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Blu-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 400: NASCAR Preview

This week, NASCAR stays in Virginia but heads down the road to Martinsville for the Blu-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 400. Last weekend, Denny Hamlin won an exciting short track race, becoming NASCAR’s seventh different winner in seven races. Saturday night’s showdown at the “Half Mile of Mayhem” should follow with plenty of action, chaos, and the elite racing we are being treated to this year.

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Track Info


Martinsville Speedway in Ridgeway, Virginia. This track is the only one left that has been on the NASCAR docket since its inception.

Track Length

The shortest track on the NASCAR circuit: 0.526 miles

Track Type

This is an asphalt concrete track with four tight turns with a unique layout known as “The Paper Clip.”

Last 10 Track Winners:

  • Fall 2021: Alex Bowman
  • Spring 2021: Martin Truex, Jr.
  • Fall 2020: Chase Elliott
  • Spring 2020: Martin Truex, Jr.
  • Fall 2019: Martin Truex, Jr.
  • Spring 2019: Brad Keselowski
  • Fall 2018: Joey Logano
  • Spring 2018: Clint Bowyer
  • Fall 2017: Kyle Busch
  • Spring 2017: Brad Keselowski

Last 10 Track Winners by Model

  • Ford: 4
  • Toyota: 4
  • Chevrolet: 2

Race Day Preview

Last weekend, the veteran drivers proved they still have plenty of skill and strategy, and they are unwilling just to concede the season to the new kids just yet. Between Hamlin and Kevin Harvick, it felt like 2020 again, where every race seemed to feature the two competing head to head. Hamlin led only the final five laps to pull out the victory. Ryan Blaney led the most laps at 128, and he won Stage 1. The No. 12 car continues to impress and now sits atop the Cup Standings, and we’ll talk a bit more about him below.

The Blu-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 400 has the teams going from a short track to the shortest track, a tricky adjustment, even for the most experienced of drivers. To say that Martinsville has tight corners is an understatement. Each one leads to extreme deceleration and allows for positional change among drivers for those willing to take the risk.

We are looking for the perfect balance of risk and consistency to set us up for a strong finish in contests. Here is an overview of drivers I will be looking to roster in DFS and season-long formats this weekend. I’ll be back Saturday morning to look at where we can find value in positional movement following Friday’s qualifying races. Thoughts? Opinions? Want to talk NASCAR fantasy with a fellow enthusiast? Hit me up on Twitter at @thewonkypenguin.

Fantasy Drivers: The Contenders

Martin Truex, Jr. (#19 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing)

Where there is a short track, there is a contending Martin Truex Jr. The No. 19 car led 80 laps and won Stage 2 in Richmond last weekend, and he remained in first place until the team’s strategy gave way to those with fresher tires near the end. He picked up a high 50 points for the race, which moved him into third place by leapfrogging Joey Logano and William Byron. He is tied with Ryan Blaney at 3 for most stages won this year. He holds a driver rating of 121.0 at Martinsville and will be in the mix at the end of the Blu-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 400.

Chase Elliott (#9 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports)

Last weekend, Elliott had a bland run, only improving his position by one slot to finish 14th. He seemed to be in the mix throughout, but he never looked to be a threat to win. Perhaps the track was simply too long for him. Martinsville has been a friendly track to the No. 9 car throughout his career. He finished in the Top 20 five times, the Top 5 four times, and won once in the past six races. His average starting place is 5.8, and he has the second-highest driver rating at 116.4 there. While he remains winless thus far in 2022, I think this weekend might change that for the former Cup champion.

Ryan Blaney (#12 Ford, Team Penske)

In last week’s preview, we discussed the importance of consistency in fantasy NASCAR. Now that Blaney is in first place, he represents a model for this type of driver predicated on his ability to (a) compete and (b) do the little things to gain points. For the year, the No. 12 car has led the most laps with 334, 64 laps more than William Byron in second place. Depending on your scoring formats in season-long, laps led can constitute many fantasy points for your team. I’m not expecting him to continue to sit in pole position each week, but he is worth adding when he does. Multiple NASCAR pundits have begun debating what, if anything, Blaney is doing wrong that is preventing him from closing out the wins considering he is running so well. While I don’t have the specific answer to that question, much like Elliott, it feels like only a matter of time before he does start to walk away with the checkered flag. His driver rating of 109.6 in Martinsville suggests that it could happen as early as Saturday night.

Joey Logano (#22 Ford, Team Penske)

The only type of tracks that Logano likes more than short ones are the ones covered in dirt. While we are one week away from that chaos, Logano sits in a good spot for the Blu-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 400. His driver rating at Martinsville Speedway is 103.3, and his average finish is 8.3. What makes Logano special is his crafty maneuvering skills in traffic, and there is a lot of traffic on a short track like this one. When I imagine that “perfect combination” of risk and consistency mentioned above, I often picture the No. 22 car in that position.

Denny Hamlin (#11 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing)

When I made my lineups on Sunday, I included Brad Keselowski in a couple because I wanted to hedge his terrible season against his historical track success. I did not, however, remember to hedge Hamlin in the same way, and it cost me in the end. The positional change from 13 to 1 plus the win made the No. 11 quite valuable last week, and there is plenty of reason to believe he can duplicate the effort on Saturday. While Martinsville is not his highest-ranked track, he has an average finish of 11 here with a 100.1 driver rating. Based on the past few years, I also believe that when Hamlin’s team finds a groove, they can go on these runs of high finishes and solid performances. This weekend including him in your lineups isn’t a hedge as a core pick.

Fantasy Drivers: The Accelerators

Alex Bowman (#48 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports)

Bowman is the most recent winner at Martinsville, and his season hasn’t done anything to dissuade us from putting him in our lineups. He currently sits in seventh place in the Cup standings and has a driver rating of 89.3 at this track. Last weekend, he provided tremendous positional value by starting in 28th place and ending in eighth. It would be a gift to DFS players everywhere should he do this again in the Blu-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 400.

Brad Keselowski (#6 Ford, RFK Racing)

The No. 6 car looked better than it had all year last week, and Keselowski seemed in control for the entire race. He made some nifty moves and ran in the Top 10 for a few laps. Martinsville is precisely where he wants to be if he is looking for momentum, as he carries a 106.4 driver rating there. Hopefully, his reduced salary last weekend will carry over into Saturday night because he is a steal in the Blu-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 400 if at all cheap.

William Byron (#24 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports)

Byron is currently in fourth place overall and yet somehow racing under the radar. His driver rating at this track is a respectable 92.5, with three Top 5 finishes in the previous six races. My only concern with him is two DNFs in seven races, which has dragged him “down” to fourth. Short tracks aren’t his forte (an average finish of 16.6), but the way he has performed thus far leads me to believe a high finish on Saturday night might be in the cards.

Kyle Busch (#18 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing)

Kyle Busch sneaked into the Top 10 this week, joining Truex as the only two Toyotas. He remains winless, and his projected playoff ranking is projected to be 15, but his rating in Martinsville is 94.6, and short tracks are most assuredly his jam. When qualifiers are completed, his starting spot is the first one I’ll look for to see if positional value coordinates with his typically-inflated salary.

Aric Almirola (#10 Ford, Stewart-Haas Racing)

Almirola is my long-shot sleeper of the Blu-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 400. His driver rating is 80.9, higher than his average finish of 18.67. He has three Top 10s in his last six races. His QP determines his fit in this weekend’s lineups, but I like him as a dark horse.

Fantasy Drivers: The Brakes

I will be fading the following three drivers, save for an amazing positional value opportunity, on Saturday night. Their driver rating is in parenthesis behind each name.

Tyler Reddick (69.7)
Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. (62.5)
Cole Custer (59.3)

I’ll see you back here Saturday morning for a look at the best DFS plays for the Blu-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 400. Until then, my friends, enjoy Opening Day of baseball if you partake in such a holiday.

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