The Setup – Blue-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 500
By Tyler Miller

Martinsville Speedway will host its first ever night race in the NASCAR Cup Series on Wednesday night. Martinsville is a flat, half-mile race track in Southwestern Virginia; a favorite for close racing, high intensity, and drama. Recently, Martinsville has not had the action up front, with race winners leading as many as 464 of 500 laps (Truex in 2019). Drafting drivers who can lead hundreds of laps will be key. Laps Led will be much more important than differential for this race. Let’s get started.

Race Distance: 500 laps (263 miles). Stage 1 ends on lap 130, Stage 2 ends on lap 260.
Lineup Lock 7:00 pm eastern Wednesday

2019 Spring Winner Brad Keselowski (Started 3rd)
2019 Fall Winner Martin Truex Jr. (Started 3rd)
2019 Spring Pole Sitter Joey Logano (Finished 19th)
2019 Fall Pole Sitter Denny Hamlin (Finished 4th)

Past Winners: (Starting Position)
2018 Spring: Clint Bowyer (9th)
2018 Fall: Joey Logano (10th)
2017 Spring: Brad Keselowski (4th)
2017 Fall: Kyle Busch (14th)
2016 Spring: Kyle Busch (7th)
2016 Fall: Jimmie Johnson (3rd)

Atlanta Recap
What went right?

I was really happy with the Victory Lane article from Atlanta. Kevin Harvick was my number 1 play, he lead the most laps and won the race. Brad Keselowski was solid, leading 5 laps and finishing 9th (11th in Fan Duel scoring). Kurt Busch led a lap and finished 6th (6th on Fan Duel). Jimmie Johnson finished 7th (7th on Fan Duel). Chase Elliott finished 8th (10th on Fan Duel). Christopher Bell finished 18th, exactly as projected, and Ryan Preece did ok with + 3 differential 1 lap down.

What went wrong?
Alex Bowman ended up being the fly in my ointment. Bowman ran inside the top 5 for a brief time on Sunday but ended up with a 12th place finish and -4 differential. That doesn’t sound that bad, but when you consider that I pivoted off of Kurt Busch and went to Alex Bowman due to Kurt’s pre-race penalties (which included a pass through pit lane under green to start the race) it was a major mistake. Erik Jones also had two late issues that he was unable to recover from and finished the race 28th in Quinn Houff territory.

I missed on Truex, which was frustrating because he was cheaper than Keselowski. I also somehow missed the fact that Michael McDowell started the race 36th and was the chalk value play. I really needed Preece to outscore McDowell, which he didn’t.

My Fan Duel lineup ended up being Harvick, Keselowski, Bowman, Bell, and Preece which scored 326.2 and lost money. If I had stayed with my initial lineup (Kurt Busch instead of Bowman) I would have scored 337.4 and cashed in every contest. If I had kept Kurt Busch and been smart enough to realize that I needed to play Michael McDowell instead of Ryan Preece I would have scored an additional 6.6 points and scored 344.

My Draft Kings lineup was the same as Fan Duel with the addition of Erik Jones, so it did even worse. I scored 254.0 and was completely shut out.

What Vegas thinks (Tuesday morning lines via Draft Kings Sportsbook)
Kyle Busch is the favorite at +450 with Keselowski and Truex right behind at +550. Despite Jimmie Johnson’s strong record at Martinsville, he is +2000. Without practice or qualifying, there is no reason to wait on placing a bet. Since I live in New Jersey, I grabbed Denny Hamlin Monday for +900, he is now down to +650.

Kyle Busch +450
Brad Keselowski +550
Martin Truex Jr. +550
Denny Hamlin +650
Chase Elliott +900
Joey Logano +900
Ryan Blaney +1000
Kevin Harvick +1100
Clint Bowyer +2000
Jimmie Johnson +2000

Driver Ratings at Martinsville
1. Jimmie Johnson 109.8
2. Denny Hamlin 107.2
3. Kyle Busch 104.1
4. Brad Keselowski 99.7
5. Joey Logano 94.7
6. Ryan Blaney 94.2
7. Kevin Harvick 94.2
8. Clint Bowyer 91.6
9. Matt Kenseth 87.9
10. Chase Elliott 87.4
11. Ryan Newman 84.3
12. Martin Truex Jr. 82.2
13. Kurt Busch 80.6
14. Austin Dillon 71.7
15. Daniel Suarez 80.9

Average Running Position
1. Denny Hamlin 9.148
2. Jimmie Johnson 9.413
3. Ryan Blaney 10.430
4. Kyle Busch 10.441
5. Brad Keselowski 11.283
6. Joey Logano 11.679
7. Kevin Harvick 12.696
8. Clint Bowyer 13.419
9. Matt Kenseth 14.230
10. Chase Elliott 15.112
11. Ryan Newman 15.271
12. Kurt Busch 16.322
13. Martin Truex Jr. 16.822
14. Daniel Suarez 18.262
15. Erik Jones 19.244

Laps Led
1. Jimmie Johnson 2691 (17.9 percent of laps run)
2. Denny Hamlin 1566 (11.2)
3. Kyle Busch 1424 (9.8)
4. Brad Keselowski 883 (8.8)
5. Joey Logano 830 (7.5)
6. Martin Truex Jr. 726 (5.2)
7. Matt Kenseth 602 (4.4)
8. Clint Bowyer 572 (4.1)
9. Kevin Harvick 481 (3.2)
10. Chase Elliott 192 (4.3)

2019 Spring Top 10
1. Brad Keselowski
2. Chase Elliott
3. Kyle Busch
4. Ryan Blaney
5. Denny Hamlin
6. Kevin Harvick
7. Clint Bowyer
8. Martin Truex Jr.
9. Aric Almirola
10. Daniel Suarez

2019 Fall Top 10
1. Martin Truex Jr.
2. William Byron
3. Brad Keselowski
4. Denny Hamlin
5. Ryan Blaney
6. Kurt Busch
7. Kevin Harvick
8. Joey Logano
9. Kyle Larson
10. Ryan Newman

2018 Spring top 10:
1. Clint Bowyer
2. Kyle Busch
3. Ryan Blaney
4. Martin Truex Jr.
5. Kevin Harvick
6. Joey Logano
7. Alex Bowman
8. A.J. Allmendinger
9. Chase Elliott
10. Brad Keselowski

2018 Fall top 10
1. Joey Logano
2. Denny Hamlin
3. Martin Truex. Jr.
4. Kyle Busch
5. Brad Keselowski
6. Kurt Busch
7. Chase Elliott
8. Ryan Newman
9. Daniel Suarez
10. Kevin Harvick

This is a 500 lap race. It is important to give yourself every opportunity to roster drivers who can lead 100+ laps. I like having 3 top contenders in a lineup if possible. This race is also about being lucky and having all of your drivers run every lap. On Fan Duel, there are 50 points available for running 500 laps. That makes a driver who finishes 25th on the lead lap immensely more valuable than a driver who finishes 29th and crashes out on lap 30.

Denny Hamlin ($12,000/11,900) Starting in the 12th position, Denny Hamlin is my top pick this weekend. He has 5 wins at Martinsville and is running well enough to be right behind Jimmie Johnson in career driver rating. Hamlin has 28 career starts at Martinsville with 5 wins, 15 top 5s (over 50%), 21 top 10s (75%), and has led laps in 21 of those races.

Brad Keselowski ($13,500/9,500) I was burned a little bit by Brad Keselowski at Atlanta on Sunday, but I’m right back on board for Martinsville. Since 2016, Keselowski has only 1 finish outside the top 5 at Martinsville and that’s a 10th place finish in the spring race of 2018. Keselowski led 446 laps en route to the win in this race last year. Keselowski starts the race 6th.

Martin Truex Jr. ($14,000/10,300) Martin Truex Jr. dominated the fall race at Martinsville last year leading 464 of 500 laps and winning the race. Truex is on a streak of 5 straight finishes of 8th or better including a win, a 2nd, a 3rd, and a 4th. If you look at career stats for Martin Truex Jr., they will always be misleading because of the equipment he was running for the first half of his career. His driver rating and average running position are nothing special, but his recent strength at Martinsville make him a top driver for Wednesday night.

Jimmie Johnson ($10,200/12,500) Jimmie Johnson has outstanding career numbers at Martinsville Speedway. In 36 races he has 9 wins and 24 top 10 finishes. Johnson has the best driver rating, 2nd in average running position, and the most laps led of any active driver. However, Johnson has 6 straight finishes outside the top 10. In fact, he has finished outside the top 10 in 9 of his past 11 races (the other 2 were a win and a 9th place finish). Johnson is worth mentioning because of his strong career numbers. He is starting 21st which might make some people chase differential points, but overall I’m not in on Jimmie Johnson because I think the right lineup build will have 3 drivers who can dominate and win the race and Johnson does not fit that mold.

Ty Dillon ($5,000/6,200) I really like Ty Dillon in this race. In 6 career races, Ty Dillon has finished better than he started 5 times. His career finishes are 22nd, 30th, 22nd, 15th, 13th, and 24th. If Ty can finish 20th or better he would be an outstanding play on Wednesday night, his price is way too low. People are going to be tempted to play Cole Custer and Christopher Bell because of their price and starting position but remember that the Xfinity series does not run at Martinsville Speedway and this is the first cup start at the track for both rookies. Martinsville has a reputation of destroying the hopes and dreams of rookie drivers (see Elliott, Chase). I think Ty Dillon is a good alternate to the rookie drivers on Wednesday night.

Austin Dillon ($7,300/6,100) Austin Dillon has quietly been on a hot streak recently with 4 straight finishes of 14th or better. If he can finish in the top 15 at Martinsville he is a solid play at his salary, starting from the 22nd position. Martinsville has been a mixed bag for Dillon in his career with a couple of top 5s back in 2016 and 2017 but he has been 20th or worse in 3 of his last 4. It’s worth noting that Austin Dillon is on “baby watch” as his wife is pregnant with their first child. If Whitney Dillon goes into labor before the race, AJ Allmendinger will be standing by to fill in.

Michael McDowell ($4,000/5,100) Michael McDowell is not going to light the world on fire at Martinsville. At minimum price, starting 29th, McDowell provides a little bit of stability as a value play given the fact that he has been running at the finish of the past 8 races at Martinsville. I think its possible that McDowell could finish in the top 20, but realistically you are looking at a finish of 22nd-26th, 2-3 laps down. Playing Michael McDowell only makes sense if you are using him to fit Hamlin, Keselowski, and Truex in your lineup.

My core lineup for Martinsville includes Denny Hamlin, Brad Keselowski, and Ty Dillon. If you add Truex to that core you are going to need a low priced value driver. If you want to stay with mid-range guys you can look at a combination of Johnson, Austin Dillon, and a driver starting in the top 3 and hope they get out to a lead and nobody can pass them.

Good luck to all our subscribers!

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