NASCAR Picks for Martinsville
Length: 0.526 miles
Location: Martinsville, Virginia
Additional article: STP Gas Booster 500 Practice Recap: Drivers to Watch
Before we get back into the swing of things with this weekend's race at Martinsville Speedway, let's take minute to recap everything that has gone on with the Denny Hamlin situation. Initial speculation that Elliott Sadler would be one of the subs while Hamlin recovers from his back injury turned out to be completely false. Meanwhile, Mark Martin's move to the No. 11 was chopped down to just this weekend's race thanks to an issue with his Michael Waltrip Racing sponsor Aaron's. The end result is that Brian Vickers will take over as Hamlin's replacement following this weekend's trip to Martinsville with Martin resuming his regularly-scheduled races with MWR.
As for Sunday's race, the half-mile, paperclip-shaped oval that is Martinsville is a throwback to old school racing. The bumping and banging that is a constant at any short track is amplified by the fact that Martinsville's corners have basically zero banking. Meanwhile, the short narrow pit road, makes getting on and off the track nearly as dangerous as the action on it. Track position is crucial at Martinsville, and any pit road penalty or unscheduled stop can drop a driver two laps off the pace or more. From a fantasy standpoint, it is nice that a handful of drivers have been dominant at the track and should be safe options at the top of a lineup. On the flip side, filling out the rest of your roster at a track where a lot can go wrong can be tricky.
Jimmie Johnson, #48 Lowe's/Kobalt Tools, Hendrick Motorsports [Yahoo Class A]
His win at Martinsville last fall was the seventh of his career at the track; and in 22 starts, he has piled up 10 top-10s. More importantly, Johnson has 15 top-five finishes to go along with a 5.5 average finish. Throw in a series-leading 122.3 driver rating, and Johnson is a flat out stud at the paperclip-shaped oval.
Jeff Gordon, #24 Drive to End Hunger/Axalta, Hendrick Motorsports [Yahoo Class A]
Although he hasn't won at Martinsville since a sweep in 2005, Gordon has remained of the elite options at the track. He has finished in the top five in 13 of his last 16 starts, and in the last 20 races, his 4.9 average finish is the second best in the series. Meanwhile, Gordon's 120.9 driver rating is the second best in the series, and while he might not win Sunday, he is a safe bet to finish near the front.
Kyle Busch, #18 Mars Brands/Interstate Batteries, Joe Gibbs Racing [Yahoo Class B]
He has been a little up and down at Martinsville, but when he has been good, he has been great. Busch has four finishes of fourth or better in his last seven starts at the track, including a second-place finish last fall. As well as he has been running the last three weeks, there is a good chance that one of his stellar runs is on tap for Sunday.
Brad Keselowski, #2 Miller Lite, Penske Racing [Yahoo Class A]
The trend is pretty obvious with Keselowski at Martinsville. After finishing outside the top 15 in both starts in 2011, he finished in the top 10 in both starts at the track in 2012. Keselowski finished a career-best sixth at Martinsville last fall, and after starting 2013 with a bang, he could improve on that this weekend.
Matt Kenseth, #20 Husky/Dollar General, Joe Gibbs Racing [Yahoo Class A]
With finishes of sixth and fourth in the last two spring races at Martinsville, he was already trending up at the track. More importantly, he will be making his first start at Martinsville with Joe Gibbs Racing. As well as the organization has performed at the track, Kenseth should see an instant boost in his numbers.
Clint Bowyer, #15 5-Hour Energy, Michael Waltrip Racing [Yahoo Class A]
Bowyer has been his typical solid self at Martinsville, finishing 11th or better in nine of his last 12 starts. More importantly, he was stout at the track in both starts at the track last year in his first season with Michael Waltrip Racing. Bowyer finished 10th and fifth, and it should be more of the same this weekend.
Kasey Kahne, #5 Farmers Insurance/Quaker State, Hendrick Motorsports [Yahoo Class A]
If you need proof that an organization can instantly improve a driver's numbers at certain tracks, look no further than Kahne. After managing just two top-10 finishes in his first 17 starts at Martinsville, he finished third at the track last fall in his second start with Hendrick Motorsports. Don't be surprised if he delivers another strong outing this weekend despite a 20.7 average finish.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., #88 National Guard/Diet Mountain Dew, Hendrick Motorsports [Yahoo Class B]
He has climbed to the top of the point standings thanks to top-10 finishes in every race this year, and Junior could be headed for another one this weekend. After all, he has finished in the top-10 in seven of his last 10 races at Martinsville and has four top-10s in his last five starts. Junior has also finished second and third in his last two spring starts at the track so an elite run isn't out of the question either.
Mark Martin, #55 Aaron's Dream Machine, Michael Waltrip Racing [Yahoo Class B]
After conflicting stories and rumors about his status as the replacement for Denny Hamlin, it turns out that Martin's sole start in the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 11 will be this weekend at Martinsville. When he was driving for Hendrick Motorsports from 2009 to 2011, he notched four top-10s in six starts at the track. JGR also has a solid track record at Martinsville, so Martin should be a top-10 option in his one-week stint as Hamlin's substitute.
Tony Stewart, #14 Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1, Stewart-Haas Racing [Yahoo Class A]
Stewart is a three-time winner at Martinsville with his most recent victory coming in the fall of 2011. He also has the fifth-best driver rating at the track and is one of the best flat track racers in the series. The only thing bogging "Smoke" down in the rankings is his terrible start to the 2013 season.
Brian Vickers, #11 FedEx , Joe Gibbs Racing [Yahoo Class B]
He finished eighth at Martinsville last fall during his impressive part-time role with Michael Waltrip Racing. It appears he is picking up where he left off after finishing eighth in his first start with MWR in 2013. Vickers has proven he can consistently finish in the top 10 as long as he has quality equipment, so another solid run should be on tap.
Ryan Newman, #39 Quicken Loans/Haas Automation, Stewart-Haas Racing [Yahoo Class B]
Newman is the defending winner of this weekend's race, and while that victory was aided by a late race wreck, he has been solid in all his starts lately. He has finished 11th or better in three straight starts at the track, and since the start of the 2003 season, his 12.2 average finish is the fifth best in the series. Newman should make a solid addition to any fantasy roster this weekend.