Fantasy NASCAR practice recap: Bojangles' Southern 500

by Brian Polking on May 12, 2012 @ 09:04:44 PDT

 


To say it was a surprise to see Kevin Harvick top the charts in the opening practice at Darlington Raceway Friday would be a major understatement. After all, he has an 18.9 average finish at the track for his career and just one top-10 in his last eight starts. More importantly, Richard Childress Racing has struggled at the track as a whole recently, failing to log a single top-five finish since the start of the 2005 season. RCR's last win at Darlington came way back in 1994, when Dale Earnhardt went to Victory Lane. Whether or not Harvick ends the drought remains to be seen, but despite the fast lap, fantasy owners should still temper expectations for Harvick this weekend.

Kevin Harvick

Harvick was followed by Greg Biffle, and owners should have no worries about using the point leader this weekend. He is a two-time winner at Darlington, and he has finished in the top 10 in two of his last three starts at the track. As well as he has been running this season, there is a good chance Biffle one of the drivers fighting for the win Saturday night at one of his best tracks.

Kurt Busch, Carl Edwards and Tony Stewart rounded out the top five, and Edwards is the main driver to target out of the group. He has finished in the top five in three of his last five starts at Darlington, including a pair of second-place finishes. Stewart is always worth considering, but he hasn't had the greatest record at Darlington. It is one of just two tracks where “Smoke” has never won in the Cup Series, and he has just one top-five finish in his last 13 starts. A top-10 finish isn't out of the question by any means, but owners that have come accustomed to Stewart battling for wins could end up disappointed.

Only 11 drivers ran 10 or more consecutive laps in the first practice, and Kyle Busch topped all eligible drivers by a sizeable margin. Busch is a former winner at Darlington, and although his overall record is somewhat up and down, he has recorded back-to-back solid finishes at the track. He also enters the race with plenty of momentum, coming off a win at Richmond and second-place effort at Talladega. Slowly but surely, Busch is rounding into form after a sluggish start.

In Happy Hour, A.J. Allmendinger followed Harvick's lead and surprised the competition by posting the fastest lap. He has been miserable at Darlington in his career, compiling a 27.4 average finish in five starts. In those starts, Allmendinger has never managed to crack the top 15. Maybe the move to Penske Championship Racing will help, but it is a pretty big gamble for fantasy owners to take given his track record.

Roush Fenway Racing teammates Biffle and Edwards ranked second and third in the final session, while Jimmie Johnson and Travis Kvapil rounded out the top five. Since he ran just a single lap in qualifying trim, Kvapil can pretty much be dismissed. Johnson on the other hand deserves serious consideration. The two-time Darlington winner is one of three active drivers to average a top-10 finish at the track. Johnson has been taking some heat for not winning a race this year, but outside of two disastrous finishes at Daytona and Talladega, he has finished 12th or better in every race this year. He is still getting it done at a high level.

Denny Hamlin took top honors in terms of 10-lap average speeds in Happy Hour. He leads all drivers with a 6.5 average finish at Darlington, and in six starts, he has never finished worse than 13th. Hamlin won at the track in 2010, and after a sixth-place run last year, there is no reason not to expect him to be a serious threat to win Saturday night.

There were only 18 drivers that ran at least 10 consecutive laps, and Hamlin, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Johnson and Kurt Busch were in their own class out of the eligible drivers. Given the consistency he has shown in 2012, Junior should be good for another solid run at a track where he has averaged a top-15 finish in his career. It is tough to show the same confidence in Busch, even with his strong practice times. He has a 22.7 average finish since joining Phoenix Racing, and he has just one top-10 finish in his last seven starts at Darlington.

One big name that was absent from the top of the charts was Jeff Gordon. The seven-time Darlington winner, ranked 28-h and 13th in the two sessions Friday and ranked just seventh out of 18 cars in terms of 10-lap average speed during Happy Hour. On the plus side, Gordon does have seven top-five finishes in his last eight starts at the track. That being said, his value has to take a slight hit given his practice times and his terrible luck in 2012. Don't rule out a top-10 effort, but a top-five finish is far from a lock.

Happy Hour Speeds (sorted by Best Lap)

Rk
Car
Driver
Make
Sponsor
Best Lap
Best Time
Laps
1
22
Dodge
Shell/Pennzoil-AAA
175.022
28.097
19
2
16
Ford
3M/O'Reilly Auto Parts
174.730
28.144
16
3
99
Ford
Ford EcoBoost
174.099
28.246
8
4
48
Chevrolet
Lowe's
174.087
28.248
26
5
73
Toyota
Burger King/Dr Pepper
173.626
28.323
1
6
27
Chevrolet
Turtle Wax/Menards
173.509
28.342
21
7
83
Toyota
Burger King/Dr Pepper
173.021
28.422
5
8
26
Ford
Morristown Driver's Service
172.687
28.477
4
9
98
Ford
Curb Records
172.572
28.496
4
10
30
Toyota
Stock Car Steel and Aluminum
172.360
28.531
6
11
2
Dodge
Miller Lite
172.281
28.544
28
12
56
Toyota
NAPA Auto Parts
172.269
28.546
20
13
11
Toyota
FedEx Express
172.052
28.582
34
14
14
Chevrolet
Office Depot/Mobil 1
172.034
28.585
32
15
18
Toyota
Wrigley's Doublemint
171.788
28.626
41
16
13
Ford
GEICO
171.668
28.646
22
17
55
Toyota
Aaron's Dream Machine
171.572
28.662
30
18
88
Chevrolet
National Guard/Diet Mountain Dew
171.548
28.666
31
19
43
Ford
Verifone Sail
171.524
28.670
27
20
51
Chevrolet
Phoenix Construction Services
171.452
28.682
25
21
79
Ford
Team Kyle/Koma Unwind
171.118
28.738
5
22
5
Chevrolet
Farmers Insurance
171.059
28.748
22
23
78
Chevrolet
Furniture Row/Farm American
170.970
28.763
26
24
10
Chevrolet
GoDaddy.com
170.851
28.783
9
25
23
Chevrolet
North Texas Pipe
170.851
28.783
5
26
1
Chevrolet
Bass Pro Shops/Allstate
170.815
28.789
30
27
15
Toyota
Aaron's/Alabama National Champions
170.655
28.816
37
28
24
Chevrolet
Drive to End Hunger/AARP
170.632
28.820
32
29
29
Chevrolet
Rheem
170.584
28.828
22
30
49
Toyota
America Israel Racing/JPO Absorbents
170.543
28.835
7
31
87
Toyota
AMFMEnergy.com/Pellet & Wood Stoves
170.501
28.842
7
32
19
Toyota
170.448
28.851
5
33
74
Chevrolet
170.413
28.857
3
34
33
Chevrolet
Little Joes Autos.com/Link-Belt
170.136
28.904
5
35
52
Toyota
CrusaderStaffing.com
170.124
28.906
6
36
31
Chevrolet
Caterpillar
170.047
28.919
30
37
39
Chevrolet
Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Boats
169.807
28.960
28
38
42
Chevrolet
Target/Kraft
169.760
28.968
30
39
17
Ford
Best Buy
169.695
28.979
27
40
9
Ford
Stanley
169.666
28.984
20
41
20
Toyota
Dollar General
169.461
29.019
38
42
38
Ford
Taco Bell
169.164
29.070
17
43
36
Chevrolet
SealWrap.com
169.007
29.097
26
44
10
Chevrolet
168.630
29.162
20
45
47
Toyota
Bush's Baked Beans
168.342
29.212
24
46
34
Ford
168.250
29.228
22
47
32
Ford
Southern Pride Trucking
167.027
29.442
22

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

Rk
Car
Driver
From Lap
To Lap
Avg. Speed
1
11
1
10
170.437
2
88
2
11
170.136
3
48
1
10
170.111
4
51
13
22
170.084
5
78
10
19
169.654
6
14
1
10
169.595
7
24
1
10
169.587
8
2
12
21
168.975
9
17
2
11
168.892
10
15
1
10
168.742
11
39
1
10
168.623
12
18
27
36
168.592
13
1
15
24
168.420
14
55
19
28
168.125
15
27
6
15
167.884
16
20
26
35
167.773
17
42
21
30
167.773
18
31
7
16
167.663

First Practice Speeds (sorted by Best Lap)

Rk
Car
Driver
Make
Sponsor
Best Lap
Best Time
Laps
1
29
Chevrolet
Rheem
177.090
27.769
39
2
16
Ford
3M/O'Reilly Auto Parts
176.290
27.895
56
3
51
Chevrolet
Phoenix Construction Services
175.993
27.942
33
4
99
Ford
Ford EcoBoost
175.760
27.979
51
5
14
Chevrolet
Office Depot/Mobil 1
175.647
27.997
33
6
56
Toyota
NAPA Auto Parts
175.403
28.036
39
7
48
Chevrolet
Lowe's
175.353
28.044
56
8
39
Chevrolet
Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Boats
175.353
28.044
44
9
20
Toyota
Dollar General
175.322
28.049
37
10
22
Dodge
Shell/Pennzoil-AAA
175.141
28.078
40
11
55
Toyota
Aaron's Dream Machine
175.078
28.088
40
12
17
Ford
Best Buy
174.985
28.103
42
13
24
Chevrolet
Drive to End Hunger/AARP
174.954
28.108
24
14
27
Chevrolet
Turtle Wax/Menards
174.891
28.118
54
15
42
Chevrolet
Target/Kraft
174.717
28.146
33
16
11
Toyota
FedEx Express
174.501
28.181
38
17
15
Toyota
Aaron's/Alabama National Champions
174.426
28.193
51
18
2
Dodge
Miller Lite
174.383
28.200
50
19
88
Chevrolet
National Guard/Diet Mountain Dew
174.358
28.204
41
20
78
Chevrolet
Furniture Row/Farm American
174.327
28.209
41
21
83
Toyota
Burger King/Dr Pepper
174.296
28.214
22
22
5
Chevrolet
Farmers Insurance
174.179
28.233
36
23
9
Ford
Stanley
174.167
28.235
39
24
43
Ford
Verifone Sail
174.062
28.252
33
25
31
Chevrolet
Caterpillar
173.970
28.267
39
26
18
Toyota
Wrigley's Doublemint
173.644
28.320
49
27
47
Toyota
Bush's Baked Beans
173.607
28.326
35
28
1
Chevrolet
Bass Pro Shops/Allstate
173.564
28.333
46
29
73
Toyota
Burger King/Dr Pepper
173.344
28.369
7
30
98
Ford
Curb Records
172.851
28.450
8
31
13
Ford
GEICO
172.663
28.481
35
32
34
Ford
172.432
28.519
32
33
26
Ford
Morristown Driver's Service
172.348
28.533
12
34
10
Chevrolet
172.239
28.551
18
35
36
Chevrolet
SealWrap.com
172.239
28.551
25
36
30
Toyota
Stock Car Steel and Aluminum
171.890
28.609
11
37
74
Chevrolet
171.770
28.629
12
38
38
Ford
Taco Bell
171.644
28.650
30
39
32
Ford
Southern Pride Trucking
171.638
28.651
33
40
19
Toyota
171.632
28.652
9
41
79
Ford
Team Kyle/Koma Unwind
171.620
28.654
11
42
23
Chevrolet
North Texas Pipe
171.393
28.692
18
43
 49
Toyota
America Israel Racing/JPO Absorbents
171.387
28.693
9
44
87
Toyota
AMFMEnergy.com/Pellet & Wood Stoves
171.279
28.711
13
45
33
Chevrolet
Little Joes Autos.com/Link-Belt
170.466
28.848
19
46
52
Toyota
CrusaderStaffing.com
169.438
29.023
6
47
10
Chevrolet
GoDaddy.com
167.997
29.272
49

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

Rk
Car
Driver
From Lap
To Lap
Avg. Speed
1
18
5
14
171.045
2
15
8
17
170.201
3
99
39
48
170.067
4
29
28
37
169.918
5
55
27
36
169.884
6
27
9
18
169.645
7
48
32
41
169.622
8
39
29
38
169.418
9
1
22
31
168.583
10
9
29
38
167.842
11
2
32
41
164.238
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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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