Inspection is still to come Sunday morning, but with the preliminary starting lineup for the First Data 500 at Martinsville Speedway now set, it is time to start planning our NASCAR DFS lineups at DraftKings.
The final short track race of the 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season is also the first race of the third round of the playoffs, and while the eight remaining title contenders will certainly have plenty of potential this weekend, the initial lineup has given us intriguing options up and down the grid.
Denny Hamlin is scheduled to lead the field to the green, and if that holds, he will have to be considered the top dominator. Chase Elliott also qualified on the front row and would have been my No. 2 dominator candidate, but thanks to a blown engine in practice, he will have to start at the rear.
Martinsville studs Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski are lurking just outside the Top 10, and both should be excellent options in all contests. Meanwhile, Martin Truex Jr. leads a group of contrarian dominator options who are slated to start inside the Top 10.
Of course, the list of dominator candidates and place differential hogs could change dramatically after inspection Sunday. Recent history suggests that inspection won't have too many surprises, but make sure to check back for updated picks just in case. In the meantime, here is a closer look at my favorite NASCAR DFS options at DraftKings for the First Data 500 at Martinsville Speedway.
Kyle Busch ($11,800)
Busch is gunning for his ninth straight Top 5 finish at Martinsville this weekend, and based on the practice times, I expect him to do just that. During his streak, he has led at least 100 laps four times and recorded 20-plus fastest laps seven times. In fact, Busch has led more than 180 laps three times and topped 60 fastest laps four times in that same stretch. Following a 13th-place qualifying run, he even has a few place differential points at his disposal.
Denny Hamlin ($11,000)
The five-time Martinsville winner has shown the ability to pile up strong finishes and deliver dominator points here throughout his career, and he looks poised for a monster performance this weekend. Sitting on the provisional pole with a car that was excellent in practice, Hamlin is positioned to lead a ton of laps and finish as the top scorer at DraftKings.
Kevin Harvick ($10,500)
Missed practice time from his inspection issues at Kansas forced the team to forgo any qualifying runs in practice, and it showed. Harvick is scheduled to start 22nd, but he was a borderline Top 5 car in race trim, and he has four straight Top 10s finishes at Martinsville. I fully expect him to gain double-digit spots Sunday, and I think 40-plus fantasy points are his floor.
Brad Keselowski ($9,500)
He led an incredible 446 of the 500 laps in his win at Martinsville in March, and while I don't expect him to dominate to that extent Sunday, Keselowski is positioned for a strong DFS showing. He has eight Top 10s and seven Top 5s in his last nine starts here, leading more than 100 laps four times and recording more than 20 fastest laps in all nine races. Throw in his 15th-place qualifying effort, and Keselowski also has some differential points up for grabs.
Kurt Busch ($8,500)
Busch has been up and down at Martinsville, but he has finished 12th or better in three straight starts here, gaining seven spots in the March race earlier this year. He showed borderline Top 10 speed in practice Saturday, but he only qualified 25th. All that differential upside makes him a low-risk option with solid upside. The midrange price makes it easy to fit him into cash lineups.
Jimmie Johnson ($8,100)
I don't expect Johnson to add a 10th Martinsville win to his resume this weekend, but he has seven Top 15s in his last eight starts here, and I think he has a car capable of fighting for a Top 10. Starting 24th, Johnson is positioned to gain double-digit spots and top 40 fantasy points. At this price, he is an ideal fit for a balanced cash lineup.
Ryan Newman ($7,500)
Newman is a solid flat track driver overall, and he has a respectable 13.5 average finish in the last 10 races at Martinsville, notching five Top 10s and seven finishes of 16th or better. Rolling off back in 27th, Newman only needs to approach the Top 15 to deliver a solid score for the price, and he is probably the safest play below the $8,000 mark.
Ty Dillon ($6,200)
If you want some significant cap relief for your cash lineups, Dillon looks like your best option. He starts way back in 29th, but he has finished 22nd or better in four of his five Martinsville starts. In his last three races alone, he owns a 16.7 average finish and has gained an average of 9.0 spots per race. Dillon gained nine spots and finished 13th in the spring race earlier this year, and he should be able to exploit the differential category again Sunday to the tune of 25-plus fantasy points.
Martin Truex Jr. ($11,400)
He has yet to have a dominating performance at Martinsville, but Truex does have four straight Top 10s here, finishing in the Top 5 three times in that span. He has also recorded double-digit fastest laps in his last six starts here, leading double-digit laps three times. After qualifying third, Truex could be poised for a breakout performance at Martinsville.
Chase Elliott ($9,800)
A blown engine in the opening practice will force him to start last Sunday, but I don't think it eliminates Elliott as a potential dominator candidate. After all, he had one of the best cars in Happy Hour, and he will have a great pit stall after qualifying on the front row. Elliott led 49 laps and recorded a race-high 82 fastest laps in a runner-up effort at Martinsville in March, and I think he is capable of a repeat performance. I plan to load up on Elliott in GPP contests and hope that starting in the rear drives down his ownership numbers.
Ryan Blaney ($9,300)
Blaney is becoming an underrated performer at short tracks and flat tracks, and he has finished eighth or better in three of his last four starts at Martinsville, logging a couple of Top 5s. He has logged at least 30 fastest laps in two of those starts, leading 145 laps in the spring race last season. Starting sixth, he could once again be a sneaky, cheaper source for dominator points.
Clint Bowyer ($8,900)
If you are looking for a mid-priced driver with legitimate dominator potential, Bowyer is your guy. He has finished seventh or better in four of his five starts at Martinsville with Stewart-Haas Racing, recording fastest laps in all of them and leading 215 laps in a win here last spring. Bowyer is slated to start seventh, and nobody was better during practice Saturday. If you are fading the Joe Gibbs Racing bunch, I like Bowyer as a contrarian.
Paul Menard ($7,100)
His Martinsville numbers don't jump off the page, but Menard does have four Top 20s in his last five starts here, including a Top 15 run in the spring. Scheduled to start 30th, he has the place differential category squarely in his corner. I like him as a cheaper pivot to some of the more well know drivers starting deep in the field like Ryan Newman and Jimmie Johnson.