Fantasy NASCAR practice recap: Aaron's 499

by Brian Polking on May 5, 2012 @ 07:23:59 PDT

 


The good news for fantasy owners is that the drivers got through a pair of practice sessions at Talladega Superspeedway Friday without triggering a big wreck. The bad news is that the chances of the same thing happening during Sunday's race are slim to none. The pack racing brought about by restrictor plates inevitably leads to a big wreck, and the likelihood only increases as the laps wind down. Another downer for owners is that practice times are far from reliable at such an unpredictable track. While the times do give hints as to which drivers have the better handling cars, it is anyone's guess as to whether or not they survive 200 laps at Talladega unscathed.

Kevin Harvick

With that in mind, Aric Almirola topped the charts in the opening practice. At the very least, it is a good sign for the young driver as he prepares for his first race with his new crew chief Mike Ford. Granted, nobody is expecting Almirola to suddenly produce the types of results that Ford and Denny Hamlin produced the last couple of years, but Almirola should only improve with the help of a proven winner atop his pit box. Going forward, Almirola could see a nice boost in value.

Michael Waltrip turned the second-fastest lap of the first practice, and fantasy owners should consider him a legitimate sleeper option. Sure, he only runs a handful of races these days, but he is a former Talladega winner and has four career wins at restrictor-plate tracks. Waltrip also finished in the top 10 at Talladega last fall, and there is no reason he can't do it again this weekend.

A trio of big names rounded out the top five, with Matt Kenseth, Jeff Gordon and Kevin Harvick claiming the spots. Gordon finished third at Talladega last spring, and his four wins at the track since 2004 are the most in the series. Meanwhile, Harvick has a win and three top-five finishes in his last four starts at the track. Surprisingly, Kenseth is the most risky option, even though he won the season opener at Daytona. He hasn't had a top-10 finish in his last 10 starts at Talladega, and he hasn't had a top-15 finish in his last nine starts.

In terms of 10-lap average speeds, Brad Keselowski led the way. His career at Talladega started with a bang, as he won in his first-ever start at the track. Keselowski hasn't slowed down, picking up four top-10s in six starts. He definitely deserves consideration from fantasy owners.

Harvick posted the second-best 10-lap average speed, with David Ragan, Carl Edwards and Tony Stewart rounding out the top five. Along with Harvick, big names Edwards and Stewart are the drivers to target. Edwards has been steadily improving at the plate tracks, finishing 11th or better in three of his last four starts at Talladega. Stewart is a former winner at the track, and he led the most laps at the track last fall.

In the final practice, Almirola grabbed the top spot once again. However, several big names, including Stewart and Harvick, took the safe approach and opted not to even take the track. It is more important for a driver to keep their primary car in one piece than to grab an extra few laps of practice.

Kenseth and his Roush Fenway Racing teammate Greg Biffle were next on the leaderboard, and owners have to like the point leader's chances this weekend. Biffle has been able to avoid the big wrecks in recent years, finishing in the top 20 in six straight starts. He has also finished seventh or better three times during the stretch, and he had a dominant car during Speedweeks at Daytona to open the year.

Denny Hamlin and Regan Smith rounded out the top five, and both drivers have plenty of value for fantasy owners this weekend. Hamlin has finished in the top 10 in three of his last four starts at the track. Meanwhile, has a pair of top-15 finishes in his last three starts at the track. Smith also posted the top 10-lap average speed in the session, but it should be noted that only six drivers ran enough laps to qualify.

Two names that didn't appear at the top of the charts were Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jimmie Johnson. However, fantasy owners shouldn't worry about the mediocre times. Both drivers have stout records at Talladega, and they spent the sessions working with each other and getting a feel for the draft. With seven wins between them, including Johnson's victory in this race last season when Junior pushed him to the checkered flag, there is a good chance the duo will be a factor Sunday.

Happy Hour Speeds (sorted by Best Lap)

Rk
Car
Driver
Make
Sponsor
Best Lap
Best Time
Laps
1
43
Ford
Verifone Sail
196.725
48.677
23
2
17
Ford
Best Buy
196.685
48.687
12
3
16
Ford
3M/O'Reilly Auto Parts
196.105
48.831
21
4
11
Toyota
FedEx Express
195.692
48.934
20
5
78
Chevrolet
Furniture Row/Farm American
195.620
48.952
12
6
38
Ford
Taco Bell
195.281
49.037
15
7
20
Toyota
Dollar General
195.118
49.078
21
8
9
Ford
Stanley
195.054
49.094
9
9
18
Toyota
M&M's
194.745
49.172
18
10
15
Toyota
Aaron's/Alabama National Champions
194.539
49.224
11
11
24
Chevrolet
DuPont 20 Years
193.917
49.382
14
12
55
Toyota
Aaron's "Color your way to Talladega"
193.697
49.438
11
13
10
Chevrolet
190.719
50.210
8
14
99
Ford
Fastenal
190.575
50.248
9
15
21
Ford
Motorcraft/Quick Lane Tire & Auto Center
190.450
50.281
14
16
22
Dodge
Shell/Pennzoil-AAA
189.936
50.417
9
17
36
Chevrolet
Golden Corral
189.736
50.470
7
18
26
Ford
Morristown Driver's Service
189.519
50.528
7
19
30
Toyota
Stock Car Steel and Aluminum
189.519
50.528
7
20
2
Dodge
Miller Lite
189.118
50.635
5
21
13
Ford
GEICO
188.954
50.679
6
22
88
Chevrolet
National Guard/Diet Mountain Dew
188.846
50.708
5
23
32
Ford
C&J Energy
188.552
50.787
3
24
48
Chevrolet
Lowe's
188.471
50.809
4
25
34
Ford
188.263
50.865
3
26
98
Ford
Curb Records
188.023
50.930
7
27
97
Toyota
187.265
51.136
10
28
87
Toyota
AMFMEnergy.com/Pellet & Wood Stoves
187.020
51.203
11
29
33
Chevrolet
Little Joe's Autos
186.383
51.378
11
30
47
Toyota
Bush's Baked Beans
186.148
51.443
21
31
93
Toyota
Burger King/Dr Pepper
185.927
51.504
15
32
49
Toyota
America Israel Racing/JPO Absorbents
185.761
51.550
7
33
23
Toyota
North Texas Pipe
185.219
51.701
9
34
83
Toyota
Burger King/Dr Pepper
185.108
51.732
13
35
1
Chevrolet
Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Boats
-
-
-
36
31
Chevrolet
Caterpillar
-
-
-
37
14
Chevrolet
Office Depot/Mobil 1
-
-
-
38
56
Toyota
NAPA Auto Parts
-
-
-
39
51
Chevrolet
Phoenix Construction Services
-
-
-
40
5
Chevrolet
Farmers Insurance
-
-
-
41
42
Chevrolet
Target/Kraft
-
-
-
42
39
Chevrolet
Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Boats
-
-
-
43
27
Chevrolet
Turtle Wax/Menards
-
-
-
44
29
Chevrolet
Rheem
-
-
-

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

Rk
Car
Driver
From Lap
To Lap
Avg. Speed
1
78
3
12
192.986
2
43
2
11
192.864
3
11
1
10
190.020
4
15
2
11
189.179
5
24
1
10
188.779
6
20
1
10
188.730

First Practice Speeds (sorted by Best Lap)

Rk
Car
Driver
Make
Sponsor
Best Lap
Best Time
Laps
1
43
Ford
Verifone Sail
199.172
48.079
21
2
55
Toyota
Aaron's "Color your way to Talladega"
198.343
48.280
21
3
17
Ford
Best Buy
197.986
48.367
18
4
24
Chevrolet
DuPont 20 Years
197.843
48.402
17
5
29
Chevrolet
Rheem
197.725
48.431
13
6
2
Dodge
Miller Lite
197.623
48.456
30
7
13
Ford
GEICO
197.447
48.499
11
8
39
Chevrolet
Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Boats
197.212
48.557
16
9
31
Chevrolet
Caterpillar
197.195
48.561
21
10
27
Chevrolet
Turtle Wax/Menards
197.151
48.572
10
11
34
Ford
197.106
48.583
16
12
14
Chevrolet
Office Depot/Mobil 1
197.033
48.601
26
13
11
Toyota
FedEx Express
196.847
48.647
16
14
18
Toyota
M&M's
196.831
48.651
25
15
99
Ford
Fastenal
196.689
48.686
23
16
20
Toyota
Dollar General
196.628
48.701
16
17
56
Toyota
NAPA Auto Parts
196.411
48.755
24
18
51
Chevrolet
Phoenix Construction Services
196.278
48.788
21
19
9
Ford
Stanley
196.254
48.794
10
20
5
Chevrolet
Farmers Insurance
195.888
48.885
19
21
42
Chevrolet
Target/Kraft
195.832
48.899
16
22
15
Toyota
Aaron's/Alabama National Champions
195.640
48.947
16
23
78
Chevrolet
Furniture Row/Farm American
195.425
49.001
12
24
16
Ford
3M/O'Reilly Auto Parts
195.257
49.043
15
25
1
Chevrolet
Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Boats
195.170
49.065
17
26
22
Dodge
Shell/Pennzoil-AAA
194.872
49.140
11
27
88
Chevrolet
National Guard/Diet Mountain Dew
194.741
49.173
15
28
32
Ford
C&J Energy
190.609
50.239
14
29
21
Ford
Motorcraft/Quick Lane Tire & Auto Center
190.158
50.358
7
30
48
Chevrolet
Lowe's
189.819
50.448
17
31
38
Ford
Taco Bell
189.193
50.615
7
32
26
Ford
Morristown Driver's Service
188.853
50.706
3
33
30
Toyota
Stock Car Steel and Aluminum
188.270
50.863
7
34
47
Toyota
Bush's Baked Beans
188.038
50.926
8
35
97
Toyota
187.651
51.031
3
36
10
Chevrolet
187.214
51.150
2
37
87
Toyota
AMFMEnergy.com/Pellet & Wood Stoves
186.896
51.237
3
38
49
Toyota
America Israel Racing/JPO Absorbents
185.581
51.600
3
39
23
Toyota
North Texas Pipe
185.524
51.616
3
40
83
Toyota
Burger King/Dr Pepper
185.409
51.648
6
41
98
Ford
Curb Records
185.015
51.758
2
42
36
Chevrolet
Golden Corral
184.801
51.818
8
43
93
Toyota
Burger King/Dr Pepper
184.242
51.975
6
44
33
Chevrolet
Little Joe's Autos
183.610
52.154
3

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

Rk
Car
Driver
From Lap
To Lap
Avg. Speed
1
2
2
11
195.697
2
29
2
11
195.567
3
34
3
12
195.556
4
99
3
12
195.443
5
14
5
14
195.371
6
43
4
13
195.256
7
55
6
15
194.229
8
18
12
21
193.561
9
31
3
12
193.461
10
78
2
11
193.149
11
24
1
10
191.168
12
51
2
11
189.243
13
15
7
16
188.772
14
1
8
17
183.926
15
27
1
10
177.451
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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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