Round 3 of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs kicks off this Sunday with the First Data 500 at Martinsville Speedway. Nicknamed “The Paperclip,” Martinsville is usually one of the most exciting races to watch, simply because there’s always action on the track thanks to it’s half-mile size. From a DraftKings and Fantasy NASCAR perspective, we typically see two dominators here at Martinsville, while sometimes we’ll have three. As far as this weekend goes, NASCAR went with the condensed schedule and had two practices and qualifying on Saturday. After the two practices, one thing was clear: the potential dominators. Kyle Busch, Clint Bowyer, Denny Hamlin, Ryan Blaney, and Brad Keselowski emerged as the five most likely to dominate here on Sunday, and they qualified 1-2-3-4-8 (respectively). That means we have some decisions to make when it comes to DraftKings on Sunday.

PLEASE NOTE: The following drivers failed inspection on Sunday morning and had their qualifying time disallowed: Martin Truex, Jr., David Ragan, Jimmie Johnson, Paul Menard, Bubba Wallace, JJ Yeley, Jeb Burton, and Timmy Hill. They will start from the rear and be scored from there when it comes to DraftKings. The projections below have been updated to reflect the new starting lineup.

Talkin’ DraftKings Strategy for Martinsville 2

Sunday Morning Additional Thoughts

Inspection just completed and really shook up the starting lineup for Sunday’s First Data 500 at Martinsville. Among the big names failing inspection were Martin Truex, Jr. ($10,700) and Jimmie Johnson ($8,100), who will start from 33rd and 34th (respectively) on Sunday. From a DraftKings perspective, I like being very underweight on Truex and instead shifting that play to Brad Keselowski ($10,200), who should get a bunch of dominator points. I think this will also make Joey Logano ($9,500) and Chase Elliott ($9,200) go even more under-owned, so I love them as GPP plays, as I mentioned in my video above. As far as Jimmie Johnson goes, he’s cheap enough that he’s going to be very high owned, so I like being a bit under-weight on him but not significantly like Truex.

GPP Drivers I Love For The Martinsville First Data 500

Ryan Blaney Kansas Fantasy NASCAR
Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Ryan Blaney ($8,900) – Obviously my projections below like Clint Bowyer ($9,800) and Denny Hamlin ($8,500) a bit more than Ryan Blaney this weekend, but from a strategy perspective, I love being overweight on the #12 Ford on Sunday. Just looking at the 2018 season as a whole, Ryan Blaney has actually performed his best on the shorter tracks. There have been four races that he’s led 100+ laps, and it was at the Daytona 500 in February and then the two Bristol races and the first Martinsville race. Ryan also put up 30 fastest laps in that race at “The Paperclip” as well as the 2nd-most DraftKings points (94.25, behind Clint Bowyer’s 145.25). Additionally, over the last three Martinsville races, Blaney has the 6th-best average running position at 8.3. This weekend, the #12 Ford was 4th-fastest in qualifying, and although Ryan wasn’t the absolute fastest in the practice sessions, he did end up 6th-best in ten-lap average during Happy Hour. I love him as a pivot off of Bowyer and Hamlin on Sunday.

Aric Almirola ($8,300) – If you had to pick a driver with an outside shot at dominating here on Sunday, it’s got to be Aric Almirola. The #10 Ford put up 26 fastest laps the first time we ran here at Martinsville, and Aric has consistently out-ran his equipment at this track over the years; the fact that he was able to consistently finish in the mid-teens while in Richard Petty Motorsports cars shows just how good of a driver he is at “The Paperclip.” He even posted a few top 10s in 2012 and 2014! This weekend, Almirola will roll off the grid from 5th, so obviously I like him as a pivot off of the other drivers starting 2nd through 4th. Practice-wise, Aric was 2nd-best in ten-lap average in the first session on Saturday and then 16th-best in Happy Hour, but you have to note that he made that run much later than most other drivers. Overall, Almirola had the 7th-best average speed in that final session, and it was actually a tick faster than Brad Keselowski ($10,200), who ran a similar amount of laps. Dover was the most recent shorter track we’ve ran at this year, and although it’s quite different from Martinsville, Almirola probably should have went to victory lane there.

Austin Dillon Fantasy NASCAR
Photo Credit: Dylan Buell/Getty Images

Austin Dillon ($7,400) – It looks as though the #3 team just missed it in qualifying because Austin Dillon is going to start from back in 28th on Sunday. I’m honestly not too worried about that, though, because that seems to be just how this team is performing right now. In fact, Dillon has started outside of the top 20 in four of the last five Cup Series races overall. He’s been a place differential machine because of that, too, as he’s ended up between 6th and 11th in four of the last six races overall, with just one result worse than 17th during that entire span. This weekend, the #3 Chevrolet wasn’t super fast in practice, but Austin’s teammate, Ryan Newman ($7,100), showed plenty of long run speed, which is a good sign. As far as Dillon’s history here at Martinsville, he has a career average finish of 17.2 over nine career starts, with two top 5s and just two results worse than 18th. An 18th-place finish on Sunday would give Austin Dillon 36 fantasy points in DraftKings, although as you can see below, I have him projected a little bit higher than that. If the #3 team can squeeze out another near-top 10 finish, Austin could easily land in the winning lineup for Martinsville 2.

A.J. Allmendinger ($6,200) – I touched on A.J. Allmendinger in my DraftKings Preview this week, noting that he was excessively under-priced for this weekend’s race. I also said that we’d have to see how qualifying shook out in order to determine the best strategy for him in DraftKings, and the #47 Chevrolet will start from 17th when the First Data 500 goes green (assuming nobody in front of A.J. fails inspection). Allmendinger is still going to garner a large ownership in DraftKings on Sunday, but it should be relatively tame due to the top 20 starting spot–especially considering he’s qualified 25th or worse in the last three races here. Still, The Dinger is a great value play at this price because he’s more than capable of coming home with a top 10 finish. He’s ended up 11th or better in nine of the last twelve Martinsville races and that kind of consistency doesn’t just happen by luck. Obviously A.J. has the tendency to over-drive his equipment, which opens the possibility of fading him on Sunday, but it’s extremely difficult to go against those kind of consistent finishes–and I wouldn’t recommend it.

DraftKings Driver Point Projections for Martinsville 2

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.

DriverDraftKings SalaryAvg Proj FPTSStarting PositionAvg. Projected FinishProj Laps LedProj Fastest LapsDollar Per FPT
Kyle Busch$11,900144.8101.221990$82
Clint Bowyer$9,80092.5203.89858$106
Brad Keselowski$10,20082.1702.43155$124
Denny Hamlin$8,50072.7307.27641$117
Ryan Blaney$8,90065.7406.64936$136
Martin Truex Jr$10,70065.03308.008$165
Chase Elliott$9,20057.01906.0012$161
Kevin Harvick$12,50056.21206.41220$222
Jimmie Johnson$8,10056.23412.406$144
Joey Logano$9,50043.31008.039$220
Paul Menard$7,70041.33519.603$186
Aric Almirola$8,30040.5510.01018$205
AJ Allmendinger$6,20039.31512.6011$158
Erik Jones$8,70039.32114.607$221
Austin Dillon$7,40038.72515.401$191
Kurt Busch$9,00035.0611.0014$257
Alex Bowman$7,90034.91413.809$226
Ryan Newman$7,10034.61614.206$205
David Ragan$6,10031.63624.200$193
Matt Kenseth$6,90030.12420.205$229
Kyle Larson$11,50025.7915.426$447
Bubba Wallace$5,70025.43727.800$224
Jamie McMurray$7,30025.11718.201$291
Ty Dillon$5,80023.52322.001$247
Regan Smith$6,60021.42724.800$308
JJ Yeley$4,90020.83830.600$236
Chris Buescher$5,90019.81319.604$298
Cole Whitt$5,00017.62827.200$284
Ricky Stenhouse Jr$6,70017.51823.003$383
Timmy Hill$4,60016.84033.600$274
William Byron$6,40016.61120.204$386
Daniel Suarez$7,50015.4818.802$487
Michael McDowell$5,50015.22024.400$362
Landon Cassill$5,20014.03231.000$371
Hermie Sadler$4,50009.83132.600$459
Ross Chastain$5,30008.42228.800$631
Matt DiBenedetto$5,40008.42630.800$643
Joey Gase$4,80008.43032.800$571
As someone who has always been obsessed with numbers, Fantasy NASCAR has been the perfect fit with me. I pride myself on the quality of my analysis for each race, and am glad that I have been able to help others along the way. I've been a serious Fantasy NASCAR player for over 10 years now, and I'm just getting started.