The NASCAR Cup Series heads to Martinsville Speedway this weekend. The smallest and slowest track could create some opportunities for fantasy owners. Saturday night's Blue-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 500 will be the first traditional short track race of the season, which will provide a few opportunities to get creative with your fantasy lineups.
Over the years, Martinsville has seen specific drivers enjoy dominant stretches at the track. Whether it was Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson or Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin, you can usually anchor your lineups with a few drivers who are strong bets for top-5 finishes. Currently, Martin Truex Jr., Chase Elliott, and Team Penske appear to be on that list.
Besides a reliable core of high-end options, Martinsville is also a track where you can find a few midrange drivers with a little more upside than they typically offer. It all adds up to a golden opportunity for fantasy owners to build strong lineups while also saving a few driver allocations in Fantasy Live and the Driver Group Game.
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Martin Truex Jr.
Truex has recently been the man to beat at Martinsville, winning the fall race in 2019 and the June race last year while leading more than 100 laps in three straight starts. He has five top-5s and six top-10s in his last seven starts at the track, and his victory at Phoenix, another flat track, a few weeks ago bodes well for his chances this weekend.
No driver offers a higher floor this weekend than Keselowski. He has a 3.8 average finish during his current 10-race streak of top-10 finishes, and he has cracked the top 5 in the last five races here. Keselowski starts in the top 10 Saturday night, and history says he will hang there until the checkered flag waves.
Logano has been part of the Team Penske run of dominance at Martinsville, logging five top-10s in his last six starts. He finished third and fourth in the two races last year, leading 234 laps in the spring event, and he led more than 300 laps in a win in the fall of 2018. Starting on the pole, he is positioned for a big night.
Since joining Team Penske, he has been locked in at Martinsville, cracking the top 5 in five of his six starts. He was the runner-up in both races last year, and based on the speed he has shown so far in 2021, he is one of my favorite plays and my pick for top Ford driver this weekend.
Elliott has three top-5s in the last four Martinsville races, leading 236 laps in a win last fall. One of the up-and-coming drivers at flat tracks, I expect him to run up front all night long when he rolls off from inside the top 5.
Garage Driver – Alex Bowman
Hendrick Motorsports has shown some muscle at Martinsville, and he finished sixth in both races here a year ago. Bowman will have some work to do to earn some stage points, but I think he has top-10 upside. If he can move towards the front of the field early Saturday night, I can swap him in and save a start from one of the more prominent names in my starting lineup.
Fantasy Racing Cheat Sheet Driver Group Game
Martin Truex Jr. (A)
He has finished eighth or better in six of his last seven Martinsville starts, winning two of the last three and leading at least 129 laps in three straight. He offers an ideal blend of reliability and upside and Martinsville, and he is my pick to win Saturday night.
Alex Bowman (B)
Bowman turned in a pair of strong efforts at Martinsville last season, finishing sixth in both races. Hendrick Motorsports was strong overall at the track, and the organization has been fast out of the gate in 2021. I expect Bowman's Martinsville success to continue Saturday night. His teammate William Byron could be another sneaky threat for a top-5.
Matt DiBenedetto (B)
Team Penske was dominant as a whole at Martinsville last year. As a satellite team, DiBenedetto and Wood Brothers Racing also enjoyed the benefits. He finished seventh in the June race and 10th in the fall. Between his equipment and his restart ability, I think DiBenedetto offers top-10 upside again this weekend.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (C)
He doesn't have the best resume at Martinsville, but you won't find a Group C driver running any better than Stenhouse. He has finished 18th or better in all seven races this season, posting a 12.3 average finish overall and reeling off five straight top-15s. He starts sixth this weekend, and I am trusting the speed on the No. 47 team.
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Martin Truex Jr. ($12,500)
Truex flirted with a Martinsville three-peat last fall before a loose wheel in the closing laps, but he still led more than 100 laps for the third straight race while logging 14 stage points. Starting seventh, he could add a few place differential points to his final score. Still, I am targeting Truex because he is my favorite to win this weekend.
Ryan Blaney ($11,200)
He doesn't have much place differential upside, but I think Blaney can still pile up 100-plus fantasy points by notching a bunch of stage points and contending for the win. He has logged five top-5s in six starts here in the No. 12, including a pair of runner-up finishes last season. This is a great price for a driver who has been a top-5 machine at this track.
Aric Almirola ($9,900)
Almirola's bad luck has repeatedly killed me in this contest. Still, I'm apparently a glutton for punishment because I am going with him again this weekend. He has to start back in 31st, and he has four top-15s, including a couple of top-10s, in six Martinsville starts in the No. 10. He should at least be able to gain double-digit spots, if not 15-plus positions.
Matt DiBenedetto ($8,800)
My lineups are loaded with Team Penske drivers, and DiBenedetto offers another avenue to gain exposure to the same equipment. He starts 22nd, but he logged a pair of top-10s at Martinsville a year ago. I think he offers a similar upside to Alex Bowman for a much lower price.
Bubba Wallace ($7,500)
Wallace is off to a rough start with 23XI Racing, but he's had success at Martinsville in the past. He won a pair of Truck Series races here, and he has finished 21st or better in his last four Cup starts, notching a pair of top-15s. Wallace rolls off 25th, but I think he at least ends up in the top 20.
NASCAR guru Brian Polking has been committed to producing Fantasy NASCAR coverage for nearly a decade and written countless articles for his devoted audience who swear by his advice year after year.
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