Fantasy NASCAR practice recap: Coke Zero 400

by Brian Polking on July 6, 2012 @ 14:58:33 PDT

 


Teams take a different approach to practice sessions at Daytona International Speedway. Yes, they still try to get their cars handling properly, but staying out of trouble and keeping the primary car in one piece is the top concern. Once a driver feels comfortable in the draft and the crew chief has a good gauge on the fuel mileage, most teams choose to call it quits. This strategy was on full display Friday during Happy Hour when just 24 of the 44 drivers took to the track. Needless to say, fantasy owners shouldn't rely solely on practice speeds when setting their lineups this weekend.

While the practice sessions don't carry as much weight as they normally do, it is still worth taking a look at the drivers that topped the charts. At the very least, the speeds can reveal a few sleeper options. Two of those potential sleepers include Aric Almirola and Marcos Ambrose. In Thursday's opening practice, the Richard Petty Motorsports teammates ranked first and second. Neither driver has had much success at the track, but Ambrose did finish in the top 15 in this year's Daytona 500. The two appear to be working well together, and if they can survive the mayhem, they might have a chance to make some noise in the closing laps.

Joey Logano

Joey Logano, Ryan Newman and Greg Biffle rounded out the top five, and while Logano and Biffle could be among the better fantasy plays, Newman is on the list of drivers to avoid. Logano has posted back-to-back top-10s at Daytona, including a third-place run last July. Biffle is a former winner at the track, and he has finished in the top five in both restrictor-plate races in 2012. Newman, on the other hand, has been miserable since winning the 2008 Daytona 500. Newman has finished 20th or worse in his last eight starts at the track, posting a 27.3 average finish during the stretch.

Only 24 drivers ran 10 or more consecutive laps in the opening practice, and Jamie McMurray was the best of the bunch. McMurray is the ultimate boom or bust play for fantasy owners this weekend. He has won at Daytona twice in the last 10 races at the track, but he has failed to crack the top 10 in the other eight starts. Basically, he is going to go to Victory Lane or end up wrecked. Owners have to decide whether they are willing to take the risk, but for anyone looking to gain some serious ground in their fantasy league, McMurray is a pretty good gamble.

Other notable drivers to rank in the top five in terms of 10-lap average speeds were Juan Pablo Montoya and Matt Kenseth. Kenseth won the Daytona 500 to open the season, and he finished second at Daytona last July. Overall, he has seven finishes of eighth or better in his last 10 starts at the track. Meanwhile, Montoya has four top-10s in his last six starts at Daytona.

As I mentioned in the introduction, most of the big names opted not to participate in Happy Hour Friday, and those that did only ran a handful of mock qualifying laps. McMurray continued his strong weekend, posting the fastest lap. Notable sleeper candidates Michael Waltrip and Kurt Busch also cracked the top five. Busch in particular is an intriguing option. His 11.2 average finish in the last 10 races at Daytona is the second best in the series. He has five top-five finishes and eight top-15s during the stretch.

Waltrip was also the fastest of the 11 drivers that ran at least 10 consecutive laps. He isn't a top fantasy option by any means, but he does have three career wins at Daytona. He also finished in the top 10 at the track as recently as 2009. Waltrip runs just a handful of races a year these days, but whenever the series visits a restrictor-plate track, he still has a chance to make some noise.

Fantasy owners wondering where the big names like Tony Stewart, Kevin Harvick, Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. were at on the speed charts shouldn't worry. Drivers that traditionally run well at Daytona are still solid options regardless of where they land in the practices. In the end, Daytona is all about staying out of trouble and picking the right lane in the closing laps. Any driver that is still running on the lead lap on the final lap has a shot at a top-10.

Happy Hour Speeds (sorted by Best Lap)

Rk
Car
Driver
Make Sponsor
Best Lap
Best Time
Laps
1
1
Jamie McMurray Chevrolet Bass Pro Shops / NRA Museum
197.837
45.492
7
2
55
Michael Waltrip Toyota Aaron's Dream Machine
197.733
45.516
14
3
51
Kurt Busch Chevrolet Phoenix Construction Services
197.459
45.579
20
4
93
Travis Kvapil Toyota Burger King
197.425
45.587
16
5
43
Aric Almirola Ford U.S. Air Force
197.416
45.589
29
6
78
Regan Smith Chevrolet Furniture Row / Farm American
197.239
45.630
7
7
9
Marcos Ambrose Ford DEWALT
197.057
45.672
18
8
99
Carl Edwards Ford Subway
196.980
45.690
11
9
88
Dale Earnhardt Jr. Chevrolet National Guard 'An American Salute' / Diet Mountain Dew
196.958
45.695
23
10
42
Juan Pablo Montoya Chevrolet Target
196.928
45.702
18
11
24
Jeff Gordon Chevrolet Pepsi Max
196.885
45.712
15
12
17
Matt Kenseth Ford Zest
196.872
45.715
10
13
21
Trevor Bayne Ford Motorcraft / Quick Lane Tire & Auto Center
194.717
46.221
16
14
50
Bill Elliott Chevrolet Walmart
194.578
46.254
13
15
16
Greg Biffle Ford 3M
191.677
46.954
8
16
18
Kyle Busch Toyota Interstate Batteries
191.123
47.090
7
17
31
Jeff Burton Chevrolet Wheaties
191.099
47.096
5
18
87
Joe Nemechek Toyota AM / FM Energy Wood & Pellet Stoves
189.813
47.415
5
19
30
David Stremme Toyota Stock Car Steel and Aluminum
189.546
47.482
8
20
26
Josh Wise Ford MDS Transport
188.652
47.707
5
21
83
Landon Cassill Toyota Burger King / Dr Pepper
188.636
47.711
8
22
33
Stephen Leicht Chevrolet Little Joes Autos.com
188.041
47.862
11
23
49
J.J. Yeley Toyota Jay Robinson Inc.
186.027
48.380
5
24
23
Robert Richardson Jr. Toyota North Texas Pipe
185.927
48.406
11
25
11
Denny Hamlin Toyota FedEx Office
-
-
-
26
13
Casey Mears Ford GEICO
-
-
-
27
98
Mike Bliss Ford Phil Parsons Racing
-
-
-
28
15
Clint Bowyer Toyota 5-hour Energy
-
-
-
29
14
Tony Stewart Chevrolet Mobil 1
-
-
-
30
2
Brad Keselowski Dodge Miller Lite
-
-
-
31
20
Joey Logano Toyota Dollar General
-
-
-
32
22
A.J. Allmendinger Dodge Shell / Pennzoil
-
-
-
33
29
Kevin Harvick Chevrolet Budweiser Folds of Honor
-
-
-
34
27
Paul Menard Chevrolet Quaker State / Menards
-
-
-
35
32
Terry Labonte Ford C&J Energy
-
-
-
36
36
Dave Blaney Chevrolet Golden Corral
-
-
-
37
34
David Ragan Ford MHP / 8 Hour Alert
-
-
-
38
39
Ryan Newman Chevrolet Aspen Dental
-
-
-
39
38
David Gilliland Ford Glory Foods
-
-
-
40
10
David Reutimann Chevrolet CarportEmpire.com / TMone.com Call Centers in America
-
-
-
41
48
Jimmie Johnson Chevrolet Lowe's
-
-
-
42
47
Bobby Labonte Toyota Kingsford
-
-
-
43
5
Kasey Kahne Chevrolet HendrickCars.com
-
-
-
44
56
Martin Truex Jr. Toyota NAPA Batteries
-
-
-

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

Rk
Car
Driver
From Lap
To Lap
Avg. Speed
1
55
Michael Waltrip
4
13
195.192
2
24
Jeff Gordon
4
13
195.118
3
99
Carl Edwards
2
11
195.079
4
43
Aric Almirola
2
11
195.001
5
42
Juan Pablo Montoya
1
10
194.702
6
17
Matt Kenseth
1
10
194.528
7
51
Kurt Busch
10
19
193.631
8
88
Dale Earnhardt Jr.
9
18
193.410
9
21
Trevor Bayne
4
13
193.349
10
9
Marcos Ambrose
8
17
193.323
11
50
Bill Elliott
4
13
193.139

First Practice Speeds (sorted by Best Lap)

Rk Car Driver Make Sponsor Best Lap Best Time Laps
1
43
Aric Almirola Ford U.S. Air Force
201.961
44.563
36
2
9
Marcos Ambrose Ford DEWALT
201.374
44.693
11
3
20
Joey Logano Toyota Dollar General
201.122
44.749
36
4
39
Ryan Newman Chevrolet Aspen Dental
201.068
44.761
8
5
16
Greg Biffle Ford 3M
200.933
44.791
34
6
24
Jeff Gordon Chevrolet Pepsi Max
200.495
44.889
15
7
22
A.J. Allmendinger Dodge Shell / Pennzoil
199.951
45.011
15
8
38
David Gilliland Ford Glory Foods
199.720
45.063
16
9
13
Casey Mears Ford GEICO
199.654
45.078
9
10
5
Kasey Kahne Chevrolet HendrickCars.com
199.557
45.100
35
11
27
Paul Menard Chevrolet Quaker State / Menards
199.539
45.104
21
12
99
Carl Edwards Ford Subway
199.499
45.113
32
13
1
Jamie McMurray Chevrolet Bass Pro Shops / NRA Museum
199.424
45.130
28
14
17
Matt Kenseth Ford Zest
199.384
45.139
17
15
2
Brad Keselowski Dodge Miller Lite
199.097
45.204
20
16
18
Kyle Busch Toyota Interstate Batteries
199.049
45.215
22
17
78
Regan Smith Chevrolet Furniture Row / Farm American
198.935
45.241
21
18
31
Jeff Burton Chevrolet Wheaties
198.908
45.247
17
19
34
David Ragan Ford MHP / 8 Hour Alert
198.860
45.258
16
20
51
Kurt Busch Chevrolet Phoenix Construction Services
198.408
45.361
27
21
42
Juan Pablo Montoya Chevrolet Target
198.365
45.371
20
22
15
Clint Bowyer Toyota 5-hour Energy
198.338
45.377
29
23
48
Jimmie Johnson Chevrolet Lowe's
198.190
45.411
29
24
88
Dale Earnhardt Jr. Chevrolet National Guard 'An American Salute' / Diet Mountain Dew
197.303
45.615
32
25
47
Bobby Labonte Toyota Kingsford
197.290
45.618
21
26
14
Tony Stewart Chevrolet Mobil 1
197.286
45.619
49
27
56
Martin Truex Jr. Toyota NAPA Batteries
197.282
45.620
31
28
29
Kevin Harvick Chevrolet Budweiser Folds of Honor
197.005
45.684
11
29
55
Michael Waltrip Toyota Aaron's Dream Machine
194.738
46.216
23
30
10
David Reutimann Chevrolet CarportEmpire.com / TMone.com Call Centers in America
194.683
46.229
18
31
93
Travis Kvapil Toyota Burger King
194.536
46.264
18
32
21
Trevor Bayne Ford Motorcraft / Quick Lane Tire & Auto Center
192.703
46.704
14
33
11
Kyle Busch Toyota FedEx Office
192.049
46.863
3
34
36
Dave Blaney Chevrolet Golden Corral
191.249
47.059
8
35
50
Bill Elliott Chevrolet Walmart
191.132
47.088
5
36
98
Mike Bliss Ford Phil Parsons Racing
191.103
47.095
5
37
26
Josh Wise Ford MDS Transport
190.070
47.351
5
38
32
Terry Labonte Ford C&J Energy
189.637
47.459
17
39
87
Joe Nemechek Toyota AM / FM Energy Wood & Pellet Stoves
189.625
47.462
8
40
30
David Stremme Toyota Stock Car Steel and Aluminum
188.865
47.653
5
41
49
J.J. Yeley Toyota Jay Robinson Inc.
188.604
47.719
6
42
33
Stephen Leicht Chevrolet Little Joes Autos.com
188.316
47.792
8
43
83
Landon Cassill Toyota Burger King / Dr Pepper
187.809
47.921
8
44
23
Robert Richardson Jr. Toyota North Texas Pipe
185.770
48.447
2

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

Rk
Car
Driver
From Lap
To Lap
Avg. Speed
1
1
Jamie McMurray
2
11
196.909
2
22
A.J. Allmendinger
2
11
196.827
3
42
Juan Pablo Montoya
2
11
196.768
4
9
Marcos Ambrose
2
11
196.766
5
17
Matt Kenseth
2
11
196.720
6
99
Carl Edwards
2
11
196.657
7
2
Brad Keselowski
2
11
196.619
8
34
David Ragan
4
13
196.585
9
18
Kyle Busch
2
11
196.581
10
20
Joey Logano
6
15
196.463
11
56
Martin Truex Jr.
3
12
196.350
12
29
Kevin Harvick
2
11
195.984
13
14
Tony Stewart
3
12
195.948
14
27
Paul Menard
2
11
195.944
15
5
Kasey Kahne
17
26
195.769
16
78
Regan Smith
10
19
195.767
17
51
Kurt Busch
15
24
195.627
18
15
Clint Bowyer
15
24
195.620
19
48
Jimmie Johnson
14
23
195.459
20
38
David Gilliland
2
11
195.209
21
31
Jeff Burton
1
10
195.017
22
88
Dale Earnhardt Jr.
2
11
195.007
23
43
Aric Almirola
17
26
194.820
24
24
Jeff Gordon
6
15
191.284
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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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