Fantasy NASCAR practice recap: Auto Club 400

by Brian Polking on March 24, 2012 @ 22:49:33 PDT

 


After a forgettable 2011 season, Denny Hamlin is doing his best to show that he has recaptured the magic he had in 2010 when he won eight races and nearly won the title. With a victory at Phoenix already under his belt this year, Hamlin is looking like a real threat to capture his second win of the young season. He grabbed the pole for Sunday's race at Auto Club Speedway, and he kept the momentum going by topping the charts in the opening practice session Saturday and posting the best 10-lap average speed. With numbers like those, fantasy owners have to love Hamlin's chances of running well this weekend.

Denny Hamlin

Hamlin wasn't the only strong fantasy option to appear atop the leaderboard in the first practice. Three-time ACS winner Matt Kenseth ranked second on the charts, and with 10 finishes of seventh or better in his last 12 starts at the track, he should be a safe bet to grab a top-10.

Stewart-Haas Racing teammates Ryan Newman and Tony Stewart posted the third- and fourth-fastest laps, and Newman has posted back-to-back fifth-place finishes at ACS, while Stewart has a win and a 7.2 average finish at the track in his last five starts. Kevin Harvick rounded out the top five, and he happens to be the defending winner of this weekend's race. Fantasy owners can take their pick among the top-five drivers. All of them should have strong afternoons in Fontana.

In terms of 10-lap average speeds, a few new names crept toward to top. Hamlin and the SHR cars grabbed the top three spots, but Clint Bowyer and Carl Edwards rounded out the top five. Bowyer has four straight top-10 finishes at Auto Club Speedway and has been off to a strong start with Michael Waltrip Racing. Edwards is still looking for a statement performance in 2012, but he does have the second-best average finish at ACS. In 13 starts at the track, he has finished seventh or better 10 times.

The pole-sitter kept right on rolling in Happy Hour, as Hamlin topped the charts for the second time. Let's recap. Hamlin is on the pole, he posted the fastest lap in both practice sessions Saturday, and he had the best 10-lap average speed in both sessions. He may not have the best overall numbers at Auto Club Speedway for his career, but fantasy owners have to like their chances with the No. 11 this weekend.

Jeff Gordon showed signs of life in the session, posting the second-fastest lap. Bowyer, Jamie McMurray and Kyle Busch joined him in the top five, and fantasy owners have to question the fantasy value of all the drivers with the exception of Bowyer. Gordon and Busch are both big names, but both have had terrible luck thus far in 2012. Meanwhile, McMurray has finished outside the top 15 in his last 10 starts at Auto Club Speedway. If owners are going to take a chance on one of them, Busch seems like the driver to target. In addition to qualifying on the front row, he has finished in the top 10 in nine of his last 12 starts at ACS. Last year, he led the most laps and finished third at the track.

The top five in terms of 10-lap average speeds had several familiar faces. Hamlin was followed by Kenseth, with Busch, McMurray and Jimmie Johnson rounding things out. After hovering in the top 10 throughout the first practice Saturday, Johnson appeared to dial things up in his car during Happy Hour. Considering he is a five-time winner at ACS and has finished third or better in eight of his last nine starts at the track, fantasy owners can definitely add his name to the list of elite options.

In addition to Bowyer, fantasy owners may want to continue to ride the wave of momentum Michael Waltrip Racing has been on. All three MWR drivers ranked 11th or better in Happy Hour, and all three cars are in the top 10 in owner points. After placing all three cars in the top five last weekend at Bristol, the organization's success in practice Saturday could be the sign of another big afternoon Sunday.

Owners looking for a big name to avoid might want to consider Greg Biffle. Although he qualified in the top five, he didn't show much muscle in either practice Saturday. Biffle started on the pole last weekend before fading outside the top 10 by the finish. Based on his times, he could be heading to a similar fate this Sunday.

Happy Hour Speeds (sorted by Best Lap)

Rk
Car
Driver Make Sponsor
Best Lap
Best Time
Laps
1
11
Denny Hamlin Toyota FedEx Express
182.034
39.553
35
2
24
Jeff Gordon Chevrolet Drive to End Hunger
181.360
39.700
31
3
15
Clint Bowyer Toyota 5-hour Energy
181.214
39.732
37
4
1
Jamie McMurray Chevrolet Bass Pro Shops / Allstate
181.132
39.750
34
5
18
Kyle Busch Toyota Interstate Batteries
181.050
39.768
34
6
48
Jimmie Johnson Chevrolet Lowe's / Jimmie Johnson Foundation
180.968
39.786
47
7
29
Kevin Harvick Chevrolet Jimmy John's Gourmet Sandwiches
180.959
39.788
26
8
17
Matt Kenseth Ford Ford EcoBoost
180.637
39.859
36
9
56
Martin Truex Jr. Toyota NAPA Auto Parts
180.505
39.888
44
10
14
Tony Stewart Chevrolet Office Depot / Mobil 1
180.501
39.889
38
11
55
Mark Martin Toyota Aaron's Dream Machine
180.424
39.906
39
12
2
Brad Keselowski Dodge Miller Lite
180.424
39.906
47
13
99
Carl Edwards Ford Subway
180.243
39.946
37
14
5
Kasey Kahne Chevrolet Quaker State
180.216
39.952
26
15
9
Marcos Ambrose Ford Dewalt
180.203
39.955
26
16
88
Dale Earnhardt Jr. Chevrolet Diet Mountain Dew / National Guard
180.144
39.968
34
17
13
Casey Mears Ford GEICO
180.135
39.970
39
18
39
Ryan Newman Chevrolet U.S. Army
180.040
39.991
34
19
20
Joey Logano Toyota Dollar General
180.027
39.994
27
20
16
Greg Biffle Ford 3M
180.023
39.995
42
21
31
Jeff Burton Chevrolet Caterpillar
179.847
40.034
35
22
51
Kurt Busch Chevrolet Phoenix Construction Services
179.690
40.069
32
23
27
Paul Menard Chevrolet CertainTeed / Menards
179.650
40.078
39
24
10
David Reutimann Chevrolet Accell Construction
179.623
40.084
27
25
47
Bobby Labonte Toyota Charter
179.444
40.124
34
26
78
Regan Smith Chevrolet Furniture Row / Farm American
179.368
40.141
39
27
42
Juan Montoya Chevrolet Target
179.167
40.186
32
28
43
Aric Almirola Ford Medallion Financial
179.015
40.220
39
29
22
A.J. Allmendinger Dodge Southern California AAA
178.869
40.253
34
30
33
Brendan Gaughan Chevrolet South Point Hotel & Casino
178.213
40.401
37
31
34
David Ragan Ford Front Row Motorsports
178.174
40.410
22
32
98
Michael McDowell Ford Curb Records
177.427
40.580
18
33
26
Josh Wise Ford Morristown Driver's Service
177.070
40.662
3
34
38
David Gilliland Ford 1-800LoanMart
177.039
40.669
26
35
36
Dave Blaney Chevrolet Tommy Baldwin Racing
176.908
40.699
18
36
93
Travis Kvapil Toyota Burger King / Dr Pepper
176.592
40.772
29
37
83
Landon Cassill Toyota Burger King / Dr Pepper
176.445
40.806
28
38
74
Reed Sorenson Chevrolet Turn One Racing
175.786
40.959
8
39
32
Ken Schrader Ford U.S. Chrome / 1 Less Than 2 Ltd.
174.906
41.165
25
40
49
J.J. Yeley Toyota America Israel Racing
174.821
41.185
8
41
19
Mike Bliss Toyota Humphrey Smith Racing
174.250
41.320
4
42
23
Scott Riggs Chevrolet North Texas Pipe
173.837
41.418
7
43
30
David Stremme Toyota @TheNASCARFans
-
-
-

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

Rk
Car
Driver
From Lap
To Lap
Avg. Speed
1
11
Denny Hamlin
1
10
178.960
2
17
Matt Kenseth
1
10
177.977
3
18
Kyle Busch
1
10
177.943
4
1
Jamie McMurray
1
10
177.881
5
48
Jimmie Johnson
30
39
177.784
6
88
Dale Earnhardt Jr.
22
31
177.592
7
55
Mark Martin
20
29
177.501
8
2
Brad Keselowski
1
10
177.476
9
14
Tony Stewart
24
33
177.105
10
39
Ryan Newman
1
10
177.001
11
16
Greg Biffle
28
37
176.856
12
99
Carl Edwards
24
33
176.850
13
56
Martin Truex Jr.
1
10
176.594
14
51
Kurt Busch
22
31
176.550
15
13
Casey Mears
17
26
176.498
16
15
Clint Bowyer
6
15
176.296
17
78
Regan Smith
24
33
176.246
18
29
Kevin Harvick
10
10
176.245
19
31
Jeff Burton
26
35
176.153
20
27
Paul Menard
28
37
175.767
21
33
Brendan Gaughan
1
10
175.556
22
83
Landon Cassill
1
10
175.333
23
47
Bobby Labonte
20
29
174.396
24
98
Michael McDowell
1
10
174.305

Second Practice Speeds (sorted by Best Lap)

Rk
Car
Driver Make Sponsor
Best Lap
Best Time
Laps
1
11
Denny Hamlin Toyota FedEx Express
186.018
38.706
34
2
17
Matt Kenseth Ford Ford EcoBoost
185.209
38.875
28
3
39
Ryan Newman Chevrolet U.S. Army
184.928
38.934
30
4
14
Tony Stewart Chevrolet Office Depot / Mobil 1
184.554
39.013
25
5
29
Kevin Harvick Chevrolet Jimmy John's Gourmet Sandwiches
184.270
39.073
27
6
18
Kyle Busch Toyota Interstate Batteries
184.139
39.101
23
7
2
Brad Keselowski Dodge Miller Lite
183.875
39.157
39
8
99
Carl Edwards Ford Subway
183.758
39.182
25
9
48
Jimmie Johnson Chevrolet Lowe's / Jimmie Johnson Foundation
183.636
39.208
18
10
5
Kasey Kahne Chevrolet Quaker State
183.561
39.224
23
11
15
Clint Bowyer Toyota 5-hour Energy
183.552
39.226
28
12
22
A.J. Allmendinger Dodge Southern California AAA
183.510
39.235
29
13
56
Martin Truex Jr. Toyota NAPA Auto Parts
183.500
39.237
27
14
16
Greg Biffle Ford 3M
183.472
39.243
31
15
31
Jeff Burton Chevrolet Caterpillar
183.369
39.265
27
16
10
David Reutimann Chevrolet Accell Construction
183.276
39.285
18
17
24
Jeff Gordon Chevrolet Drive to End Hunger
183.052
39.333
31
18
78
Regan Smith Chevrolet Furniture Row / Farm American
182.871
39.372
26
19
47
Bobby Labonte Toyota Charter
182.820
39.383
31
20
20
Joey Logano Toyota Dollar General
182.746
39.399
28
21
55
Mark Martin Toyota Aaron's Dream Machine
182.658
39.418
18
22
88
Dale Earnhardt Jr. Chevrolet Diet Mountain Dew / National Guard
182.588
39.433
32
23
27
Paul Menard Chevrolet CertainTeed / Menards
182.306
39.494
32
24
43
Aric Almirola Ford Medallion Financial
182.034
39.553
21
25
51
Kurt Busch Chevrolet Phoenix Construction Services
181.997
39.561
29
26
42
Juan Montoya Chevrolet Target
181.731
39.619
15
27
1
Jamie McMurray Chevrolet Bass Pro Shops / Allstate
181.662
39.634
24
28
9
Marcos Ambrose Ford Dewalt
181.493
39.671
20
29
13
Casey Mears Ford GEICO
181.087
39.760
24
30
83
Landon Cassill Toyota Burger King / Dr Pepper
180.365
39.919
19
31
33
Brendan Gaughan Chevrolet South Point Hotel & Casino
180.162
39.964
29
32
30
David Stremme Toyota @TheNASCARFans
180.135
39.970
14
33
34
David Ragan Ford Front Row Motorsports
179.350
40.145
15
34
49
J.J. Yeley Toyota America Israel Racing
178.678
40.296
4
35
26
Josh Wise Ford Morristown Driver's Service
178.620
40.309
2
36
38
David Gilliland Ford 1-800LoanMart
177.962
40.458
16
37
93
Travis Kvapil Toyota Burger King / Dr Pepper
177.901
40.472
19
38
98
Michael McDowell Ford Curb Records
177.738
40.509
17
39
74
Reed Sorenson Chevrolet Turn One Racing
177.349
40.598
5
40
36
Dave Blaney Chevrolet Tommy Baldwin Racing
176.987
40.681
9
41
19
Mike Bliss Toyota Humphrey Smith Racing
176.826
40.718
4
42
32
Ken Schrader Ford U.S. Chrome / 1 Less Than 2 Ltd.
176.199
40.863
23
43
23
Scott Riggs Chevrolet North Texas Pipe
174.999
41.143
12

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

Rk
Car
Driver
From Lap
To Lap
Avg. Speed
1
11
Denny Hamlin
1
10
181.527
2
39
Ryan Newman
1
10
180.802
3
14
Tony Stewart
1
10
180.720
4
15
Clint Bowyer
1
10
180.436
5
99
Carl Edwards
1
10
180.230
6
47
Bobby Labonte
1
10
179.440
7
10
David Reutimann
1
10
179.185
8
2
Brad Keselowski
17
26
179.052
9
16
Greg Biffle
22
31
179.029
10
78
Regan Smith
16
25
178.550
11
56
Martin Truex Jr.
18
27
178.471
12
1
Jamie McMurray
12
21
177.906
13
88
Dale Earnhardt Jr.
19
28
177.902
14
18
Kyle Busch
13
22
177.808
15
17
Matt Kenseth
10
19
177.450
16
27
Paul Menard
21
30
177.396
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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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