Fantasy NASCAR practice recap: IRWIN Tools Night Race

by Brian Polking on August 25, 2012 @ 11:12:08 PDT

 


Nobody knew exactly what to expect when the Cup Series visited the reconfigured Bristol Motor Speedway this weekend, and Casey Mears made sure the surprises began early. Driving for the small-budget Germain Racing team, he topped the charts in the opening practice session. The fact that a majority of the other teams were in qualifying trim, as well, makes Mears' lap even more impressive. While he isn't a reliable fantasy option by any means, the fast lap does put Mears on the list of intriguing sleepers for this weekend's race.

Casey Mears

Although Mears was a total shock at the top of the charts, it was no surprise to see Brad Keselowski put down a fast lap. He ranked second in the first practice, and he is gunning for a Bristol three-peat this weekend after winning at the track last August and earlier this year. If the practice times are any indication, the new layout hasn't done much to slow him down.

Greg Biffle, Aric Almirola and Joey Logano rounded out the top five, and while Biffle could be a factor for the win, Almirola and Logano could have some sleeper value. Although Biffle has never won at Bristol, he does have 15 top-15 finishes in 19 starts, making the point leader one of the most reliable options this weekend. Almirola, on the other hand, has three top-20s in his last five starts at the track, including a pair of top-15s. Logano has back-to-back top-20s at the track, as well.

The surprises kept on coming in the first session, as David Gilliland posted the best 10-lap average speed. He and Matt Kenseth were the class of the 18 cars that qualified for the category. While Gilliland is a high-risk, high-reward option like Mears, Kenseth should be rock solid for owners. He has six straight top-10s at the track, including three straight finishes of sixth or better, and his 9.3 average finish is tops among drivers in the last 20 races at Bristol. After finishing second in the March event, Kenseth will try to seal the deal Saturday night.

In Happy Hour, a similar group of drivers remained at the top of the charts. Logano led the way, and Keselowski once again settled for the second fastest lap. Gilliland and Kenseth ranked third and fourth, while Kyle Busch was the newcomer to the top five. Busch has been one of the best options at Bristol in recent years, winning five times, including four times in the last seven races. He desperately needs a win to make the Chase, and he could get it this weekend.

Only 16 drivers ran at least 10 consecutive laps in the final session, and Biffle had a decent gap between himself and the rest of the eligible drivers. Keselowski had the second best average speed, and Kasey Kahne, Denny Hamlin and Kurt Busch rounded out the top five. Of the three newcomers, Kahne is probably the driver to target. He has three finishes of 11th or better in his last four starts at Bristol, and he has been one of the top drivers in recent weeks, scoring the second most points in the series over the past six races.

While plenty of big names performed well in practice, Carl Edwards and Jimmie Johnson weren't among them. Edwards complained about his car throughout both sessions, and ranked 26th and 30th on the charts. Johnson was even worse, ranking 41st in the first practice and 31st in Happy Hour. Maybe it is the new track configuration, but both former Bristol winners were way off on the setup. It definitely looks like fantasy owners should look elsewhere when setting their lineups.

Owners looking for a sleeper option without as much risk as Mears and Gilliland might want to consider Brian Vickers. He ranked eighth on the charts in Happy Hour and also posted the seventh best 10-lap average speed. Vickers also finished fifth at Bristol in March. He will be back in the Michael Waltrip Racing No. 55 this weekend, and he definitely has top-10 upside.

Happy Hour Speeds (sorted by Best Lap)

Rk Car Driver Make Sponsor Best Lap Best Time Laps
1 20 Joey Logano Toyota Dollar General 122.404 15.676 32
2 2 Brad Keselowski Dodge Miller Lite 122.154 15.708 40
3 38 David Gilliland Ford Taco Bell 121.929 15.737 7
4 17 Matt Kenseth Ford Valvoline NextGen 121.922 15.738 10
5 18 Kyle Busch Toyota M&M's 121.883 15.743 11
6 11 Denny Hamlin Toyota FedEx Ground 121.674 15.770 46
7 78 Regan Smith Chevrolet Furniture Row / Farm American 121.620 15.777 11
8 55 Brian Vickers Toyota MyClassicGarage.com 121.328 15.815 26
9 16 Greg Biffle Ford 3M / Bondo 121.228 15.828 29
10 5 Kasey Kahne Chevrolet HendrickCars.com 121.205 15.831 33
11 9 Marcos Ambrose Ford DEWALT 121.129 15.841 25
12 24 Jeff Gordon Chevrolet FarmVille / Drive to End Hunger 120.900 15.871 31
13 42 Juan Pablo Montoya Chevrolet Target 120.793 15.885 28
14 15 Clint Bowyer Toyota 5-hour Energy 120.664 15.902 29
15 13 Casey Mears Ford GEICO 120.588 15.912 22
16 26 Josh Wise Ford MDS Transport 120.573 15.914 14
17 34 David Ragan Ford Glory Foods 120.565 15.915 31
18 56 Martin Truex Jr. Toyota NAPA Auto Parts 120.460 15.929 38
19 98 Michael McDowell Ford K-Love / Curb Records 120.460 15.929 12
20 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. Chevrolet Diet Mountain Dew / National Guard 120.392 15.938 31
21 30 David Stremme Toyota Inception Motorsports 120.346 15.944 13
22 33 Stephen Leicht Chevrolet Little Joes Autos.com 120.278 15.953 14
23 95 Scott Speed Ford JTS 120.256 15.956 13
24 22 Sam Hornish Jr. Dodge Shell / Pennzoil 120.248 15.957 27
25 79 Kelly Bires Ford Team Kyle 120.180 15.966 5
26 14 Tony Stewart Chevrolet Mobil 1 / Office Depot 120.113 15.975 30
27 37 J.J. Yeley Chevrolet MaxQWorkforce.com / WBR Racing 119.798 16.017 14
28 83 Landon Cassill Toyota Burger King / Dr Pepper 119.693 16.031 9
29 1 Jamie McMurray Chevrolet Bass Pro Shops / Allstate 119.663 16.035 44
30 99 Carl Edwards Ford Fastenal 119.648 16.037 24
31 48 Jimmie Johnson Chevrolet Lowe's Dover White 119.618 16.041 12
32 91 Reed Sorenson Chevrolet Plinker Tactical 119.611 16.042 11
33 51 Kurt Busch Chevrolet Phoenix Construction 119.418 16.068 44
34 43 Aric Almirola Ford Goody's Headache Powders 119.380 16.073 43
35 31 Jeff Burton Chevrolet Caterpillar 119.373 16.074 71
36 23 Scott Riggs Chevrolet North Texas Pipe 119.343 16.078 8
37 19 Mike Bliss Toyota Plinker Tactical 119.321 16.081 8
38 87 Joe Nemechek Toyota AM-FM Energy Wood & Pellet Stoves / AC General 119.188 16.099 16
39 32 Ken Schrader Ford Federated Auto Parts 119.173 16.101 10
40 29 Kevin Harvick Chevrolet Rheem 119.173 16.101 47
41 47 Bobby Labonte Toyota Bush's Baked Beans 119.150 16.104 33
42 27 Paul Menard Chevrolet Menards / Schrock 119.091 16.112 53
43 49 Jason Leffler Toyota America Israel Racing 119.054 16.117 11
44 93 Travis Kvapil Toyota Burger King / Dr Pepper 118.988 16.126 36
45 39 Ryan Newman Chevrolet Outback Steak House 118.613 16.177 47
46 36 Dave Blaney Chevrolet SealWrap 117.906 16.274 24
47 10 Danica Patrick Chevrolet GoDaddy.com 117.732 16.298 24

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

Rk Car Driver From Lap To Lap Avg. Speed
1 16 Greg Biffle 1 10 118.870
2 2 Brad Keselowski 1 10 118.656
3 5 Kasey Kahne 1 10 118.617
4 11 Denny Hamlin 1 10 118.545
5 51 Kurt Busch 28 37 118.402
6 24 Jeff Gordon 20 29 118.296
7 55 Brian Vickers 13 22 118.208
8 31 Jeff Burton 1 10 118.164
9 39 Ryan Newman 1 10 118.035
10 27 Paul Menard 40 49 118.027
11 56 Martin Truex Jr. 19 28 117.928
12 93 Travis Kvapil 1 10 117.606
13 1 Jamie McMurray 10 19 117.581
14 43 Aric Almirola 17 26 117.521
15 34 David Ragan 1 10 117.516
16 47 Bobby Labonte 19 28 117.014

First Practice Speeds (sorted by Best Lap)

Rk Car Driver Make Sponsor Best Lap Best Time Laps
1 13 Casey Mears Ford GEICO 122.209 15.701 51
2 2 Brad Keselowski Dodge Miller Lite 122.162 15.707 102
3 16 Greg Biffle Ford 3M / Bondo 122.123 15.712 75
4 43 Aric Almirola Ford Goody's Headache Powders 121.999 15.728 102
5 20 Joey Logano Toyota Dollar General 121.999 15.728 46
6 31 Jeff Burton Chevrolet Caterpillar 121.952 15.734 121
7 27 Paul Menard Chevrolet Menards / Schrock 121.821 15.751 64
8 11 Denny Hamlin Toyota FedEx Ground 121.813 15.752 90
9 9 Marcos Ambrose Ford DEWALT 121.720 15.764 48
10 18 Kyle Busch Toyota M&M's 121.697 15.767 110
11 24 Jeff Gordon Chevrolet FarmVille / Drive to End Hunger 121.612 15.778 64
12 5 Kasey Kahne Chevrolet HendrickCars.com 121.543 15.787 58
13 29 Kevin Harvick Chevrolet Rheem 121.481 15.795 52
14 78 Regan Smith Chevrolet Furniture Row / Farm American 121.474 15.796 84
15 56 Martin Truex Jr. Toyota NAPA Auto Parts 121.343 15.813 85
16 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. Chevrolet Diet Mountain Dew / National Guard 121.320 15.816 48
17 17 Matt Kenseth Ford Valvoline NextGen 121.251 15.825 79
18 38 David Gilliland Ford Taco Bell 121.167 15.836 69
19 39 Ryan Newman Chevrolet Outback Steak House 121.152 15.838 97
20 51 Kurt Busch Chevrolet Phoenix Construction 121.136 15.840 55
21 14 Tony Stewart Chevrolet Mobil 1 / Office Depot 121.121 15.842 97
22 55 Brian Vickers Toyota MyClassicGarage.com 120.915 15.869 59
23 15 Clint Bowyer Toyota 5-hour Energy 120.831 15.880 69
24 34 David Ragan Ford Glory Foods 120.824 15.881 73
25 36 Dave Blaney Chevrolet SealWrap 120.824 15.881 51
26 1 Jamie McMurray Chevrolet Bass Pro Shops / Allstate 120.740 15.892 63
27 99 Carl Edwards Ford Fastenal 120.732 15.893 56
28 95 Scott Speed Ford JTS 120.725 15.894 58
29 42 Juan Pablo Montoya Chevrolet Target 120.725 15.894 33
30 22 Sam Hornish Jr. Dodge Shell / Pennzoil 120.543 15.918 104
31 98 Michael McDowell Ford K-Love / Curb Records 120.452 15.930 11
32 79 Kelly Bires Ford Team Kyle 120.452 15.930 43
33 30 David Stremme Toyota Inception Motorsports 120.293 15.951 20
34 26 Josh Wise Ford MDS Transport 120.271 15.954 26
35 83 Landon Cassill Toyota Burger King / Dr Pepper 120.203 15.963 61
36 91 Reed Sorenson Chevrolet Plinker Tactical 120.135 15.972 23
37 19 Mike Bliss Toyota Plinker Tactical 119.993 15.991 16
38 23 Scott Riggs Chevrolet North Texas Pipe 119.918 16.001 23
39 47 Bobby Labonte Toyota Bush's Baked Beans 119.835 16.012 59
40 37 J.J. Yeley Chevrolet MaxQWorkforce.com / WBR Racing 119.693 16.031 14
41 48 Jimmie Johnson Chevrolet Lowe's Dover White 119.686 16.032 110
42 33 Stephen Leicht Chevrolet Little Joes Autos.com 119.641 16.038 33
43 49 Jason Leffler Toyota America Israel Racing 119.403 16.070 18
44 87 Joe Nemechek Toyota AM-FM Energy Wood & Pellet Stoves / AC General 119.210 16.096 26
45 93 Travis Kvapil Toyota Burger King / Dr Pepper 118.929 16.134 78
46 32 Ken Schrader Ford Federated Auto Parts 118.116 16.245 90
47 10 Danica Patrick Chevrolet GoDaddy.com 116.722 16.439 65

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

Rk Car Driver From Lap To Lap Avg. Speed
1 38 David Gilliland 54 63 119.088
2 17 Matt Kenseth 5 15 119.076
3 11 Denny Hamlin 1 10 118.707
4 27 Paul Menard 37 46 118.692
5 15 Clint Bowyer 26 35 118.608
6 18 Kyle Busch 58 67 118.565
7 78 Regan Smith 74 83 118.487
8 83 Landon Cassill 10 19 118.437
9 2 Brad Keselowski 80 89 118.124
10 31 Jeff Burton 61 70 118.091
11 24 Jeff Gordon 46 55 118.076
12 48 Jimmie Johnson 75 84 118.045
13 39 Ryan Newman 69 78 117.905
14 22 Sam Hornish Jr. 57 66 117.783
15 14 Tony Stewart 41 50 117.461
16 34 David Ragan 39 48 117.006
17 98 Michael McDowell 25 34 116.212
18 10 Danica Patrick 52 61 115.814
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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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