The rankings below are based on a mixture of expected output and DraftKings’ NASCAR salaries for that day. The ordering is not based on the highest projected fantasy totals, but rather by the value of each driver.
The DraftKings Blue-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 500 slate locks at 7:30 p.m. ET on Saturday.
1. Martin Truex Jr ($12,000) - The stats are clear at Martinsville. There is a tier of elite drivers at this short track. Truex has a top-five finish in four of the last six races at Martinsville. He could very well be on a three-race winning streak at Martinsville if it wasn’t for a loose wheel near the end of the fall 2020 race.
2. Chase Elliott ($11,400) - A very strange ruling on pit road allowed a stage 3 penalty to be overturned and saved Elliott’s championship season at Martinsville. Again, Truex was knocked out late with a loose wheel. Even with these fortunate breaks, Elliott had the best car at Martinsville.
3. Joey Logano ($10,700) - Last fall, Logano was good (61 points). But, last spring, he was better (128 points). Why does that matter? Last spring, Martinsville was a night race. This weekend, weather permitting, Martinsville will be a night race.
4. Ryan Blaney ($10,100) - A lot of teams missed the setup last spring at Martinsville. Blaney was among those teams, and he went from first to a lap down. But he and his team kept their head down, and Blaney dug out of the hole and finished second. In the fall, he finished second again. Blaney has been knocking on the door at Martinsville for the last three years.
5. Brad Keselowski ($11,000) - In the last five Martinsville races, Keselowski has five top-five finishes. He’s scored over 50 DKFP in each of the last five Martinsville races. The knock against Keselowksi is that he has been the worst of the three Team Penske drivers at The Paperclip in Southside Virginia.
6. Denny Hamlin ($10,400) - His team missed the setup last spring. This will be a night race again, so that is a concern. However, Hamlin’s poor finish does not reflect the setup adjustments made throughout that race. Hamlin could not get back on the lead lap because unconventional pit strategies by his competitors prevented wave arounds.
7. Kyle Busch ($9,800) - In 2018, Busch was one of the best drivers at Martinsville in a low downforce package (over 80 points in each race). Last season, in a similar package, Busch never scored more than 45 DKFP in either race at Martinsville.
8. Kevin Harvick ($9,600) - Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: his team missed the setup at Martinsville. The No. 4 team missed the setup every week to close out 2020 and just about every week this season. A flat tire did not help Harvick’s cause, but the good news is that they eventually got the car dialed in, just like at Atlanta a couple weeks ago.
9. Bubba Wallace ($7,300) - In RPM equipment, Bubba has finished 21st or better in each of the last four Martinsville races (average finish at 16th). He should be able to easily match that mark in a quasi JGR car, but anything better than 10th is pushing it.
10. Aric Almirola ($8,100) - He’s starting in the back again. Last fall, Almirola got dumped by teammate Clint Bowyer and still managed to battle back and earn a top-10 finish (in fairness to Bowyer, Almirola dumped Bowyer first). If nothing goes wrong, then Almirola should easily earn a top-15 finish, but nothing going wrong is a stretch this season for Almirola.
11. William Byron ($8,700) - Martinsville has been one of Byron’s best tracks. This is peculiar because it’s a track where young drivers tend to struggle because it’s not on the Xfinity schedule. It’s believed that Byron’s excellence has a lot to do with former crew chief Chad Knaus (nine Martinsville wins).
12. Kurt Busch ($8,900) - With Chip Ganassi racing, Kurt Busch’s average finish at Martinsville is eighth. He seems to be a safe top-10 play, but it’s very unlikely he leads laps.
13. Matt DiBenedetto ($7,800) - The depth of Team Penkse’s alliance with the Wood Brothers always remains in question, but it appears the alliance carried over at Martinsville last season. DiBenedetto earned his first two top 10s at Martinsville last season. This is the Wood Brothers’ home track, so that could be a thing too.
14. Christopher Bell ($8,400) - This is not Bell’s best track, but that’s because he lacks experience at this short track. Bell has figured out every other short track on the circuit, and it looks like he’s figuring this one out. He finished 28th in the spring and 15th in the fall.
15. Alex Bowman ($9,200) - He’s not a part of the elite at Martinsville, but he is one layer removed. Bowman could be ready to take that next step this weekend, but that also requires the elite to step aside.
16. Kyle Larson ($11,700) - Martinsville has always been Larson’s worst track. It’s nothing like he’s ever driven. This track favors road course racers and the former go-kart kids, not dirt track racers. On the other hand, Martinsville has been Hendrick’s best race track.
17. Ross Chastain ($6,300) - The starting position works. The CGR car should be good enough. The driver has been good at this track. Chastain has never had a chance to show off his skill in a Cup race at Martinsville, but he’s been very competitive at Martinsville in the lower series.
18. Ryan Newman ($6,800) - Last season, Newman was terrible, but he still managed to finish 12th and 18th at Martinsville. This season, his car looks fast and he looks like the old Newman. A top-10 finish is a possibility and a top 15 is likely.
19. Chris Buescher ($6,400) - Shortly after the stage 2 restart, Buescher plowed into the back end of a checking up car in the fall Martinsville race. Before that race, Buescher had earned a top-15 finish in three of the last four races at Martinsville.
20. Corey Lajoie ($5,200) - DFS players always want to play Lajoie when he is starting in the back, but it doesn’t work out very often. This is a weekend where it can work. In the last three Martinsville races, Lajoie has finished 25th, 18th and 18th. Any of those will work.
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