NASCAR DFS Playbook Dead On Tools 250: Brandon Jones In A Must Win Situation
The NASCAR Xfinity Series heads to Martinsville for some short track racing for the second-to-last race of the 2022 season! Dan Malin previews the drivers to target for your DFS contests following practice and qualifying!
Welcome to the penultimate weekend of the 2022 NASCAR season. The Camping World Truck Series has its Championship Four locked in as Ty Majeski, Zane Smith, Ben Rhodes, and Chandler Smith will race in Phoenix for the Truck Series championship next weekend. But we still have a lot to preview regarding the Xfinity and Cup Series for the final weekend of October. And of all places, we’re going to do it at Martinsville for some short track racing. Martinsville is a great track that may not produce the fastest speeds, but we still get some of the better racing on the schedule as it’s a war of attrition on a track without much space to move. Last week in Homestead-Miami, Noah Gragson scored the elusive win that dodged him early in 2021 so he locked himself into the championship race with teammate Josh Berry. So that leaves two spots up for grabs and if we’re being honest, Ty Gibbs has such a comfortable position in the points standings that it would take a truly awful day for him to not qualify for Phoenix. So realistically we’re looking at potentially one spot that’ll go to either AJ Allmendinger, Justin Allgaier, Austin Hill, Sam Mayer, or Brandon Jones. Let’s dive into this week’s NASCAR DFS picks for the Dead On Tools 250!
Martinsville is great for DFS, but it can also be quite frustrating. Short track racing means we get a ton of laps compared to the norm, but the nature of short track racing means it’s possible to lose multiple laps, and in doing so, it becomes very difficult to make up track position and elevate your DFS ceiling. Martinsville is a short half-mile track without much banking. The drivers with speed don’t necessarily have an easy path to passing and if that’s the case we tend to see more rubbin’ and bumpin’. That’s just the nature of short track racing. Unless you can win the pole and go wire-to-wire, you won’t win a completely, 100% clean race without pissing somebody off.
Saturday afternoon’s race gives us 250 laps, so there are plenty of dominator points available and I like that we got practice and qualifying in around the same time of day the race will be run. You can very well go multiple routes in lineup construction. It’s possible one guy completely controls the race, but we’ve also seen dominator points get evenly distributed as well. Don’t feel like you need to force PD into your build unless it’s readily available to you. Because drivers can fall multiple laps down, that does put a cap on the upside of some value drivers starting further back.
NASCAR Xfinity Series Martinsville Practice Notes
NASCAR Xfinity Series Martinsville DFS Drivers
Noah Gragson ($11,500; Starting P5)
Gragson is in play wherever he goes, but this week we have more reasons to avoid him than to play him. But we’ll start with the good, in four races here he’s finished in the top three on three occasions and he’s led laps every time he’s been here. Earlier this year in the Spring he finished 20th, but still had a 103.0 driver rating and led 23 laps. He won this race a year ago in dominating fashion with over 150 laps led and a 143.1 driver rating. For this specific race, the only motivation he has is for another grandfather clock which is awarded to the winner of the Martinsville race across every series. Gragson already claimed one a year ago and has higher hopes to close out his Xfinity Series career with a win in Phoenix. He’s in play for DFS, but this might be a good spot to fade him if his focus is truly on Phoenix. Also, keep in mind, we are TBD if he’ll need to go to the rear for repairing his brake line before qualifying. We’ll need to keep an ear to the ground on that front.
Ty Gibbs ($11,200; Starting P4)
Gibbs had the fastest single lap, and second-fastest ten-lap average in practice and he starts on the second row. I’m hopeful he doesn’t lose too many spots on the start with everyone jockeying for position, but the speed looks to be there in the JGR cars this weekend. If you look at the ten-lap averages, Gibbs’ run from lap 19-28 was just a shade slower than Allmendinger’s ten-lap average from lap 2-11. Gibbs hasn’t won in any of his three trips to the Paperclip, but he did lead 197 laps here in the Spring and has a pair of top tens. JGR, as an organization, knows how to set their cars up for short, flat tracks so we could see Gibbs take home his first grandfather clock as he locks in his spot in the Championship Four.
Justin Allgaier ($10,400; Starting P6) and Sam Mayer ($9,700; Starting P22)
Allgaier is a bit of a wild card this weekend. Truthfully the resume isn’t awful, but he hasn’t won a race in over three months. In four career races at Martinsville, he has three top ten finishes, including a runner-up finish here two years ago. You have to consider the possibility that JRM wants to get three drivers into the championship round. Is it possible that Noah Gragson and Josh Berry try to help their teammate out? Possibly. The same could be said for Mayer. JRM wants a strong of a shot at one of their drivers taking home a championship and since two are already qualified for Phoenix it’s possible we see some team orders come in to pave the way for Allgaier and/or Mayer. Mayer is a noted short track racer. He thrives on this style of track and the form in the playoffs hasn’t been awful. We just haven’t seen him win or dominate so he’s a very contrarian play that has finished top five in the two Martinsville races he’s run in his career, and the extra PD certainly doesn’t hurt either.
Brandon Jones ($10,100; Starting P1)
I think we can disregard the absurd price tag associated with Jones this weekend for the sheer fact that he needs a win to qualify for Phoenix. In four races at Martinsville, he’s never finished worse than ninth including a win here in the Spring. Maybe we need to acknowledge Jones as being a respectable short track racer. He won here earlier in the year, and he was second at Phoenix and Bristol this year as well. Granted, those two tracks don’t have the same layout at Martinsville, but JGR knows how to set their cars up for short tracks and this is one of Jones’ final two races with the team before he takes over Gragson’s car with JRM next year. He’s an all-or-nothing play that has upside for our tournament lineups. The fact that he won the pole just lends himself to early dominator points and he can still be optimal with a strong finish to go with these additional points.
Austin Hill ($9,500; Starting P36)
Austin Hill seemingly makes his way to the front of every race. The RCR cars have had speed all year, but one driver (Hill) has had more success and luck than the other (Sheldon Creed). I’ve been burned by Creed too many times this year to know enough is enough (better late than never). But if you want to play Creed, he’s at least on the front row and if he can get around Jones, he has an early path to dominator points. Hill finished fourth here in the Spring and was second in last year’s Truck Series race in the Fall. He’s had a great year in his Xfinity debut with RCR and would love to score his third win of the season to put him in the Championship Four. He’s seven points behind A.J. Allmendinger and two points behind Justin Allgaier so he has some work to do to make it to Phoenix. Hill did not post a qualifying lap because of a radiator issue, but I’m fairly confident the car will be fine. Just take the PD when it’s available to you.
Riley Herbst ($8,800; Starting P8)
Herbst isn’t flashy, and oftentimes difficult to trust, but in three of his four races here he’s finished in the top ten including two top six finishes. Shorter, flat tracks have been kind to him. He wrecked out of last year’s Martinsville race but did finish fourth in both Phoenix races, was top ten at New Hampshire in 2021, and was fifth at Richmond. 2022 has been a bit more unlucky despite his abundance of top ten finishes, but I take comfort in the possibility that if he runs a clean race he can finish top ten, maybe even top five.
Daniel Hemric ($8,500; Starting P37)
I don’t want to completely ignore Landon Cassill because he’s been very consistent of late. The finishes have been very strong, but he just isn’t offering a ton of place differential. So while I do like Cassill, I do prefer his teammate, Daniel Hemric, who comes into Martinsville with three top eight finishes in his last four races. Hemric’s car has shown speed the last few weeks as he’s qualified sixth or better in four of his last five races. Hemric finished 13th here earlier this year, but last year with JGR he finishes third in both Martinsville races and led 46 laps between both races. He also has five top six finishes at Richmond and overall has done well on this type of track, evidenced by his lone career win at Phoenix last year to claim the 2021 Xfinity Series Championship. He did wheel hop the car and spun into the wall so he didn’t post a qualifying lap, but I’m operating as if the team fixed everything and the car will be fine. I might prefer him just in Cash games on Saturday because if you’re in the camp that Hemric isn’t very good and he goes out and junks the ride again, then it’s possible he’s not optimal and you have a ton of leverage over the field.
Jeremy Clements ($7,800; Starting P10)
It would help Clements’ DFS upside if we could get some position differential out of him, but I have faith that he can finish on the lead lap. Since the Xfinity Series returned to Martinsville, we’ve seen Clements finish top 15 in all four races including a pair of top tens in his last two races here. He’s out of the playoff picture, but could still be a useful driver that is priced under $8K with top ten upside, which means he would need to finish right around. Where he starts. But rostering him means you’re hoping he survives long enough to just stay on the lead lap and contend in stage three. This is a Tournament/GPP only play.
Nicholas Sanchez ($7,700; Starting P24)
I initially didn’t think I was going to have Sanchez in my driver pool. The price is just getting a little out of hand. However, I will say that he lends himself to plenty of PD and he doesn’t start too far back that I think he loses a lap either. He wasn’t great at Homestead last week, but that’s a track that you really need experience at to know how to manage tires and run along the wall. Martinsville isn’t easy on rookies either. There are 38 cars on a very small track. It’s easy for rookies and young drivers to be bullied for position. For that, I would leave exposure to just tournaments because he could very well finish outside the top 20, but he has top 12 upside as we’ve seen.
Derek Griffith ($7,500; Starting P15)
There’s obvious risk with Griffith starting P15 because if he goes backward and starts to lose laps then he’s not going to lead you to an optimal lineup. But there’s leverage here if you start your Tournament build with maybe Brandon Jones, Austin Hill, and Daniel Hemric. Griffith did run this race in the Spring and he started P36 and finished 21st so he was able to move through the field then. This time around, you’re hoping he stays on the lead lap through the first two stages and can finish the race. This is strictly a deep-field tournament play if making multiple lineups.
Kyle Weatherman ($6,900; Starting P38)
When I first looked at the pricing for this race on Thursday, I first thought that I don’t care where Weatherman starts, he’s in play for tournaments. If he starts further back, then I do have interest in the PD potential although it would be capped at a certain point. And if he qualifies well then I believe it increases his chances of staying on the lead lap the whole race and elevates his floor. We’ve seen him push worse equipment to top 20 finishes and so far this year he finished 16th at Martinsville in the Spring after starting 27th and he finished eighth at New Hampshire, which is a similarly flat track. He’ll likely be quite popular, and understandably so since he starts dead last and can’t get you negative PD. He’s a lock for Cash games, but possibly a driver to be underweight on in Tournaments since he will carry significant exposure.
Myatt Snider ($6,500; Starting P14)
I’ll give Snider some love because he’s a bit too cheap despite the lack of confidence we may have in his ride as of Friday night. In four races here he’s never finished outside the top 25 including a pair of top 15 finishes last year with RCR. But we do need to be realistic about the equipment. He doesn’t have as much upside not being with RCR, but he could squeeze a top 20 out of this car and this is a very friendly price tag for lineup construction.
Alex Labbe ($6,400; Starting P21)
Finding value is ALWAYS going to be tricky on short tracks. You need a little PD but at the same time you need some drivers that don’t completely lower their ceiling too early by losing laps to the leaders. Labbe strikes me as a driver that might be $400-$800 too cheap. Labbe has finished in the top 20 in 14 out of 24 races this year including a top 15 earlier in the year at Martinsville and a top ten in last Fall’s Martinsville race. And remember, he was running top ten at New Hampshire before a stage three wreck involving him, Brandon Jones, and AJ Allmendinger. I know I tend to pump Labbe’s tires exclusively at road courses, but he’s done pretty well on these short flats too.
Other NASCAR DFS Value Options
Value is very difficult to identify for Saturday’s race. Rajah Caruth stands out because he’s cheap and in decent equipment. But he starts P18 so you probably just need to play him at about 15% exposure in tournaments. Kris Wright has appeal if he can move up and finish 25th. He’s in the 68-car over Brandon Brown and this is arguably the home track for that team so this one means a lot to them. Unfortunately, Wright sucks and he’s quite risky. Bayley Currey as always has top 20 upside, but he doesn’t have much PD on his side today and I don’t believe he’s been great at Martinsville, although he did finish 17th in the Spring but that might be his ceiling. Blaine Perkins might be my preferred option if you need to dip below Alex Labbe. Perkins is with Our Motorsports for Saturday’s race so they aren’t the best team, but they also aren’t the worst. Again, he’s mostly a Tournament play, but could sneak into the top 20 and that would be about 5X value for him. And if you absolutely need to you can look to Ryan Vargas or Patrick Emerling. Neither are very good options, but they both start far enough back and have an okay history of late of just not crushing you. I’d give the slight edge to Emerling since he’s cheaper and offers a little more PD. He also hasn’t been too terrible of late just getting some semblance of PD and respectable finishes.
NASCAR Xfinity Series Martinsville DFS Core Plays
The Core Plays will be posted in the NASCAR DFS Discord channel no later than 1:30pm ET.
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