Fantasy owners that thought Mark Martin's value would suffer with his move to a part-time schedule better think again. The veteran has a 12.2 average finish in four starts in 2012, picking up two top-10s and a pole. In fact, he is currently 25th in the standings and ahead of guys like Kasey Kahne and Kurt Busch despite missing two races. The ageless wonder continued his strong season at Texas Thursday, topping the charts in the opening practice. With four finishes of sixth or better in his last six starts at the 1.5-mile track, Martin might just be getting started this weekend.
Point leader Greg Biffle could be in for a strong weekend, as well. He posted the second fastest lap in the first practice, and his streak of seven straight top-10 finishes at Texas is currently the longest in the Cup Series. Biffle has done everything but win in 2012, and with three straight top-five finishes at Texas, he could change that Saturday night.
Kevin Harvick, A.J. Allmendinger and Regan Smith rounded out the top five, and while Harvick can likely be penciled in for a top-10, Allmendinger is the most intriguing fantasy option. He is coming off a second-place finish at Martinsville, and he has four top-15 finishes in his last five starts at Texas. He finished a career-best 10th at the track last fall, and if he builds on that run, Allmendinger could be a sneaky top-10 driver this weekend.
Smith led all drivers in terms of 10-lap average speeds, but only three drivers ran enough consecutive laps to qualify. Smith hasn't really had a lot of luck at Texas either. He has a 29.4 average finish in eight starts and has yet to crack the top 20 at the track.
In Happy Hour Friday, Trevor Bayne climbed to the top of the charts. He has finished 17th in all three career starts at Texas, and he could make an excellent sleeper pick this weekend. Bayne's Wood Brothers Racing team gets equipment from Roush Fenway Racing, and RFR placed four drivers in the top seven spots at Texas last April. Bayne runs a limited schedule, and in fantasy leagues that limit the number of times each driver can be used, he is even more valuable. Take advantage of him this weekend.
Biffle continued his solid weekend in the final session, posting the second fastest lap once again. He was followed by his teammate and defending race winner Matt Kenseth. Kenseth leads all drivers with an 8.7 average finish at Texas, and he has finished fourth or better in three straight starts. In fact, Kenseth has nine top-10 finishes and seven top-fives in his last 10 starts in Texas. Both he and Biffle should be contenders for the win Saturday night.
Clint Bowyer and Allmendinger rounded out the top five, and owners can add Bowyer to the list of drivers to consider this weekend. He has finished ninth or better in three straight starts at Texas, including a runner-up effort last April. Bowyer has been off to a strong start with Michael Waltrip Racing, and the good times should continue this weekend.
After posting the second fastest lap in both practices, Biffle finally climbed to the top of the charts in Happy Hour when it came to 10-lap average speeds. He was followed by former Texas winner Jimmie Johnson. Johnson's 10.2 average finish is the second best at the track, and he has four runner-up finishes to go along with his victory. As always, Johnson should be an elite fantasy option this weekend.
MWR teammates Martin Truex Jr. and Martin ranked third and fourth in terms of 10-lap average speeds, and David Ragan completed the top five. Like Bowyer and Martin, Truex has enjoyed some past success at Texas. He has a pair of top-10 finishes in his last four starts at the track, including an eighth-place run last fall. MWR is off to an incredible start in 2012, and all three drivers are worthy of fantasy consideration this weekend.
Owners looking for a sleeper should look to Marcos Ambrose. He ranked sixth and 10th in the two practice sessions, and his recent results at Texas are encouraging. Ambrose has three straight finishes of 12th or better at the track, including a career-best sixth-place finish last April in his first start at Texas with Richard Petty Motorsports.
There were also several big names to avoid, including Kyle Busch and Jeff Gordon. Busch ranked 19th and 27th in the two sessions, while Gordon ranked 28th and 30th. Tony Stewart didn't impress either, and he was forced to a backup car after a wreck in Happy Hour. He did manage to get about 40 minutes of practice time in with his new car, but he is still facing an uphill battle. That being said, it is impossible to write him off completely. After all, he has won the last three races at 1.5-mile tracks, including a dominating victory at Texas last fall. If there was ever a driver to give the benefit of the doubt to, it is Stewart this weekend.
Happy Hour Speeds (sorted by Best Lap)
10-Lap Average Speeds (must run 10 consecutive laps)
First 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.
Don't miss these great reports....