Denny Hamlin is on the pole for Sundayâs First Data 500 (3 p.m. ET, NBCSN/NBC Sports App, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Is the five-time Martinsville winner worthy of a spot on your roster? How should you navigate the playoff game format? Weâve dissected the numbers to offer a suggested lineup worthy of your Fantasy Live consideration.
A reminder that inspection will be Sunday morning and the lineup is not official until inspection is completed. (UPDATE: The lineup is now official.)
RJ Kraftâs Fantasy Live lineup for race day at Martinsville
Playoff driver 1: Denny Hamlin
Playoff driver 2: Martin Truex Jr.
Non-playoff driver 1: Clint Bowyer
Non-playoff driver 2: Aric Almirola
Garage: Kyle Busch
Alternates for playoff drivers (if one above fails inspection): Ryan Blaney, Chase Elliott, Joey Logano
Alternates for non-playoff drivers (if one above fails inspection): Brad Keselowski, William Byron
Analysis: My roster is consisting of two teams â Joe Gibbs Racing and Stewart-Haas Racing. Hamlin and Busch are two of the best here and have posted solid averages all weekend. Truexâs recent history at Martinsville is extremely favorable as well and his 15- and 20-lap averages were better than his playoff JGR teammates. I gave real consideration to Blaney over Busch for the garage, and if you are looking to zag toward a different play, heâs a great option when you combine sneaky good averages and a solid Martinsville body of work. Elliott was another consideration, but I feel like dropping to the rear for an engine change is basically punting on Stage 1 points. Could be wrong in the estimation, but Iâd rather not take the chance.
Bowyer is not only the best non-playoff car, but he is also one of the best cars this weekend as he topped the 5-, 10-, 15- and 20-lap average board in final practice. He also scored a win here in the spring of 2018. It feels weird keeping Keselowski out of my lineup after he dominated the spring race, but the 2 camp seemed off a bit in both practices on Saturday. I was initially all-in on him as part of my lineup, but instead I will go with Almirola because I like the minimal fall off across his lap averages in final practice as well as a top-five starting spot.
On the bonus picks, Iâm taking Hamlin to win Stage 1 and Stage 2 with Truex winning the race and Toyota as the winning manufacturer.
Each week in this space, weâll also highlight two Props Challenge items for players.
1. O/U 3.5 playoff drivers finish in the top five. Iâm taking the OVER here as I expect there to be four and I count Hamlin, Truex, Blaney, Busch and Elliott as the five playoff drivers I could see finishing up there when the day is over â and itâs not a stretch to see Logano there as well. In two of the past three playoff races at Martinsville, four playoff drivers have finished in the top five. The cream tends to rise to the top here, and I expect the same on Sunday. Given that I expect the playoff drivers to be all over the top five, I also expect playoff drivers to lead more laps than non-playoff drivers in this race.
2. Which Team Penske driver finishes higher: Ryan Blaney or Joey Logano? I am taking BLANEY on this one. I like his longer run lap averages and Logano has seemed better suited toward a short run here in the past. I realize Logano is the defending race winner, but I just think Blaney has been a tick better so far this weekend.