We are now down to eight drivers and four races to determine this season’s champion. The third round of the playoffs will consist of two short track races and one intermediate track race. A win gets you an automatic bid to the championship race. These next four races are going to be fun to watch.
FIRST DATA 500
The first race of the third round will find the drivers heading to the Martinsville Speedway for the running of the First Data 500. At .526-miles this is the shortest track on the circuit and with on twelve degrees of banking in the corners it is hard to pass without using your bumper. Let’s get to who we think will run well here this weekend.
Denny Hamlin: Last week’s winner is my pick to win this week too. Denny Hamlin has five wins and twenty top ten finishes in his twenty-seven career starts at Martinsville. This team is hot right now and this is one of Denny’s best tracks. The win here this week would take all the pressure off this team for the final two races of this round and they could start getting ready for the championship race.
Brad Keselowski: Brad has been eliminated from the playoffs, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t going to be looking for another win on the year. He has won two of his last seven starts here and has finished in the top five in six of those races. This is going to be a race where he tries to get a little redemption and he is going to run hard and try to take a win away from the drivers who are still in the playoffs.
Kyle Busch: Kyle has finished in the top five in his last eight starts here including two wins. I think he is going to give the aforementioned two drivers a run for their money this weekend. Kyle isn’t afraid to use the chrome horn if he has to and will if it means winning this race or finishing second. He isn’t afraid to mix it up with anyone.
Martin Truex Jr.: Martin is still looking for his first win at Martinsville, but he has finished in the top ten in seven of his last nine starts here. He has been getting better and better on the short tracks as his career has progressed and it seems like all of the Joe Gibbs drivers should have good cars this weekend. If everything falls right in the pits for this team they should be in contention late in the race.
Kevin Harvick: Kevin’s lone win here came back in the 2011 season. He has finished in the top ten in his last four races at this track, but it isn’t one of his best tracks. Luckily for this team they will be heading to Phoenix in this round and that is where he really runs well. This week a top ten finish would be a victory for them.
Chase Elliott: Chase finished second in the spring race at Martinsville and has finished in the top ten in four of his last five races here. They pointed their way into the third round and know that they might need to win a race in this round to advance to the championship race. They don’t want to head to Phoenix needing to make up points to advance.
Joey Logano: Joey won this race last season in dominating fashion on his way to his first championship. He lead 309 laps in that race and finished first and second in the two stages. If they hit on their setup again this year it could be a long day for the rest of the field. He has sat on the pole here five times in his last nine races too and that means a lot in picking your pit stall.
Clint Bowyer: Clint won the spring race here last season and has finished in the top ten in four of his five starts since coming over to Stewart-Haas Racing. Clint is another driver who was eliminated from playoff contention, but like Brad he is not going to roll over and stop trying to win this year. This might be one of his best chances to get another win this year.
Jimmie Johnson: Jimmie has won here nine times in his thirty-five starts, but hasn’t run well here lately. On the other hand this team has shown a lot of improvement as the year has progressed and they are at their best on the short tracks. He is my dark horse for this week’s race and it really wouldn’t surprise me to see him back in victory lane once again.
Ryan Blaney: Ryan has really run well here lately coming away with three top ten finishes in his last four starts. I think he has learned a lot from his teammates, Brad and Joey, about how to run on this track and the way they setup the car coming into the weekend. He made it into the third round of the playoffs by virtue of his win at Talladega and he is another driver who know he will probably have to win a race to make it to the championship.
DRIVER GROUP GAME FANTASY NASCAR PICKS FOR MARTINSVILLE SPEEDWAY
Driver Group Game Group A
- Kyle Busch
- Brad Keselowski
Driver Group Game Group B
- Denny Hamlin
- Clint Bowyer
- Jimmie Johnson
- Ryan Blaney
Driver Group Game Group C
- Ryan Preece
- Chris Buescher
MY TOP-5 OVERALL AT MARTINSVILLE SPEEDWAY
- Denny Hamlin
- Kyle Busch
- Brad Keselowski
- Joey Logano
- Martin Truex Jr.
Dark Horse: Jimmie Johnson
Stay Away From: Kyle Larson
Big 18: Clint Bowyer