Martinsville is the penultimate NASCAR Cup Series race of the 2023 season. This historic short track once again serves as the final cut race before the championship. As always, trust the data but also trust your eyes. Here are the best bets for the NASCAR Cup Series Xfinity 500 at Martinsville.
The 2022 fall Martinsville race was a classic. Christopher Bell won a do-or-die race and qualified for the championship in Phoenix. Speaking of do or die, Ross Chastain also qualified for the Cup Series Championship by throttling up and ripping the wall. That move won’t be repeated but there will be plenty of bumping and banging at The Paperclip. Martinsville is short and flat. It’s a throwback to NASCAR’s halcyon days. This is as grass roots as it gets in the big leagues.
Race Winner — Xfinity 500 at Martinsville
Denny Hamlin +275
Life changes in an instant. That’s racing. Hamlin was on his way to a win at Homestead but with 32 laps left on Sunday, the wall had different ideas. Hamlin earned a DNF. He enters Southside Virginia on the outside of the championship bubble. Two spots remain and all of the drivers that stand in Hamlin’s way are great drivers at Martinsville. The championship cut line is likely out of reach. Hamlin has to race for the win this weekend.
The good news is that Hamlin has five wins at this quasi-home track. Hamlin grew up in Virginia but it was a very different part of Virginia. Regardless of culture, Hamlin grew up short-track racing. The bad news is that most of those wins were early in Hamlin’s career. After winning three races at Martinsville from 2009 to 2010, Hamlin has gone winless. That’s not to say he’s lacked speed at The Paperclip. Hamlin has led over 100 laps in three of the last five Martinsville races. In one of those races, he led over 200 laps and 276 laps in another.
Joey Logano +1400
Would Logano jeopardize his teammate’s championship chances by racing for the win at Martinsville? Yes. Emphatically, yes. How did Logano win the championship in 2018? He qualified for the championship by winning at Martinsville. How did he win at Martinsville? He wrecked Martin Truex on the final turn of the final lap. Logano only knows running hard. He runs too hard most of the time. He’s not well liked in the garage, but those are the drivers that win bettors money.
Logano has not won at Martinsville since the above mentioned fall 2018 victory. However, in the nine subsequent races, Logano has eight top-10 finishes, four top 5s and two runner-up finishes. The two second-place finishes were within the last three races. Both were in the Next Gen car.
Race Winner — Xfinity 500 at Martinsville
William Byron +750
Hendrick Motorsports has history at Martinsville. Some of it’s good, some is bad and some is tragic. This is an important track. It’s always circled on Mr. H’s calendar. Kyle Larson (+700) won for the boss in the spring of 2023. Last spring, Byron won at Martinsville. In the fall of 2021, Alex Bowman (+4500) took home the grandfather clock. Chase Elliott (+2200) won the 2020 fall race at Martinsville. Before that, Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. each visited the cozy Victory Lane at Martinsville.
The No. 24 car’s 25th-place finish in the spring race was an outlier for Hendrick Motorsports. Byron started Stage 3 just outside of the top 10 but dropped to 25th due to a mechanical issue. Dirty air definitely did not help either. The notorious aero dependence that has hampered the Next Gen car was at its worst in Martinsville. With track position and a working race car, Byron would have been a contender.
With a championship spot on the line, Byron will have a working race car at Martinsville. Larson has already qualified for the Cup Series Championship at Phoenix and Elliott and Bowman are not in the picture. It’s all hands on deck for the No. 24 Chevy. This car is going to rip. It ripped in the spring. Byron had the best car on Saturday. If he unloads fast again, he can parlay track position into a win. With extreme aero dependence and limited passing, track position will mean everything. Speed on Saturday should mean something.
Put your knowledge to the test. Sign up for DraftKings and experience the game inside the game.
I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is greenflagradio2) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and do not constitute a representation that any particular strategy will guarantee success. All customers should use their own skill and judgment in building lineups. I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above. I am not an employee of DraftKings and do not have access to any non-public information.