NASCAR Daily Fantasy Helper: First Data 500

Paul Menard is starting in the back for the First Data 500 and could rack up place-differential points while allowing you to afford studs elsewhere. Who else should you target in NASCAR DFS at Martinsville?

We have made it to the Round of 8 in the NASCAR playoffs, where things get kicked off at Martinsville, a short track. This will be the second time that the Monster Energy Cup series has visited Martinsville this season, and the first since the last week of March. In that one, which was pushed back a day due to weather, Clint Bowyer ended up winning the race after taking the lead on lap 285. He then led the next 215 of 216 laps with relative ease.

This time around, though, the stakes are much higher (for some more than others), so without further ado, let's get into some of the top drivers for the First Data 500.

Here at numberFire, we've always got you covered for everything NASCAR DFS. Our track preview gives you more information about this track, our driver preview helps bring you up to speed on drivers' recent history here and elsewhere, and our Heat Check Podcast with Jim Sannes gives you insight to how he is approaching this weekend's slate.

High-Priced Drivers

Kyle Busch ($14,000): Busch, the slate's most expensive driver, is someone you have to consider regardless of contest format. He owns the pole for this race and is coming in with the third-best short run as well as the fastest 10-lap average practice speed of any driver from Practice 2. New Hampshire, Phoenix, and Richmond are the three tracks that would best correlate with Martinsville, and Busch has performed well at all three this season, finishing no worse than second at a combined five races between the four tracks. Busch is a great candidate to lead laps, something that is very important to consider for fantasy upside when looking at a race with 500 laps.

Clint Bowyer ($11,200): In terms of candidates to lead a lot of laps, Bowyer is right up there with Busch. In the spring race, Bowyer not only won, he dominated. You can see in practice that Bowyer was able to do very well where it matters, and that is 10-lap average, where he placed third among all drivers. In order to make the best possible lineup at a track with this many laps, you need to be able to identify at least two drivers who will be able to lead the lion's share of laps. If you are able to afford both of them in your lineups, you need to do everything you can to jam them in.

(NOTE: Martin Truex Jr. ($11,400) and Jimmie Johnson ($9,200) were among seven drivers who failed post-qualifying inspection. Their qualifying times have been voided, and their official starting position will be at the back of the field. Both Truex and Johnson are now strong candidates for place-differential points.)

Mid-Priced Drivers

Aric Almirola ($10,000): Almirola is someone who should be considered in lineups this week because of his recent success, and he owns a fifth-place starting position that can lead to laps led if things go right. Practice numbers give us a mixed signal, however. He finished 5th on the long run in first practice, but 16th in the second practice. It's possible they were testing something with the car, thus artificially lowering the average practice speed. Almirola did not have a hot start to short tracks this season, but the July race at New Hampshire proved that he can race at this track type as he came in third with 40 fast laps and 43 laps led. If he is going to get himself as a playoff title contender, then he needs to do all he can to perform well at Martinsville.

Erik Jones: ($9,700): Jones is the first driver here who does not have that much laps-led upside. Jones' upside, rather. comes from his place-differential ability. His 24th-place starting position is too far back for where he has been practicing all weekend as he has had top-10 long-run practice speeds. Jones' previous short-track performances this season have not been spectacular, but that is not what we need here. For Jones to be in the optimal lineup, he likely needs to gain at least 10 spots in place differential, which is certainly possible for a driver who has performed as well as Jones has in practice this week. While he's not the most viable for cash, Jones should be a target in tournaments.

Low-Priced Drivers

Paul Menard ($7,100): In order to fit Busch and Bowyer into lineups, you need to find some value gems, and Menard is always a diamond in the rough. Starting 39th, there is plenty of place-differential upside with Menard. He has proven in practice this weekend that his car is good enough to climb the ladder. Menard will most likely be a very popular value play, but he is chalk worth eating in this situation as you need to fit as many expensive hogs as you can in order to get the much-needed points from laps led.

Regan Smith ($6,700): Smith is pretty much in the same boat as Menard except he's got slightly less place-differential upside. A qualifying spot of 30th is slightly worse than how the number-95 car has performed in practice this weekend, finishing 23rd in 10-lap average among all drivers in second practice. Given his cheap salary, Smith is a viable play in both cash and GPPs.

Evan Cheney is not a FanDuel employee. In addition to providing DFS gameplay advice, Austin Swaim also participates in DFS contests on FanDuel using his personal account, username theman90210. While the strategies and player selections recommended in his articles are his personal views, he may deploy different strategies and player selections when entering contests with his personal account. The views expressed in his articles are the author's alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of FanDuel.