Another week, another controversy for Fantasy NASCAR players. In addition to the idiotic condensed schedule that NASCAR decided to run this weekend, Mother Nature had to stick her nose in everyone’s business, which resulted in qualifying getting cancelled on Saturday. It’s too bad they didn’t qualify on Friday when the track was vacant, right? Because of the cancellation, the STP 500 starting lineup was set by owners points, which means Martin Truex, Jr. will lead the field to the green once again with Kyle Busch stating 2nd. The good news of this weekend is that the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series teams were able to get a couple of practice sessions in on Saturday, so at least we have some kind of speed data to work with.
This weekend’s STP 500 race at Martinsville is only 263 miles in length, which doesn’t seem a lot until you remember that this is a 0.526-mile track, which means we’re going to run 500 total laps on Sunday (weather permitting of course, but it shouldn’t be an issue). In other words, give me all of those dominator points. A total of 500 laps means there’s 125 FPTS up for grabs for laps led this weekend, and I’m estimating around 210 FPTS for fastest laps, depending on the amount of cautions. This year, we haven’t seen a huge amount of wrecks/cautions in the races, and I think that trend continues on Sunday despite being at a short track.
GPP DraftKings Drivers I Love For The STP 500
Martin Truex, Jr. ($10,700) – There’s not going to be many people that are pointing at the #78 Toyota as the car to beat heading into Sunday. With that being said, if you’d ask the garage to point out the top 3 cars, there’s no doubt that Truex’s hot rod would be on that list. Now, the reason I love him as a GPP play for the STP 500 this weekend is because I think a lot of people are going to be gravitating toward Kyle Busch ($11,000) and Brad Keselowski ($10,100) when putting together their DraftKings lineups. And for good reason: those two guys have been awesome plays here at Martinsville over the last two years, and the #18 Toyota and #2 Ford are super fast this weekend as well. However, try not to discount Truex here. He’s on the pole, so he has track position to start the race, and his lap times on the long runs weren’t too far behind during the practice sessions on Saturday. Additionally, Truex led 42 laps in this race last year, and led 147 laps in the fall Martinsville race. This #78 team rarely makes adjustments to their car once they unload it, and the fact that Truex was fastest in both practice sessions this weekend says a lot. He’s definitely a contender here on Sunday, and has the potential to rack up a ton of dominator points in DraftKings.
Clint Bowyer ($8,300) – I’m expecting a really solid race out of Clint Bowyer here on Sunday, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s going to be a great pick in DraftKings. With that being said, there’s potential there, and it all depends on how this race plays out. Clint will roll off the grid from 9th for Sunday’s STP 500, which means he does have some room to move up and get some positive place differential FPTS. Of course, that also means it’s going to be devastating for your lineup if he has a problem during the race. With that being said, the #14 Ford looked solid during the practice sessions on Saturday, as Clint had the 6th-best ten-lap average during the first practice and the 4th-best ten-lap average during Happy Hour. He also ranked 3rd in 20-lap average during that final session. Bowyer has a career average finish of 14th here at Martinsville, which is good enough for 5th-best among active drivers, and has posted five top 5 finishes in his 24 starts at this track. He came home 7th and 3rd in the two races here last season, his first full year with Stewart-Haas Racing.
Ryan Newman ($7,900) – Let me ask you a question: which driver has the 5th-most fastest laps in 2018? The answer is pretty obvious that it’s Ryan Newman since I’m asking this to open up my paragraph on him, but still: Ryan Newman has posted 59 fastest laps so far in 2018! That’s more than Kyle Larson, Chase Elliott, Denny Hamlin, Clint Bowyer, Kurt Busch, and Joey Logano–just to name a few. Now, why am I pointing this out? Because I think “The Rocketman” has the potential to put up some fastest laps here at Martinsville on Sunday. And, honestly, he’s going to have to; Newman will start from 14th in Sunday’s STP 500, and that’s a little too high to go too heavy on him in DraftKings. However, that #31 Chevrolet has speed: Newman was 4th-fastest in the morning practice on Saturday and followed that up with the 5th-fastest lap in Happy Hour. He also had the 6th-best ten-lap average in that session. Now, as far as Martinsville goes, Newman is a good short/flat track racer, and he wound up 8th in this race one year ago. He’s also posted top 10 finishes in three of his last five starts here, and no result worse than 16th during that span. I really like what the Richard Childress Racing Chevrolets have been doing to start out 2018, and I really like Ryan Newman in GPPs for DraftKings this weekend.
The following drivers haven’t got off to the best start in 2018, and will have to start pretty far back on Sunday. From a place differential perspective, they should be prime picks, but a lot of them are going to be highly owned as well. Those drivers are: Jimmie Johnson ($9,100), who starts 18th, Chase Elliott ($9,900), who starts 21st, A.J. Allmendinger ($6,400), who starts 25th, Jamie McMurray ($7,100), who starts 26th, and Ty Dillon ($5,600), who starts 32nd.
Martinsville Sleeper Options
Joey Logano ($9,500) – It’s weird putting Joey Logano on the “Sleeper” list, but when you have guys like Martin Truex, Jr., Kyle Busch, and Brad Keselowski starting up front, with great cars, at a track where they all three have put up big dominator DraftKings numbers recently, this is where Joey Logano ends up. The #22 Ford isn’t a potential race-winning car heading into Sunday’s STP 500, but this is Martinsville, and you never know how things are going to play out. Logano gets scored from the 3rd-place starting spot this weekend, which means he’s going to have to rack up some dominator points to make him a good play. However, at $9,500, Joey is worth some exposure. He finished 4th in this race one year ago and has led 516 laps over his last eight starts here, putting up four top 5s along the way as well as six results of 11th or better. What will be the make-or-break factor for Logano this weekend is how many fastest laps he puts up: in the two races here at “The Paperclip” last season, he posted 108 total fastest laps, 3rd-most behind Brad Keselowski (199) and Kyle Busch (155).
Austin Dillon ($7,700) – I think Austin Dillon is priced a little too high this weekend, but at the same time, he is a great sleeper option for Sunday’s STP 500. The elder Dillon brother has been a Fantasy NASCAR gold mine in the last two spring races here at Martinsville, posting finishes of 5th and 4th. And, honestly, he’s been pretty good here ever since he made the move up to the Cup Series: Austin’s career average finish at “The Paperclip” is 15.6 (over eight races), and he has just one result worse than 18th. The #3 Chevrolet starts 12th this weekend–which makes Dillon a risky pick–but it had really good long-run speed during the practice sessions on Saturday, including the 5th-best 20-lap average in Happy Hour.
Paul Menard ($6,800) – Paul Menard is a capable driver here at Martinsville, and if you’ve watched any of the first five races this season, you’ll know that Paul Menard has actually been running really well. Just last weekend at Fontana, he was inside the top 10 during the final run but had a tire problem and was relegated to a 19th-place finish. Stuff like that is going to happen with this mid-tier teams–and it seems like Wood Brothers Racing has more random issues than normal–but eventually everything will go smoothly for an entire race. Menard will start from 15th for this weekend’s race, which makes it very difficult to lean too heavily on him, but that’s why he’s called a sleeper. Menard finished 19th and 20th in the two races here last year but did end up 8th in this race two years ago and also finished 10th in the 2014 spring Martinsville race. If that every-other-year streak continues this weekend, Menard is looking at another top 10 finish. This #21 team finished 8th in the fall race here last season with Ryan Blaney behind the wheel.
Salary Cap Relief at “The Paperclip”
DraftKings got pretty aggressive with their pricing this week, with two drivers at or above $11,000 and four total drivers above $10,000. Overall, it seems like almost everyone got a bump in salary this weekend, which means one thing: we need to single out the best low-dollar options to make the lineup math work. The obvious choice here is A.J. Allmendinger ($6,400), who starts back in 25th. He loves this race track and has finished 11th or better in six of his last eight starts here–and earned people a lot of money along the way. However, A.J. hated his car during Happy Hour, which isn’t the best situation to be in for an impound race. He’s also the biggest chalk pick in the field this weekend, so let’s look at a couple other options.
Ty Dillon ($5,600) almost made my “Drivers I Love” list this weekend, but he’s another chalk pick for the STP 500–especially when you consider how much DraftKings tanked his salary. With that being said, Ty is going to start from 32nd on Sunday and should have a mid-20s car at worst. The thing you have to like most about the #13 Chevrolet, though, was the speed it showed on Saturday: Dillon was 12th-fastest in Practice #2 and then wound up 14th-fastest in Happy Hour. Ty was able to come away with a 22nd-place finish in this race last year, and he’s capable of repeating that this weekend. One thing that really concerns me, though, is the fact that this #13 team hasn’t finished better than 24th thus far in the 2018 season. If that ‘bad run’ streak continues, fading Ty Dillon is going to be the best play of the weekend.
One punt play to consider is Cole Whitt ($5,200), who will start from back in 35th when the 2018 STP 500 goes green. Whitt has made three Cup Series starts so far this season and has finished 28th in each of them. Additionally, his recent record here at Martinsville isn’t terrible, as Cole finished 21st and 25th in the two races here last season with TriStar Motorsports, and he also has 18th-, 22nd- and 20th-place finishes to his credit here back in 2014 and 2015.
Fade That Pick!
The following drivers are starting too high on Sunday and have little chance at getting dominator points, so I will have very little exposure (if any): Aric Almirola ($8,900), Ryan Blaney ($8,700), Erik Jones ($8,100), Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. ($7,300), Darrell Wallace, Jr. ($6,200), Chris Buescher ($5,800), and Michael McDowell ($5,400).
As I mentioned last weekend, I’m not a big fan of playing heavy in DraftKings when qualifying inspection issues happen. And this weekend is somewhat similar, as the starting lineup was set by owners points. With that being said, short tracks are the best tracks to play DFS with, and a major reason for that is because they open up the door to a bunch of fade opportunities; one mistake by a driver or pit crew can put them multiple laps down in a hurry. And with so many dominator points on the line, it’s easy for sleepers to make up the difference.
In addition to the drivers listed above, I will be fading Kyle Larson ($9,700) on Sunday. Yes, he starts 7th and has some room for place differential, and yes, he had a blazing fast car on the long runs during the first practice session on Saturday, but let’s call it like it is: Kyle Larson simply is not good at Martinsville. He started on the pole in this race last season and led just 23 laps before ultimately finishing 17th. His overall average finish here is 23.6, which, over the course of eight total races, really makes his 3rd-place finish in this race during the 2016 season look like a fluke. Finally, Larson has a total of 36 fastest laps over the last five Martinsville races, which isn’t terrible until you consider the fact that Landon Cassill has the same amount. You won’t find Larson on any of my lineups this weekend.
Driver Point Projections for Martinsville
The following chart takes into account the very basics: the starting position and the projected finish of each driver. The projected finishes are averaged from five different ranking systems, using both mathematical equations as well as personal rankings. This chart also includes the average projected base + laps led + fastest laps DraftKings FPTS as well as the dollar per FPT. You can click the headers below to sort the chart by that attribute. By default it is sorted by average projected FPTS.
|Driver||DraftKings Salary||Avg Proj Base + Laps Led FPTS||Starting Position||Avg. Projected Finish||Proj Laps Led||Proj Fastest Laps||Dollar Per FPT|
|Martin Truex Jr||$10,700||123.5||1||02.0||189||69||$87|
|Darrell Wallace Jr||$6,200||18.5||19||22.3||0||0||$335|
|Ricky Stenhouse Jr||$7,300||18.5||17||21.3||0||0||$395|