This Sunday, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will race 500 laps around the 0.526-mile oval of Martinsville Speedway. The track is the shortest and one of the oldest in the series. The Cup Series has raced at the track since 1949, and Sunday's race will be the 131st for the series at the track.
In NASCAR, there's a (fair) stereotype that the drivers spend most of the time turning left, but that's especially true at Martinsville. The straightaways are over almost before they start, and the paperclip shape requires a sharp turn in every pair of corners: 1,000 tight turns, if the race doesn't go into overtime.
Some drivers have figured this it out, and others have not. Here's a look at who will be the most useful in Yahoo! Fantasy Auto Racing this weekend:
It seems like "see above" would probably suffice, but to summarize: short and tight with sharp corners that require precision driving.
Track position is of the utmost importance at this track. It's simply not possible to pass more than a handful of cars during any stretch of the race because the track is so tight and there's little opportunity to get a clean run to pass someone. Poor qualifying will take a long time to overcome; a poor pit stop might prove to be insurmountable.
There are a few studs at this track. They're the clear picks this weekend. Also be sure to check back after qualifying with the understanding that track position is more important at this track than anywhere else.
#24 Jeff Gordon - He's led 3,593 of the 20,769 laps he's run at Martinsville. That's a lot of laps, and it's translated to eight career wins at the track.
#48 Jimmie Johnson - There's some one-ups-manship going on in the Hendrick garage when it comes to Martinsville. Sure, Gordon might have eight wins in 42 starts, but Johnson has eight in 24. Touche, Jeff.
#88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. - Also a Hendrick driver, Junior doesn't have the victories that his teammates do at Martinsville. In fact, he has zero. But, with 10 top-fives in 28 starts at that track, he's due.
#5 Kasey Kahne - Why not discuss the whole Hendrick stable on the A-list? Kahne is not strong here with only four top-10s in 20 starts.
#2 Brad Keselowski - When you figure that there are 500 laps run per race and Keselowski has a general affinity for running up front, you'd expect that he would have led more than 10 career laps at Martinsville. Oh well, he has a streak of four consecutive top-10s going, so it's not like he struggles that much.
#11 Denny Hamlin - At any other track, Hamlin's 8.1 average finish would put him in front of the competition, but he ranks just third to Johnson (5.3) and Gordon (6.8) with that stat. Still, he's the cream of the B-list crop.
#14 Tony Stewart - With three wins at Martinsville and resurgent runs into the top-five at both Bristol and Auto Club Speedway in the last two races, Stewart has plenty about which to be optimistic this Sunday.
#31 Ryan Newman - He has three poles at Martinsville and won this race in 2012. He's also finished 30th or worse in three of the last races at that track, so temper expectations.
#27 Paul Menard - He's a new dad (congratulations!) and has two top-10s in the last three races, but he's never recorded one in 13 starts at Martinsville. He also hasn't qualified better than 21st in the new format in 2014, so it's unrealistic to think he'll be able to weave his way up to the front after qualifying.
#99 Carl Edwards - With just five top-10s in 19 starts at Martinsville, Edwards would be better saved for other tracks.
#10 Danica Patrick - She's held her own at Martinsville with finishes of 12th and 17th as a rookie last year.
#42 Kyle Larson - His driving ability is becoming undeniable, and he grew up racing at tracks like Martinsville.
#51 Justin Allgaier - It seems that he remains a semi-popular fantasy pick, as he's owned in 11% of Yahoo! leagues. However, he doesn't have great equipment under him. He hasn't finished on the lead lap in any of the five races yet this season and has only finished better than 27th once.
Drivers are listed by car number and not necessarily rank order.
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