A soggy Saturday washed away the qualifying session for the STP 500, which now is scheduled to be run Monday.
The drivers will line up according to team owner points, which puts Martin Truex Jr. on the pole.
One major change for this weekend is that Martinsville is an impound race, and NASCAR has elected to inspect the cars after all the practice sessions are completed. What this means to the handicapper is that we must wait and see if any of the drivers are being sent to the rear of the field for failing inspection. As a handicapper, we absolutely do not want to go out on a limb and make a wager, only to find out that our driver is being sent to the back to start the race. That scenario is absolute disaster because not only is the driver sent to the rear, but their pit selection is associated with this penalty. Starting with good track position is a major factor at Martinsville as 9 of the last 15 races have been won from a top 5 starting spot.
Of all the tracks on the circuit, Martinsville is most dependent on track position, pit position, and keeping racing damage to a minimum. With the rain-out of qualifying and the possibility of failed inspections, this is a weekend where we should be extremely conservative in handicapping the race. There are simply far too many unknowns with the way this weekend has transpired. Looking below we will examine some of situations for drivers who look to have a promising race. Again, if I am to wager on this event it will come in the last hour before the race. This is a normal practice of handicapping, but this weekend it carries even more emphasis.
Kyle Busch ( 250): These odds are simply too low to consider this wager. He very easily could win as he has some of the fastest averages for long runs during the practice sessions. There are just too many hazards at Martinsville for anyone to have value at these low odds. Also, we must remember that Kyle Busch’s pit crew has struggled for the last few weeks and that alone could keep him from winning.
Brad Keselowski (3-1): Starting 4th, where nearly 50% of the races at Martinsville have been won from a top 4 position, Keselowski looks strong. He was the fastest over the long runs in happy hour and is a major contender to win. At 3-1 the price is still too shallow. Keselowski begins to have value in the neighborhood of 7-2.
Joey Logano (5-1): No chance. Logano is very good at Martinsville but he has struggled going back to last year. Additionally he was 10th in happy hour. Logano is a contender but absolutely not at 5-1. Logano seems to be on the outskirts of the top 5 so far this weekend. He does have the opportunity to run well, but at 5-1 these odds are not in the ballpark. He would begin to show value closer to 8-1. Always shop for the best possible price!
Denny Hamlin (6-1): These odds lack close to the same value as Logano. Hamlin was outstanding at Martinsville for years but has leveled off recently. He has a good starting spot but was not in the top 20 during happy hour over the long runs. There is a strong chance Hamlin will race much better than he practiced, but at 6-1 this is not a viable wager. Like Logano, Hamlin begins to show value around 8-1.
Martin Truex Jr. (6-1): Truex will be lined up to start the race from the pole which is tied to the first pit stall selection. These are two sizable advantages which give him a great opportunity for success. Additionally, he was very fast in happy hour and his team is really outstanding at making the car better over the course of the race. While Truex is not considered to be a short track specialist he is quickly expanding his areas expertise. Last week he won on a 2 mile oval and short tracks appear to be next. Of all the drivers at 6-1 or less, Truex seems to have the best value.
Clint Bowyer (10-1): Down from opening at 15-1, Bowyer has run very well at Martinsville. He showed good speed in happy hour and he is set to start in the 9th position. He had very marginal value at 15-1 but anything lower is strictly a pass. Bowyer is coming off two excellent performances at Martinsville last year where he finished in the top 10.
Chase Elliott (10-1): Elliott is starting 21st which is too deep to consider him as a wager to win the race. While he is one of the youngest driver that I would consider to have a shot to win, his speed has not been in the top 5 this weekend. These odds do not come close to reflecting his genuine opportunity to win. He should be closer to double Bowyer’s odds.
Kevin Harvick (10-1): Martinsville has not been a great track for Harvick. He has a decent starting spot and ran fair in happy hour. If Harvick had not won 3 races this year he would be 18-1 or more based on his situation this weekend. Favorable odds and value have been stripped away based on what he has done this year. Betting on a driver based on what he did at a very different track the week before is NASCAR handicapping trap. The reason why we watch so closely over the course of EVERY weekend is because all weekends and tracks need to be independently evaluated. Carryover from week to week is very damaging to the NASCAR handicapper and their wallet.
Ryan Blaney (35-1): As mentioned on “A Numbers Game” with Gill Alexander on Friday, I thought that Blaney could appear as a dark horse. To aid his high odds is a very good starting position as well as team that really knows how to get around Martinsville. Blaney has run well in the past and I believe he has value at these listed odds. When it comes time to bet, if there is no news regarding a failed inspection. I would make Blaney my longshot wager to win.
Below are the listed matchups that I am going to watch heading into tomorrow. Again, I must reiterate that at this point I am very bearish on all betting for this race. Any wagers made will be done very close to race time. Additionally, if there are changes related to cars failing inspection then there is often quick opportunity on the rival driver in matchup settings.
Twitter can be a very good source to keep informed of changes. It is also my experience that sportsbooks are not always as quick to act regarding NASCAR changes. Lineup alterations are typically very important for these structured wagers. There are times when sportsbooks both over and under react to lineup changes. These reactions are not always appropriate based on the track or situation. It pays to be very vigilant in news that develops over the course of the weekend. I will keep a close eye on possible changes and update on Twitter as the race gets closer.
Chase Elliott ( 110):
Denny Hamlin (-130): This is a play to Hamlin’s ability to improve over the course of the day and his driving strengths. Further, it is a play against Elliott’s handling package so far this weekend. One wild card is that Hamlin took out Elliott at Martinsville last year and it would not be a surprise to see this rough racing continue.
Jimmie Johnson (-110):
Clint Bowyer (-110): Bowyer has simply been faster than Johnson this weekend. This is paired with the fact that Bowyer has held top 10 positions in the last two races at Martinsville and was very fast in happy hour.
Martinsville Top 25 Power Rating - STP 500
- Kyle Busch
- Brad Keselowski
- Martin Truex Jr.
- Denny Hamlin
- Joey Logano
- Kevin Harvick
- Clint Bowyer
- Ryan Blaney
- Jimmie Johnson
- Kyle Larson
- Chase Elliott
- Aric Almirola
- Ryan Newman
- Eric Jones
- Jamie McMurray
- Kurt Busch
- Austin Dillon
- Daniel Suarez
- Paul Menard
- Alex Bowman
- Bubba Wallace Jr.
- AJ Allmendinger
- Trevor Bayne
- William Byron
- David Ragan