After a one week respite, the last until June, the NASCAR Sprint Cup series is back on the east coast and ready for the first short track of the season the .526 mile flat paperclip known as Martinsville Speedway. The action here is fast and close up and a perfectly good day can be ruined as evidenced by Matt Kenseth’s punt of Joey Logano here in the fall while Logano was leading. Jeff Gordon won the last race of his career that day in emotional fashion.
Gordon will be in the TV booth this go-around so he won’t be a factor Sunday. Here are our favorites for Sunday’s fifth race of the year for your betting or fantasy racing leagues. The odds are current as of Wednesday morning and the Driver Ratings (stats that are a combination of various stats used to determine the best drivers on a given track) are from NASCAR are based on the last 22 races at among active drivers at Martinsville Speedway (2005 – 2015).
Jimmie Johnson (4-1) has to be the favorite this week. He leads all active drives at Martinsville with 8 wins the last coming in 2013. He has the highest driver rating among the field, 118.4. Johnson however struggled here in both races last year finishing 35th in the spring and 12th in the fall. But he is coming off a last lap win at Phoenix two weeks ago. He is the odds makers favorite and despite those struggles last season is our favorite on Sunday as well.
Denny Hamlin (7-1) has to be the other favorite this week. He won this race last season, and has the second highest driver rating, 110.6, among the field. Don’t be surprised if Hamlin and Johnson are in contention for the win Sunday.
Kurt Busch (15-1) may not be among the odds makers top picks but he’s among ours. He has two wins here, the last coming in 2014 and has been competitive so far this season. He may only have the 13th best driver rating here, 80.2, but we would not shocked to see him visit victory lane for a third time Sunday.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. (10-1) scored his first Martinsville win in the fall of 2014. He was fourth here in the fall and has the third best driver rating among the field, 99.4. Earnhardt has looked strong at times this season and if he can put together a strong run Sunday could add a second Martinsville win.
Kevin Harvick (6-1) suffered a bitter loss at Phoenix, leading the most laps only to see Johnson grab the win at the very end. He will be looking for redemption Sunday. Harvick won here in 2011, and led the most laps in this race last year only to stumble at the end and finish 8th. He has the fifth best driver rating, 94.6, and will looking to show he can put it all together Sunday and finish the day with a win.
Others: Joey Logano (7-1) led 108 laps in this race last year and was leading in the fall before his meeting with Kenseth. He has the seventh best driver rating at Martinsville, 89.7. Speaking of Matt Kenseth (8-1) he was fourth in this race last year. He has the 11th-best driver rating, 85.9, but has looked strong at times this season. Brad Keselowski (8-1) is Logano’s teammate but our dark horse this week. He has the eighth-best driver rating, 87.8, and does have a win this season.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup STP 500 will be run on Sunday March 27. Live coverage will be on Fox starting at 12:00 p.m. ET with the green flag coming at about 1:15 p.m. ET.