Martinsville’s most recent winner Joey Logano will start from the pole position for Sunday’s STP 500 (2 p.m. ET, FS1/MRN/SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Does he merit a spot in your lineup? We’ve dissected the numbers to offer a suggested lineup worthy of your Fantasy Live consideration as you make roster decisions.
Remember that the garage locks at the end of Stage 2. Once the final stage starts, your roster is locked in.
Jessica Ruffin’s Fantasy Live lineup for race day at Martinsville
1. Joey Logano
2. Martin Truex Jr.
3. Clint Bowyer
4. Aric Almirola
5. Denny Hamlin
Garage: Chase Elliott
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The majority of my lineup will remain the same. but I made two switches after watching practice and qualifying and looking at long-run speed; I’m taking out Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch and substituting Aric Almirola and Joey Logano. The Team Penske fleet, considered a favorable group for this weekend, has not put up the dominant speeds that I expected heading into the weekend. Because of its strength at other tracks on the circuit and early handle on the 2019 rules package, I’m opting to save the majority of their drivers this weekend. The exception is Logano, who won the Busch Pole Award for Sunday’s event. Logano’s Martinsville history is strong — he’s finished four of the last five races in the top 10, including a win last fall — but what swayed me was his pit stall selection and starting spot, as that No. 1 pit stall is a valuable asset that will aid him on a tricky pit road.
I put Logano in my lineup in place of Kyle Busch after Saturday’s qualifying session; while Busch was quick in practice and has a gleaming recent history at Martinsville, his struggles in qualifying that resulted in a 14th-place starting position worried me. With the race being impounded, crew chief Adam Stevens won’t be able to make any more changes on the No. 18 before Sunday’s race, leaving the slightest bit of risk that I’m not willing to take with a driver as strong week-to-week as Busch.
RELATED: Martinsville 10-lap averages
Aric Almirola was a surprise surge this weekend; the No. 10 driver was second-fastest on the 10-lap average chart (behind Kyle Busch) in opening practice and also posted the second-quickest lap in that session. While Almirola’s entire body of work at Martinsville hasn’t been his most impressive (he has an average finish of 21.4 at “The Paperclip”) his Martinsville finishes in Stewart-Haas Racing equipment are better — he notched 14th- and 11th-place finishes there in 2018. There’s something to be said for Almirola’s current streak, too; he’s finished the past four races in the top 10, leading multiple laps in three of four of them. His front row starting spot confirmed my early decision to slide the No. 10 in my lineup.
While he’s never won on a short track, Martin Truex Jr. has looked fast this weekend, topping the 10-lap average chart in final practice. He was feet away from his first short-track win last fall at Martinsville when Logano bumped him for the victory, leaving redemption on the table for the No. 19 this weekend. He earns a spot in my Fantasy Live lineup. I’m also taking last year’s spring winner at the 0.526-mile track, Clint Bowyer, who topped opening practice and has possessed good long-run speed this weekend.
Rounding out my lineup is the No. 9 of Elliott and the No. 11 of Denny Hamlin. Elliott led final practice at “The Paperclip” and boasts a solid starting spot (eighth) and has put up strong showing at Martinsville in the past. (Remember his run-in with Hamlin in 2017?) Speaking of which — five-time Martinsville winner Hamlin will also be in my lineup. The No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing driver ranked sixth on the 10-lap average charts for both practice sessions and owns the second-best average running position at Martinsville. The 2019 Daytona 500 champ also paced the field in the opening two rounds of qualifying and looks like he could be a factor for the win Sunday.
Each week in this space, we’ll also highlight two Props Challenge items for players.
1. O/U 11.5 drivers score stage points on Sunday? While we only saw 10 drivers nab stage points in last year’s spring race, the chances of only 12 drivers earning stage points is unlikely. With 20 spots for points in Stages 1 and 2, only 12 drivers earning stage points implies that only two new drivers — ones who didn’t earn points in Stage 1 — will earn points in Stage 2. Too much of a risk for me, so I’m taking the OVER here.
2. O/U 4.5 Ford drivers finish in the top 10 at Martinsville. While I think Ford drivers like Joey Logano, Aric Almirola, Brad Keselowski, Clint Bowyer and Kevin Harvick are definitely capable of running in the top 10 Sunday, I also think non-Fords like Kyle Busch, Chase Elliott, Martin Truex Jr., Denny Hamlin and even Jimmie Johnson or JTG Daugherty drivers could make it into the top 10 by the end of a chaotic Martinsville race. If the line was 3.5, I’d take the OVER. But it’s not, so I’m going UNDER as a safer bet.