Cup Preview: 2023 Xfinity 500 (Martinsville)


Targeting high net retention drivers on this short track, where it's been difficult to pass with the NextGen.

To Win

#11 Denny Hamlin
#5 Kyle Larson
#19 Martin Truex Jr.

Top 5

#6 Brad Keselowski

Top 10

#54 Ty Gibbs, especially if there's a late restart

My final four is thus: Christopher Bell and Kyle Larson (already locked in), William Byron (+30), and Hamlin winning his way in. Hamlin leads in the holy trinity of cPOMS (average speed), GR-LR (position retention), and speed score (top speed) on short tracks this year. If such a quartet comes to fruition, Hamlin's my favorite. Otherwise, it's Bell, Larson, and Truex if he makes it. Tyler Reddick doesn't have a high end feature on short tracks, certainly not besting the 5, 11, 19, and 20 in any facet. I don't think Buescher has enough to win today.

I find it interesting how bad Chevrolet is on short tracks this year. It's hard to find a way to sort this table such that Chevy looks good.

  • By points, you've got only three Chevys in the top 17 before a block of big name bowties
  • By average finish, it's Larson, Chase Elliott, and Alex Bowman in the top ten, and the only in the Camaros in the top 15
  • By cPOMS there's three in the top 10
  • By GR-LR, there's five in the top 20, only Larson before you get to Bowman at ninth
  • Same on the speed score side: five in the top 20

Larson is the only consistent bright spot for Chevrolet on short tracks. The other Hendricks shuffle in and out by various metrics; RCR is utterly hapless; Ross Chastain sits on the fringes of the top 10 for Trackhouse, with Daniel Suarez a non-factor. None of the likes of Kaulig, Legacy Motor Club, and Spire have any impact.

Byron's a fascinating case to think about, both for Martinsville and Phoenix. His retention number is weak compared to the other competitors at tenth. Since 2020, the rank of the champion in GR-LR on short tracks in their season:

  • 2020, Elliott: 1st
  • 2021, Larson: 2nd
  • 2022, Logano: 8th

Was Logano's winning an artifact of the NextGen, or an aberration? I lean to the latter. He was seventh in speed score and tenth in cPOMS. That was a pretty unpredictable championship. So I say retention is pretty important going into Phoenix.

Byron doesn't have that. But he does have everything else! He's third in cPOMS and second in SS. His average running position is 8.87, second best in the series. His average finish, however, is 15.14, which is mid-pack in both the average race and in the rankings. That delta between ARP and AFP provides the bulk of the explanation for his relatively weak net retention - but it doesn't explain it away. We have to factor it in.

Of course, we also have to factor in his win in the spring Phoenix race - his only short track win this season. He was never out of the top 5 in that race. There's two ways to look at that: the first, he dominated; the second, he never showed that he's able to gain spots over the course of a race. His fortunes may thus depend on where he starts.

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