Fantasy NASCAR STP 500 Preview and Driver Picks

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series travels to Martinsville, Virginia this week for the STP 500. The race can be seen Sunday at 1 p.m. ET on FS1. Be sure to test your knowledge of NASCAR by competing in Fox Sports Fantasy Auto Racing.

Martinsville Speedway is a half-mile paperclip shaped track which provides some of the best racing of the season. The teams who can out-brake the other drivers in the flat corners will be ones up front. It will be interesting to see how the 2016 aero package affects the cars on the first short track race of the season.

There have been five races this year and it is becoming apparent which teams have the advantage as the Sprint Cup Series heads back to the East Coast. Hendrick Motorsports, Stewart-Haas Racing, Joe Gibbs Racing and Team Penske have the cars to beat. Although NASCAR wanted to level the playing field this year, the results show that the well-funded teams still have the fast cars.

Looking at a driver's finishing position in the first five races does not always tell the story of how well the team performed at the track. Kyle Busch ran most of the race at Auto Club Speedway in the top five, but a blown tire at the end of the race caused him to finish in the 25th position.

A driver's average running position shows a clearer picture of how good each team performed in the race. There have been four races using the 2016 aero package and seven drivers have the upper hand on the competition. Each of these drivers has averaged a top-10 running position using the new downforce package.

Average Running Position in Downforce Races
Driver Atlanta Las Vegas Phoenix Fontana Avg
Kevin Harvick 3.04 4.72 3.85 3.47 3.77
Jimmie Johnson 4.42 3.19 9.24 5.97 5.71
Joey Logano 11.26 2.46 6.45 4.92 6.27
Carl Edwards 5.6 13.82 2.21 7.15 6.45
Kyle Busch 10.23 5.93 4.05 10.42 7.33
Martin Truex Jr. 3.67 11.61 9.36 10.42 8.77
Chase Elliott 9.79 13.2 8.77 7.5 9.82

The last race at Martinsville Speedway was one of the most memorable races of the 2015 season. Joey Logano dominated the race by leading 207 of the 500 laps. His day ended when Matt Kenseth brought his damaged car back to the track and ran Logano into the wall. Kenseth was suspended for his actions and Logano was not the same the rest of the season.

Here are the results from the two races at Martinsville Speedway in 2015:

2015 STP 500 Results

  1. Denny Hamlin
  2. Brad Keselowski
  3. Joey Logano
  4. Matt Kenseth
  5. David Ragan

2015 Goody's Headache Relief Shot 500 Results

  1. Jeff Gordon
  2. Jamie McMurray
  3. Denny Hamlin
  4. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
  5. Kyle Busch

The best strategy for the STP 500 is to select two of the top drivers who start up front and pair them with drivers who start towards the back. The drivers who can make their way through the field will score bonus points for finish position. The scoring system for Fox Sports Fantasy Auto Racing rewards drivers who improve their position in the race more than the drivers who lead the most laps and finish up front. Fantasy teams will need to earn as many bonus points as possible to finish at the top of their league standings.

Pick to Win

Jimmie Johnson is the first driver this season to win two races. That could change Sunday. Denny Hamlin ($11,400) has won five races at his home track, including this race last season. He has a series-best average finishing position and the second-best driver rating in the last four races at the track. Hamlin is my pick to visit Victory Lane for the second time in 2016.


Jimmie Johnson ($13,700) has been to Victory Lane eight times at Martinsville. The No. 48 team has been one of the teams to beat this year and that will not change on Sunday. Johnson has led 2,747 laps at the track and he should add to his total this week.

Joey Logano ($12,500) led the most laps in the last race at Martinsville and was the driver to beat. The No. 22 car should be one of the fastest on the track Sunday as well. Logano has finished four races in a row at Martinsville in the top five (Not counting the last race when Matt Kenseth decided to wreck him). He is a great choice for your team this week.

Kevin Harvick ($13,500) cannot be counted out at any of the tracks. He is one of the best drivers at getting to the front and leading laps, but the No. 4 team needs to learn how to finish the job and get to Victory Lane. Harvick probably will not win Sunday, but he should lead some laps and finish in the top five.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. ($13,100) is one of the best drivers in the Fox Sports Fantasy Auto Racing scoring format. He has averaged 50.5 points in the four races using the 2016 aero package. Earnhardt usually qualifies poorly and finishes up front. This is the type of driver fantasy teams need on their team this week.

Sleeper Picks

Jamie McMurray ($10,500) almost won the last race at Martinsville Speedway. He qualified fourth and battled Jeff Gordon for the win. The No. 1 car came up short, but had their best race of the 2015 season. McMurray knows how to get around this track and that is enough to make him a good pick for your team Sunday.

AJ Allmendinger ($7,400) is the biggest sleeper pick Sunday. Most people overlook him because he does not drive for one of the top teams. Martinsville races like a road course and Allmendinger is one of the best at out-braking his competitors in the corners. Allmendinger could make it back-to-back top-10 finishes this week.

Austin Dillon ($9,500) does not have the best stats at Martinsville, but he is off to a great start in 2016 and cannot be ignored. Dillon has finished ahead of where he started in three of the four races at the track. Dillon will not lead your fantasy team in points this week, but he is a safe pick to score well enough to keep your team competitive.

Chase Elliott ($5,000) is a good selection this week because of the car he will be driving and not his stats at the track. Elliott made his Sprint Cup debut last year at Martinsville and finished 38th. It will be a lot different this year. Jeff Gordon dominated this track in the No. 24 car and the team will provide Elliott a car that will be easy to drive. He is on a hot streak right now and it will continue Sunday in the STP 500.

Here are my picks for the Auto Club 400 for Fox Sports Fantasy Auto Racing:

Driver 1: Jimmie Johnson $13,700

Driver 2: Joey Logano $12,500

Driver 3: Denny Hamlin $11,400

Driver 4: AJ Allmendinger $7,400

Driver 5: Chase Elliott $5,000

FOX Fantasy Auto Resources

- Driver Owner Percentage

- Driver Salaries

And don't forget - prizes are on the line each race of the fantasy season! First, second and third place each win a prize. Plus, each race builds your point total for larger segment and season prizes.

*Stats from and career stats from Racing-Reference.Info...

If you need any further advice with your team or want to see my updated picks after Happy Hour practice, look for me on Twitter (@MrFantasyNASCAR) or LIKE my Fantasy NASCAR Tips Page on Facebook.