Now that we’re down to just 8 drivers remaining in the Chase, we might start seeing non-Chase drivers in contention for the win, thus making points very important for the remaining championship-eligible teams. Martin Truex, Jr. is an example of one of those, as he won the pole for this weekend’s race at Martinsville (full starting lineup here). The #78 team said their only focus is to win races now that they have been eliminated from the Chase, but Truex is going to have some stiff competition this weekend. There were two post-qualifying practices this weekend, and those results can be found here: Practice #2 — Happy Hour. And, as always, our in-depth notes are available for those: Practice #2 — Happy Hour. History has shown that this race typically has two or three drivers that lead the 100+ laps, so the favorites heading into Sunday may not be the best at the end of the race. Just something to keep in mind.
Final Top 25 Ranking For Martinsville 2
1. Kyle Busch – Starts 9th – DraftKings Price: $10,700 – Yahoo! A Group
**Risk Factor: Medium Risk**
Rowdy won in dominating fashion here back in April and will look to be the first driver to complete the season sweep at Martinsville since his teammate, Denny Hamlin, did it back in 2010. When you look at the last six years of Martinsville races, the early-season winner has an average finish of 10.0 in the fall race, with four top 5s in those six events. That’s heavily weighed down by Kurt Busch’s 36th-place finish here in the fall 2014 race after his win in the spring event. When you take that out of the equation, the average finish of winners jumps to 4.8. In other words, things are looking pretty good for Kyle Busch this weekend. As far as speed goes, in Practice #2 on Saturday, the #18 Toyota was 6th on the ten-lap average chart and ranked 2nd on that chart in Happy Hour. Kyle posted the 16th- and 5th-fastest laps, respectively, in those sessions. His win here back in April was his first career trip to Sprint Cup victory lane at this historic race track, but Busch does have a solid record here, with ten top 5s in twenty-two career starts (45.5%). He was my #1 ranked driver heading into the Goody’s Fast Relief 500 race weekend and remains a legitimate threat for the win on Sunday.
2. Denny Hamlin – Starts 8th – DraftKings Price: $10,000 – Yahoo! A Group
**Risk Factor: Low Risk**
You can’t underestimate the importance of a fast pit crew here at Martinsville, and the #11 group is one of the best in the Sprint Cup garage. When you pair that with the fact that Denny Hamlin could probably lay down a fast lap at Martinsville even if he was driving a dump truck, you have a potential race-winning combination. The #11 Toyota hasn’t quite looked that good this weekend, but Hamlin is still a sure pick for a top 10 finish this weekend. In twenty-one career starts at “The Paperclip,” he has gone to victory lane five times and posted a top 5 finish in eleven of those events (52.4%). Denny finished 3rd in this race one year ago and hasn’t had a result worse than 8th in the last three fall events here at Martinsville. In Happy Hour on Saturday, Hamlin was 16th on the overall speed chart and ranked 18th on the ten-lap average chart. I don’t know if this team was trying something new on Saturday or not, but I find it very difficult to believe that the #11 Toyota doesn’t have top 5 speed this weekend. Hamlin will be a good Fantasy NASCAR pick on Sunday, try not to get caught up in the lower-than-normal practice speeds.
3. Jimmie Johnson – Starts 3rd – DraftKings Price: $10,500 – Yahoo! A Group
**Risk Factor: Low Risk**
Don’t be surprised if Jimmie Johnson punches his ticket to Homestead this weekend. The #48 team has had a sudden resurgence in the Sprint Cup Series garage, and it’s never good to bet against a guy that has eight career victories at a particular race track. In addition to those eight wins, Jimmie Johnson has posted eighteen top 5 finishes in twenty-nine career starts at “The Paperclip” (62.1%) and led a total of 2,747 laps here–second only to Jeff Gordon’s 3,776 laps led and more than double that of 3rd-place Denny Hamlin (1,315 laps led). This weekend, Johnson 3rd on Friday and then had a couple of very impressive practice sessions on Saturday, ranking 5th in ten-lap average during the morning practice and 19th on that chart in Happy Hour (although it was late in the session, so that could explain the lack of speed). Jimmie Johnson should be a contender for the Goody’s Fast Relief 500 win on Sunday as well as one of those in contention for the most laps led.