Kevin Harvick just continues to dominate at Atlanta Motorspeedway, having led at least 45 laps or more in his past seven NASCAR Cup Series visits. In dominating fashion on Sunday, Harvick would lap all but the last nine drivers by races end. Martin Truex Jr would win the first two stages but would be overtaken by Harvick with 105 laps left to go. Harvick would not relinquish the lead after that.
Kyle Busch would try his best to gain ground on the No. 4 driver in the final stage, but could not gain any real ground. Harvick would beat Busch by 3.52 seconds. With this victory, Harvick now moves ahead of both Junior Johnson and Ned Jarrett in the all-time wins list with 51. Truex Jr, Ryan Blaney, and Denny Hamlin rounded out the top five.
We now move on from Georgia and travel to Martinsville, Virginia for the Blue-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 500. Looking at Martinsville Speedway, it is a half-mile short track. The track was built two years after World War 2 and seats between 44,000-65,000 spectators depending on the layout. Nicknamed the paperclip due to its shape, it is the smallest track on the Cup circuit. Martin Truex Jr was the victor here last October after holding off William Byron for the last 24 laps.
Due to the random draw, Ryan Blaney will start on the pole opposite Aric Almirola. So without further ado, let’s delve into the driver options for this upcoming race at Martinsville. We’ve broken down the selections between high-salary, mid-range, and value plays. Best of luck to everyone.
High Salary Drivers
Joey Logano ($9,900 DK $12,000 FD) – Dale
Before the race stoppage, Logano had already won two of the last three races. Since returning he has just two finishes inside the top ten. However, with Logano’s top result last weekend at Atlanta, perhaps this can be his chance to get on a bit of a roll.
Martinsville is one of Logano’s better tracks over his career. In the past four races at the course, Logano has a win, three top 10’s, and a driver rating of 106.6. With Logano set to start third, he has a very good opportunity to forge himself into the lead position and rack up some points through laps led. Logano led over 300 laps here in the October 2018 race and is sixth among current drivers with 831.
One more important note to mention. In Logano’s 22 races here at the paperclip, he does not have one single DNF. In fact, the only other current driver that has run at least 20 races at this track without a DNF is Penske teammate Brad Keselowski. It’s a stat you don’t want to overlook when it comes to Martinsville.
Logano has a reasonable price tag as far as high salary drivers go and could be a nice alternative to an owner that cant work a driver such as Chase Elliott into their budget.
Ryan Blaney ($8,400 DK and $11,500 FD) – Brandon
Blaney has been very solid at Martinsville in the past. He has finished in the top 20 in his last four races at Martinsville and three of those were top-five finishes. Outside of Bristol where Blaney wrecked from the second position he had top-five finishes in three of his last four races. He will be starting on the pole and will have a good chance to lead laps early. He led 146 laps back in March of 2018. Penske cars showed at Bristol that they were very strong on short tracks so look for him to be in contention for the win as well.
Kurt Busch ($9,200 DK and $10,300 FD) – Brandon
Busch has been as consistent as you can get this year. He has seven top-ten finishes already this season. He has been exactly what you look for in a mid-value driver. There’s no reason he shouldn’t have another solid run this week. I expect Busch to run in the top ten all day. In two of the last four Martinsville races, he has finished sixth. Starting from ninth doesn’t leave a lot of room for place differential but I’ll take my chances on him finishing in the top seven.
Ryan Newman ($6,800 DK $7,000 FD) – Dale
Since returning from a major injury, following his last-lap crash at Daytona in February. Newman has finished top 15 or better in four of the six races, so not strong numbers but certainly serviceable. In his seventeen-year career at Martinsville, Newman has captured 17 top tens and an average finish of 14.81. In fact, one of his seven career cup victories was at this track in 2002 when he was still a rookie driver.
Looking at Newman’s recent history at the paperclip, he has finished in the top ten or better in the past three tries. With Newman slated to start 16th in-line on Wednesday night, I can see him working himself into the top 10 and picking up some useful bonus points. With this being the tiniest track on the schedule, it suits Newman’s gritty racing style to a tee.
Austin Dillon ($6,100 DK and $7,300 FD) – Brandon
Dillon has struggled at Martinsville recently but that might be enough for people to look elsewhere at his price. He has six top 15s at Martinsville and two of those were top-fives. He has quietly been very consistent since NASCAR made its return in May. He has five top 15s out of six races and he finished 20th in the only race he didn’t finish in the top 15. He will be starting 22nd and if he can get a solid top 12 finish he will be a great value driver. However, keep an eye on the news about his wife going into labor. A.J. Allmendinger will be on standby and is coming off a win at Atlanta in the Xfinity series. If Dillon starts the race and gets replaced, he will still score the points.
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