7th race of the 2017 Monster Energy Cup Series playoffs; 1st race of the round of 8 (Martin Truex Jr, Kyle Busch, Brad Keslowski, Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin, Ryan Blaney and Chase Elliott)
Playoff format – top 16 will be eligible to win the Monster Energy Cup “Chase for the Championship”. All of the points are made even amongst drivers 11-16. The winner (Martin Truex Jr) gets 15 additional points, 2nd place gets an additional 10, 3rd gets 9, 4th gets 8 etc.. going down to 1 point for the 10thplace driver (Chase Elliott). This is the last race before the field drops down to 12, after the next 3 it goes down to 8, after the next three it goes down to 4 with the final race being the Ford EcoBoost 400.
What: First Data 500
When: October 29th
Where: Martinsville Speedway
2016 Winner: Jimmie Johnson
Track: Martinsville Speedway. Located in Ridgeway, VA, this half mile track is the shortest track on the NASCAR Cup Series. It was built in 1947 by H. Clay Earles and stands as one of the first oval tracks in NASCAR. It uses Concrete for the turns but sticks with Asphalt on the straightaways. The constant braking is tricky here so it's best to have someone who knows what they are doing and has a record of success.
Brad Keslowski. Martin may have won 2 of the last 3 races and Jimmie Johnson may have won here last year but Brad Keslowski was your winner at the STP 500 earlier this year at Martinsville and much like Martin he ALSO had a win in the last few races at Talladega. The top three of Martin, Kyle Busch and Brad are going to be a fun back and forth over the last 4 races, every win in the playoffs has come from the three of them.
Chase Elliot. The wreck that knocked Kyle Larson out really hurt at Kansas Speedway. Chase is still in it as he sits in 8th place and he has posted 4 races in the top 5 across the 6 playoff races so far. Add to this his 3rd place finish at Martinsville earlier this year and he seems to have the accelerating and braking nuance to Martinsville figured out.
Austin Dillon. He had a very respectable finish at the STP 500 earlier this year at Martinsville. He finished 5th which was his 3rd best finish of the season. He has consistently landed in the teens during the playoffs and this could be a lone top 10 spot for the talented driver who seemed to largely underperform this year.
David Ragan. A 10th and 17th place from Ragan who I think has experience to slip into a top 15th place finish, something that I’m not as confident from the C Group trio (Daniel Suarez, Erik Jones and Ty Dillon) all who seem to have some yet to learn from this very different race track.
Ryan Newman. With a very lump three races coming in at 40th, 2nd and 33rd, Ryan will come to Martinsville where he finished 8th earlier this year, 10th early last year and 16th later on. He looks like a top 10 finisher here as he bounces back on the short track.
Year to date stats:
A Drivers: Avg Finish 12th (32nd percentile)
B Drivers: Avg Finish 15th (41st percentile)
C Drivers: Avg Finish 18th (47th percentile)
Dark Horse Drivers: Avg Finish 18th (49th percentile)