NASCAR Fantasy Fusion: NOCO 400 at the Paperclip

Last week we finally got to see an experienced dirt track racer win the Bristol dirt race when Christopher Bell crossed the start-finish line, outpacing Tyler Reddick, who finished second. It was Bell's fifth career win. He becomes the fifth different driver to win this season and this was his first victory at Bristol. The win was Joe Gibbs Racing's 201st victory as a team and with it, Bell also became JGR's winningest driver since 2021.
This week I'm thinking of another JGR driver, Denny Hamlin, whose name used to be synonymous with Martinsville Speedway. This season Denny just can't seem to get out of his own way. Will he clean up mistakes like speeding on pit road and reel in his issues with perceived up and coming drivers this week at Martinsville? We'll see.
This Week's Pick Strategy:
I'm sticking with my tried-and-true veteran Martinsville elites and short-track masters. And since that front row tends to favor the race winner I'll make my final picks based on qualifying.

Drivers with Most Top 10s (Last 5 Years):
By Race
Chase Elliott - 5 
All with 4 - Ryan Blaney, Martin Truex Jr., Joey Logano, and Kyle Busch 
All with 3 - Kevin Harvick, William Byron, and Brad Keselowski

By Track
Joey Logano - 9    
Brad Keselowski - 8
All with 7 - Ryan Blaney, Martin Truex Jr., Chase Elliott, and Kyle Busch 
William Byron - 6
Both with 5 - Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin

Recent Pole Winners:
2022 Chase Elliott
2021 Joey Logano (Set by metric qualifying)
2020 Ryan Blaney (June 10, 2020; Set by metric qualifying)
2019 Joey Logano
Last Year's Race Winner: William Byron

The Likely Suspects: My Martinsville elite drivers include Chase Elliott, William Byron, Ryan Blaney, Martin Truex Jr., Joey Logano,  Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski, and Denny Hamlin.

My 2 Cents: My no-brainer pick this week is a tie between Ryan Blaney and Denny Hamlin. My next picks are Brad Keselowski, Martin Truex Jr., Aric Almirola and Kyle Busch. I will complete my roster with Ty Dillon and Ryan Preece.

My Final Four: Ryan Blaney, Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski, and Ty Dillon.

Second-Look Driver: This week's sleeper pick is Chris Buescher, although it's difficult not to pick Chris every week. This young driver is on the cusp of having a breakout year. This will be Chris'
16th Cup Series start at Martinsville. He has earned one Top 10, and three-straight Top 15s in the spring event dating back to 2020, followed by another 13th-place finish in 2021, and last season’s 15th place finish.
It doesn't hurt that RFK Racing has a pretty good notebook on short tracks. With a total of 696 Cup Series races on short tracks, the race team scored a total of 23 wins, 124 Top5s finishes, and 247 Tops and led 7,863 laps.
Points to Ponder:
  • Six NASCAR Cup Series Martinsville Speedway pole winners are active this weekend, led by Joey Logano with five, followed by Denny Hamlin with four, Kyle Busch with two, and Chase Elliott, Kyle Larson, and Martin Truex Jr. with one each.
  • 25% of NASCAR Cup Series races at Martinsville Speedway have been won from the front row: 21 from the first starting position and 15 from the second starting position.
  • 10 of the 57 different NASCAR Cup Series Martinsville Speedway winners are active this weekend, led by Denny Hamlin with five, Martin Truex Jr. with three, Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch tied with two each, and Alex Bowman, Chase Elliott, Joey Logano, and Kevin Harvick with one each. 
  • Kyle Busch leads all active drivers in the NASCAR Cup Series at Martinsville with four runner-up finishes (2012, 2017, 2018, 2021). 
  •  Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin lead all active drivers with 17 Top 5s at Martinsville each, followed by Brad Keselowski with 12 Top 5s.
  • Denny Hamlin leads all active NASCAR Cup Series drivers in Top 10s at Martinsville with 23, followed Kyle Busch with 21. 
  • Ryan Blaney leads the series among active drivers in average finishing position at Martinsville Speedway with a 9.714 in 14 races.
  • Denny Hamlin leads all active drivers in the series in laps led at Martinsville with 2,190 (13%) in 34 starts.
Remember, if you're playing Driver Group Game, make your initial picks by 4:50 p.m. ET today and your, final picks by 3 p.m. ET on race day Sunday, April 16th. 
Enjoy the race!
Carol D'Agostino has been playing Fantasy NASCAR for 16 years. She launched  NASCAR Fantasy Fusion for Skirts & Scuffs in October 2011. Each week, Carol pores through statistics and combs through her personal notebooks to arm fans with analysis and picking strategies that will leave their friends wondering how they got so smart. Carol also does race coverage for Skirts & Scuffs at Richmond Raceway and occasionally at her home track, Dover International Speedway. She is also part of the distinguished NASCAR Expert Picks panel at formerly called Fantasy Racing Cheat Sheet.

When she isn’t wielding her fantasy-racing superpowers, you’ll find Carol hammering out a news release or creating a marketing strategy at a small niche public relations firm she founded called Purple Cat or executing downtown revitalization projects for a small town on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.
NASCAR Fantasy Fusion: NOCO 400 at the Paperclip NASCAR Fantasy Fusion: NOCO 400 at the Paperclip Reviewed by Carol D'Agostino on Saturday, April 15, 2023 Rating: 5