Fantasy NASCAR race preview: TUMS Fast Relief 500

by Eric McClung on October 24, 2012 @ 14:34:35 PDT


Shaped like a paperclip, Martinsville Speedway is among the oldest and most unique tracks on the circuit. The flat straightaways and sharp turns led to extreme braking conditions, as drivers come screaming into the corners. Patience and timing are the keys to making passes at Martinsville. Drivers who can set someone up and out-brake their rivals going through the turns will find it easiest to get to the front. Those relying on straightaway speed alone will lose their handle and give back their position in the turns more often than not.

Practice sessions: Friday, Oct. 26 at 12:00 pm EDT, Saturday, Oct. 27 at 9:30 am EDT, 12:00 pm EDT
Qualifying: Friday, Oct. 26 at 3:40 pm EDT
Race: Sunday, Oct. 28 at 1:30 pm EDT
Location: Ridgeway, Va.
Shape: Oval
Length: 0.526 miles
Laps: 500
Turns 1-4: 12 degrees
Frontstretch: 0 degrees
Backstretch: 0 degrees

Drivers to keep an eye on

Brad Keselowski | No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge | Penske Championship Racing

The April race at Martinsville saw Keselowski's improving performance on the paperclip culminate with a career-best finish of ninth while spending every lap inside the top 15 for the first time ever. Even though Keselowski hasn't managed a top-five finish in his limited number of career starts at Martinsville he's very close to knocking down that door. Despite rarely qualifying well as of late the Blue Deuce has finished 11th or better in 15 of the last 16 races with three wins and eight top-fives.

Jimmie Johnson | No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet | Hendrick Motorsports

Over the last 14 races at Martinsville, Johnson has never held an average running position worse than eighth. On eight occasions he's led more than 110 laps, including the most recent April race. Johnson is coming off last week's ninth-place result after notching four top-fives in the first five Chase events, including a pair of runner-up performance. With only four races to go, time is running out for the No. 48 to snatch a sixth championship. However, with Martinsville and Phoenix International Raceway on the schedule Johnson is very much within striking distance.

Denny Hamlin | No. 11 FedEx Express Toyota | Joe Gibbs Racing

In nine starts since 2008 at Martinsville, Hamlin has collected four wins and eight finishes of sixth or better. Over the last seven he's led an average of 127.4 laps with a minimum of 31 circuits out in front. Last week's 13th-place performance caused Hamlin to lose ground in the championship hunt so nothing short of a victory will do for the No. 11. Thankfully he's got an excellent opportunity to do just that.

Clint Bowyer | No. 15 Pink Lemonade 5-hour Energy/ Avon Foundation Toyota | Michael Waltrip Racing

Back in April, Bowyer held a career-best average running position of fourth at Martinsville and had a podium finish all but wrapped up until an overly aggressive dive bomb on the final restart caused him to finish 10th. Even though Bowyer's last top-five at Martinsville came back in 2009 loop data shows he's been something of an underperformer at the site. Aside from a crash at Talladega Superspeedway, Bowyer has recorded a top-10 in each Chase race held thus far while qualifying on the first two rows in four straight attempts.

Martin Truex Jr. | No. 56 NAPA Auto Parts Toyota | Michael Waltrip Racing

Over the last two Martinsville races Truex has finished eighth and fifth, respectively. A year ago he rallied from the 24th starting position to record, at the time, his third top-10 in a dozen starts at the site. In his return trip this April, Truex held a career-best average running position of 10th and matched his personal best result. Even though he rarely challenges for a win, Truex survived last week's wreckage with his second runner-up performance of the season.

Jeff Gordon

Jeff Gordon | No. 24 Pepsi MAX Chevrolet | Hendrick Motorsports

With a career average running position of 6.3, Gordon rates first among all drivers at Martinsville. Back in April he was en route to his eighth career victory on the paperclip after leading 328 laps, more than 60 percent of the race, but ran out of fuel on to the green-white-checkered attempts. Gordon has been a top-five machine at Martinsville over his career and has recorded half a dozen podium finishes over the last nine races of this season.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. | No. 88 National Guard/Diet Mtn Dew Chevrolet | Hendrick Motorsports

Now that Earnhardt is cleared to race again after missing two starts with a concussion he's worth starting right away at Martinsville. Since joining HMS in 2008, Earnhardt owns a pair of runner-up performances and seven top-10s in nine trips to the site. The early signs are all positive thus far for Earnhardt but you'll obviously want to keep tabs on this situation leading up to the race. If he's scratched at any point, consider Regan Smith a very legitimate sleeper as the most likely replacement.

Aric Almirola | No. 43 Gwaltney Ford | Richard Petty Motorsports

Over the last three races of the season, Almirola has recorded an average running position of 13th or better each time out. Last week he looked mighty impressive, qualifying fifth and leading a career-best 69 laps. Almirola would smack the wall with 54 laps to go, however, and ultimately finish back in 29th. The No. 43 has only recorded a pair of top-10s all season, the first of which came at Martinsville in the sixth race of the season.

Temper your expectations

Kasey Kahne | No. 5 Chevrolet | Hendrick Motorsports

In 17 career starts at Martinsville, Kahne has only managed a single top-five and just two top-10s. He had a chance to earn one earlier this season after he qualified on the pole back in April but suffered an engine failure midway through the race. With an average running position of 18th or worse in eight straight there's little reason to think Kahne can reserve course at Martinsville, despite how well he's running at the moment.

Greg Biffle | No. 16 3M Ford | Roush Fenway Racing

Just like his Roush teammates Biffle lacks much in way of a resume at Martinsville. In 19 chances he's never scored a top-five finish and has only seen a pair of top-10s. After ending the regular season on top of the point standings The Biff has quickly dropped toward the bottom of the postseason picture.

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About Eric McClung

Eric McClung has been profiled by the FSWA for covering the fantasy sports spectrum and is a three-time award finalist. Over the years, he's made several appearances in print and on radio. McClung began contributing to KFFL in 2008 and currently serves as one of KFFL's featured fantasy NASCAR experts. He's also captured the fantasy football championship in the KFFL staff league twice.

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