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NASCAR Fantasy Live Preview

Fantasy Live: STP 500

by Dan Beaver
Updated On: October 4, 2018, 4:04 pm ET

Martinsville Speedway is one of the short, flat courses along with Ingenuity Sun Media Raceway (Phoenix), New Hampshire Motor Speedway, and Richmond International Raceway. These are rhythm tracks on which drivers typically generate long streaks of top-10s. It is not uncommon for a racer to describe a switch that gets flipped in their brain. After years of struggling to learn exactly how to back up a corner, they suddenly find just the right braking zone and then rattle off consistent top-10s.

Because those streaks are common, handicapping the STP 500 is not as difficult as it might be on another course, but no one was able to sweep all eight races last year as NASCAR searches for and has largely achieved parity among the teams and manufacturers.

This year, Chevrolet drivers have seemed to be at a bit of a disadvantage overall while they try to find the handling characteristics of the new Camaro, but Martinsville is one of their better tracks. With a little luck and a lot of hard work, they could have breakthrough performances this week.

Favorites

Kyle Busch
No one hates to finish second more than Kyle Busch. Last week, he discovered that third was even more disappointing when the team went the wrong direction on a late-race adjustment. He may be annoyed, but Busch enters the weekend with three consecutive top-three finishes this season. His recent Martinsville record is even more impressive with a five-race, top-five streak that includes a pair of victories.

Erik Jones
Consistency is one of the greatest gifts a driver can give fantasy owners and Erik Jones is lavishing us with his largesse. Since crashing out of the Daytona 500, he has not finished worse than 11th; his last three attempts all ended in top-10s with a best of seventh at Auto Club Speedway. He has not been overly impressive during the middle stages of the race, however, having earned segment points only three times in five races. That means fantasy players who start him are going to have to make a commitment well before the garage closes in the NASCAR Fantasy Live game.

Jimmie Johnson
Now that he has finally broken his long streak of sub-10th-place finishes, it is time to consider Jimmie Johnson again. He ran in the top 10 for much of the race and eventually finished ninth on what is his best track in terms of career average finishes. This week, Johnson has a great opportunity to pick up his first top-five in 13 weeks because Martinsville is his second best track. A win is probably still a little ways off, but his sober and studied approach to improving this package suggests he is going to be in the hunt before the midway part of the regular season.

Chase Elliott
Last fall, Chase Elliott bumped his way into the lead at Martinsville before Hamlin caught up to him and knocked him into the wall. Rarely does karma respond so quickly. The Tums 500 was his best chance yet to score his first ever Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series win and it would have automatically put him in the playoffs. It would also have completed a sweep of the top five on a track that is traditionally kind to all Hendrick Motorsports drivers.

Denny Hamlin
Denny Hamlin is widely known as a short, flat track master. In NASCAR’s Age of Parity, there are few guarantees and the lauded consistency he showed in his early years is gone. Hamlin remains one of the go-to guys, however, and last year he earned his 12th victory on this track type in 97 starts. That was one of five top-10s on minimally-banked tracks one-mile or less in length and he had one other 12th-place result during the season.

Garage Pick

Roush-Fenway Racing
Last year, both Roush-Fenway Racing drivers improved dramatically at Martinsville from their career records. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was the most consistent and enhanced with top-10s in both events coming on the heels of four results of 32nd or worse. Trevor Bayne finished 13th in the spring and sixth in the fall after recording three sub-20th-place results in his most recent attempts. Neither of them has been strong enough early this season to recommend them before practice and qualification, but they deserve recognition and a spot in the garage so they can be evaluated during the weekend.

Red Flag

Kevin Harvick
Last week, Kevin Harvick showed the first chink in his armor. Segment points have become so important—or at least the drivers think they are—that he was willing to put his car at risk to side draft Kyle Larson and try to maintain his position in stage one. Harvick paid the price by hitting the wall hard. Now that his winning streak is over, it is easier to pay attention to his track record instead of recent momentum. Martinsville is Harvick’s fourth-worst track in terms of career average finishes with a 15.8 in 33 starts.

 

Driver

Segment
Points

Segments
Earning Points

Segment
Wins

Martin Truex Jr.

60

9

2

Brad Keselowski

57

8

1

Kyle Busch

55

8

1

Kevin Harvick

53

7

3

Kurt Busch

46

8

2

Joey Logano

44

8

 

Kyle Larson

40

7

 

Ryan Blaney

34

4

1

Denny Hamlin

23

6

 

Michael McDowell

17

3

 

Clint Bowyer

16

5

 

Aric Almirola

16

3

 

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

15

2

 

Chase Elliott

13

4

 

Paul Menard

13

4

 

Erik Jones

10

3

 

Jimmie Johnson

10

2

 

Alex Bowman

9

1

 

Ty Dillon

5

1

 

Trevor Bayne

4

2

 

Darrell Wallace Jr.

4

1

 

Austin Dillon

2

1

 

Kasey Kahne

2

1

 

Daniel Suarez

1

1

 

William Byron

1

1

 

 

Dan Beaver

Dan Beaver has been covering fantasy NASCAR for more than 20 years with a little help from his >650,000 record database. He can be found on Twitter @FantasyRace.