Fantasy NASCAR Rankings: STP 500

by Brian Polking on March 29, 2014 @ 11:30:20 PDT

 


I don't want to jinx to anything, but I'm cautiously optimistic that the strategy I have championed since the start of the week is going to pay off. Martinsville masters Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon and Denny Hamlin have been my top three fantasy options all week, and after all three qualified in the top five, I have no reason to lose confidence in the trio. After all, the three have combined for 20 wins at Martinsville with 14 of those wins coming from a top-10 starting spot.

Meanwhile, both of Saturday's practices at Martinsville were washed out by rain, and as a result, teams will be even more dependent on setups and info from previous races. With the practices getting canceled, Mother Nature essentially took away a couple of chances for the rest of the teams to hit on something that could have helped close the gap that clearly exists between Johnson, Gordon and Hamlin and the rest of the field. While pit strategy can always throw a wrench in things, I'd be surprised if someone other than Johnson, Gordon or Hamlin is doing burnouts this weekend.

The top 3

1) Jimmie Johnson

As if leading all drivers in just about every statistic imaginable wasn't enough, Johnson qualified fourth for Sunday's race, so he won't even have much traffic to get through to get to the front of the field. He is also the defending winner of this weekend's race, and he owns a ridiculous 3.8 average finish in the last 20 races at the track.

2) Jeff Gordon

It's safe to say that Gordon's excellence at Martinsville has stood the test of time. In 42 career starts at the short track, he has eight wins and 34 top-10s, and if there was a question of whether or not he was slowing down, he won the fall race last season. After qualifying fifth for Sunday's STP 500, achieving back-to-back wins at Martinsville is a real possibility.

3) Denny Hamlin

With his eye now free of rusty metal shards, Hamlin celebrated by qualifying on the front row for Sunday's race. Considering his four wins at Martinsville since 2008 are tied for the most in the series, he might just be celebrating when the checkered flag waves, as well. Even if he doesn't win, Hamlin should have an excellent day. He has 14 top-12s in 16 starts at the short track, including 11 finishes of sixth or better.

Value picks

14) Brian Vickers

While his overall numbers at Martinsville aren't great, he has been solid in his recent outings. Vickers finished eighth at the track in the fall of 2012 while driving for Michael Waltrip Racing, and he ran 11th last spring while subbing for Denny Hamlin. Vickers is back with MWR for this weekend's race, and after qualifying in the top 15, he could continue his recent success at the paperclip-shaped short track.

17) Jamie McMurray

He has been running well at Martinsville lately, and McMurray solidified his status as a viable fantasy option with a top-10 effort in qualifying Friday. Keep in mind that he has six finishes of 11th or better in the last 10 races at the short track, including top-10s in both races last year.

18) A.J. Allmendinger

While Allmendinger's numbers at Martinsville are respectable in their own right, it's a little easier to justify taking a chance on him now that he will be starting in the top 15. Allmendinger has also finished in the top 15 in six of his last nine starts at Martinsville, including four times in his last five starts. He should have a rock solid showing this weekend.

Sleeper special

24) Danica Patrick

Patrick was a sleeper special at the start of the week because she managed finishes of 12th and 17th in two starts at Martinsville last year. After a surprising top-10 qualifying run, she is definitely worth a flier. Qualifying near the front should help ensure that Patrick doesn't get lapped early on, which only enhances her chances of grinding out another top-20 finish at the track.

Big names outside the top 10

16) Kasey Kahne

He actually finished fourth at Martinsville last spring, but with just two top-10s in his last 14 starts at the track, there are definitely some questions about his reliability. A dismal 27th-place effort in qualifying did little to alleviate those concerns, and the way things have been going this weekend, another lackluster performance from Kahne at Martinsville seems likely.

21) Kurt Busch

Busch has had his issues with Martinsville throughout his career, and after qualifying outside the top 20, he could be headed for another long afternoon. He has gone 16 straight starts at the track without finishing in the top 10, and that streak is likely to continue.

Overall rankings

Rk
Driver
Car #
Make
Sponsor
Team
Start
1
48
Chevrolet
Lowe's Home Improvement
4
2
24
Chevrolet
Drive to End Hunger
5
3
11
Toyota
FedEx
2
4
18
Toyota
M&M's
1
5
15
Toyota
5 Hour Energy
12
6
20
Toyota
Dollar General
6
7
2
Ford
Miller Lite
14
8
14
Chevrolet
Bass Pro Shops
7
9
4
Chevrolet
Budweiser
18
10
88
Chevrolet
Diet Mountain Dew
26
11
16
Ford
3M
11
12
31
Chevrolet
Caterpillar
16
13
22
Ford
Shell/Pennzoil
3
14
55
Toyota
Aaron's Dream Machine
13
15
99
Ford
Fastenal
8
16
1
Chevrolet
McDonald's
9
17
5
Chevrolet
Farmers Insurance
27
18
47
Toyota
Clorox
15
19
43
Ford
Smithfield
20
20
42
Chevrolet
Target
28
21
41
Chevrolet
Haas Automation
22
22
9
Ford
Stanley Black & Decker
17
23
3
Chevrolet
Dow Energy
34
24
10
Chevrolet
GoDaddy.com
10
25
27
Chevrolet
Menard's
21
26
78
Chevrolet
Furniture Row
31
27
17
Ford
Best Buy
30
28
13
Ford
GEICO
23
29
51
Chevrolet
Brandt
25
30
23
Toyota
Burger King
19
31
34
Ford
Taco Bell
24
32
33
Chevrolet
Whitetail
37
33
7
Chevrolet
Pilot Flying J
40
34
38
Ford
Love's Travel Stops
39
35
36
Chevrolet
Golden Corral
42
36
30
Toyota
41
37
40
Chevrolet
CRC Brakleen
36
38
26
Toyota
Speed Stick Gear
35
39
95
Ford
Triangle Office Equipment
32
40
83
Toyota
Borla Exhaust
38
41
32
Ford
C&J Energy
29
42
66
Toyota
Land Castle Title
43
43
98
Ford
Ambient Edge HVAC
33

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About Brian Polking

Racing has been part of Brian's life ever since he can remember, and he spent his childhood at dirt tracks throughout Ohio and Kentucky watching his father race. NASCAR naturally became his favorite sport, and he has been following the Cup, Nationwide and Truck Series for most of his life. Brian majored in journalism and economics at Ohio State University and becoming a sports writer has always been his dream. Although he has covered everything from minor league baseball to the NCAA tournament, his passion has always been NASCAR. Brian has served as a NASCAR writer for a variety of sites, eventually becoming head editor of the NASCAR section for Fanball.com. His knowledge of NASCAR comes from his life-long love of racing, and he tries to add a personal touch to every article he writes. Brian is always up for talking NASCAR with anyone that wants to. Brian joined KFFL's team in 2011.

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