Practice at Infineon Raceway is as much about determining fuel mileage as it is dialing in the handling of a car. The race is scheduled for 110 laps, and on a full tank of gas, some teams have been able to run 35 laps. Sunday's race is likely going to feature just two pit stops for the drivers that plan on contending for the win, but crew chiefs have to know exactly how many laps their car can go in order to implement the proper strategy. A fast car is still important, but it won't end up in Victory Lane without the right calls on pit road.
In the first of two practice sessions Saturday, Jamie McMurray continued his strong weekend by topping the charts. Normally, it is his Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing teammate Juan Pablo Montoya leading the way, but McMurray qualified on the front row and appears to have a fast car in race trim as well. Despite a mediocre record at Infineon, McMurray may be worth a look from fantasy owners this weekend in need of a sleeper pick.
He was followed by Kurt Busch and Clint Bowyer, who have both had some success at Infineon in the past. Fast cars and bad luck have gone hand in hand for Busch at the track, but he is usually a top five threat when he stays out of trouble. Bowyer on the other hand is a more steady option, having finished eighth or better in three of his last four starts at Infineon.
Kyle Busch and A.J. Allmendinger rounded out the top five, and both should garner a lot of fantasy consideration. Busch is a former winner at Infineon, and Allmendinger has finished seventh and 13th in his last two starts at the track. With a background in road racing, Allmendinger in particular makes an exactly dark horse pick this weekend.
Just four drivers ran 10 or more consecutive laps in the first practice Saturday, and Brad Keselowski was the best of the bunch. Paul Menard and road racing expert Robby Gordon ranked second and third, and Carl Edwards was fourth out of four drivers.
Penske Racing continued to look strong in Happy Hour with Keselowski topping the charts. McMurray ranked second in the session, and Keselowski's teammate Kurt Busch ranked third. Montoya and Bowyer rounded out the top five, and Montoya solidified his status as one of the favorites Sunday. He has yet to finish outside the top 10 in four career starts at Infineon, and he won at the track in 2007.
Again, only four drivers ran 10 consecutive laps in Happy Hour, and Keselowski and McMurray ranked first and second. Denny Hamlin and Tony Stewart ranked third and fourth, but given the lack of competition, the feat isn't as impressive as it would be on a normal week. That being said, Keselowski has to be considered a possible fantasy option this weekend after topping or ranking near the top of the charts all afternoon.
Three big names struggled during the practices Saturday, highlighted by defending race winner Jimmie Johnson. He failed to crack the top 20 in either session, and the same was true for Tony Stewart and Greg Biffle. Stewart in particular is tough to write given his status as one of the top road racers in the series, but owners may want to look elsewhere this weekend given the suspect practice times.
Happy Hour Speeds (sorted by Best Lap)
First Practice Speeds (sorted by Best Lap)
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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