A good weekend keeps getting better for Kyle Busch as he followed up his record-breaking pole run Friday by topping the charts in the opening practice session Saturday at Bristol. He already has five career victories at the track and owns a series-leading 8.4 average finish in the last 10 races. The fact that he has been blazing fast on the stopwatch all weekend only makes him that much more of an attractive fantasy option. Plain and simple, you are going to want to try to get Busch into your lineup Sunday.
Of course, he wasn't the only Joe Gibbs Racing driver that made noise in the first practice. His teammates Matt Kenseth and Denny Hamlin slid in right behind Busch, giving JGR a clean sweep at the top of the charts. From a fantasy standpoint, Kenseth and Hamlin could offer just as much value as Busch. After all, Hamlin won at Bristol last summer. Meanwhile, Kenseth is a two-time winner at the track and has eight top-10s in his last 10 starts. During the stretch, his 11.4 average finish at Bristol is second only to Busch's 8.4 mark.
While the JGR trio dominated the session, Jeff Burton and Kasey Kahne rounded out the top five. With seven top-20 finishes in his last eight Bristol starts, Burton does have some fantasy value this weekend because of his consistency. That being said, the upside is definitely with Kahne. He has finished 11th or better in four of his last five starts at the track, and he should be hungry for a win after coming up short at Las Vegas last weekend despite having the fastest car most of the afternoon.
In terms of 10-lap average speeds, Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski were the class of the field in the first session. It would be somewhat fitting if Sunday's race ended up being decided between the two of them, considering they have combined to win four of the last five races at the track with Keselowski taking two of the last three. Both drivers should be excellent fantasy plays this weekend.
Not much changed in Happy Hour as Kyle Busch once again paced the field. Kenseth, Hamlin and Kahne all joined him in the top five for the second straight session, while Keselowski posted the sixth-fastest lap. It was more of the same on longer runs, as well. Hamlin actually posted the best 10-lap average speed in the final practice, but Busch, Keselowski and Kahne all popped up in the top five yet again. Based on practice times, the three JGR drivers, along with Kahne and Keselowski, are the favorites to get to Victory Lane.
Another big name worth considering for your roster this weekend is Jimmie Johnson. While he didn't crack the top five in either practice Saturday, he did rank in the top 10 in terms of fastest laps and 10-lap average speeds in both sessions. Throw in the fact that he has five top-five finishes and seven top-10s in his last eight Bristol starts, and there is no reason to expect anything less than a strong run from the current points leader.
As far as sleeper options go, Burton and his Richard Childress Racing teammates could deliver solid results this weekend. In addition to posting one of the five fastest laps in the first practice, Burton also posted one of the five best 10-lap average speeds in both sessions. Meanwhile, Menard followed a top-15 showing in the first practice by cracking the top 10 in Happy Hour. He also ranked in the top 10 in terms of 10-lap average speeds. With three top-10s in his last four starts at Bristol anyway, Menard's practice times could be a pretty good indicator of where he will finish Sunday.
If you are looking for a serious long shot that could deliver surprising results, you may want to roll the dice with Casey Mears. For one, he is starting in the top 15, so he shouldn't be in danger of getting lapped in the early stages of the race. More importantly, Mears showed some muscle on longer runs, ranking sixth in terms of 10-lap average speed in the first practice Saturday and 12th in Happy Hour. A top-20 finish could be in the works.
Meanwhile, Tony Stewart lands on the list of big names to avoid for the second week in a row after another dismal showing in practice. He ranked 30th in the first session and only jumped to finish 25th in Happy Hour. "Smoke" didn't show any muscle on longer runs, either. While he did salvage an 11th-place finish at Las Vegas last weekend, he entered that race as the defending winner. He enters Bristol with five straight finishes outside the top 10 at the track, so it could be a little tougher to play damage control.
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.
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