NASCAR Fantasy Blog


NASCAR Fantasy Preview: Martinsville

October 23, 2013, Dan Beaver, NASCAR.com

Johnson

Johnson, Gordon have dominant history at NASCAR's shortest track

It is a good thing that NASCAR mandates the use of head and neck restraining systems, because this week drivers are in danger of getting whiplash. The series rolls from the longest and one of the fastest tracks to one of the shortest and slowest in the never-ending contest to determine the best stock car racer. 

Talladega Superspeedway was a game of chance; Martinsville Speedway is a game of chess. The field will take 400 laps to secure a position in the top 10 and the final 100 laps will showcase an intense battle among the leaders. Talladega was unpredictable; Martinsville features some of the longest top-five and top-10 streaks on the schedule. This week’s top-five finishers are not hard to guess, but the NASCAR Fantasy Live game will be won or lost by the player who selects the correct dark horses.

Players scored the most points in the quality passing column of the Camping World RV Sales 500. The Goody's Headache Relief Shot 500 will be won by the player with the most points in the laps led and fastest laps run columns, so plan accordingly. 

Rank

Driver

Power Avg.

1.

Jeff Gordon

9.03

2.

Jimmie Johnson

9.09

3.

Denny Hamlin

9.19

4.

Kyle Busch

10.14

5.

Kevin Harvick

10.87

6.

Matt Kenseth

12.03

7.

Brad Keselowski

12.17

8.

Clint Bowyer

12.30

9.

Kasey Kahne

12.35

10.

Carl Edwards

13.29

11.

Ryan Newman

13.63

12.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.

14.74

13.

Mark Martin

14.85

14.

Jeff Burton

15.36

15.

Greg Biffle

15.62

16.

Kurt Busch

16.61

17.

Martin Truex Jr.

18.02

18.

Juan Pablo Montoya

18.03

19.

Jamie McMurray

19.18

20.

Joey Logano

20.47

21.

Aric Almirola

21.06

22.

Paul Menard

22.67

23.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

23.81

24.

Marcos Ambrose

24.68

25.

David Ragan

26.84

26.

Bobby Labonte

26.93

27.

David Reutimann

28.41

28.

Casey Mears

30.67

29.

Danica Patrick

31.76

30.

Elliott Sadler

32.83

31.

Travis Kvapil

33.90

32.

David Gilliland

34.29

33.

Landon Cassill

34.60

34.

Dave Blaney

35.03

35.

Cole Whitt

35.55

36.

Ken Schrader

36.38

37.

JJ Yeley

37.03

38.

Michael McDowell

38.27

39.

Tony Raines

38.44

40.

Josh Wise

38.77

41.

Joe Nemechek

40.10

42.

Reed Sorenson

40.43

The Favorites

In regard to fastest laps run, two drivers stand head and shoulders above the rest. Fortunately, they are the same drivers with the best recent top-five finish percentage, so fantasy owners have an opportunity to double-down and score points in every column. Hendrick Motorsports teammates Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson have dominated Martinsville unlike any other drivers in the field on any other track. Since NASCAR Statistical Services began tracking this statistic, Gordon has recorded 968 fastest laps run of the 6,819 available in the past 17 races. That works out to 14.2 percent of the time. Johnson has recorded the fastest lap in 13 percent of the circuits, and these drivers will almost certainly combine for that same 27 percent of the available points this week. 

Along the way, they have spent the majority of their time in the front of the pack. Johnson’s average running position of 5.9 is the best in the field and he has converted that into an average finish of slightly better than fourth in the last eight and half years. Gordon is second on both lists with an average running position of 6.2 and a finish of nearly fifth. Both have shown consistency at the checkered flag as well with nearly 80 percent of their attempts ending in top-five finishes since 2005 and regardless of their price in the salary cap game, they should anchor this week’s roster. 

Four drivers enter the weekend with back-to-back top-fives scored last fall and this spring. Johnson is one of these, but notably, Gordon is not since he finished seventh in last year’s edition of this race. The third slot on a player’s roster should go to Clint Bowyer, Kyle Busch, or Kasey Kahne all of whom are slightly more affordable. Busch has been the hardest charger as determined by fastest laps run. He has been the swiftest 5.5 percent of the time and has also led 5.3 percent of the laps since 2005. If he is too expensive, however, Bowyer is a good alternative; he has led 3.3 percent of the laps in the past 17 races and scored an identical percentage of fastest laps run. If he finishes in the top five, those additional 33 points will go a long way toward helping win one’s league. 

Dark Horses

During any other season, Denny Hamlin would be listed alongside Johnson and Gordon as one of the favorites, but as he continues to recuperate from a back injury, he has struggled on tracks that he once dominated. He is typically great on every short, flat track, but he finished only 21st in both the Camping World RV Sales 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and the Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond International Raceway. He missed the spring Martinsville race this year and had an electrical problem in last year’s fall race, both of which raise red flags, but there is reason to hope. Hamlin has been running much better for portions of the race on unrestricted ovals lately, but he fades at the end. After adopting a new medical procedure to alleviate the pain in his back, he was finally able to crack the top 10 for the first time in 17 races at Charlotte Motor Speedway and that could signal a change in momentum.

Roush-Fenway Racing drivers are not usually very strong on short, flat tracks and the minimally-banked courses have been tough for Carl Edwards to master. Last year, in eight races at Martinsville, Richmond, New Hampshire, and Phoenix International Raceway, he scored only one top-10 and three top-15s. This year, he is one of three drivers who have swept the top 15 on this track type alongside the more expensive Gordon and Matt Kenseth. Edwards has only one top-five on this track, but there are other ways to score points in the NASCAR Fantasy Live game and he has finished better than he started in eight of his last 12 Martinsville attempts, which should provide some positive place differential points. 

Underdogs

Joey Logano has been a consistently good value in the NASCAR Fantasy Live game and strong runs in unrestricted, intermediate speedways are a big part of the reason he is in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. His struggles on the short, flat track at Richmond during the final regular season race uncover one of his remaining weaknesses, however. He finished 22nd in the Federated Auto Parts 400 and that was his third result outside the top 20 on this track type. He rebounded slightly with a 14th at New Hampshire, but he scored only 36 points in that race, which is not enough to warrant his current salary cap. 

At the very least, Dale Earnhardt Jr. should be a race day decision. Considering the strength of his Hendrick teammates, this should be a track on which he has a majority of top-five finishes, but he was actually much stronger with Dale Earnhardt Inc. He has recorded a few strong runs at Martinsville, but with only three top-fives in 11 starts with Hendrick, he is much more likely to finish on the high side of the top 10. Even that has been difficult in his last two races and he enters the weekend with back-to-back 20-something results on this track. If he posts the fastest 10-lap average in practice or wins the pole, fantasy players’ opinion may change, but prior to the weekend it seems more likely that he will be left in the garage on Sunday.