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The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series just wrapped up a three-race West Coast swing, and the teams head to Martinsville Speedway this weekend for the first of three short track events over the next four races.
Martinsville is the smallest and slowest of NASCAR's short tracks, but its flat corners, paperclip shape, and treacherous pit road help make races here some of the most entertaining of the year.
When it comes to DFS NASCAR, Sunday's STP 500 will require a shift in philosophy. It is always important to maximize the points you earn in the dominator categories, but it is a must for short track events. There are 500 laps on tap this weekend, which means you will never find more points available in the laps led and fastest laps run categories.
Last weekend at Auto Club, there were around 50 points available for laps led, and just under 100 points available for fastest laps run, give or take caution laps and overtime. This weekend, those point totals balloon to roughly 125 for laps led and 250 for fastest laps run.
Throw in the fact that is common for one driver to lead 200-plus laps in a race at Martinsville, and you have to roster the dominant driver if you want to win any of the top prizes. If you miss out on that driver, you just can't make up the points through finishing position or place differential.
With that in mind, I recommend loading up on multiple drivers who have a chance to score a bunch of points in the dominator categories, even if it means punting a couple of roster spots with cheaper options.
Johnson's numbers at Martinsville are in a class by themselves. In 30 starts, he has a 7.3 average finish, nine wins and 24 Top 10s. He also leads all drivers in laps led and fastest laps run here, and his 2,838 laps led are 1,475 more than any other active driver. Johnson led 92 laps and won at Martinsville last fall, and despite a slow start to 2017, he needs to be lineups this weekend.
He is the defending winner of this weekend's race, and Busch dominated the field last spring, leading 352 of the 500 laps. Among active drivers, Busch ranks third in laps led and fourth in fastest laps run at the track, and he has finished in the Top 5 in his last three starts here.
Starting up front tends to be a benefit at Martinsville, and Logano has qualified third or better in his last six starts here. He has used the track position to lead a combined 456 laps in that span, leading 20-plus laps in every race and leading 100-plus laps twice. If his success in qualifying continues, expect him to do some damage in the dominator categories.
Martinsville was one of his worst tracks when he was with Roush Fenway Racing, but he has become a force here since joining Joe Gibbs Racing in 2013. He has finished in the Top 15 in seven of his eight starts at Martinsville with JGR, finishing sixth or better five times. He has led 641 laps at the track for his career, and he has led 568 of those with JGR. In fact, Kenseth has led the second-most laps at Martinsville since the start of 2013.
Bowyer is loving life with Stewart-Haas Racing, and he has finished 13th or better in all four races since Daytona. He has seven Top 15s in his last ten starts at Martinsville, and among active drivers, he ranks eighth in laps led and sixth in fastest laps run here. He could have a ton of value depending on how qualifying plays out.
While Kyle Larson is carrying the banner for Chip Ganassi Racing, McMurray has been solid in his own right. He has cracked the Top 15 in four straight races, and the hot stretch should continue Sunday. McMurray has five Top 10s in his last eight starts at Martinsville, including three in his last four. He could be one of the best middle-tier plays, especially if he has some upside through place differential after qualifying.
It has been a miserable year for Allmendinger since the Daytona 500, but he could be a steal this weekend at Martinsville. He was the runner-up in this race last year, and he has finished 11th or better in five of his six starts here with JTG Daugherty Racing. He also ranks in the Top 15 in fastest laps run here. Allmendinger could be in play as a cash or GPP option depending on how qualifying plays out.
She has delivered some decent runs at Martinsville recently, notching three Top 25 finishes in her last four starts. In her last two starts in the spring race, she has finished seventh and 16th, gaining nine and 12 spots, respectively. She is worth a flier if she starts deeper in the field.
McDowell held his own in both starts at Martinsville last year, cracking the Top 25 in both events. In the fall race, he gained 12 spots on his way to a 18th-place finish. His value is tied to his starting spot, but if he starts 30th or worse this weekend, he should be one of the safest punt plays.