Fantasy NASCAR preview: Tums Fast Relief 500

by Eric McClung on October 20, 2010 @ 17:30:00 PDT

 


Martinsville Speedway, shaped like a paperclip, is among the oldest and most unique tracks on the circuit. The flat straightaways and sharp turns lead to extreme braking conditions, as drivers come screaming into the corners.

Patience and timing are the keys to making passes at Martinsville. Drivers who can set someone up and out-brake their rivals going through the turns will find it easiest to get to the front. Those relying on straightaway speed alone will lose their handle and give back their position in the turns more often than not.

Location: Ridgeway, Va.

Shape: Oval

Length: 0.526 miles

Laps: 500

Turns 1-4: 12 degrees

Front stretch: 0 degrees

Back stretch: 0 degrees

Drivers to keep an eye on

Jeff Burton | No. 21 Caterpillar Chevrolet | Richard Childress Racing

He may not have a top-10 finish at Martinsville since 2008, but Burton was superb in the March event at the site earlier in the season. In addition to holding a race-high average running position of third, Burton led 140 of 508 laps. While pressing the eventual race winner, Denny Hamlin, for the lead with 30 laps to go, contact between the two led to a flat tire that left Burton to finish 20th. Outside finishing as the runner-up at Dover International Speedway, Burton was been very quiet during the Chase. Savvy managers should monitor his ownership levels and pounce on a potentially strong value.

Clint Bowyer | No. 33 BB&T Chevrolet | Richard Childress Racing

New Hampshire Motor Speedway is often thought of as a bigger version of Martinsville. That makes Bowyer a very intriguing option, despite the fact that his car failed the post-race inspection. In addition to leading 177 of 300 laps, Bowyer held an average running position of second en route to winning the Chase opener. His numbers at Martinsville aren't bad either. Since 2008, Bowyer has four top-10s in five starts, with an average running position that has ranged from fifth to 12th. With his crew chief and car chief still serving suspensions, Bowyer has a degree of risk attached to him. However, he has already recorded a runner-up performance without them and could challenge for similar results on Sunday afternoon.

Ryan Newman | No. 39 Tornados Chevrolet | Stewart-Haas Racing

Last week at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Newman's night was essentially over at the drop of the green flag after he clipped the wall on Lap 2. His streak of seven straight races with a finish of 11th or better may be over, but Newman has been among the most consistent drivers from late August through the Chase. In addition to qualifying on the pole for last year's postseason race at Martinsville, Newman has three straight top-10 finishes at the site, with more than 80 percent of laps running in the top 15 in the last two. Look for the Rocket Man to have a soft landing on the flat surface of Martinsville.

Mark Martin | No. 5 eBay Motors Chevrolet | Hendrick Motorsports

RCR driver Jeff Burton
Burton: better than you think

After a miserable season, Martin has resurfaced over the last four races. The first pair of starts resulted in finishes of 12th and 14th despite the fact that he started from the rear of the field in each. The last two starts have been finishes of sixth and 14th, with an average running position of seventh or better and at least 97 percent of laps running in the top 15. Last year at Martinsville, Martin finished in the top 10 each time out and had a similar result in the works back in March until hitting the wall as the race was winding down. Those looking for the top bargain of the week should take a gamble on the sport's elder statesman thanks to rock-bottom ownership levels.

Joey Logano | No. 20 GameStop Toyota | Joe Gibbs Racing

In only his third career start at Martinsville, a track considered difficult to master, Logano finished as the runner-up, with an average running position of 11th and 95.1 percent of laps running in the top 15. Through five Chase events, Logano has three finishes of 11th or better, with an average running position of at least 16th in four straight. Consistency has eluded Logano all season, but the lackluster depth of middle-tier drivers this week means you ought to give the youngster a shot.

Temper your expectations

Kyle Busch | No. 18 Halloween M&M's Toyota | Joe Gibbs Racing

Martinsville is a place that requires patience, but that approach hasn't always worked out very well for Busch. In 11 starts at the site, he owns four top-five finishes, but also five finishes of 22nd or worse. One of those poor finishes came in March, despite an average running position of 10th, due to a crash on Lap 499. There's no question Rowdy could get it done at Martinsville, but his boom-or-bust history at the site makes him too risky to trust during this critical part of the season.

Greg Biffle | No. 16 3M Ford | Roush Fenway Racing

Despite an average running position of 20th, Biffle finished 10th in the March event at Martinsville. That wouldn't be so bad if it wasn't his second top-10 in 15 career starts at the site. Since the loop was introduced in 2005, Biffle has held an average running position of 20th or worse nine times in 11 races. The Roush crew overcame their engine debacle at Auto Club Speedway by getting all four of their cars into the top 12 at Charlotte. They appear safe to use once again, but The Biff isn't the one you want here.

Kurt Busch | No. 2 Miller Lite/Operation Home Front Dodge | Penske Championship Racing

The master of 1.5-mile cookie-cutter tracks was a no-show at Charlotte after spinning out early. Don't expect things to go much better at Martinsville. Since 2006, the elder Busch brother has only two top-15 finishes at the site in nine starts. Bad luck has played a part. In that span, Busch has held an average running position of 12th or better on five occasions. Mediocre ownership levels and underrated performances present the Blue Deuce as something of a value, but you'll want to entrust someone much closer to a sure thing as your top-tier starter.

Kasey Kahne | No. 9 Budweiser Ford | Richard Petty Motorsports

After blowing up on the radio following yet another equipment failure, which led to an accident, Kahne came down with a sudden illness and was relieved by start-and-park driver J.J. Yeley at Charlotte. Oddly enough, Kahne felt good enough to run his five-kilometer charity race the very next day. Clearly frustrated with the team and now with his future plans lined up, Kahne appears very close to checking out on RPM early. Fantasy owners don't need to worry about that at Martinsville, where Kahne has only two top-10s in 13 career starts and none since 2006. In fact, they will want to monitor this situation closely before starting Kahne at any point the rest of the way.

Brad Keselowski | No. 12 Penske Racing Dodge | Penske Championship Racing

In his first career Cup start at Martinsville, Keselowski finished a modest 12th. However, you shouldn't get overly excited. His average running position was 20th, and he spent only 30.9 percent of the laps in the top 15. In fact, that finish is a season best and has only been matched by him once since, back in early May at Darlington Raceway. Keselowski's finish was aided by staying out, something they did fairly often at the start of the season, but the team has not been anywhere nearly as aggressive since. Kes won the pole at Loudon, so perhaps he could score bonus points for qualifying, but this isn't a driver likely to repeat his March performance.

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About Eric McClung

Eric McClung has been profiled by the FSWA for covering the fantasy sports spectrum and is a two-time award finalist. He's also made several appearances in print and on radio. McClung began contributing to KFFL in 2008 and currently serves as one of KFFL's featured fantasy NASCAR experts.

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