Fantasy NASCAR practice recap: Daytona 500

by Brian Polking on February 20, 2011 @ 02:33:48 PDT

 


Safety was the name of the game in the final practice sessions for Sunday's Daytona 500, and considering all the wrecks and spins during the first four practices and two qualifying races, it's tough to blame teams for playing it safe. Just 12 drivers took the track in both of Friday's sessions, and only nine drivers ran more than 20 laps in the weekend's final session Saturday.

In Friday's opening session, Richard Childress Racing teammates Jeff Burton and Paul Menard topped the charts, continuing an impressive Speedweeks for the organization. Burton won his qualifying race Thursday, and Kevin Harvick and Clint Bowyer will join him in the top-seven when the field takes the green flag Sunday thanks to top-three finishes in their qualifying races. Kurt Busch has been the most impressive driver this week, but there is no question that RCR has been the top organization.


Jeff Burton stood out Friday

Burton and Menard posted the top 10-lap average speeds during the session as well. The two were the only drivers to top 194 mph. Denny Hamlin and Tony Stewart ranked third and fourth in terms of 10-lap average speeds, and the former teammates have been working together as drafting partners throughout Speedweeks. Stewart is a three-time winner at Daytona, but he has never won the 500. After being one of the dominant cars during preseason testing, Stewart deserves to be considered a favorite in the opener, and he deserves a lot of consideration from fantasy owners as well.

In the afternoon session, Hendrick Motorsports took its turn atop the leaderboard. Mark Martin and Jimmie Johnson paced the session, and Martin's lap of 196.803 mph was the fastest of either practice. The two hooked up for the best 10-lap average speed as well with Johnson taking top honors at 192.780 mph. However, fantasy owners should still be cautious about picking the five-time defending champ. He has finished 23rd or worse in seven of his last nine starts at Daytona.

All but six drivers practiced in Happy Hour Saturday, but a majority of the teams were on the track merely to check out their engines and other equipment before Sunday's main event. The top spot on the leaderboard once again went to RCR's Burton, and he was followed by his teammate Bowyer. The two were the only drivers to top 200 mph in the session.

In terms of 10-lap average speeds, Regan Smith and Kurt Busch reenacted their Gatorade Duel event, hooking up to set an impressive 195 mph pace. A.J. Allmendinger ranked third, but he didn't even top 193 mph. Busch and Smith appear to be comfortable working together, and considering Busch has been at the front of every race he has run during Speedweeks, there is a good chance Smith will be there with him. Fantasy owners should give Smith some serious thought as a sleeper option Sunday.

At the end of the day, drivers are more concerned with staying out of trouble than they are dialing in their cars during practice sessions at Daytona. The fact that less than a third of the field even took the track is evidence of that. When it comes to restrictor-plate racing, top speeds and average speeds simply aren't a great predictor of which drivers will run well on race day. For fantasy owners, this weekend is one of the few occasions when the past performances of drivers should be given much more consideration than the practice times.

Three drivers will be heading to the rear of the field at the start of Sunday's race. Pole-sitter Dale Earnhardt Jr. is the biggest name dropping to the back, and he will be joined by David Reutimann and Joey Logano. Fantasy owners planning on using one of three drivers shouldn't worry about the lost track position. There will be plenty of passing Sunday, and going from the back to the front is easier at restrictor-plate tracks than any other type of track on the schedule.

Happy Hour Speeds (sorted by Best Lap)

Rk
Car Driver Team
Best Lap
Best Time
Avg. Speed
Laps
1
33 Clint Bowyer Cheerios/Hamburger Helper Chevy
200.316
44.929
192.327
11
2
31 Jeff Burton Caterpillar Chevy
200.316
44.929
192.372
11
3
2 Brad Keselowski Miller Lite Dodge
199.751
45.056
190.868
35
4
7 Robby Gordon SPEED Energy Dodge
199.743
45.058
190.952
22
5
22 Kurt Busch Shell/Pennzoil Dodge
199.459
45.122
193.220
30
6
78 Regan Smith Furniture Row Racing Chevy
199.442
45.126
195.194
11
7
9 Marcos Ambrose Stanley Ford
199.353
45.146
190.614
19
8
6 David Ragan UPS Ford
199.353
45.146
190.640
19
9
15 Michael Waltrip NAPA Auto Parts Toyota
198.483
45.344
191.132
16
10
56 Martin Truex Jr. NAPA Toyota
198.478
45.345
192.030
15
11
4 Kasey Kahne Red Bull Toyota
197.715
45.520
192.374
9
12
20 Joey Logano Home Depot Toyota
197.715
45.520
191.286
28
13
1 Jamie McMurray Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Boats Chevy
197.325
45.610
193.236
9
14
42 Juan Pablo Montoya Target Chevy
197.312
45.613
193.180
9
15
11 Denny Hamlin FedEx Express Toyota
196.562
45.787
191.918
29
16
18 Kyle Busch M&M's Toyota
196.562
45.787
191.497
37
17
36 Dave Blaney Tommy Baldwin Racing Chevy
196.070
45.902
190.303
18
18
32 Terry Labonte U.S. Chrome Ford
196.066
45.903
189.587
10
19
43 A.J. Allmendinger Best Buy Ford
195.874
45.948
192.463
13
20
5 Mark Martin GoDaddy.com Chevy
195.869
45.949
192.425
13
21
29 Kevin Harvick Budweiser Chevy
195.848
45.954
191.744
6
22
27 Paul Menard Menards/Peak Chevy
195.844
45.955
191.742
6
23
38 Travis Kvapil Long John Silver's Ford
195.423
46.054
191.823
20
24
34 David Gilliland Taco Bell Ford
195.419
46.055
191.187
26
25
88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. AMP Energy/National Guard Chevy
195.135
46.122
191.456
8
26
99 Carl Edwards Aflac Ford
194.788
46.204
184.400
14
27
87 Joe Nemechek AM FM Energy Toyota
194.721
46.220
187.752
12
28
77 Steve Wallace 5-hour Energy Toyota
194.401
46.296
186.783
15
29
71 Andy Lally Super Eco-Fuel Saver Chevy
194.397
46.297
185.318
16
30
17 Matt Kenseth Crown Royal Black Ford
194.053
46.379
190.978
15
31
47 Bobby Labonte Kroger/USO Toyota
193.336
46.551
189.919
23
32
0 David Reutimann Aaron's Dream Machine Toyota
193.332
46.552
190.164
28
33
16 Greg Biffle 3M Ford
192.881
46.661
190.056
7
34
21 Trevor Bayne Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford
192.682
46.709
190.250
14
35
37 Robert Richardson Jr. North Texas Pipe Ford
192.197
46.827
182.769
21
36
46 J.J. Yeley Red Line Oil Chevy
189.286
47.547
184.088
11
37
39 Ryan Newman U.S.Army Chevy
178.877
50.314
178.471
2
x
9 Bill Elliott Phoenix Racing Chevy
0
0
0
0
x
14 Tony Stewart Office Depot Chevy
0
0
0
0
x
24 Jeff Gordon Drive to End Hunger Chevy
0
0
0
0
x
48 Jimmie Johnson Kobalt Tools Chevy
0
0
0
0
x
83 Brian Vickers Red Bull Toyota
0
0
0
0
x
92 Brian Keselowski Discount Tire Dodge
0
0
0
0

10-Lap Average Speeds (must run 10 consecutive laps)

Rk
Car
Driver
From Lap
To Lap
Avg. Speed
1
78
Regan Smith
2
11
195.285
2
22
Kurt Busch
2
11
195.279
3
43
A.J. Allmendinger
2
11
192.964
4
5
Mark Martin
2
11
192.917
5
31
Jeff Burton
2
11
192.620
6
33
Clint Bowyer
2
11
192.582
7
38
Travis Kvapil(i)
1
10
192.513
8
34
David Gilliland
1
10
192.469
9
6
David Ragan
1
10
192.223
10
9
Marcos Ambrose
1
10
192.219
11
18
Kyle Busch
9
18
191.423
12
11
Denny Hamlin
9
18
191.328
13
2
Brad Keselowski
1
10
191.052
14
7
Robby Gordon
1
10
191.041
15
0
David Reutimann
9
18
190.734
16
47
Bobby Labonte
14
23
190.688
17
32
Terry Labonte
1
10
189.690
18
36
Dave Blaney
1
10
189.645

Sixth Practice Speeds (sorted by Best Lap)

Rk
Car
Driver Team
Best Lap
Best Time
Avg. Speed
Laps
1
5
Mark Martin GoDaddy.com Chevy
196.803
45.730
191.652
22
2
48
Jimmie Johnson Lowe's/KOBALT Tools Chevy
196.794
45.730
191.766
22
3
4
Kasey Kahne Red Bull Toyota
194.704
46.220
189.950
14
4
83
Brian Vickers Red Bull Toyota
194.700
46.220
190.070
24
5
17
Matt Kenseth Crown Royal Black Ford
193.857
46.430
191.406
7
6
16
Greg Biffle 3M Ford
193.857
46.430
191.475
7
7
39
Ryan Newman U.S.Army Chevy
193.669
46.470
189.951
31
8
22
Kurt Busch Shell/Pennzoil Dodge
193.661
46.470
183.704
13
9
24
Jeff Gordon Drive to End Hunger Chevy
193.424
46.530
190.567
36
10
88
Dale Earnhardt Jr. AMP Energy/National Guard Chevy
193.266
46.570
191.282
13
11
9
Bill Elliott Phoenix Construction Chevy
193.058
46.620
190.348
10
12
6
David Ragan UPS Ford
178.816
50.330
178.437
9

10-Lap Average Speeds (must run 10 consecutive laps)

Rk
Car
Driver
From Lap
To Lap
Avg. Speed
1
48
Jimmie Johnson
1
10
192.780
2
5
Mark Martin
1
10
192.732
3
88
Dale Earnhardt Jr.
1
10
191.493
4
24
Jeff Gordon
12
21
191.447
5
39
Ryan Newman
22
31
190.872
6
83
Brian Vickers
1
10
190.606
7
4
Kasey Kahne
1
10
190.560
8
9
Bill Elliott
1
10
190.417

Fifth Practice Speeds (sorted by Best Lap)

Rk
Car
Driver Team
Best Lap
Best Time
Avg. Speed
Laps
1
31
Jeff Burton Caterpillar Chevy
196.648
45.767
193.820
26
2
27
Paul Menard Menards/Peak Chevy
196.644
45.768
193.820
26
3
9
Marcos Ambrose Stanley Ford
195.839
45.956
191.170
20
4
6
David Ragan UPS Ford
195.839
45.956
191.787
19
5
11
Denny Hamlin FedEx Express Toyota
194.999
46.154
192.588
36
6
14
Tony Stewart Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevy
194.995
46.155
189.936
41
7
83
Brian Vickers Red Bull Toyota
194.334
46.312
189.888
19
8
4
Kasey Kahne Red Bull Toyota
194.330
46.313
189.913
19
9
43
A.J. Allmendinger Best Buy Ford
192.464
46.762
190.224
29
10
71
Andy Lally Super Eco-Fuel Saver Chevy
192.460
46.763
189.535
17
11
88
Dale Earnhardt Jr. AMP Energy/National Guard Chevy
191.898
46.900
190.435
12
12
99
Carl Edwards Aflac Ford
181.148
49.683
179.770
31

10-Lap Average Speeds (must run 10 consecutive laps)

Rk
Car
Driver
From Lap
To Lap
Avg. Speed
1
31
Jeff Burton
13
22
194.307
2
27
Paul Menard
13
22
194.305
3
11
Denny Hamlin
1
10
193.453
4
14
Tony Stewart
1
10
193.406
5
6
David Ragan
1
10
192.318
6
9
Marcos Ambrose
1
10
192.268
7
71
Andy Lally
2
11
190.836
8
43
A.J. Allmendinger
2
11
190.836
9
88
Dale Earnhardt Jr.
1
10
190.640
10
4
Kasey Kahne
1
10
190.563
11
83
Brian Vickers
1
10
190.518
12
99
Carl Edwards
6
15
180.357
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About Brian Polking

Racing has been part of Brian's life ever since he can remember, and he spent his childhood at dirt tracks throughout Ohio and Kentucky watching his father race. NASCAR naturally became his favorite sport, and he has been following the Cup, Nationwide and Truck Series for most of his life. Brian majored in journalism and economics at Ohio State University and becoming a sports writer has always been his dream. Although he has covered everything from minor league baseball to the NCAA tournament, his passion has always been NASCAR. Brian has served as a NASCAR writer for a variety of sites, eventually becoming head editor of the NASCAR section for Fanball.com. His knowledge of NASCAR comes from his life-long love of racing, and he tries to add a personal touch to every article he writes. Brian is always up for talking NASCAR with anyone that wants to. Brian joined KFFL's team in 2011.

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