Fantasy NASCAR practice recap: Quicken Loans 400

by Brian Polking on June 16, 2012 @ 09:38:51 PDT

 


Mark Martin

If Father Time wants to catch up with Mark Martin, he is going to need a pretty fast racecar. For the third race in a row Martin posted the fastest lap in the opening practice session, topping 201 mph on the freshly repaved surface of Michigan International Speedway. Considering Martin's five wins at MIS are his most at any track, there is a good chance that another strong weekend is on tap for the veteran. He finished fourth and ninth at Michigan one year ago, and fantasy owners shouldn't hesitate to add him to their lineups.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. posted the second-fastest lap of the practice, and it was at the June race at Michigan four years ago that he last went to Victory Lane in a Cup Series event. Junior is having by far his best season with Hendrick Motorsports, and for the first time in a long time, he looks like a driver capable of winning races. He leads the series with 11 top-10s in 2012, and even if he doesn't snap his winless drought this weekend, Junior is a safe bet to at least be near the front. He should definitely make a solid addition to fantasy rosters,

Sleeper candidate Trevor Bayne posted the third-fastest lap in the first session, and Tony Stewart and Matt Kenseth rounded out the top five. Bayne finished 16th at MIS last June, and since he will be driving the same Roush Fenway Racing equipment that has been dominant at the track, a top-15 finish is certainly within reach. Meanwhile, Stewart and Kenseth should both be contenders for the win Sunday. Stewart has nine finishes of 12th or better in his last 10 starts at Michigan, including four straight finishes of ninth or better. Kenseth is riding a streak of three straight top-10 finishes at MIS in his own right, and he finished second in the June event one year ago.

Only three drivers ran 10 or more consecutive laps, and Jimmie Johnson was the best of the three. He has never won a race at Michigan, and after a second-place finish at the track last August, it was clear that Johnson and company were focusing on race trim in the first session Friday. His 52 laps run were the most of any driver, and while some of the drivers in qualifying trim were topping 200 mph, Johnson topped out at just shy of 197 mph. Given Michigan's tendency to feature long green flag runs on race day, the strategy might not end up being a bad one for Johnson.

The record-setting speeds only increased during Happy Hour, and Greg Biffle paced the session with a lap of nearly 205 mph. He is a two-time winner at Michigan, and after giving up the points lead last weekend, Biffle will be anxious to regain the top spot. He only has two finishes outside the top 15 all year, and at a track like Michigan that has traditionally been kind to Ford teams, Biffle should rebound nicely from last weekend's engine issues at Pocono.

Marcos Ambrose posted the second-fastest lap of the session, and Kevin Harvick ranked third. Harvick won at the track in August of 2010, but by his standards, MIS hasn't been his most consistent track. Meanwhile, Ambrose has never finished in the top 10 at the track, and he has a dismal 27.0 average finish in seven starts. Based on career numbers, neither driver is an amazing fantasy option. That being said, Ambrose has been enjoying his best stretch of the season the last month, and a top-15 finish isn't out of the question. After his fast practice times, he could be worth the gamble.

Two-time Michigan winner Carl Edwards and Paul Menard rounded out the top 10, and fantasy owners have to make a tough decision with both drivers. In his last 10 starts at the track, Edwards has finished seventh or better eight times and has finished outside the top 12 only once. However, he just can't seem to get on track in 2012. Still, seeing him high on the practice charts at one of his best tracks makes Edwards tough for owners to pass up. Menard, on the other hand, finished fourth in the June race at MIS last year but has finished 24th or worse in six of his last seven starts at the track. Like Ambrose, Menard has been running well lately, and owners willing to gamble a bit could be rewarded.

A few more drivers tried some longer runs in the final session, and Junior posted the best 10-lap average speed among the 14 eligible drivers. Kenseth ranked second, and Martin also cracked the top five. The newcomers to the top of the charts were Hendrick Motorsports teammates Kasey Kahne and Jeff Gordon. Gordon has finished sixth or better in four of his last six starts at Michigan, and Kahne is a former winner at the track and has finished second on three other occasions, as well. More importantly, all four HMS drivers ranked in the top six in terms of 10-lap average speeds. With speeds on the new surface at record highs and tire wear a major concern, drivers that hold up the best on the long runs should have a huge edge. Fantasy owners should strongly consider loading up on Rick Hendrick's guys this weekend.

In addition to Bayne, fantasy owners may want to consider Austin Dillon as a sleeper pick. He is driving for his grandfather Richard Childress this weekend, and he ranked inside the top 15 in both practice sessions. The defending Truck Series champion has been tearing it up in his rookie year in the Nationwide Series, and the talented young driver has future star written all over him. Dillon seemed to handle the high speeds at Michigan just fine in practice, and he could be a surprise source for a top-20 finish in one of his rare Cup starts.

One big name owners may want to avoid is Kyle Busch. Even though he finished third and first at Michigan last season, he didn't seem to have a great handle on the new surface in the practices Friday. He ranked 12th and 30th in the two sessions and was the slowest of 14 cars in terms of 10-lap average speed in Happy Hour. Throw in the fact that he has suffered mechanical issues in each of the past two races, and Busch is a risky option this weekend.

Happy Hour Speeds (sorted by Best Lap)

Rk
Car
Driver
Make
Sponsor
Best Lap
Best Time
Laps
1
16
Ford
3M/Rite Aid/Nexcare
204.708
35.172
14
2
9
Ford
Stanley
203.551
35.372
14
3
29
Chevrolet
Budweiser Folds of Honor
202.954
35.476
26
4
99
Ford
Fastenal
202.943
35.478
23
5
27
Chevrolet
Menards/Duracell
201.737
35.690
41
6
21
Ford
Motorcraft/Quick Lane Tire & Auto Center
201.506
35.731
20
7
48
Chevrolet
Lowe's
201.247
35.777
22
8
20
Toyota
The Home Depot
201.078
35.807
28
9
51
Chevrolet
Phoenix Construction Services
201.027
35.816
18
10
17
Ford
Ford EcoBoost
200.798
35.857
41
11
11
Toyota
FedEx Office
200.775
35.861
24
12
22
Dodge
Shell/Pennzoil
200.574
35.897
32
13
33
Chevrolet
American Ethanol
200.106
35.981
25
14
31
Chevrolet
Caterpillar
200.072
35.987
26
15
98
Ford
Presbyterian Healthcare System
199.374
36.113
2
16
47
Toyota
Charter
199.181
36.148
16
17
19
Toyota
198.967
36.187
1
18
83
Toyota
Burger King
198.956
36.189
8
19
13
Ford
Valvoline NextGen
198.752
36.226
24
20
78
Chevrolet
198.654
36.244
26
21
30
Toyota
198.451
36.281
12
22
5
Chevrolet
Farmers Insurance
198.325
36.304
55
23
87
Toyota
AM/FM Energy Wood & Pellet Stoves
198.189
36.329
7
24
55
Toyota
Aaron's Dream Machine
198.145
36.337
64
25
88
Chevrolet
Diet Mtn. Dew/The Dark Knight Rises/National Guard
198.020
36.360
54
26
24
Chevrolet
DuPont
197.623
36.433
55
27
14
Chevrolet
Office Depot/Mobil 1
197.553
36.446
48
28
49
Toyota
America Israel Racing/JPO Absorbents
197.466
36.462
3
29
26
Ford
MDS Transport
197.314
36.490
10
30
18
Toyota
Snickers
197.298
36.493
41
31
56
Toyota
NAPA Auto Parts
197.109
36.528
54
32
23
Chevrolet
North Texas Pipe
197.039
36.541
9
33
39
Chevrolet
U.S. Army
196.915
36.564
58
34
15
Toyota
5-hour Energy
196.797
36.586
44
35
42
Chevrolet
Target
196.603
36.622
30
36
74
Chevrolet
196.592
36.624
6
37
43
Ford
Medallion Financial
196.587
36.625
39
38
93
Toyota
Burger King
195.993
36.736
21
39
1
Chevrolet
McDonald's
195.615
36.807
22
40
38
Ford
Long John Silver's
195.350
36.857
28
41
2
Dodge
Miller Lite
195.334
36.860
21
42
34
Ford
195.069
36.910
33
43
36
Chevrolet
SealWrap
195.059
36.912
33
44
32
Ford
Federated Auto Parts
192.318
37.438
20
45
10
Chevrolet
191.495
37.599
10

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

Rk
Car
Driver
From Lap
To Lap
Avg. Speed
1
88
42
51
197.451
2
17
19
28
196.969
3
5
24
33
196.695
4
24
43
52
196.534
5
55
40
49
196.476
6
48
9
18
196.381
7
56
29
38
196.162
8
99
1
10
195.823
9
11
1
10
195.657
10
39
48
57
195.640
11
15
32
41
195.269
12
27
17
26
195.208
13
29
13
22
194.799
14
18
8
17
194.754

First Practice Speeds (sorted by Best Lap)

Rk
Car
Driver
Make
Sponsor
Best Lap
Best Time
Laps
1
55
Toyota
Aaron's Dream Machine
201.376
35.754
15
2
88
Chevrolet
Diet Mtn. Dew/The Dark Knight Rises/National Guard
201.061
35.810
32
3
21
Ford
Motorcraft/Quick Lane Tire & Auto Center
200.770
35.862
17
4
14
Chevrolet
Office Depot/Mobil 1
200.736
35.868
24
5
17
Ford
Ford EcoBoost
200.574
35.897
22
6
42
Chevrolet
Target
200.551
35.901
20
7
24
Chevrolet
DuPont
200.540
35.903
29
8
5
Chevrolet
Farmers Insurance
200.507
35.909
28
9
27
Chevrolet
Menards/Duracell
200.289
35.948
23
10
56
Toyota
NAPA Auto Parts
200.056
35.990
17
11
15
Toyota
5-hour Energy
199.917
36.015
14
12
18
Toyota
Snickers
199.645
36.064
25
13
33
Chevrolet
American Ethanol
199.568
36.078
9
14
39
Chevrolet
U.S. Army
199.358
36.116
22
15
16
Ford
3M/Rite Aid/Nexcare
199.093
36.164
37
16
34
Ford
199.021
36.177
19
17
38
Ford
Long John Silver's
198.906
36.198
15
18
99
Ford
Fastenal
198.566
36.260
18
19
98
Ford
Presbyterian Healthcare System
198.538
36.265
1
20
36
Chevrolet
SealWrap
198.528
36.267
9
21
19
Toyota
198.003
36.363
9
22
43
Ford
Medallion Financial
197.704
36.418
17
23
1
Chevrolet
McDonald's
197.563
36.444
26
24
11
Toyota
FedEx Office
197.542
36.448
39
25
20
Toyota
The Home Depot
197.439
36.467
38
26
9
Ford
Stanley
197.401
36.474
44
27
23
Chevrolet
North Texas Pipe
197.228
36.506
8
28
49
Toyota
America Israel Racing/JPO Absorbents
197.034
36.542
7
29
26
Ford
MDS Transport
196.947
36.558
11
30
22
Dodge
Shell/Pennzoil
196.824
36.581
28
31
48
Chevrolet
Lowe's
196.716
36.601
52
32
87
Toyota
AM/FM Energy Wood & Pellet Stoves
196.287
36.681
7
33
29
Chevrolet
Budweiser Folds of Honor
196.282
36.682
40
34
30
Toyota
196.207
36.696
12
35
13
Ford
Valvoline NextGen
196.084
36.719
24
36
31
Chevrolet
Caterpillar
196.020
36.731
34
37
78
Chevrolet
195.982
36.738
27
38
51
Chevrolet
Phoenix Construction Services
195.721
36.787
8
39
83
Toyota
Burger King
195.355
36.856
29
40
47
Toyota
Charter
194.963
36.930
21
41
2
Dodge
Miller Lite
194.695
36.981
22
42
74
Chevrolet
194.631
36.993
6
43
93
Toyota
Burger King
193.247
37.258
16
44
32
Ford
Federated Auto Parts
190.981
37.700
24
45
10
Chevrolet
190.562
37.783
20

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

Rk
Car
Driver
From Lap
To Lap
Avg. Speed
1
48
34
43
195.842
2
20
29
38
195.607
3
29
1
10
193.728
Facebook Twitter Google +

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.

Don't miss these great reports....


What do you think? Sound off!



Recent KFFL releases