Kyle Busch may be a distant third in the championship battle, but he didn't look ready to wave the white flag during Cup Series practice at Martinsville Saturday. He turned in the second-fastest lap in the opening session to go along with the best 10-lap average speed, and in Happy Hour, he ran the fourth-fastest lap. Busch has also finished in the top five in four of his last six starts at Martinsville, including a second-place run last fall and a fifth-place effort earlier this year. Fantasy owners should consider him a definite top-five option and a contender for the win this weekend.
Another driver who appears to have a car capable of winning Sunday is Dale Earnhardt Jr. In fact, he may have been the most impressive driver in practice Saturday. After turning in the third-fastest lap and logging the fifth-best 10-lap average speed in the opening session, Junior topped the charts in both categories during final practice. Meanwhile, he has also logged seven top-15 finishes in his last 10 starts at Martinsville and has four finishes of seventh or better in his last six starts at the track. At worst, fantasy owners are probably going to get a top-10 run out of Junior, and it wouldn't be a shock to see him challenge for the win.
One driver who has done plenty of winning this year is Matt Kenseth, and he could be back in victory lane this weekend. After all, he turned in the fourth-fastest lap and posted the fourth-best 10-lap average speed in the first practice Saturday, and he ran the fifth-fastest lap and logged the third-best 10-lap average speed in Happy Hour. Granted, Martinsville has never been his best track, but Kenseth does have five top-15s in his last six starts at the track, including three straight. Don't be surprised if Kenseth notches his first Martinsville win Sunday, and he should be a top-five fantasy option regardless.
Logano has appealing boom
Clint Bowyer could also challenge for his first Martinsville win this weekend. After all, he was one of four drivers to crack the top five in both practice sessions Saturday. In fact, he turned in the second-fastest lap in Happy Hour, and he also had one of the five best 10-lap average speeds in both practices. The fast times are actually nothing new for Bowyer at Martinsville since he joined Michael Waltrip Racing. In three starts at the track with the organization, he has a 5.7 average finish, and he finished a career-best second at Martinsville earlier this year.
Of course, anyone who wants to win at Martinsville usually has to deal with Jimmie Johnson, and the eight-time track winner didn't exactly disappoint in practice Saturday. After turning in the eighth-fastest lap and logging the ninth-best 10-lap average speed in the first session, he ranked sixth on the charts in both categories in Happy Hour. Throw in his series-leading 5.3 average finish at Martinsville in 23 starts, and Johnson should be on fantasy rosters in every format this weekend.
Johnson's Hendrick Motorsports teammate Kasey Kahne also deserves consideration in just about every format. After turning in the seventh-fastest lap in the opening practice, he jumped to third on the charts in the final session. Kahne also logged the second-best 10-lap average speed in Happy Hour. Meanwhile, Kahne has been on a roll at Martinsville since joining HMS, finishing third at the track last fall and fourth earlier this year.
The only Hendrick Motorsports driver I haven't mentioned yet is Jeff Gordon, and the veteran wasn't too shabby during practice either, cracking the top 10 in both sessions. The seven-time Martinsville winner has been incredibly consistent at the track, and in the last 20 races, he has a 5.0 average finish and 18 top-10s. Look for Gordon to add another top-10 to that total this weekend, and he should make a rock-solid addition to fantasy rosters in all formats.
After a solid showing in practice, especially on longer runs, Brad Keselowski also looks like a safe option for fantasy owners this weekend. He turned in the 11th-fastest lap in the opening session and jumped to eighth on the charts in Happy Hour, and perhaps more importantly, he posted the second-best 10-lap average speed in the first practice and the fourth-best 10-lap average speed in the final session. Keselowski has quietly reeled off three straight top-10s at Martinsville, including back-to-back sixth-place finishes, and he should extend the streak this weekend.
For fantasy owners willing to gamble a bit, Joey Logano makes an intriguing option. He topped the charts in the first practice Saturday, and he cracked the top 10 in Happy Hour. Granted, he has finished outside the top 15 in four straight starts at Martinsville, but he has also finished as high as second at the track. Logano appears to have a fast car, and while there is some risk, the reward could be a top-10 finish or more.
In terms of sleeper options, Juan Pablo Montoya and Mark Martin are both worth considering. Montoya actually cracked the top 10 in both practice sessions Saturday, and Martin ranked in the top 15 in both sessions. With five top-10s in his last seven starts at Martinsville, Martin is definitely the safer choice. Montoya has been much more inconsistent, but he does have a couple of top-four finishes at the track since 2009, so he has plenty of upside to offer.
For practice results, including Happy Hour times, click here!
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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