In 2011, five drivers became first-time winners in the Cup Series, and apparently, A.J. Allmendinger doesnít want to wait long before making sure 2012 has a first-time winner, as well. After qualifying on the front row Friday, Allmendinger paced the opening practice session Saturday at Bristol. Big things were expected out of Allmendinger after his offseason move to Penske Championship Racing, and it looks he could start living up to those expectations Sunday.
Allmendinger was joined atop the leaderboard by several heavy hitters. Kyle Busch, Ryan Newman and Greg Biffle and Martin Truex Jr. rounded out the top five, and a strong argument can be made for all four drivers. Busch is the defending winner of this weekendís race and has won four of the last six races at Bristol. Newman has six top-10 finishes in his last seven starts at the track, while Biffle has four finishes of eight or better in his last five Bristol starts. Not to mention the fact that Biffle enters the race atop the standings thanks to three straight third-place finishes to start the year. Truex is the biggest question mark in the bunch, but he did finish second at Bristol last fall and is sitting in the top 10 in the standings three races into the 2012 season. Fantasy owners can consider Truex more of a sleeper option, while
Busch, Biffle and Newman look like top-five threats this weekend.
In terms of 10-lap average speeds, Kasey Kahne was the man to beat in the opening session. With three straight finishes of 11th or better at Bristol, he could definitely make a nice addition to fantasy rosters this weekend. Kahne was followed by Newman and Truex, while Matt Kenseth and Brad Keselowski rounded out the top five. Fantasy owners can feel free to throw Kenseth and Keselowski into the mix of solid picks. Kenseth is a two-time winner at Bristol, and he has finished in the top 10 in his last five starts at the track. Meanwhile, Keselowski has always been at his best at the short tracks, and he won at Bristol last August.
If there was a sleeper option that emerged during the opening session, it was Aric Almirola. The driver of the Richard Petty Motorsports No. 43 Ford put down the seventh-fastest lap of the practice and posted the sixth-best 10-lap average speed. He has limited seat time in the Cup Series, but one of his few career starts did result in an eighth-place finish at Bristol in 2008. Almirola will start in the top 10 Sunday, and based on his times, he could finish there, as well.
In Happy Hour, some familiar faces remained atop the charts. Newman and Busch led the way, while Keselowski and Kahne also cracked the top five. The wild card of the bunch was David Reutimann, who posted the fourth-best lap of the final session. Despite the fast lap, Reutimannís fantasy value is still suspect. He does have a second-place finish at Bristol, but for his career, he has a 22.5 average finish at the track. Throw in the fact that he hasnít even been able to keep the No. 10 car in the top 35 in owner points, and his chances of backing up his practice time on race day seem slim.
Newman stayed atop the charts in terms of 10-lap average speeds in the final session, but he was joined by some new names. Joey Logano, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Regan Smith and Jimmie Johnson rounded out the top five, and fantasy owners should target the two Hendrick Motorsports drivers as potential options. Johnson has three top-four finishes, including a win, in his last four starts at Bristol. Meanwhile, Junior leads all drivers with an 8.8 average finish at the track since the start of the 2002 season.
Fantasy owners looking for a big name to avoid may want to stay away from Carl Edwards. He ranked 18th and 32nd on the charts in Saturdayís two sessions, and he was only 27th out of 29 cars in terms of 10-lap average speeds in Happy Hour. Granted, Edwards is a two-time winner at Bristol, but he hasnít exactly been strong out of the gate in 2012. He could end up adjusting his way into contention like he did last weekend at Las Vegas, but Edwards has yet to hit his stride. With as bad as his practices times looked, saving Edwards for another day seems like the wise decision.
Happy Hour Speeds (sorted by Best Lap)
10-Lap Average Speeds (must run 10 consecutive laps)
Second Practice Speeds (sorted by Best Lap)
10-Lap Average Speeds (must run 10 consecutive laps)
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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