The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will travels Martinsville, Virginia this week for the STP 500.
Jimmie Johnson dominated the race at Martinsville Speedway last spring. He won the pole and led 346 of 500 laps on his way to his eighth victory at the race track. His Hendrick Motorsports teammates performed well in the race as well: Jeff Gordon finished third and Kasey Kahne finished fourth. Hendrick Motorsports has won 20 times at Martinsville and should be the favorites to win this week.
The strategy for Yahoo! Fantasy Auto Racing this week is to select drivers who have a history of performing well at Martinsville. The key to winning is to find a rhythm during the race and drivers who have figured out that rhythm will likely get out in front and stay there.
The strategy for the Fantasy Live will be to select drivers who will start up front and have the chance to lead many laps. Track position is important at Martinsville and your team will score one point for every two laps led in the race. The winning driver has a history of leading over 100 laps at Martinsville. That could mean a huge score for your Fantasy Live team.
Racing for the Win
1. Jimmie Johnson: Johnson is, by far, the class of the field this week. In his last three starts at Martinsville, Johnson started each race from the front row and finished all three races in the top five. In his 24 career starts at the race track, Johnson has never finished outside the top 12 and his average finishing position is fifth. Johnson must be on every fantasy team this week.
2. Jeff Gordon: If it were not for Johnson dominating the races at Martinsville, Gordon would be the favorite each time the series visits the race track. Gordon has eight wins and 27 top-five finishes at Martinsville. He won the October race at Martinsville and should be the favorite to race Johnson to the checkered flag Sunday.
3. Denny Hamlin:Hamlin is always tough to beat in his home state. Denny has four wins at Martinsville and nine top-five finishes in his 16 career starts. Hamlin did not race last week at Fontana. If he is healthy, he is one of the best selections for your team this week.
4. Brad Keselowski: Keselowski often gets overlooked at Martinsville. He has the longest streak of top-10 finishes at the race track of any driver in the field. Keselowski usually qualifies in the middle of the pack and races his way to the front. Since he has been the 'King of Qualifying' this season, his chances of going to Victory Lane should increase.
5. Clint Bowyer: Bowyer is one of the best drivers at Martinsville. He finished both races last year in the top three. If Bowyer has a halfway decent car this week, he will finish in the top five.
6. Matt Kenseth: Kenseth had one of the best cars in the October race at Martinsville. He qualified fourth, led the most laps and finished second to Jeff Gordon. Kenseth will be one of the drivers running up front when the checkered waves on Sunday.
7. Kyle Busch: Busch is a hard driver to predict at Martinsville. When Kyle is good, he is usually really good; when he is bad, he is usually really bad. In his 18 career starts at Martinsville, Busch has nine top-10 finishes and seven finishes outside the top 20. Coming off his win last week, Busch will have momentum going into Martinsville.
8. Brian Vickers: Vickers is another great sleeper this week. Last season Vickers started both races at Martinsville in the top three and finished both races in the top 11. If Michael Waltrip Racing can provide Vickers a good car, he could easily finish inside the top 10.
9. Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Martinsville is not one of Earnhardt’s best race tracks, but he does not seem to be the same driver this season as he was in the past. Earnhardt has never won at Martinsville, but he has finished more than half his races in the top 10. Expect Earnhardt to have another top-10 finish this week.
10. Ryan Newman:Newman could be the sleeper who races to Victory Lane this week. Newman was not very good at this race track last season, but he seems to have found a home at Richard Childress Racing. Newman has one win and 11 top-10 finishes in his 24 career starts at Martinsville. He will finish in the top 10 again this week.
11. Kevin Harvick: Martinsville is not Harvick’s best race track. His average starting position is 13.5 and his average finishing position is 16.1. In October he was able to start in the top 10 and finish sixth. Harvick will run well, but finish just outside the top 10 on Sunday.
12. Kasey Kahne: Kahne was good in this race last year. He started fifth and finished fourth. When Kahne is able to avoid the wrecks, he often finishes up front at Martinsville. The problem is Kahne has been involved in an accident or had engine problems in two of the last three spring races at the track. If you pick Kahne this week, keep your fingers crossed that he can keep the car in one piece.
13. Greg Biffle: If you are looking for a good candidate to start the race from the back and move to the front, Biffle is your driver. Biffle has qualified the last three races outside the top 20 and finished all three races inside the top 10. He would be a good sleeper pick for fantasy formats which reward drivers for improving their position during the race.
14. Jamie McMurray: McMurray could be a good sleeper pick this week, as well. The team has had speed in every race this season and McMurray was good at Martinsville last season. McMurray finished both races last season in the top 10. A top-15 finish is more likely this week.
15. Tony Stewart: Stewart really struggled last season at Martinsville. He finished both races outside the top 15. Stewart has won three times at the track and has an average finish of 13.7. Since Stewart usually struggles at Bristol and he was able to bring his car home in fifth place, he should run well at Martinsville this week.
16. Carl Edwards: Edwards won the last race on a short track; comparing Bristol to Martinsville, though, is like comparing apples to oranges. Edwards has only finished one of his last six races at Martinsville in the top 10. There are better race tracks to use Edwards on your fantasy team.
17. Joey Logano: Logano's 2014 season is off to a great start, but this week he may only be an average driver. Logano has not finished in the top 10 at Martinsville since 2010. He only has two top-10 finishes in his 10 career races at the race track.
18. Kurt Busch: It has been a long time since Busch, had success at Martinsville. He has finished 16 races in a row at the track outside the 10. He will keep his streak alive this week with only a top 20 finish.
19. Marcos Ambrose: Ambrose looked great a Bristol, but do not expect the same this week. His average starting position is 19 and his average finishing position is 21. Ambrose will finish in the top 20 if he can keep from burning off his brakes. He usually has a problem with brakes at this race track.
20. Kyle Larson:The next great NASCAR star was born last week at Auto Club Speedway. Larson won the Nationwide race and finished second in the Auto Club 400. Larson is not your average rookie driver. This young man can drive a car with the best in the business. He will have a hard time cracking the top 10 this week, but do not be surprised if he wins a race this season.
Trying to Stay on Lead Lap
21. A. J. Allmendinger: Allmendinger looks to be getting better every week with his new team. He could be considered a sleeper pick this week. Allmendinger started 27th and finished second in this race at Martinsville in 2012. Do not be surprised to see Allmendinger have a good race Sunday.
22. Paul Menard: Menard has never finished in the top 10 at Martinsville. He usually qualifies inside the top 25 and finishes inside the top 25. Save Menard for the intermediate race tracks.
23. Aric Almirola: The No. 43 car used to own this race track, but Richard Petty will not be climbing into the car this week. Almirola finished both races last season in the 20th position. Expect him to run close to that position again this week.
24. Martin Truex Jr.: Truex had a horrible race at Martinsville last spring. He started 12th and finished 40th. His average starting position is 16.8 and his average finishing position is 22.3. Wait to use Truex until the Furniture Row Racing team shows signs they can compete up front consistently.
25. Danica Patrick: You would think that Patrick would struggle at Martinsville, but actually she does well there. Last season she started both races outside the top 30 and finished both races inside the top 20. In the spring race she finished 12th. This could be a good week to take a chance with Patrick.
26. Casey Mears: Mears may be a good value pick this week. His team has had speed this season using the engines from Richard Childress Racing. Mears has an average finishing position of 22.1 at Martinsville.
27. Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.: Stenhouse has competed twice at Martinsville in the Sprint Cup Series. Both times he qualified 20th and finished 25th and 31st. There are better race tracks to use Stenhouse on your fantasy team.
28. Austin Dillon: Rookies usually have problems in their first race at Martinsville. Dillon will not be an exception to the rule. This is not the week to take a risk on a rookie driver.
29. Michael Annett: Annett drove well at Bristol. He started 34th and finished 26th. He has never raced at Martinsville, so he will probably have a rough day. He is worth a pick in Fantasy Live because of his price.
30. David Ragan: Ragan started eighth at the last race at Martinsville, but finished last. He usually runs between positions 25-30 at the race track. Do not expect anything more from him this week.
Yahoo! Fantasy Auto Racing Picks
Group A: Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon
Group B: Denny Hamlin, Brad Keselowski, Brian Vickers, Ryan Newman
Group C: Kyle Larson, Danica Patrick
Fantasy Live Picks
Jimmie Johnson, Denny Hamlin, Brian Vickers, Kyle Larson, Michael Annett
Fox Fantasy NASCAR Picks
Captain: Jimmie Johnson
Driver 2: Jeff Gordon
Driver 3: Denny Hamlin
Driver 4: Clint Bowyer
Driver 5: Brian Vickers
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