What can I say? I’m on fire. Last week not only did I have Denny Hamlin as one of my top picks after Harvick (who went from 40th to the top-10), but he was in all my builds and he not only won the race, but also scored a ton of points. Clint Bowyer scored a top 10, Chase Elliott was the runner-up, Logano spun and still finished +12 spots, enough to advance in the playoffs, William Byron scored a top 5 finish and my sleepers of Buescher and Menard finished inside the top 20. Preece won people a lot of money scoring a 12th-place finish and was keyed as one of my deep value plays.
That’s three straight killer weeks, looking to finish strong through the final four weeks of the playoffs and NASCAR season. Now the series shifts to the Virginia short-track where one of these eight drivers will look to sit in the enviable position of locked into the “Championship Four” by winning on Sunday. Joey Logano moved Martin Truex Jr. last year to win the race and went on to win the championship. With Texas and ISM looming, this is a chance for one of the teams below the cut-line to steal a spot in the final four from the JGR cars.
There are two names that immediately come to mind when you mention Martinsville, and no one isn’t Jeff Gordon. His former HMS teammate Jimmie Johnson is one however with his 9 career wins at the track, that’s a lot of grandfather clocks. Johnson hasn’t won in the last six races, but coming off a top 10 last week it’s hard to ignore his career numbers at the track with 19 top 5’s and almost 3,000 career laps led.
Last week’s winner Denny Hamlin is second among active drivers with 5 career wins at his home and favorite track. With his win last week, results at the track over his career and the way that team has been executing, he goes in as the man to beat on Sunday. Hamlin has 20 top 10’s in 23 career starts and was the runner-up in this very race last year.
You can’t ignore the Spring’s winner Brad Keselowski either who picked up his second grandfather clock and went on to lead a staggering 446 of 500 laps. They just missed the playoffs last week and will no doubt come out pissed off this week looking to win the race. Over the last 5 Martinsville races, Brad has 4 top 5’s and 2 wins. Chase Elliott, the man who beat Brad for the final spot, doesn’t have a win at this track yet, but almost did if it weren’t for Denny a few years back in the controversial bump-and-run. Elliott has 4 top 10’s in his last 5 starts.
Don’t sleep on the No. 18 this weekend either, that team has been awfully quiet through the first two rounds of the playoffs, but it’s time to ratchet up the intensity. Kyle Busch owns an average finish of 2.00 over his last 5 races despite just 1 win, but hasn’t finished outside the top 5. Overall Busch has 17 top 10’s in 21 career starts with a pair of victories. Clint Bowyer won here a couple years back now and is a very steady short-track racer worth monitoring over the weekend if that car shows some speed.
Opening Odds for Martinsville:
-Kyle Busch 13/4
-Denny Hamlin 4/1
-Martin Truex Jr. 5/1
-Joey Logano 7/1
-Chase Elliott, Brad Keselowski 8/1
-Kevin Harvick 10/1
-Ryan Blaney 14/1
-Clint Bowyer 25/1
-Erik Jones, Kyle Larson 30/1
-Kurt Busch, Jimmie Johnson 35/1
-Alex Bowman 40/1
-Aric Almirola, Daniel Suarez 50/1
-William Byron, Matt DiBenedetto 60/1
Martinsville DraftKings Picks:
Denny Hamlin ($11,000): Denny is my pick to win at Martinsville this weekend. After his win last weekend, I’m firmly in the camp that the No. 11 is favored to win the championship.
Hamlin starts on the pole at his home track, was top 5 in just about every lap average in both sessions and is going to led a TON of laps. You can make a case for either of his JGR teammates as well, but the 11 is the car to beat.
Clint Bowyer ($8,900): Bowyer is a fantastic short-track racer and don’t let the fact he’s out of the playoffs hinder you from this selection in any way. He paced the field in both sessions in lap average and has a top 5 car. A lot of fast laps and he’ll contend with Hamlin all day.
Kevin Harvick ($10,500): Something about these SHR cars I like. Harvick had a poor qualifying effort that resulted in a 22nd place starting spot. If you want to pay up for place differential, here’s a spot as he’s got a top 10 car in overall speed. I’ll be all over him the next two races, but he’s worth building into some lineups on Sunday.
Aric Almirola ($7,600): You wouldn’t normally think of AA at Martinsville, but his results from Saturday speak for themselves. Top 3 in lap averages and starts with good track position, which I’m all about on short-tracks. His worst finish with SHR at this track is 14th. Sign me up.
Jimmie Johnson ($8,100): A 9-time Martinsville winner at this price is theft to start with, add his starting spot of 24th and I’m in. That 48 team has greatly improved in recent weeks and should run inside the top 15 most of the day.
Ryan Newman ($7,500): Newman starts 27th and has back-to-back top 10 finishes at the paper clip. I’ll take that here.
Other value plays: Ty Dillon (6,200), Paul Menard ($7,100), Daniel Hemric ($6,400), Corey Lajoie ($5,600).