The first short track race of the season is this weekend, and I don’t know about you, but I’m excited to see some bumpin’ and bangin’! Now, as you’ve probably figured out by now, place differential is a very important factor with the Slingshot Fantasy Auto Contest, so that makes things a little interesting when it comes to short track races, as drivers that qualify up front tend to finish up front as well. For example, in this Martinsville race last season, the top 6 finishers all started 9th or better.
Now with that being said, the full starting lineup for Sunday’s STP 500 at Martinsville can be found by clicking here. This has been adjusted for the inspection failures from Sunday morning and is offical.
*Please note: the picks and suggestions below are my opinions and strategy for the Slingshot Fantasy Auto Contest. These are not meant to sway your thinking in any way, but rather give you insight into the drivers I am most likely to pick on Sunday.*
Slingshot Fantasy Auto Picks for Martinsville
Kyle Busch ($13,000) – Even if Kyle Busch started on the pole for this weekend’s STP 500, I could make a case for picking him in Slingshot Fantasy Auto Contest. Thankfully, the #18 Toyota qualified back in 14th, so I don’t really have to. Rowdy is on a seven-race streak of top 5 finishes at Martinsville Speedway, and he’s probably going to be the favorite to win on Sunday despite the hiccup in qualifying on Saturday. No car is better than the #18 Toyota right now, and even though Busch didn’t make it on to the 30-lap average chart in Happy Hour here on Saturday, he still ranked 3rd in 20-lap average behind Truex and Almirola. The only way Kyle Busch isn’t going to be one of the top-scoring drivers in Slingshot Fantasy Auto Contest on Sunday is if he wrecks, and while that’s certainly a possibility, you can’t base your Fantasy NASCAR choices off of that.
Martin Truex, Jr. ($11,700) – At Martinsville, it’s okay to pick the chalk–at least in my opinion. This is one of those tracks where the same drivers continually finish up front, and right now Martin Truex, Jr. is one of those guys. He doesn’t quite have the streak that his new teammate, Kyle Busch, has, but Truex has finished inside the top 5 in each of the last three races at this track, and probably should have won the fall race here last season. Overall, Truex has finished 7th or better in six of his last eight Martinsville starts, and with him qualifying 9th for Sunday’s STP 500, that’s just more place differential points for my fantasy team. Looking at practice, the #19 Toyota dominated the charts on Saturday in Happy Hour, and because of that Truex is going to be heavily owned in this game on Sunday. You can switch him out for someone like Denny Hamlin ($11,300), but I don’t mind going with the favorite pick this week.
Ryan Blaney ($10,600) – I’d love to afford Clint Bowyer ($11,000) in this spot, but that’s just not possible with the roster I’m going with. So let’s talk about Ryan Blaney. This guy had to feel like a black sheep on Saturday after qualifying, as his teammates ended up 1st and 3rd while the #12 Ford is going to roll off the grid from 17th for Sunday’s STP 500. However, when it comes to actual race speed, I think Blaney might have one of the best cars in the field this weekend. Remember, Martinsville is all about long-run speed, and the #12 Ford ranked 9th in ten-lap average in Happy Hour, 8th in 20-lap average, and 4th in 30-lap average. That continual increase tells me Blaney has a great car for the long runs. He nearly won this race a year ago, and while I don’t have Blaney ranked quite that high heading into Sunday, he’s a great pick for Slingshot Fantasy Auto.
Please note: I’m sticking with the top 3 guys for my lineup, but I’m debating the other two. I’m either going to go with Austin Dillon and Matt Tifft (as listed below) or William Byron and Daniel Hemric.
Austin Dillon ($9,300) – Again, I don’t mind playing the chalk picks this weekend. Both Richard Childress Racing Chevrolets stunk it up in qualifying on Saturday, with Austin Dillon ending up 30th and Daniel Hemric ($6,800) ending up 29th–they both move up a spot thanks to inspection failures, though.. Obviously Hemric would be a better choice in this game as far as salary goes, but I don’t trust the guy right now. Austin Dillon, on the other hand, has a decent track record here at Martinsville, and actually has a couple of top 5 finishes to his credit here (in the 2017 and 2016 spring races). Overall, Austin has finished 18th or better in seven of his ten career starts at this track, and that’ll be a nice points day in Slingshot Fantasy Auto if he can come home around 15th on Sunday. For what it’s worth, the #3 Chevrolet ranked 13th in ten-lap average during that Happy Hour practice session, which isn’t terrible.
Matt Tifft ($5,400) – Here’s a team filler pick, and depending on how inspection goes Sunday morning, could be the reason I go a completely different route with my Slingshot roster. Matt Tifft is currently slated to start from 31st in Sunday’s STP 500, and with the way the Front Row Motorsports cars are running, I could see him ending up in the high 20s. Obviously that’s not a rockstar performance, but it’s still a positive place differential and decent value for a guy in this price range. With that being said, if four drivers (for example) fail qualifying inspection on Sunday and have to start from the back, that’s probably going to put Tifft up to 28th in the starting order, which is too high. This #36 Ford has finished 26th and 20th in the last two races, for what it’s worth.