Fantasy NASCAR practice recap: Auto Club 400

by Brian Polking on March 26, 2011 @ 17:57:45 PDT

 


For just the second time since Auto Club Speedway joined the Cup Series schedule, teams are preparing for a 400-mile race. With 100 fewer miles to work with, drivers will be focused on getting to the front in a hurry. The result could be a more physical race with more cautions than usual, and it was clear in practice that teams were planning accordingly. In both sessions, less than half the field ran 10 or more consecutive laps. In addition, many of the go or go homers ran very few laps in Happy Hour, inflating their overall average speeds.

The first session of the afternoon was paced by Kevin Harvick, who turned a lap of 181.146 mph to top the charts. He has been dialed in at the 2.0-mile tracks lately. In addition to his win at Michigan, Harvick finished second at Auto Club Speedway and has three straight top-10s at the track.

Denny Hamlin, who won the other race at Michigan last season, ranked second on the charts. He was followed by heavy hitters Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch, while Jeff Gordon rounded out the top five. Edwards and Busch should draw the most attention from fantasy owners. Both drivers have been strong in 2011, and both are former winners at ACS.

Tony Stewart

Two drivers having solid starts to the year led the way in terms of 10-lap average speeds. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Ryan Newman ranked first and second. Unfortunately, neither driver has had a lot of success at ACS in the past, making it tough to endorse either as a sure fire option. If you are looking for a dark horse option, Newman is the way to go. He did manage a top-five finish in Fontana last fall.

Clint Bowyer, Jimmie Johnson and Tony Stewart rounded out the top five, and all three should be on fantasy rosters. Johnson is a five-time winner at the track, and Stewart and Bowyer finished first and second in the fall event last season. Stewart hasn't finished outside the top-10 at the track since joining Stewart-Haas Racing.

In the final session, David Ragan was the surprise leader. Ragan has doesn't much since the 2008 season, but the 2.0-mile tracks have remained some of his best. Fantasy owners that are in need of a sleeper option should consider Ragan. History says he can manage at least a top-20 effort.

Stewart and Edwards continued to run strong, ranking second and third, while Hendrick Motorsports teammates Mark Martin and Gordon rounded out the top-five. All four drivers make respectable fantasy options, but Stewart and Edwards have to be at the top of the list of options. They have been running too well this season and too well in Fontana lately not to be rostered this weekend.

"Smoke" capped his impressive afternoon of practice by posting the top 10-lap average speed in Happy Hour. Bowyer ranked second, and Johnson continued to show some muscle on long runs, ranking third. Junior posted the fourth-best 10-lap average speed in final session, and Jeff Burton rounded out the top-five.

Two drivers that didn't perform as well as expected were Kasey Kahne and Brian Vickers. Red Bull Racing has had a lot of success at ACS, but neither driver had a top-15 car in the opening session. They made some strides in the final practice, but Kahne and Vickers don't appear to have top-10 cars for Sunday's race.

Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing teammates Juan Pablo Montoya and Jamie McMurray struggled on the speed charts as well. Montoya may be starting on the pole, but he and McMurray were consistently in the bottom half of the field Saturday.

Perhaps the biggest name to struggle during the sessions was Kurt Busch. He is the only driver to finish in the top-10 in all four races this season, but he ranked outside the top-20 in both practices. Busch has been able to salvage decent days with mediocre cars in the past, but it looks like he will have his work cut out for him Sunday.

Fantasy owners looking for a few more sleeper options should consider Paul Menard, Trevor Bayne and Marcos Ambrose. All three cracked the top-10 during various sessions Saturday. In the middle of a career year, Menard is at the top of the list.

Happy Hour Speeds (sorted by Avg. Speed)

Rk indicates Best Lap standing

Rk
Car
Driver Team
Best Lap
Best Time
Avg. Speed
Laps
4
5
Mark Martin GoDaddy.com Chevy
180.659
39.854
177.538
27
33
34
David Gilliland Taco Bell Ford
176.691
40.749
177.296
22
13
48
Jimmie Johnson Lowe's Chevy
179.274
40.162
177.223
32
9
21
Trevor Bayne Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford
179.901
40.022
177.198
24
18
88
Dale Earnhardt Jr. AMP Energy/National Guard Chevy
178.966
40.231
177.152
35
2
14
Tony Stewart Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevy
180.800
39.823
177.059
36
3
99
Carl Edwards Aflac Ford
180.691
39.847
177.044
27
16
83
Brian Vickers Red Bull Toyota
179.109
40.199
176.998
26
1
6
David Ragan UPS Ford
180.973
39.785
176.946
28
6
18
Kyle Busch Interstate Batteries Toyota
180.207
39.954
176.937
29
5
24
Jeff Gordon Drive To End Hunger Chevy
180.320
39.929
176.883
28
10
31
Jeff Burton Caterpillar Chevy
179.829
40.038
176.859
43
41
32
Ken Schrader VA Mortgage Company Ford
174.897
41.167
176.728
18
25
56
Martin Truex Jr. NAPA Toyota
178.470
40.343
176.590
35
21
29
Kevin Harvick Jimmy John's Chevy
178.771
40.275
176.570
34
14
4
Kasey Kahne Red Bull Toyota
179.198
40.179
176.547
26
17
1
Jamie McMurray Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Chevy
179.015
40.220
176.460
34
15
17
Matt Kenseth Crown Royal Ford
179.158
40.188
176.453
32
12
11
Denny Hamlin FedEx Office Toyota
179.323
40.151
176.405
44
31
66
Michael McDowell HP Racing LLC Toyota
177.524
40.558
176.357
8
11
39
Ryan Newman U.S. Army Chevy
179.538
40.103
176.290
39
26
20
Joey Logano Home Depot Toyota
178.399
40.359
176.255
38
24
16
Greg Biffle 3M Ford
178.527
40.330
176.075
30
22
43
A.J. Allmendinger Best Buy Ford
178.638
40.305
176.064
28
27
00
David Reutimann Aaron's/HP Partner of the Year Toyota
178.355
40.369
175.933
28
28
42
Juan Pablo Montoya Target Chevy
178.138
40.418
175.904
29
23
78
Regan Smith Furniture Row Chevy
178.545
40.326
175.644
33
20
2
Brad Keselowski Miller Lite Dodge
178.811
40.266
175.439
37
34
87
Joe Nemechek NEMCO Motorsports Toyota
176.406
40.815
175.421
5
29
9
Marcos Ambrose DeWalt Ford
177.976
40.455
175.245
32
30
22
Kurt Busch Southern California AAA Dodge
177.651
40.529
175.202
23
19
13
Casey Mears GEICO Toyota
178.922
40.241
175.156
32
32
47
Bobby Labonte Little Debbie Toyota
177.192
40.634
174.972
27
37
7
Robby Gordon SPEED Energy/Food 4 Less Dodge
175.949
40.921
174.815
18
39
46
J.J. Yeley Red Line Chevy
175.653
40.990
174.609
9
35
36
Dave Blaney Accell Construction Chevy
176.388
40.819
174.407
18
36
09
Landon Cassill Security Benefit Chevy
176.082
40.890
174.362
24
38
71
Andy Lally Eco-Fuel Saver Chevy
175.683
40.983
173.861
28
8
27
Paul Menard Serta/Menards Chevy
179.933
40.015
173.591
35
40
38
Travis Kvapil Long John Silver's Ford
175.212
41.093
173.168
19
7
33
Clint Bowyer Ronald Reagan Fndtn's Centennial Chevy
180.036
39.992
173.120
28
43
37
Tony Raines Race Fuel Energy Ford
173.369
41.530
172.384
15
42
60
Todd Bodine Big Red Toyota
174.613
41.234
171.966
18

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

Rk
Car
Driver
From Lap
To Lap
Avg. Speed
1
14
1
10
177.794
2
33
1
10
177.779
3
48
14
23
177.616
4
88
1
10
177.348
5
31
1
10
177.305
6
24
19
28
176.895
7
11
25
34
176.871
8
56
25
34
176.650
9
18
20
29
176.603
10
27
15
24
176.524
11
39
30
39
176.486
12
20
1
10
176.445
13
42
11
20
176.389
14
13
22
31
176.122
15
00
11
20
175.539
16
9
23
32
175.415
17
78
23
32
175.213
18
22
14
23
175.205
19
47
18
27
175.188
20
34
8
17
175.072

Second Practice Speeds (sorted by Avg. Speed)

Rk indicates Best Lap standing

Rk
Car
Driver Team
Best Lap
Best Time
Avg. Speed
Laps
3
99
Carl Edwards Aflac Ford
180.591
39.869
177.757
18
1
29
Kevin Harvick Jimmy John's Chevy
181.146
39.747
177.443
27
7
5
Mark Martin GoDaddy.com Chevy
180.099
39.978
177.422
30
5
24
Jeff Gordon Drive To End Hunger Chevy
180.212
39.953
177.352
14
20
33
Clint Bowyer Ronald Reagan Fndt Cent'nial Chevy
178.886
40.249
177.185
28
19
27
Paul Menard Serta/Menards Chevy
178.926
40.240
177.152
20
15
39
Ryan Newman U.S. Army Chevy
179.310
40.154
176.932
28
25
4
Kasey Kahne Red Bull Toyota
178.394
40.360
176.879
12
13
88
Dale Earnhardt Jr. AMP Energy/National Guard Chevy
179.417
40.130
176.844
25
18
83
Brian Vickers Red Bull Toyota
179.015
40.220
176.700
28
22
42
Juan Pablo Montoya Target Chevy
178.833
40.261
176.649
17
4
18
Kyle Busch Interstate Batteries Toyota
180.307
39.932
176.603
28
16
56
Martin Truex Jr. NAPA Toyota
179.305
40.155
176.593
22
17
20
Joey Logano Home Depot Toyota
179.203
40.178
176.565
25
10
9
Marcos Ambrose DeWalt Ford
179.730
40.060
176.458
24
11
17
Matt Kenseth Crown Royal Ford
179.690
40.069
176.442
24
21
43
A.J. Allmendinger Best Buy Ford
178.855
40.256
176.442
20
29
1
Jamie McMurray Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Chevy
178.024
40.444
176.430
23
12
48
Jimmie Johnson Lowe's Chevy
179.435
40.126
176.307
29
6
14
Tony Stewart Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevy
180.198
39.956
176.213
25
34
66
Michael McDowell HP Racing LLC Toyota
176.164
40.871
176.164
1
8
31
Jeff Burton Caterpillar Chevy
180.054
39.988
176.131
31
23
6
David Ragan UPS Ford
178.629
40.307
176.003
31
14
78
Regan Smith Furniture Row Chevy
179.345
40.146
175.970
19
26
21
Trevor Bayne Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford
178.284
40.385
175.947
16
9
16
Greg Biffle 3M Ford
180.027
39.994
175.854
22
2
11
Denny Hamlin FedEx Office Toyota
180.841
39.814
175.738
30
32
13
Casey Mears GEICO Toyota
176.770
40.731
175.607
12
35
46
J.J. Yeley Red Line Chevy
176.112
40.883
175.586
4
24
22
Kurt Busch Southern California AAA Dodge
178.434
40.351
175.554
22
28
47
Bobby Labonte Little Debbie Toyota
178.183
40.408
175.517
23
27
2
Brad Keselowski Miller Lite Dodge
178.266
40.389
174.895
27
30
00
David Reutimann Aaron's/HP Partner of the Year Toyota
177.918
40.468
174.695
22
33
36
Dave Blaney Accell Construction Chevy
176.765
40.732
174.441
11
37
60
Todd Bodine Big Red Toyota
175.246
41.085
174.194
8
31
09
Landon Cassill Security Benefit Chevy
177.200
40.632
174.152
24
38
32
Ken Schrader VA Mortgage Company Ford
175.059
41.129
174.079
13
36
7
Robby Gordon SPEED Energy/Food 4 Less Dodge
175.541
41.016
173.299
18
41
34
David Gilliland Taco Bell Ford
174.723
41.208
173.089
15
39
71
Andy Lally Eco-Fuel Saver Chevy
174.961
41.152
172.791
20
40
38
Travis Kvapil Long John Silver's Ford
174.804
41.189
172.640
15
42
37
Tony Raines Race Fuel Energy Ford
171.940
41.875
170.764
15

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

Rk
Car
Driver
From Lap
To Lap
Avg. Speed
1
88
1
10
177.941
2
39
19
28
177.829
3
33
1
10
177.712
4
48
1
10
177.700
5
14
1
10
177.639
6
18
1
10
177.561
7
27
1
10
177.398
8
5
20
29
177.297
9
43
1
10
177.253
10
31
20
29
176.494
11
83
6
15
176.054
12
11
18
27
175.346
13
2
17
26
174.563

Combined Average Speeds (weighted by # of laps run in each session)

Car
Driver
Team
Average Speed
Total Laps
99
Aflac Ford
179.517
45
24
Drive To End Hunger Chevy
179.331
42
5
GoDaddy.com Chevy
178.955
57
27
Serta/Menards Chevy
178.922
55
14
Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevy
178.920
61
33
Ronald Reagan Fndt Cent'nial Chevy
178.611
56
4
Red Bull Toyota
178.466
38
39
U.S. Army Chevy
178.449
67
18
Interstate Batteries Toyota
178.437
57
6
UPS Ford
178.362
59
21
Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford
178.319
40
31
Caterpillar Chevy
178.280
74
29
Jimmy John's Chevy
178.183
61
88
AMP Energy/National Guard Chevy
178.082
60
13
GEICO Toyota
178.018
44
17
Crown Royal Ford
177.994
56
1
Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Chevy
177.972
57
11
FedEx Office Toyota
177.870
74
48
Lowe's Chevy
177.863
61
83
Red Bull Toyota
177.860
54
56
NAPA Toyota
177.746
57
43
Best Buy Ford
177.723
48
20
Home Depot Toyota
177.671
63
78
Furniture Row Chevy
177.604
52
42
Target Chevy
177.588
46
16
3M Ford
177.396
52
66
HP Racing LLC Toyota
177.373
9
9
DeWalt Ford
177.325
56
2
Miller Lite Dodge
177.159
64
00
Aaron's/HP Partner of the Year Toyota
176.745
50
22
Southern California AAA Dodge
176.626
45
47
Little Debbie Toyota
176.422
50
87
AM FM Energy
176.406
5
36
Accell Construction Chevy
175.649
29
46
Red Line Chevy
175.632
13
34
Taco Bell Ford
175.231
37
09
Security Benefit Chevy
175.117
48
7
SPEED Energy/Food 4 Less Dodge
174.624
36
32
VA Mortgage Company Ford
174.554
31
60
Big Red Toyota
174.484
26
71
Eco-Fuel Saver Chevy
174.478
48
38
Long John Silver's Ford
174.077
34
37
Race Fuel Energy Ford
172.067
30
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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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