Fantasy NASCAR practice recap: Bank of America 500
Before I dive into the results from Friday's practices at Charlotte, I'd like to give fantasy owners a little update on the driver roulette that has taken place over the past week. Kurt Busch will be in the No. 78 machine this weekend as he gets a jumpstart on the 2013 season. Smith, who drove the No. 78 the first 30 races of the year, was slated to drive the No. 51 that Busch had been driving. However, the concussion sustained by Dale Earnhardt Jr. at Talladega has put Smith in Junior's No. 88, opening a spot in the No. 51 that was filled by the previously-suspended A.J. Allmendinger. We will take a closer look at the fantasy value of all three during the practice recap, but to sum things up, Smith is in the No. 88, Busch is in the No. 78, and Allmendinger is in the No. 51.
As for the practices themselves, the first session went to pole-sitter Greg Biffle. His 17.1 average finish at Charlotte is a bit misleading because he has been much better at the track lately. Biffle has a 9.3 average finish in his last four starts at the track, and he finished fourth at the track earlier this year. Not to mention that Biffle has led the second-most laps of any driver in the last 10 races at 1.5-mile tracks. He could definitely be a top-five fantasy option this weekend.
Biffle wasn't the only heavy hitter to crack the top five in the opening practice Friday. Kasey Kahne, Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick and Mark Martin rounded things out, and a strong case can be made for all four drivers. Kahne and Johnson have to be at the top of the list, considering they have combined for 10 wins at the track. Johnson has six of them, but Kahne's four wins at Charlotte since 2006 are the most in the series, and he won the Coca-Cola 600 at the track in May.
Harvick, on the other hand, has five straight finishes of 11th or better at Charlotte, including four straight top-10s. Martin is the biggest question mark of the group, and he has actually finished outside the top 30 in his last three starts at Charlotte. However, he is a four-time winner at the track for his career, and he will start on the front row Saturday night. He could bust out of his mini slump at the track in a big way.
In terms of 10-lap average speeds, Tony Stewart was the fastest of the 17 drivers that qualified. His record at 1.5-mile tracks is stellar, but Charlotte has been an exception. He has just one top-10 at the track in his last nine starts, and he doesn't have a single top-five finish since winning the fall race way back in 2003. The long run speed is encouraging, but owners may still want to think twice before adding Stewart to their roster this weekend.
When Happy Hour rolled around, Kyle Busch climbed to the top spot. Busch has never won at Charlotte, but he is still an excellent fantasy option this weekend. He has finished eighth or better in nine of his last 10 starts at the track. Busch has six finishes of third or better during the stretch, including two straight. Busch has finished seventh or better in three of the four Chase races thus far, and he could become the first non-Chase to get to Victory Lane during the playoffs.
Smith, Martin, Johnson and Paul Menard rounded out the top five, and Smith should instantly be considered a potential sleeper option for fantasy owners. He posted a top-10 lap in the first session, as well, and in four of his five starts at Charlotte, he has finished in the top 20. Keep in mind that he put up those numbers while driving the No. 78 Furniture Row Motorsports car, and this weekend, he will be driving for Hendrick Motorsports. There is no telling what the upgrade in equipment could do, but a top-10 isn't out of the question.
There were 22 drivers that ran at least 10 consecutive laps in the final practice, and Denny Hamlin was the best of the bunch. He has four straight top-10 finishes at Charlotte, including a career-best second-place run earlier this year. Not to mention the fact that he has six top-10s, including two wins, in his last 10 races at 1.5-mile tracks. Consider him an elite fantasy option this weekend.
Smith continued his impressive practice by posting the second-best 10-lap average speed, and Johnson and Kahne made it three HMS cars in the top four spots. Meanwhile, Brad Keselowski rounded out the top five, and the point leader could be headed for another strong outing. In addition to his strong 10-lap average speed, he posted one of the 10-fastest laps in both sessions Friday. Keselowski also finished a career-best fifth at Charlotte earlier this year. As well as he has been running, owners should definitely try to make room for him on their rosters.
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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