NASCAR Playoffs at Martinsville picks, odds: Jimmie Johnson looking for title No. 8

The NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs Round of 8 begins this Sunday at Martinsville Speedway. The First Data 500 will be the first of three races that will ultimately decide the Championship 4 for Homestead-Miami Speedway in November. The rules are simple, win and you're in or run well and advance on merit.

With point values being reset, Martin Truex Jr. again is atop the leaderboard followed by Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski, Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson, Denny Hamlin, Ryan Blaney and Chase Elliott in that order. Five of the eight drivers have won at Martinsville in the past while the other three are hungry for their first trip to Victory Lane at the Virginia short-track. 

We have correctly picked the past two race winners, Keselowski at Talladega and Truex at Kansas. With that being said, here are our picks for this week's contest. 

Winner: Jimmie Johnson

NASCAR: Goody's Fast Relief 500
Oct 30, 2016; Martinsville, VA, USA; Sprint Cup Series driver Jimmie Johnson (48) celebrates winning the Goody's Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway. USA TODAY Sports

You can't have the Championship 4 without the seven-time champ. Johnson leads all active drivers in wins at Martinsville with nine and hasn't won since Dover in early June. He also has 19 top fives, 24 top 10s and a series-best 7.5 average finish. The No. 48 was the last car into the Round of 8, but begins just below the cutline in fifth thanks to his three wins.

While we're confident in Johnson this weekend, his chances at advancing are still high even if he doesn't take the checkered flag. Following Martinsville, the playoffs head to Texas and Phoenix. Johnson won the race at Texas earlier this season and has seven career wins there. He has made four trips to Victory Lane at Phoenix and finished inside the top 10 there earlier this season.

Contenders: Denny Hamlin, Martin Truex Jr.

NASCAR: STP 500
Mar 29, 2015; Martinsville, VA, USA; Sprint Cup Series driver Denny Hamlin (11) celebrates winning the STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway. USA TODAY Sports

If Johnson can't get the job done, these drivers are your next best bet for different reasons. We noted earlier that Johnson leads active drivers in wins at Martinsville, well not too far behind him is Hamlin. The No. 11 driver has five career checkered flags at Martinsville along with 12 top fives and 17 top 10s. Hamlin has momentum as well, having finished sixth or better in his past three starts. Expect him to be a little extra hungry being this close to the Championship 4 having never won a title in his career.

Then there's Truex. He's never won at Martinsville before but that hasn't stopped him at all this season. The No. 78 driver leads the series with seven wins including three in the playoffs. Truex opened the Round of 16 taking the checkered flag at Chicagoland and accomplished the same feat at the Round of 12 Charlotte opener. 

Let's also not forget how important pit selection is at this short track. In addition to winning last week at Kansas, Truex also qualified on the pole meaning he will have that coveted first pit box at Martinsville. That is a huge advantage on a track where things have gotten sloppy in the past due to size and congestion. Don't be surprised if Truex again wins a playoff opener and locks up his long awaited spot at Homestead.

Spoiler: Kyle Larson

NASCAR: STP 500
Apr 2, 2017; Martinsville, VA, USA; NASCAR Cup Series driver Kyle Larson (42) leads the early laps of the STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway. USA TODAY Sports

If we had room for another playoff driver we'd probably go with Keselowski, but Larson's elimination last week made this pick easy. The No. 42 driver has shown he can win just about anywhere this season and was shockingly knocked out of the Round of 8 last week when his engine blew up early at Kansas. Many had Larson as an early title contender, but as we all know, sports are sports and upsets do happen.

Larson only has one top-five finish in seven career starts at Martinsville but it really doesn't matter at this point. He is out for blood and will be a contender every single track, including Homestead, going forward.

Odds to win the First Data 500 at Martinsville Speedway

Here are the betting odds for Sunday's race per VegasInsider.com

  • Kyle Busch 3/1
  • Denny Hamlin 5/1
  • Brad Keselowski 6/1
  • Kyle Larson 6/1
  • Martin Truex Jr. 6/1
  • Kevin Harvick 7/1
  • Jimmie Johnson 8/1
  • Matt Kenseth 10/1
  • Chase Elliott 16/1
  • Joey Logano 22/1
  • Ryan Blaney 33/1
  • Clint Bowyer 33/1
  • Kurt Busch 50/1
  • Erik Jones 50/1
  • Jamie McMurray 50/1
  • Dale Earnhardt Jr. 80/1
  • Ryan Newman 80/1
  • Daniel Suarez 80/1
  • AJ Allmendinger 100/1
  • Austin Dillon 100/1
  • Kasey Kahne 100/1
  • Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 125/1
  • Aric Almirola 150/1
  • Trevor Bayne 300/1
  • Paul Menard 300/1
  • Chris Buescher 300/1
  • Danica Patrick 500/1
  • Ty Dillon 500/1
  • Michael McDowell 500/1

Odds to win the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series title

Here are the latest odds for the Cup Series championship per VegasInsider.com

  • Martin Truex Jr. 7/5
  • Kyle Busch 2/1
  • Kevin Harvick 7/1
  • Jimmie Johnson 7/1
  • Brad Keselowski 10/1
  • Denny Hamlin 10/1
  • Ryan Blaney 18/1
  • Chase Elliott 18/1

First Data 500 starting lineup

  1. Joey Logano
  2. Martin Truex Jr.
  3. Chase Elliott
  4. Ryan Blaney
  5. Clint Bowyer
  6. Denny Hamlin
  7. Brad Keselowski
  8. Erik Jones
  9. Kyle Larson
  10. Aric Almirola
  11. Kurt Busch
  12. Kasey Kahne
  13. Kevin Harvick
  14. Kyle Busch
  15. Daniel Suarez
  16. Jamie McMurray
  17. Matt Kenseth
  18. Ryan Newman
  19. Paul Menard
  20. Michael McDowell
  21. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
  22. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
  23. Danica Patrick
  24. Jimmie Johnson (will start from rear of the field after spinning during qualifying run)
  25. Austin Dillon
  26. Ty Dillon
  27. AJ Allmendinger
  28. Matt DiBenedetto
  29. Chris Buescher
  30. Cole Whitt
  31. David Ragan
  32. Reed Sorenson
  33. Landon Cassill
  34. Trevor Bayne
  35. Gray Gaulding
  36. Corey LaJoie
  37. Jeffrey Earnhardt
  38. Kyle Weatherman
  39. Carl Long
  40. Hermie Sadler

BOLD - indicates NASCAR Playoffs Round of 8 drivers

How to watch the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series First Data 500 

Location: Martinsville Speedway
Date: Sunday, Oct. 29
Time: 3 p.m. ET
Length: 500 laps/263 miles
Stage 1: Ends on lap 130
Stage 2: Ends on lap 260
Final stage: Scheduled for lap 500
TV: NBCSN
Live stream: NBC Sports App

*Qualifying will take place hours before the race Sunday at 12:05pm on NBCSN

NASCAR Playoffs Round of 8 drivers with wins at Martinsville

  • Jimmie Johnson (9)
  • Denny Hamlin (5)
  • Brad Keselowski (1)
  • Kyle Busch (1)
  • Kevin Harvick (1)

2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Round of 8 standings

POSITION

DRIVER

CAR #

POINTS

BEHIND

WINS

1.

Martin Truex Jr.

78

4069

LEADER

7

2.

Kyle Busch

18

4042

-27

4

3.

Brad Keselowski

2

4026

-43

3

4.

Kevin Harvick

4

4017

-51

1

5.

Jimmie Johnson

48

4017

-51

3

6.

Denny Hamlin

11

4014

-54

2

7.

Ryan Blaney

21

4009

-59

1

8.

Chase Elliott

24

4006

-62

0

Our Latest Stories