsville last season, Bowyer finished seventh and third. Throughout his career, he has been great at tracks like Martinsville that are tough on brakes. The Ford driver manages his equipment well and finishes toward the front.
Bowyer had a top-five car last weekend, but a tire going down over the final laps of the race caused him to slip to an 11th-place result. Along with the rest of Stewart-Haas Racing, this veteran’s been showing top-tier speed since Atlanta in the second race of the season. 2018 could very well be a redemption year for him.
BARGAIN TIER: $7,900 and below
Austin Dillon ($7,700)
Martinsville: Eight starts, two top fives, two top 10s
Average finish at Martinsville: 15.6
Dillon has two top-five finishes at Martinsville in eight career starts. Both of those came in the last two spring races. In 2016, he started 29th and finished fourth. In 2017, he started 20th and surged up to fifth by the checkered flag.
The 2018 Daytona 500 winner has outperformed his equipment in every race this season. He has an average starting spot of 15.6 and has improved that for an average finish of 11. Dillon has developed into a weekly top-12 driver and should be one to watch as the year progresses.
AJ Allmendinger ($6,400)
Martinsville: 19 starts, two top fives, six top 10s
Average finish at Martinsville: 19.4
Allmendinger is the resident road-course ringer but has also become a great Martinsville racer over the past few seasons. He was runner up in the spring of 2016 before running 10th in the fall. He also pulled off a sixth-place finish in the first 2017 Martinsville race.
His low DraftKings salary is attractive and will allow more room to pair him up with a top-tier driver. Don’t leave him off the roster for Sunday.
Pre-Qualifying Optimal Lineup Example: