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Kyle Busch
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NASCAR Fantasy Live Preview

Fantasy Live: STP 500

by Dan Beaver
Updated On: March 19, 2019, 7:40 pm ET

There is an old saying that goes, “there are horses for certain courses.” That was once true. Now, it seems that the same horses and jockeys dominate unrestricted, intermediate speedways, short tracks and superspeedways alike.

If this week’s lineup looks eerily similar to last week’s, the reason is because the path to the playoffs – and playoff road itself – is filled with events on similarly-configured, 1.5- and two-mile tracks plus short, flat tracks. Martinsville Speedway is certainly different than Auto Club Speedway, but how the track looks and races is not the primary concern of fantasy players. We are only worried about who is going to sweep the top five.


Kyle Busch
Busch is on a two-race winning streak. That could easily expand to three this week. No matter which statistics you look at, Busch is a favorite. Those back-to-back wins give him current momentum, he has a seven-race, top-five streak at Martinsville that includes a pair of wins, and finally he has a 12-race, top-10 streak on short, flat tracks with six victories in that span. In allocation management games, it is often difficult to place and hold a driver for very long, but points count the same no matter when you earn them and Busch is earning the maximum for now.

Kevin Harvick
Harvick is riding a 10-race streak of top-10s on short, flat tracks. Dating back to the fall 2017 First Data 500, he has finished outside the top five only twice, but he is less of a sure thing than Busch for one reason: he seems to be losing some of his recent momentum. The two times in the last 10 races he finished outside the top-10 on this course type have come in the last three races. He was 10th at Martinsville last fall and ninth at Phoenix a couple of weeks ago. Granted, these poor finishes came after he and the team made mistakes but Harvick seems less capable of overcoming those blunders in 2019 than he was in 2018.

Joey Logano
Logano’s victory last fall at Martinsville caught a few players by surprise, but it shouldn't have. While he has had some spectacular bad runs (like the time he was stuffed in the wall by Matt Kenseth in 2015) it will pay to note that accident not of his making ended a three-race, top-five streak on this track. He finished 11th the next spring and has earned top-10s in all but one of the following races.

Brad Keselowski
Logano’s Teammate Keselowski also has a long history of success at Martinsville. He was the driver Kenseth was actually angry with in the fall 2015 race when Keselowski got squirrely on a restart and collected the No. 17. The damage to the No. 2 car caused it to finish 32nd in that race, but that is one of only two events in the past four years that Kez failed to score a top-five. The other was last spring when he finished 10th.

Martin Truex Jr.
Rest assured: If Truex manages to get to the back of Logano’s bumper in the closing laps, his resolve to race clean under all circumstances will be sorely tested. In last fall’s First Data 500, Truex did a masterful job of driving into the lead without any contact. While that is certainly impressive, on a bullring like Martinsville it might not be the best way to win. Still, Truex has finished fourth or better in his last three showings on the paperclip.

Value Pick

Aric Almirola
Almirola is rapidly becoming the No. 2 driver at Stewart-Haas. He has a seven-race streak of top-10s dating back to last fall’s Texas 500 with his last two attempts on minimally-banked courses being a pair of fourths at Phoenix. Prior to that, he had a third at New Hampshire Motor Speedway last fall and a fifth at Richmond Raceway. He is not quite a prohibitive favorite for a top-five this week because of his last Martinsville attempt, which landed outside the top 10 with an 11th in last year’s First Data 500.

Garage Pick

Jimmie Johnson
We are not quite ready to go all in on Johnson. His eighth-place finish in Phoenix was impressive because it came after he ran among the leaders all afternoon. That gave us a glimpse of the skill he employed to seven championships and 83 wins, but last week he was outside the top 15 again. Martinsville is like Phoenix in regard to driver skill, however, and over the course of history Johnson has been as strong as anyone on that track. Keep him in reserve and if he is capable of running in the top-10 for most of the first half of the race and one of the favorites gets into trouble, he could help differentiate your roster from the competition.

Red Flag

Ryan Blaney
For all the success of his teammates on short tracks, Blaney was not particularly strong last year. He scored a third at Martinsville in the spring and was seventh at Bristol, but his other four attempts on courses less than a mile in length ended outside the top 15. He also had two top-10s and four results worse than 15th in 2017 while in 2016 he failed to crack the top 10 a single time.

 

2019 Segment wins and points

Driver

Segment Points

Segments earning points

Segment Wins

Kevin Harvick

65

10

2

Joey Logano

63

10

1

Kyle Busch

57

7

4

Ryan Blaney

48

7

2

Denny Hamlin

43

8

 

Aric Almirola

40

6

 

Martin Truex Jr.

33

5

 

Kyle Larson

27

4

1

Brad Keselowski

24

4

 

Erik Jones

18

5

 

Daniel Suarez

18

4

 

Alex Bowman

18

3

 

Chase Elliott

17

6

 

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

16

4

 

Kurt Busch

15

4

 

William Byron

12

2

 

Clint Bowyer

11

3

 

Jimmie Johnson

10

4

 

Matt DiBenedetto

5

1

 

Ryan Newman

5

1

 

Austin Dillon

4

1

 

Daniel Hemric

1

1

 

 

Dan Beaver

Dan Beaver has been covering fantasy NASCAR for more than 15 years with a little help from his >600,000 record database. He can be found on Twitter @FantasyRace.