Fantasy Update: Sorting through Saturday's sessions for last-minute advice

Fantasy Update: Sorting through Saturday's sessions for last-minute advice

Practice and qualifying went about as expected at Martinsville Speedway. The historically good drivers at the track remained fast, though for the second consecutive week Kyle Larson nabbed the Busch Light Pole Award at one of his toughest race tracks. This is a big weekend for Hendrick Motorsports, as the winningest team in NASCAR history is looking to celebrate its 40th anniversary in grand fashion with all four of its entries running ruby-colored paint schemes. No drivers have fallen out of my lineup from earlier this week.

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Dustin Albino‘s race-day lineup:

Starter 1: Ryan Blaney
Starter 2: Joey Logano
Starter 3: Denny Hamlin
Starter 4: Chase Elliott
Starter 5: Bubba Wallace
Garage pick: Chase Briscoe

NEXT IN LINE: Kyle Larson, Martin Truex Jr., Alex Bowman, Ryan Preece.

RISING: Slowly, Larson is changing his narrative at short tracks. That‘s what happens when continued success stores up over multiple years. Despite sweeping the spring races at Richmond and Martinsville last season, the 2021 Cup champion claimed last week that these two venues were still his worst tracks on the circuit. Larson led 144 laps last week and finished third. The No. 5 car will have the same view as it did last week when the green flag waves: from the pole. It wouldn‘t be surprising to see another good Martinsville performance; I‘m just saving a use.

Preece often says he’s a short-track racer. There isn‘t a shorter track on the points-paying schedule than Martinsville. Last spring, Preece had the best start to a Cup race in his career, leading the opening 135 laps before a pit-road speeding penalty dropped him to the rear. The No. 41 team never recovered. This weekend, Preece unloaded with the fastest 10-lap average in practice. It was a disappointment for him to turn in the 22nd-best time in qualifying.

FALLING: After a third-place effort at COTA, Chris Gayle, crew chief for Ty Gibbs, said he expected a strong performance from the No. 54 team at Martinsville. He thought the team could have won in the fall before Logano spun Gibbs. However, Gibbs had a mediocre first day at the “paperclip” when he qualified 15th. The sophomore driver has become a frequent frontrunner, but there is work to be done to prepare for the 400-lap event.

With how much success Stewart-Haas Racing and Noah Gragson had at Martinsville apart from each other in recent years, it made sense that combining the two forces would lead to high expectations. But after a substandard lap in qualifying, Gragson will need to race to the front from 26th. He ranked 14th on 10-lap averages, and two of his SHR teammates, Briscoe and Josh Berry, will start in the top 10.


Denny Hamlin vs. Martin Truex Jr.: This Joe Gibbs Racing pairing has dominated at Martinsville for extended periods of time throughout their careers. And all metrics from Saturday might point to Truex being favorable this weekend. Lately, it seems when all is going good for Truex, something is bound to happen. Take Richmond for instance: Leading with two laps remaining, the caution flies and he finishes fourth. Hamlin is closing races while the No. 19 team is not.

Ryan Blaney vs. William Byron: Of the four Hendrick cars, Byron is the hardest to gauge entering Sunday‘s race. The No. 24 team was solid in practice, cracking the top six in both single-lap and 10-lap averages — but then qualified 18th. Blaney remained his steady self at Martinsville, a track he‘s thrived at over the past handful of seasons.

Chase Briscoe vs. Noah Gragson: In just about every category, Briscoe has a top-10 car at Martinsville. For the fifth time in 2024, the No. 14 team made the final round of qualifying and will start a season-best fifth. He was good in practice as well, ranking ninth on long-run speed. Briscoe has become a mainstay in the top 10 at Martinsville, which is impressive for a driver who used to struggle at short, flat tracks. On the flip side, the No. 10 team has made the most of many races this season, so don‘t be surprised if Gragson earns another top-15 result.

Joey Logano vs. Kyle Busch: Busch was able to put together a quality lap in qualifying, placing 11th. Just hide those practice results, as the No. 8 Chevrolet was 30th on 10-lap averages. This is an easy choice this week: Logano looks to be on his way to his 10th straight top-10 finish at Martinsville.