Nicknamed “The Paperclip,” Martinsville Speedway is the shortest track that the Sprint Cup Series visits. This is the first of two stops at this 0.526-mile race track, as we’ll be here again in the fall during the Chase. The drivers will make 500 laps around Martinsville on Sunday, which equates to just over 250 miles. Because of how short the race is, mistakes by either the driver or their pit crew will have major implications. Sunday’s STP 500 will be the first actual short track race of the season, so it will be interesting to see how it all plays out. I expect the normal faces to be up front when it’s all said and done.
Fantasy Favorites for Martinsville
Jimmie Johnson – This race at Martinsville is exactly what “Six Time” needed. Since starting off this 2015 season with a top 5 at Daytona and a win at Atlanta, Jimmie Johnson hasn’t finished better than 9th. That will change on Sunday, though. Will, not should. In 26 career starts here at “The Paperclip,” Johnson has 8 trips to victory lane with 18 total top 5 finishes and an average result of 6.2. He’s led over 2,700 laps at this track, which is second only to teammate Jeff Gordon’s 3,720–in 18 more starts. Johnson had led at least 100 laps in five of the last six Cup races here at Martinsville and has finished inside the top 5 in four of the last five. Another top 5 (at least) should be expected out of the #48 this weekend. In The Showcase, Johnson will receive zero handicap points, which is to be expected because of his stellar record here. However, that doesn’t mean you should avoid him this weekend because there’s a good chance that he could lead the most laps and win the race, both of which are worth 5 bonus points in this fantasy game.
Jeff Gordon – Hendrick Motorsports has an absolute stranglehold on this race track, and that’s putting it nicely. Just like teammate Jimmie Johnson has eight wins here in NASCAR’s top series, Jeff Gordon is also an eight-time winner at Martinsville Speedway. He’s also finished inside the top 10 in 35 of his 44 career starts here, which is equal to 79.5%–and absolutely incredible. Gordon got off to a pretty rough start to this 2015 season but after his 10th-place finish at Fontana last weekend, he now has back-to-back top 10s. I fully expect Jeff to make that three in a row and probably notch his first top 5 of the 2015 season here on Sunday at the STP 500. In The Showcase, the driver of the #24 Chevrolet will receive 4 handicap points on Sunday, which makes Gordon an excellent value play. I’ll go ahead and predict that Jeff might be the most picked driver this weekend simply because of those points. He is receiving 4 because of how mediocre he has finished over the last six overall Cup races.
Matt Kenseth – Surprised to see Kenseth in third on this list? Don’t be. As I said before, pit crews are going to be very important here at Martinsville on Sunday. Remember how fast they were in California last weekend? Kenseth probably would have won the Auto Club 400 if he wouldn’t have broken his axle. Their 10-second pit stop near the end of that race was almost unbelievable. In addition to that, Kenseth is on a three-race streak of top 6 finishes here at “The Paperclip.” Although his history at this track is a bit rocky, Matt has had a very good record here since joining Joe Gibbs Racing. A lot of fantasy owners are going to overlook Kenseth this weekend but don’t be surprised if he’s inside the top 5 when the checkered flag waves on Sunday. Over the last four Sprint Cup races here at Martinsville, only Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon have better average driver ratings than Matt Kenseth. In The Showcase this week, Kenseth gets 2 handicap points, which is to be expected when it comes to how he has ran over the last six races both at Martinsville and in the Cup Series overall. There might be some better options come Sunday, but if the #20 Toyota looks like a top 5 car, picking Kenseth would be a wise move.