The field is set for Saturday’s race at Martinsville with Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin on the front row. With the help of Awesemo’s expert NASCAR DFS projections and ownership rankings, there is plenty to dissect and analyze for Saturday’s Blue Emu 500. Let’s dive into this week’s optimal NASCAR DFS picks for DraftKings and FanDuel lineups.
Blue Emu 500 NASCAR DFS Picks
Joey Logano, 1st ($12,000 FanDuel, $10,700 DraftKings)
Those reading my work for a while should know that race trends are weighed heavily into decision. That’s what makes this week so tough: The pole sitter has been a profitable fade for the last two seasons at Martinsville. Although the pole sitter has finished fourth, second, fourth and 19th over that span, they have only led lap totals of three, 34, 30 and five. Track position, combined with pit stall, matter a ton at Martinsville, and starting so far forward is helping to keep the pole sitter near the front. However, it’s done nothing to help them with their dominator-point prospects.
However, this is Joey Logano, one of the best drivers at Martinsville in recent memory and one of the best drivers in this 750-horsepower package. Since 2017, Logano is averaging the most laps led (94.5) of anyone in Saturday’s field. In this package, since the return to racing last spring at short-flat tracks, Logano has no finish outside of the top five with 94.3 laps led per event. The last legitimate race with this package, Logano led the most laps and had a pit crew keeping him out after every pit stop.
Logano is more than capable of overcoming a short-term trend. However, be cognizant that is part of this trend when he started on the pole in the spring race of 2019 and dropped through the field before finishing 19th.
Ryan Blaney, 4th ($11,500 FanDuel, $10,100 DraftKings)
One of the more surprising things to discover this week in pre-race research is just how good Blaney has gotten at Martinsville. Over his past four races here, his worst finish is fifth. In fact, if going back to the year prior, he had a disappointing 20th-place finish but a third from a race he was one of the top lap leaders.
Regardless, Blaney was already a good driver here and benefited further from Penske’s emphasis on the short-track package in 2020 with back-to-back runner-up finishes while averaging 51 fastest laps and 35 laps led in each event. He may not be outright dominating like his fellow Penske stablemates. However, he is consistently running up front and getting enough dominator points to be valuable at his salary. Although, he will need more of those points with his salary above the $10,000 mark this week.
Furthermore, there is the corollary of Blaney running a higher-grip track with cooler temperatures. This is the scenario to look for at Atlanta and it paid dividends as the sun never broke through the clouds. Although the sun should be out initially, this track will see added grip as the sun sets playing into Blaney’s hands.
Martin Truex Jr., 7th ($14,000 FanDuel, $12,000 DraftKings)
It doesn’t matter what iterations NASCAR makes to its short-track package, Truex shows up and continues to be one of the best drivers race in and race out at Martinsville. In the Fall race of 2019, Truex started third and led 464 laps. Fast forward to last June and Truex works his way through the field, overtakes Logano, and leads 132 laps en route to victory. Last fall, Truex once again led the second-most laps (129) before having to pit late for a loose right front wheel in stage 3. Outside of that 22nd-place finish last fall, Truex had no finish worse than eighth over the last seven races at “The Paperclip.”
Something else to consider is what happened at Phoenix. Logano was hands down the best car that day but Truex was able to reel him in, pass him late, and hold the lead until the end of the race. With Phoenix being the only real corollary for driver expectations at Martinsville, it makes sense that Truex should continue to run strong and be one of the top lap leaders Saturday night. Even with this week’s most expensive salary on both sites, there are more than enough laps for him to hit and exceed value.
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Chris Buescher, 15th ($5,200 FanDuel, $6,400 DraftKings)
It’s hard to stomach playing Buescher with him starting so far forward. However, that’s the key. Hopefully, with this track position, Buescher can keep himself on the lead lap all night and end up outscoring everyone around his salary due to the fact that he’ll earn more finishing points plus not lose place differential. Buescher is the tournament pivot off Ross Chastain and Chase Briscoe on DraftKings — two drivers who could easily outscore Buescher due to place differential but also have the volatility to either wreck out or finish multiple laps down.
Kurt Busch, 21st ($9,000 FanDuel, $8,900 DraftKings)
Surprisingly, with Bristol’s results impacting this week’s starting grid, there are not too many anomalies. However, Busch is one of those, and he is a perennial top-12 driver at Martinsville starting in the latter half of the field. Outside of another obvious name, Busch may be the best source of place differential on Saturday evening. Since 2018, Busch is one of only three drivers to finish every Martinsville race on the lead lap with no finish worse than 12th. Should there be another consistent race out of Busch on Saturday evening, he’ll be worth having in cash and perhaps pushing the line to be optimal in tournaments.
Aric Almirola, 31st ($7,700 FanDuel, $8,100 DraftKings)
In a contract year at SHR, the 2021 season couldn’t have gotten off to a rockier start for Almirola. Hopefully, the off-week has given the No. 10 team some time to reflect and make some adjustments or else plans for some big swings because Almirola currently sits 28th in driver points and 29th in owner points.
Gamers are going to need something aggressive for Almirola to work Saturday. Almirola’s story is the same as it has been the past few weeks, with this salary gamer need a top-10 with some dominator points in the process. Almirola has provided both here in the past, with two top-10 finishes in his last four Martinsville events. Also, he’s been a fairly consistent source of some dominator points, gaining 18 fastest laps on average, per event, over the last six Martinsville races.
However, with the results and speed this team has been cranking out in 2021, do not assume Almirola will snap back into shape. Due to recent results, Almirola did get priced down a bit on both sites. Be prepared though for Almirola to be the chalkiest driver on both DraftKings and FanDuel.
Corey LaJoie, 34th ($3,000 FanDuel, $5,200 DraftKings)
Five hundred laps mean access to multiple dominators is a necessity. This, in turn, means you’re going to need at least one punt… if not multiple punts to make lineups work out. The key to picking the right punt this week is nailing the one who finishes the fewest laps down. There could be some science to it. However, most weeks it comes down to just making the right guess combined with some luck.
This week, Corey LaJoie is a solid play and actually has some note-worthy track history for a driver in a lower-tier vehicle. In his first trip to Martinsville, in the Go Fas No. 32 he finished 33rd. However, after that, his finishes here went 18th, 18th and 25th last fall. Besides Daytona, LaJoie’s best finish this season was in this 750-horsepower package at Phoenix (27th). Let’s follow the track history, follow the corollary, and bet that LaJoie can sniff out a finish somewhere between 22nd and 27th and be a value at his salary.
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