The Monster Energy Nascar Cup Series heads back east this weekend to run the STP 500 here in Martinsville, Virginia after a successful run out west. It will take at least 500 laps to complete Sunday’s race so it’s a good idea to try to grab a few drivers who you think will be able to lead a lot of laps and not get caught up in a wreck in the process. We saw rain cancel out qualifying on Friday so the drivers will have to rely on the practice sessions to figure out how to get around this .526 mile track that is affectionately known as ‘The Paperclip’.
The starting lineup has been set as when qualifying is rained out they line up in the order that they are in the points standings. Only 38 cars entered for this week’s race so no one is going home empty handed.
Martinsville Speedway was the first track to host a Nascar sanctioned event back on July 4th, 1949. Red Byron took home the win that day as he completed all 200 laps needed to complete the race while beating out Lee Petty, who was three laps down in second place. Since then the circuit has added 300 laps and has enjoyed at least a 38 car field as opposed to the 15 cars that started back in 1949. Okay enough of the history let’s get down to the business.
Kyle Larson – $10,000 – By virtue of the rules of Nascar Larson will start on the pole for Sunday’s race as he is the point leader after the first five races. He had been knocking on the door with three consecutive second place finishes before taking the checkered flag last weekend in California. Larson had always qualified well last year but always had a problem sealing the deal. This year feels a bit different as he indeed has been able to seal the deal. The only thing that would be of any concern is that Larson needs to work on his short track skills and there’s only one way to do that. Of the six races he has started here in Martinsville the driver of the # 42 Target Chevrolet has finished on the lead lap just twice but one of those was a was a third place finish just last spring. There’s plenty of upside here to take advantage of Larson’s hot start.
Brad Keselowski – $9,500 – Keselowski is another driver that will start at the front of the pack thanks to his four top five finishes so far this season. The thing that separates the Driver of the # 2 Miller Lite Ford from Kyle Larson is the fact that Keselowski has notched seven top 10 finishes in the last 10 starts he has made here at Martinsville. His price is easily manageable which should mean that you can either get Larson or one of the other big guns on your roster for Sunday. It also helps that Keselowski turned the fastest lap in yesterday’s morning practice.
Others drivers to look at in the top tier are Jimmie Johnson – $10,600 who owns the highest salary of the contest and should be able to come through the pack as he starts from the 17th position. Johnson has three wins in his last 10 starts here in Martinsville including taking the checkered flag late last year. Denny Hamlin – $9,700 is another driver that can do some damage here as he has three top three finishes in his last four starts here at ‘the paperclip’. Hamlin posted the fastest lap in the first practice and should be in good shape here. He will roll of from the 12th spot on the grid when the green flag drops at 2pm on Sunday afternoon. Meanwhile Chase Elliott – $9,100 will start on the front row and is another driver that may need another race or two here to master how to get around the track. Kyle Busch – $10,300 has a high price tag but has notched four top 10 finishes in the last nine races he has started here. He looked very strong in the last practice session and will start from the 10th spot in the STP 500.
A.J. Allmendinger – $8,300 – All of sharps are looking at Allmendinger this week to earn them a lot of fantasy points and take them to the Promised Land. Thanks to his slow start the driver of the # 47 Kroger CheckList Chevrolet will start 30th when the cars get the green flag on Sunday afternoon. Allmendinger definitely knows his way around this place as he has finished no lower than 11th in five of his last six starts here at Martinsville Speedway. His only blemish was his 43rd finish in the spring of 2015 which was caused by one of those pesky oil leaks. Look for him to at least hold his own here on a track he is very familiar with.
Ryan Newman – $7,400 – Newman won two weeks ago and for all intents and purposes looks like a contender this season. He has finished higher than he has started in three of the five races run so far this season. It also helps that he has grabbed three top 10 finishes in his last five starts here at Martinsville, which means it appears he knows how to get around the track. His speeds over the first two practices were in the top four fastest cars of each session so it wouldn’t surprise me if the driver of the # 31 Chevrolet finished in the top five considering he will start from the 11th position on the grid.
Other drivers to consider in this price range could be Kurt Busch – $7,900 who will start from the 14th spot on Sunday. He still may be on his Daytona high but look for the driver of the # 41 Monster Energy/Haas Automation Ford to get back on track and improve on his 24th, 25th and 30th finishes he has had over the past three weeks. Matt Kenseth -$8,800 has gotten off to a horrific start this season as he will start all the way back in the 25th position when the green flag drops on Sunday. Kenseth has finished in the top 10 six times over his last 10 starts here in Virginia.
Kasey Kahne – 7,300 – Kahne has seen his price drop over the last few weeks as he has put up back to back 20th place finishes which has him starting in the 13th position come Sunday afternoon. This isn’t as bad as it seems as the driver of the # 5 Great Clips Chevrolet has finished 11th or better in three of his last four starts here at Martinsville Speedway. Kahne didn’t look to good in the last two practices which may not matter as much here as it does at other tracks. As long as he can stay with the pack and keep the car close to the lead lap he should be fine here.
Cole Whitt – $5,100 – Every good line up needs a punt play and since Derrike Cope has decided not to race this week I guess we are stuck with good ole Cole Whitt. His price is surely cheap enough as he will start his # 72 Bad Boy Mowers Chevrolet from the 31st position when the green flag drops on Sunday. Usually practice speeds don’t amount to much here as the speed of the race is normally dictated by how much lap traffic there is but with that said Whitt has posted the 15th fastest speed in the final practice yesterday.
David Ragan – $6,000 – Ragan may be another driver to consider as a punt play as he has two top 10 finishes to his credit in his last five starts here in Martinsville. He will start the # 38 Camping World/Good Sam Ford from the 34th place on the grid and who knows, with a little luck maybe he can recreate some of the magic he had found a few years ago.
That will do it for another week of Nascar analysis here at Fanvice.com. As always, follow me on twitter @elctrceye and good luck in your contests this week.