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Fantasy NASCAR practice recap: GEICO 400

By Brian Polking

Last season, Kasey Kahne kicked off a strong showing the Chase with a third-place run at Chicagoland. After posting the third-fastest lap in the first practice at the track Saturday and topping the charts in Happy Hour, he appears poised to open this year's Chase with a similar performance. Kahne also posted the best 10-lap average speed in the final practice, and he has finished in the top 15 in his last five starts at Chicagoland. Fantasy owners should consider him a top-five option in just about every format this weekend.

Another driver that impressed during the practice sessions Saturday was Joey Logano. He posted the eighth-fastest lap in the opening session and jumped to third on the charts in Happy Hour. Meanwhile, Logano finished in the top 10 at Chicagoland last year, and he has scored more points than any other driver in the series in the last seven races. He is already starting on the pole, and with his car looking just as quick in race trim, he has a ton of upside this weekend.

Of course, one driver that always has plenty of upside is Jimmie Johnson, and he didn't disappoint in practice. After cracking the top 15 in the opening session, he jumped to fourth on the charts in Happy Hour and posted the fourth-best 10-lap average speed in the final practice. Johnson enters Sunday's race with a series-leading 9.3 average finish at Chicagoland, and he has six finishes of fourth or better in 11 starts at the track, including three second-place finishes. Expect him to land somewhere in the top five this weekend, and a trip to victory is certainly a possibility.

A couple of other heavyweights that showed some muscle in practice were Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Matt Kenseth and Kyle Busch. Kenseth ranked 11-th and ninth in the two practices Saturday, and he posted the second-best 10-lap average speed in the opening session. Meanwhile, Busch posted the third-best 10-lap average speed in the first practice to go along with the seventh-fastest lap. Kenseth and Busch have also combined to win five of the six races at 1.5-mile tracks this year so both should be serious contenders this weekend.

Martin Truex Jr. could be a contender, as well. After all, he cracked the top 10 in both practice sessions Saturday, and he actually topped the charts in the opening session. Truex also leads all drivers in points scored at 1.5-mile tracks this year and has finished in the top 10 in all six events. He was already one fo the safer options available this weekend, and his practice times suggest top-five potential this weekend. Fantasy owners can't ask for a better combination.

While he may not have as much upside as some of the other options, Dale Earnhardt Jr. should make a solid addition to fantasy rosters. He turned the fourth-fastest lap in the opening practice and the eighth-fastest lap in Happy Hour. He also logged the fourth-best 10-lap average speed in the first session. Junior has finishes of third and eighth in his last two starts at Chicagoland, and he has a real shot of landing in the top 10 again this weekend.

Owners willing to gamble a bit may want to consider Juan Pablo Montoya and Kurt Busch. Neither driver has a great record at Chicagoland, but both were blazing fast in practice Saturday. Montoya posted the fifth-fastest lap in the first session and jumped to second on the charts in Happy Hour while Busch ranked ninth and sixth in the two sessions. Given their inconsistent history at the track, fantasy owners leading their leagues should probably shy away. However, they could be a perfect combo for owners looking to gain some ground in their leagues.

In terms of a serious sleeper option, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. appears to have the highest ceiling. He turned the sixth-fastest lap in the first practice Saturday, and he ranked seventh on the charts in Happy Hour. The rookie also posted the second-best 10-lap average speed in the opening session. Stenhouse will be making his first Cup start at Chicagoland this weekend, but he has recorded five straight top-20s, including his first top-10 of the year last weekend at Richmond. At the very least, he should be able to continue his top-20 streak this weekend.

Happy Hour Speeds (sorted by Best Lap)

Rk
Car
Driver
Team
Best Time
Best Lap
Laps
1
5
Farmers Insurance Chevrolet
29.823
181.068
52
2
42
Target/Kraft Chevrolet
29.825
181.056
36
3
22
Shell Pennzoil Ford
29.826
181.050
38
4
48
Lowe's Chevrolet
29.877
180.741
45
5
16
Post-it Ford
29.921
180.475
36
6
78
Furniture Row/Serta Chevrolet
29.972
180.168
35
7
17
Best Buy Ford
29.990
180.060
36
8
88
Time Warner Cable Chevrolet
30.018
179.892
36
9
20
Dollar General Toyota
30.040
179.760
32
10
56
NAPA Auto Parts Toyota
30.052
179.689
30
11
27
Quaker State/Menards Chevrolet
30.053
179.683
27
12
55
Aaron's Dream Machine Toyota
30.060
179.641
40
13
24
Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet
30.077
179.539
34
14
11
FedEx Office Toyota
30.090
179.462
47
15
2
Miller Lite Ford
30.100
179.402
31
16
99
Fastenal Ford
30.100
179.402
32
17
15
Peak Antifreeze Toyota
30.101
179.396
46
18
31
Caterpillar Chevrolet
30.106
179.366
36
19
18
Doublemint Toyota
30.109
179.348
41
20
1
McDonald's Chevrolet
30.136
179.188
30
21
14
Mobil 1/Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet
30.141
179.158
26
22
39
Quicken Loans Chevrolet
30.152
179.093
25
23
29
Budweiser Designate a Driver Chevrolet
30.166
179.009
39
24
43
Eckrich Ford
30.232
178.619
35
25
9
DeWalt Ford
30.272
178.383
38
26
51
Brandt Chevrolet
30.287
178.294
46
27
32
U.S. Chrome Ford
30.342
177.971
26
28
13
Geico Ford
30.345
177.954
20
29
35
MDS Transport Ford
30.377
177.766
5
30
10
GoDaddy Chevrolet
30.379
177.754
30
31
34
Taco Bell Ford
30.475
177.194
27
32
93
Burger King/Dr Pepper Toyota
30.479
177.171
28
33
47
Kingsford Charcoal Toyota
30.516
176.956
21
34
95
30.524
176.910
5
35
36
30.540
176.817
30
36
40
Hillman Racing Chevrolet
30.554
176.736
18
37
30
Swan Energy/Lean1 Toyota
30.594
176.505
26
38
83
Burger King/Dr Pepper Toyota
30.646
176.206
27
39
38
Long John Silver's Ford
30.757
175.570
15
40
7
30.823
175.194
15
41
33
LittleJoesAutos.com Chevrolet
31.366
172.161
17

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

Rk
Car
Driver
From Lap
To Lap
Avg. Speed
1
5
1
10
178.539
2
15
1
10
178.125
3
55
1
10
177.943
4
48
1
10
177.935
5
2
1
10
177.769
6
31
5
14
177.470
7
22
25
34
177.410
8
78
22
31
177.317
9
27
1
10
177.175
10
18
1
10
177.137
11
11
1
10
177.099
12
24
20
29
176.951
13
42
1
10
176.739
14
9
1
10
176.660
15
43
10
19
176.431
16
10
21
30
176.426
17
99
22
31
176.218
18
1
20
29
175.967
19
51
27
36
175.198

Second Practice Speeds (sorted by Best Lap)

Rk
Car
Driver
Make
Sponsor
Best Lap
Best Time
Laps
1
56
Toyota
NAPA Auto Parts
182.383
29.608
50
2
24
Chevrolet
Drive to End Hunger
182.328
29.617
41
3
5
Chevrolet
Farmers Insurance
182.291
29.623
32
4
88
Chevrolet
Time Warner Cable
182.186
29.640
44
5
42
Chevrolet
Target/Kraft
181.996
29.671
29
6
17
Ford
Best Buy
181.812
29.701
31
7
18
Toyota
Doublemint
181.690
29.721
43
8
22
Ford
Shell Pennzoil
181.641
29.729
32
9
78
Chevrolet
Furniture Row/Serta
181.513
29.750
33
10
1
Chevrolet
McDonald's
181.507
29.751
35
11
20
Toyota
Dollar General
181.372
29.773
35
12
2
Ford
Miller Lite
181.135
29.812
44
13
43
Ford
Eckrich
181.099
29.818
28
14
14
Chevrolet
Mobil 1/Bass Pro Shops
181.068
29.823
37
15
48
Chevrolet
Lowe's
180.844
29.860
31
16
99
Ford
Fastenal
180.832
29.862
22
17
29
Chevrolet
Budweiser Designate a Driver
180.814
29.865
30
18
15
Toyota
Peak Antifreeze
180.783
29.870
35
19
16
Ford
Post-it
180.729
29.879
34
20
27
Chevrolet
Quaker State/Menards
180.325
29.946
23
21
11
Toyota
FedEx Office
180.301
29.950
31
22
55
Toyota
Aaron's Dream Machine
180.240
29.960
39
23
39
Chevrolet
Quicken Loans
180.036
29.994
28
24
31
Chevrolet
Caterpillar
179.862
30.023
31
25
9
Ford
DeWalt
179.850
30.025
37
26
51
Chevrolet
Brandt
179.802
30.033
45
27
34
Ford
Taco Bell
179.712
30.048
25
28
36
Chevrolet
179.677
30.054
29
29
47
Toyota
Kingsford Charcoal
179.647
30.059
24
30
10
Chevrolet
GoDaddy
179.545
30.076
25
31
30
Toyota
Swan Energy/Lean1
179.241
30.127
20
32
13
Ford
Geico
179.039
30.161
22
33
93
Toyota
Burger King/Dr Pepper
178.377
30.273
33
34
32
Ford
U.S. Chrome
178.083
30.323
13
35
83
Toyota
Burger King/Dr Pepper
177.983
30.340
30
36
7
Chevrolet
177.667
30.394
25
37
38
Ford
Long John Silver's
177.392
30.441
20
38
87
Toyota
Royal Teak Collection
177.357
30.447
12
39
95
Ford
177.241
30.467
6
40
98
Ford
176.246
30.639
15
41
40
Chevrolet
176.125
30.660
12
42
33
Chevrolet
LittleJoesAutos.com
173.327
31.155
14

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

Rk
Car
Driver
From Lap
To Lap
Avg. Speed
1
17
1
10
180.109
2
20
1
10
179.660
3
18
1
10
179.405
4
88
1
10
179.235
5
15
13
22
179.218
6
56
1
10
179.125
7
48
16
25
178.900
8
2
2
11
178.784
9
24
13
22
178.228
10
55
30
39
176.987
11
51
15
24
176.791
12
1
26
35
174.620



 


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