Victory Lane – First Data 500
By Tyler Miller – @rickybobby_jr
The starting lineup for the First Data 500 at Martinsville Speedway is now official. Ryan Newman, Corey LaJoie, Timmy Hill, and BJ McLeod will start at the back of the pack for failing inspection. This makes Ryan Newman DFS relevant for Sunday afternoon.
Denny Hamlin won the pole. Chase Elliott qualified second but will fall to the rear of the field due to an engine change. Elliott will keep his second place starting position, but will be at a large disadvantage at the start of the race. The other six playoff drivers are provisionally starting: Truex 3rd, Blaney 6th, Logano 10th, Busch 13th, Larson 14th, and Harvick 22nd. Lineup lock is at 3pm eastern with the green flag scheduled for 3:14 pm. Let’s get started.
Denny Hamlin ($14,500/11,000) Denny Hamlin was the fastest qualifier Saturday at Martinsville. Hamlin will have the best pit stall and should lead dozens of laps early in the race. I would expect Hamlin to contend for the win late and payoff his salary by leading laps since there aren’t any differential points available.
Clint Bowyer ($10,500/8,900) Clint Bowyer led all the consecutive lap categories during final practice. Bowyer is not a playoff driver, but could play the role of playoff spoiler by winning the race on Sunday. Bowyer’s speeds were incredibly consistent, running a 20 flat from 5 through 20 lap average speed. No other driver ran 20 flats as an average speed past a 15 lap average. The only other drives close to Bowyer in consecutive average lap speed were Erik Jones and Aric Almirola, but their times fell off after 10 laps where Bowyer’s remained consistent through a 20 lap run. Starting 7th, I think Bowyer is a lock button for DFS on Sunday.
Kevin Harvick ($12,500/10,500) Kevin Harvick wasn’t particularly happy with his car on Saturday but he qualified 22nd and ran consecutive lap times inside the top 12 during final practice. I think Harvick can contend for a top 10, but I think there are similarly priced drivers that can lead laps and contend for the win.
Joey Logano ($12,000/10,100) Joey Logano is $500 less than Harvick and has a much better chance to lead laps and win the race on Sunday. Logano qualified 10th and ran 4th-6th in consecutive lap times during final practice. As noted in The Setup, Penske racing has dominated at Martinsville recently and I think Joey Logano is the best chance for Penske to continue its winning ways at Martinsville this weekend.
Martin Truex Jr. ($14,000/11,400) It would be unwise to ignore Martin Truex Jr this weekend. Truex qualified 3rd and ran lap times similar to Denny Hamlin during final practice. Hamlin has a better history than Truex at Martinsville and I like him, by a small margin, over Truex this weekend as well.
Ryan Newman ($6,800/7,500) Ryan Newman failed pre-race inspection and will start the race 35th. Newman was not particularly fast in final practice, running consecutive lap times in the mid 20s. If Newman can rally to finish 20th or better he could be a valuable asset in DFS on Sunday. Using Newman also allows us to move away from the bottom of the barrel drivers like Ross Chastain. I also think Corey LaJoie is now in play as he starts 36th.
Kurt Busch ($9,600/8,500) I really like Kurt Busch this weekend but I’m not sure if his salary will fit in my lineup. Kurt qualified 25th and ran very consistent lap times in consecutive average up to 20 laps. Kurt pops off the page with the 5th fastest 25 lap average out of the 18 cars that ran 25 consecutive laps in final practice. Kurt’s 30 lap average speed was 4th out of 10 cars that ran 30 consecutive laps. I think Kurt can contend for a top 10 finish which would make him a solid play on Sunday if his salary can fit into your lineup build.
Jimmie Johnson ($9,200/8,100) Jimmie Johnson has a strong history at Martinsville with 9 wins and 2,862 laps led. Johnson has not been as good at Martinsville recently with finishes of 15, 12, 15, 12, and 24 in his last 5 races. Johnson is starting 24th and ran consecutive laps good enough for 11th-14th during final practice. I think Johnson can contend for a top 10 finish at Martinsville, but I also think there is a decent chance that he will finish 15th or worse.
Erik Jones ($8,000/8,700) Erik Jones was 2nd and 3rd in 5 and 10 lap average speed during final practice. Starting 8th, Jones is the best contender for a top 10 finish under 10k at Martinsville. Jones did not make long runs during final practice but I think he is fast enough to run in the middle of the top 10 all day. One word of caution: Jones does not have a good history at Martinsville. His 5 career finishes are 12, 26, 17, 26, and 30. Jones has a fast car, but DFS players will need to decide if they trust him to stay out of trouble at Martinsville on Sunday.
Ty Dillon ($5,000/6,200) Ty Dillon is driver that makes everything fit together for me at Martinsville. Dillon qualified 29th, ran consecutive lap speeds of 28th and 29th in final practice, but had the 11th fastest single lap speed. In Dillon’s last two races at Martinsville he has ran every lap and finished 15th and 13th. He has kept his car clean at Martinsville in his 5 career starts, and has an overall average finish of 20th. Dillon needs to run 496 or more laps at Martinsville and finish 22nd or better to be a good DFS play on Sunday. I think that expectation is realistic and I like using Dillon in DFS at Martinsville.
My core cash lineup includes Denny Hamlin, Clint Bowyer, and Joey Logano. Good luck to all our subscribers and be sure to check back Sunday for updates and double check all lineups before lock at 3pm.
Tyler Miller is a lifelong NASCAR enthusiast who spent five years as a producer on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio (2008-2013). Upon meeting his wife in Washington DC, Tyler became an Army spouse and left his career to move all over the country and help raise their two children. Tyler holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sport Communication and Electronic Media Production from Ashland University and is currently pursuing a Masters’ of Science degree in Marketing: Sports Marketing and Media, from Liberty University.