Fantasy NASCAR practice recap: Finger Lakes 355 at the Glen

by Brian Polking on August 10, 2012 @ 18:13:10 PDT

 


The Cup Series' second trip to a road course didn't get off to a smooth start thanks to Mother Nature. The first practice session at Watkins Glen International was rained out Friday, but NASCAR did manage to sneak in Happy Hour. Once the cars were finally on the track, it was Kurt Busch emerging as the somewhat surprise name atop the leaderboard. The 2004 series champ has taken his lumps on and off the track in 2012 as he tries to repair his image by driving for Phoenix Racing. The results haven't always been pretty, but his best finish of the year did come at Infineon Raceway when he finished third. Considering he has finished in the top 10 in three of his last four starts at Watkins Glen, including a second-place run in 2010, there is a good chance his road course magic could continue this weekend.

Ryan Newman and Brad Keselowski ranked second and third on the charts, and the two are heading in opposite directions at Watkins Glen. Newman finished second in his track debut, but he hasn't had a single top-five finish since. In fact, he hasn't even cracked the top 10 in his last five starts at The Glen. Meanwhile, Keselowski finished an unimpressive 20th in his track debut in 2010, but he finished second last year. Throw in the fact that Keselowski has scored the second-most points in the series over the past six races, and he should the driver targeted by fantasy owners this weekend.

Ryan Newman

A couple of road course heavy hitters rounded out the top five in Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon. Stewart's five wins at Watkins Glen are the most in series history, and his 7.1 average finish at the track is the second best among active drivers. Gordon owns four wins at The Glen in his own right, and his nine career road course wins are the most in NASCAR history. Gordon has actually been the hottest driver in the series over the past two months, but both drivers should be excellent fantasy options this weekend.

Given the lengthy lap times at road courses, it was no surprise to see that not a single driver ran 10 consecutive laps. However, looking at the rest of the top 10 in terms of top speed reveals a few other solid fantasy plays. Carl Edwards led the back half of the top 10, and he has been as reliable as any driver at The Glen. He has six straight finishes of 12th or better at the track, and he has finished in the top five in two of his last three starts.

Marcos Ambrose posted the seventh-fastest lap of the practice session, and he is a driver that every fantasy owner should be adding to their rosters. He is the defending winner of this weekend's race, and in four starts at Watkins Glen in the Cup Series, Ambrose has never finished worse than third. Not surprisingly, his 2.3 average finish at the track is the best among active drivers.

Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch and Greg Biffle rounded out the top 10, and Busch is the driver to target out of the bunch. He has six straight top-10s at Watkins Glen, and he went to Victory Lane at the track in 2008. Busch has actually cracked the top five in three of his last four starts at The Glen, including a third-place run last year.

The two biggest losers of the session were Denny Hamlin and Jeff Burton. Both drivers were logging some laps when the No. 30 car of Patrick Long lost an engine in front of them. Both drivers lost control in the oil on the track and bounced into the outside wall. Burton's car eventually came to a stop after slamming into the rear of Hamlin's No. 11. Both drivers are going to backup cars, and with the limited practice, they will definitely be facing an uphill battle.

On the plus side for Hamlin, Burton and the rest of the field, NASCAR is going to attempt to squeeze in an additional practice session before qualifying if the weather permits. For the record, showers are possible once again. The extra practice is slated for early Saturday morning, and while the track temperatures and conditions won't exactly mirror those the drivers will face on Sunday afternoon, NASCAR is trying to make the best of a bad situation after the first practice Friday was washed out.

Happy Hour Speeds (sorted by Best Lap)

Rk
Car
Driver
Make
Sponsor
Best Lap
Best Time
Laps
1
51
Chevrolet
Phoenix Construction Services
125.055
70.529
10
2
39
Chevrolet
U.S. Army
124.406
70.897
14
3
2
Dodge
Miller Lite
124.126
71.057
11
4
14
Chevrolet
Office Depot/Mobil 1
124.120
71.060
16
5
24
Chevrolet
Drive to End Hunger
124.044
71.104
11
6
99
Ford
Fastenal
124.009
71.124
15
7
9
Ford
Stanley
123.948
71.159
10
8
48
Chevrolet
Lowe's Cortez Silver
123.781
71.255
12
9
18
Toyota
M&M's
123.753
71.271
11
10
16
Ford
3M
123.737
71.280
14
11
56
Toyota
NAPA Auto Parts
123.703
71.300
17
12
42
Chevrolet
Target
123.581
71.370
9
13
17
Ford
Ford EcoBoost
123.415
71.466
8
14
29
Chevrolet
Budweiser
123.384
71.484
11
15
20
Toyota
The Home Depot
123.353
71.502
13
16
5
Chevrolet
Farmers Insurance
123.310
71.527
16
17
78
Chevrolet
Furniture Row/Farm American
123.064
71.670
14
18
98
Ford
TRAQM.com
122.970
71.725
9
19
15
Toyota
5-hour Energy
122.940
71.742
18
20
27
Chevrolet
Menards/Rheem
122.874
71.781
9
21
13
Ford
GEICO
122.829
71.807
8
22
32
Ford
HendrickCars.com
122.827
71.808
15
23
11
Toyota
FedEx Freight
122.665
71.903
9
24
55
Toyota
My Classic Garage
122.597
71.943
15
25
22
Dodge
Shell/Pennzoil
122.563
71.963
15
26
95
Ford
TWD
122.517
71.990
8
27
43
Ford
Smithfield
122.485
72.009
14
28
88
Chevrolet
National Guard/Diet Mountain Dew
122.407
72.055
12
29
31
Chevrolet
Caterpillar
122.178
72.190
11
30
1
Chevrolet
McDonald's
121.811
72.407
10
31
36
Chevrolet
Tommy Baldwin Racing
121.519
72.581
11
32
47
Toyota
Miller Welders/Freightliner
121.242
72.747
9
33
38
Ford
ModSpace
121.146
72.805
6
34
87
Toyota
Genny Light/AM-FM Energy
120.939
72.929
10
35
34
Ford
Scorpion Coatings/Al's Liners
120.857
72.979
11
36
10
Chevrolet
Tommy Baldwin Racing
120.766
73.034
5
37
49
Toyota
America Israel Racing
120.747
73.045
7
38
83
Toyota
Burger King/Dr Pepper
120.676
73.088
16
39
26
Ford
MDS Transport
120.477
73.209
3
40
93
Toyota
Burger King/Dr Pepper
119.866
73.582
13
41
33
Chevrolet
Little Joes Autos.com
119.738
73.661
10
42
19
Toyota
Plinker Tactical
119.645
73.718
6
43
30
Toyota
Inception Motorsports
117.743
74.909
3

 

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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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