Fantasy NASCAR practice recap: Sylvania 300
Although his weekend at New Hampshire didn't get off to a great start, it appears Denny Hamlin could be heading for a big finish. He will start 32nd after his crew forget to put the correct air pressures in for qualifying, but in the first practice Saturday, Hamlin jumped to the top of the charts. Hamlin leads all active drivers with an 8.5 average finish, and he has finished third or better in three of his last four starts at New Hampshire. Not to mention that he gave away a win in the July race at the track after a miscue between he and his crew chief cost him a ton of track position. Hamlin had the best car in July, and it appears he could have the car to beat once again. Don't be worried about his poor qualifying effort. Hamlin should be coming to the front, and he is still worthy of a roster spot this weekend.
Hamlin's Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Joey Logano ranked second in the session, and he could make a solid sleeper option this weekend. He actually won at New Hampshire in 2009, and he has finished 14th or better in three straight starts at the track. Logano has 10.7 average finish in those three starts, and he could be a sneaky source for a top-15 and maybe even a top-10 this Sunday.
Jimmie Johnson, Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Busch rounded out the top five, and a strong case can be made for all three drivers to be added to fantasy rosters. Johnson is a three-time winner at New Hampshire, and he has eight top-10s in his last 10 starts at the track. Meanwhile, Truex has an 11.7 average finish in his last three starts at the track, and Busch has finished 11th or better in five of his last seven New Hampshire starts. Johnson is the obvious top dog of the bunch, but Truex and Busch are capable of delivering top-10 finishes, as well.
In terms of 10-lap average speeds, pole-sitter Jeff Gordon and Clint Bowyer led the way, and both should be among the better options for fantasy owners. After all, Gordon has reeled off 14 straight top-15 finishes at New Hampshire and has finished sixth or better four times in his last five starts at the track. Bowyer, on the other hand, has won the fall race at New Hampshire twice and finished third at the track in July. He also ran out of fuel while leading on the final lap at New Hampshire last September. Expect big performances from both drivers.
Not much changed in Happy Hour as the JGR duo of Hamlin and Logano once again topped the charts. Kyle Busch and Truex also cracked the top five for the second practice in a row. The lone newcomer was Brian Vickers, but he is one driver fantasy owners definitely to consider. As far as sleeper options go, he is probably the best. He finished in the top 15 at New Hampshire earlier this year, and he finished fifth at the track last fall. Vickers already has three top-five finishes in six starts with Michael Waltrip Racing in 2012, and he has a ton of potential this weekend.
Hamlin continued his dominance on longer runs, posting the top 10-lap average speed in the final session. His two JGR teammates and Bowyer weren't far behind. Overall, no driver was as impressive during the practices as Hamlin. Whether it is a short run or a long run, the No. 11 Toyota appears to be dialed in.
Another big name that didn't crack the top five in either practice that could still deliver strong results is Tony Stewart. After qualifying third Friday, he cracked the top 10 in both practices Saturday. “Smoke” is a three-time winner at New Hampshire and the defending winner of this weekend's race. He also owns the top driver rating at the track, and anything other than a top-five effort this weekend would be surprising.
On the flip side, Kasey Kahne is one heavy hitter that fantasy owners may want to be cautious about. Although he won at New Hampshire earlier this year, he never seemed to get his car handling the way he wanted in practice and failed to crack the top 10 in either session. As well as he has been running lately, Kahne could still end up in the top 10 Sunday. That being said, he doesn't seem to have a car capable of pulling off a season sweep.
Happy Hour Speeds (sorted by Best Lap)
10-Lap Average Speeds (must run 10 consecutive laps)
Second Practice Speeds (sorted by Best Lap)
10-Lap Average Speeds (must run 10 consecutive laps)
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.Follow @kffl_racing
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