Who will prevail in the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series short track finale?
DraftKings’ daily fantasy NASCAR heads to Martinsville Speedway this weekend for the First Data 500. This race marks the opening event of the Round of 8 in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoffs. The green flag flies Sunday afternoon at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN.
This weekend at the sport's oldest short track, it's a two-day show. Cars will hit the track on Saturday at 11:30 a.m. for first practice. Qualifying will be held on race day at 12:05 p.m.
ELITE TIER: $9,500 and up
Kyle Busch ($11,000)
Martinsville: 24 starts, one win, 12 top fives (50 percent), 13 top 10s (54.2 percent)
Average finish at Martinsville: 13.6
Busch has four straight top-five finishes at Martinsville, including a win in early 2016. During that victory, he led 352 laps and completely dominated the race. He followed that up with a fifth-place finish during last season’s playoff, igniting a second straight run into the Championship Four.
Earlier this year, he led 274 laps at the paperclip-shaped oval en route to a second-place finish. It's the latest strong run at a track Busch has finally mastered after years of struggling.
Busch is one of the top dominator picks this weekend, especially if he starts at the front of the field.
Jimmie Johnson ($9,800)
Martinsville: 31 starts, nine wins, 19 top fives (61.3 percent), 24 top 10s (77.4 percent)
Average finish at Martinsville: 7.5
Johnson has an average finish of 7.5 in 31 career starts at Martinsville. He is the active leader in wins (nine), top fives (19), top 10s (24), and laps led (2,838) and is also the defending playoff Martinsville winner. He locked in his spot at Homestead after leading 92 laps and will look to do the same this weekend.
Johnson is tied with Kevin Harvick for fourth in points and is currently sitting on the final cutline. A victory Sunday would take the pressure off and give the No. 48 team a boost in its bid for an eighth title.
Brad Keselowski ($9,600)
Martinsville: 15 starts, one win, five top fives (33.3 percent), nine top 10s (60 percent)
Average finish at Martinsville: 12.9
Keselowski has four top-five finishes through his last five Martinsville starts. Even the one bad race in the bunch, back in the fall of 2015 was one of this driver's best short track performances. He was running inside the top five, having led 143 laps when a wreck wiped out his chance at a solid finish.
Keselowski has one career win at Martinsville in the Cup Series. That win came earlier this year, a race where he started fourth and led 116 laps. While not the top dominator for the weekend, he still ran up front and added 90 fastest lap points onto his total.
Expect more of the same this Sunday as Keselowski now fights for his spot in the Championship Four.
ALL-STAR TIER: $8,000 – $9,400
Chase Elliott ($9,400)
Martinsville: Four starts, one top five
Average finish at Martinsville: 18.2
Up until April, Elliott's small sample size at Martinsville was nothing to write home about. During his debut race in 2015, he finished 38th. Elliott followed that up with a 20th and a 12th-place result. That means the sophomore has gotten quietly and progressively better as he has run more events.
Part of Elliott's growth at the track has involved running Truck Series races during the weekend. He was runner-up in a Martinsville start last season before finally earning the win earlier this year.
Elliott has been on a roll since the Cup Series playoffs started. He has four top fives in the past six races, a run which includes three second-place finishes. Elliott enters the Round of 8 with momentum and should finish well again this weekend.
Denny Hamlin ($9,200)
Martinsville: 23 starts, five wins, 12 top fives (52.2 percent), 17 top 10s (73.9 percent)
Average finish at Martinsville: 10.1
Hamlin is phenomenal at Martinsville. He has five wins through 23 career starts and is averaging a top-10 finish. Even though his last win here came back in 2015, Hamlin has run up front and led laps in three of the four races since.
Hamlin is a cheaper alternative to Busch and Martin Truex Jr., but has the same ability to lead laps and compete for the victory. He will be a great play if the No. 11 Toyota qualifies well, a guy you have to start if he lands on the front row.
Jamie McMurray ($8,500)
Martinsville: 29 starts, two top fives (6.9 percent), 15 top 10s (51.7 percent)
Average finish at Martinsville: 17.1
This season has been one of the most consistently successful for McMurray. He's earned his best average finish in over a decade (14.4) while logging the second-most single-season top-10 finishes in his 16 years behind the wheel (16).
At Martinsville, McMurray has put on a couple of great performances the past few years. In 2015, as the sun was setting in Virginia, he came up just short of the win and finished second behind Jeff Gordon. In the playoff race last season, he finished eighth after starting 14th.
McMurray has had top-10 speed all season and could be a great sleeper pick this weekend.
BARGAIN TIER: $4,500 – $7,900
Austin Dillon ($7,500)
Martinsville: Seven starts, two top fives
Average finish at Martinsville: 16.0
What sticks out the most when looking at Dillon’s past performances at Martinsville is his ability to climb through the field. He has only started inside the top 20 twice, 19th in 2014 and 20th in the first race this season. But although he has started deep on the grid, Dillon has an average finish of 16.0. That includes two top-five finishes in the past three Martinsville events.
As is the case with every driver, it will be important to look through practice times to see how Dillon does on long runs. A good run on Saturday will make him a good pick for Sunday no matter the qualifying result.
AJ Allmendinger ($6,000)
Martinsville: 18 starts, two top fives (11.1 percent), six top 10s (33.3 percent)
Average finish at Martinsville: 18.2
Allmendinger is the top bargain pick this weekend. He has six finishes of 11th or better in his seven races at Martinsville since joining JTG Daugherty Racing in 2014. The 'Dinger finished second in the first race of 2016, and then 10th in the playoff race. Back in April, he finished sixth after starting way back in 30th. At $6,000, adding this veteran to your lineup leaves more room to chase after a top dominator.
(Top photo courtesy of ASP, Inc.)