2017 First Data 500 Preview – Picks to Win the Race

Race: First Data 500
Date: Sunday October 29, 2017
Track: Martinsville Speedway
Time: 3 pm ET

by Virginia Vroom, NASCAR Handicapper, Predictem.com

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As predicted, Martin Truex Jr. took the checkers at Kansas after overcoming pit road penalties. There were, quite frankly, a multitude of pit road issues for a lot of teams, yet Truex managed to prevail and charge back to the front. He actually had the pole, led 35 laps, and then encountered a restart penaltyleaving many, including Truex, scratching their heads at NASCARs call. Regardless, even after another unscheduled pit stop due to a loose wheel, Truex drove his Toyota back to the front and held off Kurt Busch, who finished an agonizing second place. Ryan Blaney, Chase Elliott, and Denny Hamlin rounded out the top five spots.

There were many issues for drivers due to some ill-fated cautions, including Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch. They ended up a lap down due to a caution falling when they had already pitted under green. That being said, they managed to get their laps back, but that certainly didnt help with their chances at the win. Other drivers suffered catastrophic losses by wrecking including the wreck involving Erik Jones. That one took out some good drivers. Namely, Matt Kenseth managed to have 7 pit crew members over the wall during that caution in an effort to repair his car. The crazy part is that you cant have more than 6 pit crew members over the wall. Because of that, Kenseth was parked for the rest of the night. Call me crazy because Im not a Kenseth fan, but I completely agree with him on not understanding how you now are out of the race completely. That seems pretty absurd to me. I guess its just another one of those crazy rules that NASCAR came up with for no apparent reason. And to that notion, Matt Kenseth became another casualty of championship contention. Kyle Larson also suffered a catastrophic engine failure, really messing up his night. It also messed up his chances at the championship after a pretty phenomenal season for the young driver. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Jamie McMurray were the other two drivers knocked out of championship contention.

This weekend, drivers are headed to my home state and the shortest track on the circuit. Martinsville Speedway is an asphalt and concrete 0.526 oval with 12 degree banking in the turns and no banking on the straights. That is what makes this track pretty unique. Its called the paperclip because of its notoriously sharp turns and flat track style. This creates a good race for the drivers and fans alike. It creates an element of necessity when it comes to taking care of equipment, as these guys are hard on the brakes into the turns but slam into the gas when theyre not quite out of them yet. Its not uncommon to the see rotors glowing red throughout the duration of the race, causing braking issues for many of the teams. With this type of driving, you also have to assume that tires will take a pretty big hit. The only silver lining to that is that there is generally a lot of lap traffic. Even on stickers, the leaders have a harder time pulling away from the rest of the field than even at other short tracks like Richmond and Bristol.

The drivers who tend to excel here can be counted on one hand in my opinion. Martinsville is an eclectic track, offering a challenge to many of the more inexperienced drivers. There are a lot of elements that go on during this race. Not only are drivers racing each other, they are racing this track and the difficulties that it puts on their equipment. Lap traffic is always a beast here too, as much of the field gets lapped and stays lapped. That being said, the guys that I would look out for this weekend, in particular, include Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski. Brad is the defending winner of the Spring race here and has a good shot to have a repeat, but I really feel like Kyle Busch is going to pull it off this weekend. Hes got a lot to prove after a somewhat tumultuous season. As this is the first race in the round of 8, Busch will certainly have a good shot at punching his ticket to the next and final segment with a win here. He will absolutely have a lot of competition when it comes down to it. Here are my picks to win this weekend as we head into Martinsville:

My Pick to Win: Kyle Busch
Middle of the Road Pick: Chase Elliott
Dark Horse Prediction: Erik Jones

Jones is a solid pick here for many reasons. Hes only raced here in this series once, but he came home in May with a 12th place finish. The fact that Toyotas are dominating the year is no secret either. Hes got the equipment to back a very solid finish. That along with is talent should really put him on track for a solid finish this weekend. I see nothing but an improvement from his Spring race. Chase Elliott has not done quite as well as hed like to in the past at Martinsville but has also made vast improvement in May, finishing third. When it comes down to it, though, Kyle Busch is going to be the one to be. He very clearly has the best record of any active driver, leading the most laps, best average finish, etc. Busch will punch his card to the final four this weekend. Get YOUR First Data 500 race predictions down at a sportsbook that takes credit cards for deposits and that will give you a 100% bonus up to $250 in free betting tickets: Bovada Sportsbook!

Lets see where these guys stand after Kansas as we head into the first round of eight races:

Here are your current top 8 after last week’s race:

1. Martin Truex Jr.
2. Kyle Busch
3. Brad Keselowski
4. Kevin Harvick
5. Jimmie Johnson
6. Denny Hamlin
7. Ryan Blaney
8. Chase Elliott

It is clear that drivers are going to be in dire straights now, with only 8 guys remaining and only 3 races before the most important race of all. With Elliott on the bubble, you better believe that hes going to drive his heart out for as many points and wins that he can try to nab. Hes come to darn close. Maybe this weekend will be his weekend. Hell have to chase down Kyle Busch and then pass him, which is a whole other scenario if you know Kyle Busch. Regardless, this weekends short track racing is sure to be spectacular! Stay tuned for Sundays First Data 500 here at Martinsville Speedway!