|12/03/15||The Champion By NHMS Numbers|
|11/20/15||The Championship Four Preview|
|11/13/15||Phoenix: Three To Watch|
|10/30/15||Martinsville: Three To Watch|
|10/18/15||Kansas: Three To Watch|
|10/05/15||Charlotte: Three To Watch|
FANTASY: Paperclipping a Championship Resume
'Dega is done, and the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series can now move on to more predictable outcomes with just four races to go in the season. The good news for the Chaser drivers is that the top five contenders, the only five that still had a legitimate shot at the title, emerged no worse for the wear at Talladega.
The battle is still at the top where Jimmie Johnson flip-flopped a four-point deficit into a four-point lead on Matt Kenseth, while Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick and Jeff Gordon all closed ground on the points lead.
However, at 34 points back, Gordon, who was 36 back entering the race, will need to close ground a lot faster should he want to contend at Homestead. Busch climbed from 37 to 26 back and Harvick went from 29 to 26, so both could be within striking distance with a couple more strong finishes.
That, of course, assumes that Johnson and Kenseth slip up at least once. In the case of the No. 48, that's probably not going to come this weekend, as Johnson visits a track at which he has eight career wins. He's certainly a favorite to pull off another victory.
Here's a look at who should be on the Yahoo! Fantasy Auto Racing rosters this weekend:
Martinsville Speedway is considered to be similar to a mini-New Hampshire Motor Speedway. It is paperclip in shape and just 0.526 miles around, the shortest track on the schedule. Not surprisingly, it races as the slowest oval, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. That just means it's a classic short track style speedway that really requires a driver to move another to pass for the lead, as opposed to flying by on a two-mile super speedway. Track position is also very important here.
The track size and lap traffic is going to be significant in this race. It's the type of track where the leaders can get through Turn 2 on a restart and see the tail of the pack putting through Turn 3, waiting to get up to speed. There will be few laps where traffic won't be an issue, and that can cause problems, if the lapped cars either don't want to go down another lap or don't hold their line well on the tight layout.
Martinsville is very much a driver's track. The equipment isn't nearly as important as the driver's ability to get his machine around the others. No one is going to come close to maxing out a car's speed, so the key is knowing the line and being able to read the opportunities to pass both the competition and the lapped vehicles.
- #11 Denny Hamlin - With the A-list shockingly shallow for options, the struggling Hamlin makes the list thanks to his four wins and 12 top-10s in 15 starts at Martinsville. Plus, if you need to make up ground on the competition, it's unlikely he's getting many starts this week (owned in just 7% of leagues as of Wednesday morning).
- #24 Jeff Gordon - Dear Mr. Gordon, we're writing to inform you that should you choose to contend for the 2013 Sprint Cup championship, the deadline to do so is this Sunday. You visit a track where you have seven career wins and 33 top-10s in 41 starts. Please respond "Yes" on Sunday afternoon by winning the race, or you will be considered an also-ran, no longer in contention. Thanks, the NASCAR Community
- #48 Jimmie Johnson - Eight wins in 23 starts at Martinsville? That's ridiculous. Why would anyone not start this guy!?
- #5 Kasey Kahne - The second-place at Charlotte was nice, but it's his only top-10 since August. Not to mention, he has a 19.8 average career finish at Martinsville.
- #1 Jamie McMurray - Fresh off his first win in three years, McMurray could carry that momentum to Martinsville, where he has four top-10s in his last nine starts.
- #18 Kyle Busch - With five top-fives in the last eight starts at Martinsville, Busch is due for his first career win at the track.
- #39 Ryan Newman - Regarded as a "driver's driver" that competes well on shorter tracks, Newman won at Martinsville in the spring of 2012. He has 11 top-10s in 23 career starts at the track and ranks third on the B-list with a 14.1 average finish.
- #88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. - He's due for a win just about anywhere, but especially at Martinsville, where he has 10 top-fives in 27 career starts but no wins to show for them.
- #9 Marcos Ambrose - His road course ability doesn't seem to translate to turning left, even when it's on a course that requires precision driving (similar to road courses). Ambrose has a lone top-10 in nine races at Martinsville.
- #14 Mark Martin - One would think that Mark Martin would do well at Martinsville, and that's historically true, as he has a 13.3 average finish at the track. However, it's really hard to count on Martin this year; he has just one top-10 in his last 13 starts.
- #10 Danica Patrick - It's odd to give her the nod, but she raced her way up from 32nd for a 12th-place finish this spring at Martinsville. Perhaps that's enough optimism for a shallow C-list.
- #51 Kyle Larson - The young stud's debut didn't go well as he took a DNF for a blown engine at Charlotte. That shouldn't deter anyone this week, though. He's a great option with so few others left this late in the season.
- #17 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. - Chances are that a team doesn't have four starts left on Stenhouse, and this is a good week to skip him. He finished 25th at Martinsville in his only start at the track earlier this year.
Drivers are listed by car number and not necessarily in rank order.