Fantasy NASCAR practice recap: Coca-Cola 600

by Brian Polking on May 26, 2012 @ 13:25:37 PDT

 


Denny Hamlin

In six starts in the Coca-Cola 600, a pair of ninth-place finishes has been the best Denny Hamlin has managed. However, three straight top-10 finishes at Charlotte and the fastest lap in Saturdayís opening practice point to a potential career-night in NASCARís longest race. Hamlin is sitting fourth in points with two wins under his belt in what has been a bounceback year for the No. 11 bunch. Fantasy owners scared off by his 16.6 career average finish at Charlotte should definitely reconsider before they miss out on another big performance from Hamlin.

Another driver attempting to shake off some rust at Charlotte during practice was Paul Menard. He enters Sundayís race with a 23.7 average finish at Charlotte and just one top-10 finish in 10 starts. However, he did finish eighth in the 2010 Coca-Cola 600, and he posted the second-fastest lap in the first practice Saturday. Menard has also had a history of success at 1.5-mile tracks, and while he isnít a sure thing, he is a potential sleeper option for owners.

Carl Edwards, Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. rounded out the top five in the opening session, and while all three deserve consideration, Busch is the top option to target. He rolls into Charlotte with four straight top-10 finishes, and he has finished eighth or better in eight of his last nine starts at the track. In fact, Busch has finished third or better three of his last four starts at Charlotte, and he led the most laps on his way to a second-place finish last fall. Busch is on a roll and heading into Sundayís race at one of his best tracks. A trip to Victory Lane is a definite possibility.

Of course, one fast lap isnít going to win a 600-mile marathon, and in terms of 10-lap average speeds, Truex led the way in the first practice. Itís the same story for Truex, who has been outperforming his career numbers at just about every track in 2012. With just two top-10s in 13 starts, his numbers at Charlotte are ugly. However, he has earned his way into the fantasy circle of trust for the time being, and until he cools off, there is no reason to think he wonít back up his practice times on race day.

Brad Keselowski and Menard ranked second and third in terms of 10-lap average speeds, while Jimmie Johnson and Mark Martin rounded out the top five. After qualifying sixth and showing some long-run speed, Martin looks like a save bet to finish in or around the top 10. Meanwhile, Johnson continues to establish himself as the driver to beat this weekend. After dominating at Darlington two weekends ago and the All-Star Race last weekend, he qualified third for Sundayís race. With six wins at Charlotte during the regular season and three more in the All-Star Race, Johnson is the frontrunner to win tomorrow night.

Keselowski kept the momentum going in Happy Hour, posting the fastest lap of the session. Like Truex and Menard, owners can add Keselowski to the list of drivers that have been mediocre at Charlotte in the past but look primed for a big weekend. The fact that he has been running his best over the past month, stringing together four straight top-15 finishes, only boosts his value further.

Edwards, Martin and Johnson were next on the charts, while Logano rounded out the top five. Given his past success at Charlotte, Logano could make a solid addition to fantasy rosters. He actually leads all active drivers with an 8.2 average finish at the track, and in six starts, he has never finished worse than 13th.

During the final practice, several familiar names topped the charts in terms of 10-lap average speeds. Johnson led the way, and he did so by a wide margin. Hamlin, Martin and Menard followed, while the lone newcomer to the top-five was Kevin Harvick. The defending race winner used fuel strategy to score the victory last year, but he does have three straight finishes of 11th or better at Charlotte. Harvick should have another solid run Sunday, but he probably doesnít have a car to challenge the likes of Johnson and Hamlin without another brilliant strategy call.

Owners looking for a couple of sleeper picks might want to consider Marcos Ambrose and A.J. Allmendinger. Ambrose is starting on the outside of the front row tomorrow night, and he finished fifth and sixth in two starts at Charlotte last year. Allmendinger finished seventh and fifth in his two starts at the track in 2011, and he rallied back from a cut tire to make the All-Star Race last weekend. More importantly, both drivers cracked the top 15 in both practice session Saturday.

Happy Hour Speeds (sorted by Best Lap)

Rk
Car
Driver
Make
Sponsor
Best Lap
Best Time
Laps
1
2
Dodge
Miller Lite
183.692
29.397
5
2
99
Ford
Fastenal
183.349
29.452
22
3
55
Toyota
Aaron's Armed Forces Foundation
183.231
29.471
29
4
48
Chevrolet
Lowe's Patriotic
183.231
29.471
14
5
20
Toyota
Dollar General
182.921
29.521
31
6
14
Chevrolet
Office Depot/Mobil 1
182.908
29.523
32
7
17
Ford
Fastenal
182.815
29.538
24
8
22
Dodge
Shell/Pennzoil
182.753
29.548
23
9
51
Chevrolet
Phoenix Construction Services
182.513
29.587
27
10
31
Chevrolet
Wheaties
182.445
29.598
30
11
56
Toyota
NAPA Auto Parts
182.445
29.598
26
12
1
Chevrolet
Bass Pro Shops/Arctic Cat
182.272
29.626
27
13
9
Ford
DEWALT
182.186
29.640
9
14
39
Chevrolet
U.S. Army
182.125
29.650
24
15
16
Ford
Fastenal
181.959
29.677
28
16
18
Toyota
M&M's Red, White & Blue
181.941
29.680
12
17
27
Chevrolet
Menards/Serta
181.885
29.689
20
18
78
Chevrolet
181.726
29.715
26
19
15
Toyota
5-hour Energy
181.665
29.725
5
20
11
Toyota
FedEx Ground
181.659
29.726
21
21
42
Chevrolet
Target
181.580
29.739
18
22
88
Chevrolet
National Guard 'An American Salute'/Diet Mountain Dew
181.494
29.753
36
23
29
Chevrolet
Budweiser Folds of Honor
181.269
29.790
25
24
10
Chevrolet
GoDaddy.com
181.226
29.797
31
25
5
Chevrolet
Quaker State
181.141
29.811
33
26
83
Toyota
Burger King Real Fruit Smoothies
180.880
29.854
38
27
21
Ford
Motorcraft/Quick Lane Tire & Auto Center
180.844
29.860
34
28
13
Ford
GEICO
180.644
29.893
22
29
95
Ford
Jordan's Truck Sales
180.499
29.917
7
30
26
Ford
MDS Transport
179.904
30.016
2
31
24
Chevrolet
Drive to End Hunger
179.742
30.043
42
32
93
Toyota
Dr Pepper
179.665
30.056
27
33
98
Ford
Presbyterian Healthcare System
179.587
30.069
32
34
43
Ford
U.S. Air Force
179.271
30.122
8
35
36
Chevrolet
SealWrap
179.212
30.132
23
36
34
Ford
Al's Liners/Scorpion Coatings
179.176
30.138
18
37
74
Chevrolet
178.218
30.300
4
38
33
Chevrolet
Little Joe's Autos/Precon
177.614
30.403
11
39
87
Toyota
Global Barter Corp/AM FM Energy Wood and Pellet Stoves/SWM Completion Tools
176.783
30.546
2
40
32
Ford
Green Smoke
175.970
30.687
20
41
38
Ford
ModSpace
-
-
-
42
47
Toyota
Kingsford
-
-
-
43
30
Toyota
-
-
-

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

Rk
Car
Driver
From Lap
To Lap
Avg. Speed
1
11
1
10
181.1730
2
88
1
10
180.1500
3
48
1
10
179.9620
4
51
1
10
179.9200
5
78
1
10
179.7930
6
14
1
10
179.7910
7
24
1
10
179.1470
8
2
17
26
178.2550
9
17
18
27
174.6760
10
15
21
30
174.0730

Second Practice Speeds (sorted by Best Lap)

Rk
Car
Driver
Make
Sponsor
Best Lap
Best Time
Laps
1
11
Toyota
FedEx Ground
186.239
28.995
33
2
27
Chevrolet
Menards/Serta
186.123
29.013
33
3
99
Ford
Fastenal
186.021
29.029
29
4
18
Toyota
M&M's Red, White & Blue
185.970
29.037
53
5
56
Toyota
NAPA Auto Parts
185.899
29.048
45
6
48
Chevrolet
Lowe's Patriotic
185.701
29.079
33
7
2
Dodge
Miller Lite
185.631
29.090
41
8
15
Toyota
5-hour Energy
185.624
29.091
31
9
29
Chevrolet
Budweiser Folds of Honor
185.395
29.127
29
10
39
Chevrolet
U.S. Army
185.331
29.137
29
11
9
Ford
DEWALT
185.192
29.159
34
12
55
Toyota
Aaron's Armed Forces Foundation
185.109
29.172
44
13
22
Dodge
Shell/Pennzoil
184.963
29.195
44
14
88
Chevrolet
National Guard 'An American Salute'/Diet Mountain Dew
184.799
29.221
20
15
43
Ford
U.S. Air Force
184.767
29.226
33
16
24
Chevrolet
Drive to End Hunger
184.710
29.235
32
17
17
Ford
Fastenal
184.634
29.247
36
18
14
Chevrolet
Office Depot/Mobil 1
184.609
29.251
35
19
16
Ford
Fastenal
184.540
29.262
32
20
78
Chevrolet
184.508
29.267
24
21
26
Ford
MDS Transport
184.395
29.285
1
22
20
Toyota
Dollar General
184.332
29.295
34
23
31
Chevrolet
Wheaties
184.269
29.305
34
24
42
Chevrolet
Target
184.118
29.329
24
25
1
Chevrolet
Bass Pro Shops/Arctic Cat
183.930
29.359
31
26
5
Chevrolet
Quaker State
183.855
29.371
31
27
21
Ford
Motorcraft/Quick Lane Tire & Auto Center
182.995
29.509
27
28
10
Chevrolet
GoDaddy.com
182.482
29.592
35
29
51
Chevrolet
Phoenix Construction Services
182.113
29.652
20
30
47
Toyota
Kingsford
182.008
29.669
29
31
13
Ford
GEICO
181.714
29.717
19
32
95
Ford
Jordan's Truck Sales
181.696
29.720
28
33
36
Chevrolet
SealWrap
181.684
29.722
30
34
83
Toyota
Burger King Real Fruit Smoothies
181.684
29.722
27
35
38
Ford
ModSpace
181.604
29.735
35
36
34
Ford
Al's Liners/Scorpion Coatings
181.208
29.800
34
37
93
Toyota
Dr Pepper
181.123
29.814
29
38
74
Chevrolet
181.093
29.819
12
39
32
Ford
Green Smoke
180.355
29.941
19
40
98
Ford
Presbyterian Healthcare System
180.301
29.950
15
41
87
Toyota
Global Barter Corp/AM FM Energy Wood and Pellet Stoves/SWM Completion Tools
180.084
29.986
10
42
33
Chevrolet
Little Joe's Autos/Precon
179.976
30.004
12
43
30
Toyota
178.648
30.227
17

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

Rk
Car
Driver
From Lap
To Lap
Avg. Speed
1
56
1
10
183.644
2
2
1
10
183.564
3
27
1
10
183.149
4
48
1
10
182.653
5
55
16
25
182.486
6
11
17
26
181.577
7
18
28
37
181.341
8
16
22
31
181.159
9
22
27
36
180.901
10
43
11
20
180.759
11
24
21
30
180.448
12
31
17
26
180.438
13
14
12
21
180.399
14
83
10
19
180.335
15
20
24
33
179.752
16
1
21
30
179.032
17
38
16
25
178.860
18
34
22
31
178.428
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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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