Walsh: My NASCAR Props Challenge Picks for the Martinsville STP 500
Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: NASCAR Cup Series driver Kevin Harvick
- NASCAR's Props Challenge game asks fans to answer 10 prop-betting questions each week, with weekly winners eligible for prizes.
- PJ Walsh offers his Props Challenge picks and analysis for Sunday's STP 500 (2 p.m. ET, FS1) at Martinsville Speedway.
If I could only attend one sporting event venue for the rest of my life, it would be Martinsville Speedway. The track’s specifications — a flat, one-half mile speedway — leads to plenty of beating, banging and action-packed racing.
And outside of what’s happening on the track, Martinsville reminds me of Fenway Park in that walking through the gates into the grandstands feels like you’ve immediately gone 50 years into the past. No frills, no bells and whistles, just old-school racing.
I have to admit it, because I love this place so much there is a bit of sadness in me because I won’t be attending Sunday’s race, but NASCAR.com’s Props Challenge should help me fill that void because if I can’t be there for the action on the track, I’ll be sure to have plenty of action off it.
Here are my prop picks for Sunday’s STP 500 (2 p.m. ET, FS1) at Martinsville Speedway.
1. The average number of lead changes at Martinsville has been 13.7 in the past six races. O/U 13.5 lead changes on Sunday?
Seven of the past 10 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS) races at Martinsville finished with 14 or more lead changes. Let’s go over.
2. The past three winners at Martinsville have not started inside the top five. Does this trend continue?
Just three drivers over the past 10 races at the paperclip won from a top-five starting spot, so I’m going with a driver who starts sixth or worse.
3. Which JTG Daugherty Racing driver will have the higher finishing position? Chris Buescher or Ryan Preece?
Buescher has been surprisingly solid over the past four races at Martinsville, securing an average finish of 17.0, which ranks 14th among all drivers. Anything can happen at this racetrack, but the numbers make Buescher the easy pick.
4. O/U 11.5 drivers score stage points on Sunday?
The spring race last year saw just 10 drivers score stage points, while 13 drivers did in the fall. This is more of a guess than anything, but I think the fall race played out as a more “typical” Martinsville race, so I’ll grab the over.
5. Will Kyle Busch win his third race in a row this Sunday?
Busch has certainly been dominant, but there’s no way you can take one driver over the field in any MENCS event. Even Busch’s odds to win the race (+160) suggest that we should take the field here.
6. O/U 4.5 Ford drivers finish in the top 10 at Martinsville.
This is a really tough question. My gut says that there are five Ford drivers who should have top-10 speed on Sunday: Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano, Kevin Harvick, Ryan Blaney and Clint Bowyer.
Aric Almirola could be up there as well, but with Kurt Busch leaving Stewart-Haas Racing for Chip Ganassi Racing over the offseason, Ford lost another top-10 car for Sunday’s race.
I don’t feel overly confident about it, but too much can go wrong at this track to try and accurately predict five or more Fords in the top 10.
7. Which Hendrick Motorsports driver will have the higher finishing position? Chase Elliott or Jimmie Johnson?
Johnson used to own this joint, but the nine-time Martinsville winner has not fared well over the past two seasons.
Elliott has been flat-out better than Johnson over that span, with Chase scoring better average finish and average running positions while running significantly more fast laps and laps led.
Answer: Chase Elliott
8. O/U 2.5 drivers each lead over 100 laps in Sunday’s race?
This is another really tough question. Martinsville is 500 laps, but at just a half-mile, a driver can click off a bunch of laps led quickly during long green-flag runs. Because of this, I see one driver gobbling up most of the laps led and not leaving many for the rest of the field.
I truly have no real data or analysis to back this up, but I’m reluctantly taking the under.
9. Which team will have the highest finishing driver? Joe Gibbs or Team Penske?
I like this question a lot. Basically, we have to decide between the Joe Gibbs Racing stable of Ky. Busch, Denny Hamlin, Martin Truex Jr. and Erik Jones and the Team Penske lineup of Keselowski, Logano and Blaney.
Busch, Keselowski, Logano and Hamlin are my top-four drivers, respectively, for Sunday’s race, but Truex is the difference here as I think he’ll be better than Blaney.
Therefore, I’ll take JGR.
Answer: Joe Gibbs Racing
10. Brad Keselowski has an average finish of 5.0 the last four races at Martinsville. Will he finish inside the top five on Sunday?
Keselowski has seven top five’s at Martinsville in 18 career races, so the data suggests to take no here.
I’ll agree, simply based on the fact that drivers can easily find trouble not of their making at this racetrack. Brad is my second-ranked driver (behind Ky. Busch) heading into the race so I think he’ll have plenty of speed, but expecting a top five is simply too much to ask.