The Xfinity Series is off this week, so the only stock car racing for motorsports fans will be this week’s STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway in Ridgeway, Virginia. This is the first race back in the Eastern Time Zone after stops in Las Vegas, the Phoenix area, and Fontana, California, so the haulers had to make a nice, long trek this week. We’ll run for the next four weeks before the drivers take a break for the Easter holiday.
This is our first short-track race of the season, as the drivers will attempt to conquer the .526 miles of Martinsville over 500 laps. This is the first of two stops at the track for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.
Odds are on the right-hand side for desktop viewers and down below the comment box for mobile viewers as we survey the field with the help of 5Dimes Sportsbook.
This is one of the more unique tracks on the Cup Series circuit. Also known as the Half Mile of Mayhem, this paperclip shaped course is a combination of asphalt and concrete and can be a really tough track for drivers. Handling is a bit of a challenge with long straightaways and narrow turns. There will be more than a handful of engine and transmission failures in all likelihood this week.
This is the oldest track on the NASCAR circuit. It has been at least an annual stop every year since 1948 and ground broke in Ridgeway in 1947. This is the only track with the mixed surfaces, as the track is asphalt in the straightaways and concrete in the turns.
That means that tire wear will be critically important here this week.
A Bird in the Hand is Worth Two in the Busch
Kyle Busch is your noticeable favorite this week with a price tag of +220. A lot of drivers excel on intermediate or long tracks. Busch seems to excel on them all, but he only has two career wins here at Martinsville. He won this spring race back in 2016 and won the fall playoff race in 2017.
Even though he’s only won twice here, it hasn’t been from lack of trying. He’s finished each of the last two years in March and even led the most laps in 2017. He also did that in 2011 when he finished third. In terms of the fall race, Busch has four straight top-five finishes, including that 2017 win. He’s running on a string of seven top-five finishes here with the two victories. It’s easy to see why he’s atop the board this week. He’s also won the last two races.
Brad Keselowski is the second favorite at +525. Keselowski has three top-five finishes to his name so far this season, including a win at Atlanta. He has one career win at Martinsville and it came in this race last year. He’s been in the top five in each of the last three fall races and three of the last four spring races. Unless his engine blows up or he gets caught up in a crash, Keselowski has been a consistent threat.
Martin Truex Jr. is your third favorite at +625. He’s been the best man twice this season with runner-up finishes at Atlanta and Phoenix. He does have three top-five finishes in a row at Martinsville, which is why he’s getting some respect here, but Truex hasn’t won since Kentucky and does most of his damage on 1.5 or two-mile tracks. I’m not so sure I like him here.
Stack ‘Em Up
With the back-to-back wins, Kyle Busch is your points leader with 237. Joey Logano, the fourth favorite this week at +750, is second in points. Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin, and Keselowski round out the top five. Aric Almirola, Truex, Kyle Larson, Kurt Busch, and Ryan Blaney round out the top 10.
This is a tricky part of the schedule for a lot of drivers. This is a short track. Next week’s race at Texas is a 1.5-miler, but then the stop at the Colosseum in Thunder Valley at Bristol is in the hole. Richmond is another short track at .75 miles. Then the plate race at Talladega and then another mile track at the Monster Mile of Dover. This is an important part of the season for guys looking to steal a win for playoff purposes.
The Rest of the Hopefuls
After Busch, Keselowski, Truex, and Logano, Denny Hamlin and Clint Bowyer are +1100. Bowyer won this race last year and this is a very, very strong track for Hamlin. Hamlin’s won this race in 2008, 2010, and 2015. He also has two wins in the fall race, but those came back in 2009 and 2010.
Only Jimmie Johnson (9) has more career wins at Martinsville than Hamlin. Hamlin has two thirds and a second in the fall race over the last four years, but hasn’t finished in the top 10 since his 2015 win in the spring, hence the price with a five-time winner.
Bowyer’s win last year felt like more of a fluke than anything, as it snapped a five-year drought.
Because of what this track entails, long shots are not optimal plays here. There could be some wrecks in the tight turns, but the best drivers are often the best handlers when it comes to vehicles. They usually have the best equipment, too, but this is a track that requires a lot of precision shifting and the stars usually do shine here.
Kyle Busch has poor odds to win, but he seems like the most likely winner when you factor in all of the intangibles about this track. Denny Hamlin is worthy of consideration at +1100. If you really wanted to roll with a long shot, Kurt Busch doesn’t have a lot of great finishes here, but he does fare a little better on small tracks with tighter racing. At +2650, he’s worthy of a Busch type of beer money bet.