We’re heading down the homestretch to Miami to crown this year’s champion, and there are only four races remaining in a thrilling season as the series heads to Martinsville, Virginia this weekend.
Jimmie Johnson endured what could have been a rough weekend this past Sunday in Kansas and managed to grab a top 10 and not fall further behind Brad Keselowski after wrecking in Turn 4 mid-way through the race. The five-time champ may have not only saved his season, but done enough to propel him to a title run.
After a wild ending to the race here in April expect Martinsville to shake up the standings a bit as we could see a new points leader heading to Texas next weekend.
For fantasy players, here’s who to start and not to start on Sunday.
Johnson saved his season last week and will take the points lead this week. I think not only driving a wrecked race car to a lead lap top 10 finish gave them the confidence to run out the rest of the season with momentum, but it gave them the championship. That was Brad Keselowski and Denny Hamlin’s chance to eliminate him. They couldn’t do it and Martinsville is the place where Johnson is not only good at, but among the best.
Johnson has the best driver rating among active drivers there and has six wins in 21 starts. What’s even more remarkable is his 18 top 10 finishes in 21 races. He has an average finish of 5.4 and I believe the 48 team will be in victory lane on Sunday. Him or his teammate Jeff Gordon would have won back in April if it wasn’t for Clint Bowyer getting in too hot on the last restart in Turn 1 and taking them out. Expect him to remember that and dominate this Sunday so there’s no question.
Johnson has the series best average green flag speed, percentage of laps in the top 15, and quality passes in this race. He also ranks second in fastest laps run.
This is bad news for Keselowski as the championship could be won on Sunday as Johnson could get out front and never look back.
After a strong run to get in the Chase and a prodiminatly strong Chase outside of Chicagoland entering Charlotte Jeff Gordon looked to be on the verge of winning. He struggled the last two weeks in Charlotte and Kansas, but I believe he will return to his top five form on Sunday. Gordon, should have won in April, but as I said earlier Bowyer made a bad move and took him out on the last restart. I think he comes out strong and battles Johnson for the win.
In 39 races, Gordon has seven wins, 25 top fives, and 31 top 10s. He has a remarkable 7.1 average finish in those races to go along with a series high average running position of 6.4
Gordon also leads the series in fastest laps run and ranks second in many other major categories like driver rating, average green flag speed, percentage of laps in the top 15, and quality passes.
Both Gordon and Johnson are the best in the game right now at Martinsville and they will finish 1-2 on Sunday.
If there’s anyone that’s close to Johnson and Gordon at Martinsville is home state favorite Denny Hamlin. In only 14 career Martinsville races, Hamlin has four wins, nine top fives, and 12 top 10′s. Those numbers almost guarantee a top 10 if not a top five for him.
Like Johnson leading every category and Gordon coming in second, Hamlin is third. He ranks third in average running position, driver rating, fastest laps run, average green flag speed, laps in the top 15, and quality passes.
After a rough week in Kansas I expect Hamlin to return to championship form and battle up front all day. He knows he needs to run well and it will be a good week to make up some points on Keselowski.
“Smoke” isn’t out of the title hunt yet, but he’s dangerously close. He revived his chase last week in overcoming many problems to finish in the top five and I think he will use that momentum to a good run on Sunday.
In 27 career Martinsville races, Stewart has won three times. He also has nine top fives, and 15 top 10′s in his career there. I don’t think he will challenge for the win, but he will get a solid top 10 and battle for a top five in the end. After all his teammate won the race back in April and I think they use a same strategy.
Martin Truex Jr.
Truex Jr. had a great run in Kansas and kept his Chase hopes alive by a slim margin. I think he gets eliminated on Sunday though. He’s never been strong at Martinsville and it will show this weekend. Out of 13 career starts he has only finished in the top five twice and top 10 four times.
He has an average finish of 21.4 and the second worst driver rating out of the drivers in the Chase. Don’t expect much out of Truex on Sunday.
“The Biff” had a great weekend going last week in Kansas. Then came race day. He struggled and pretty much eliminated himself from the 2012 title. Sunday will officially end his hopes as he struggles bad in Martinsville.
Out of 19 career starts he has yet to score a top five and only has two top 10′s. His 67.6 driver rating is worst among Chase drivers. Biffle also has a horrid 21.9 average finish there. Unless a fluke happens don’t expect Biffle to come close to a top 10 on Sunday.
Everyone thought Kurt would run better with his move to Furniture Row Racing, but he actually hasn’t. He has yet to break the top 20 in two races with them and has struggled. Don’t expect that to change this weekend.
Busch has never been strong at Martinsville. He has 24 career Martinsville starts and only finished in the top 10 four times. I’d expect to see Busch in the wall on Sunday or out of contention early.
Menard finally got his crew chief back last week from suspension and he rewarded him with a third place finish. Don’t expect that to carry over this week. Menard has never been strong at the paperclip as he has yet to notch a top 10 in 10 career races. His best finish is 13th and he averages a bad 23.4 average finish. Stay away from him on Sunday.
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