Mark Martin has been one of the steadiest performers in NASCAR history at Pocono Raceway. In 50 starts at the triangle-shaped track, he has 33 top-10s, 19 top-five finishes and an 11.2 average finish. The one thing missing from his Pocono resume is a win. After topping the charts in the opening practice at the track Friday, the veteran will try once again to get the monkey off his back. Whether or not he finally gets to Victory Lane remains to be seen, but he should deliver fantasy owners a solid run either way.
Jamie McMurray posted the second-fastest lap of the opening session, followed by Hendrick Motorsports teammates Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jimmie Johnson. Fantasy owners will definitely want to target the HMS duo this weekend. Both drivers enter the race in the top five in points, and both finished in the top 10 in both races at Pocono last season. Johnson is one of the top overall options for fantasy owners this weekend. He finished fourth in both starts at Pocono in 2011, and he enters the race coming off wins in three of the last four races.
Penske Championship Racing driver A.J. Allmendinger rounded out the top five, and he could make a strong sleeper play this weekend. He has had a few solid runs at the track in the past, including a 10th-place run in the June of 2010. Joining the No. 22 team should only help his chances. Kurt Busch drove the same car to a second and third-place finishes at Pocono last year, and fellow Penske Championship Racing driver Brad Keselowski won the August race at the track. Allmendinger is definitely in the right situation for success.
Joey Logano was the only driver to run at least 10 consecutive laps in the first practice of the afternoon. Topping the charts without any competition isn't exactly and accomplishment, but Logano didn't stop there. He put down the fastest lap in Happy Hour, and he has finished in the top 15 in his last two June races at the track. That being said, his overall record at the track is mediocre at best, and Logano is still looking for his first top 10 at Pocono. He did top the charts, but he is far from a safe bet for fantasy owners.
Some heavy hitters rounded out the top five in the final practice. Carl Edwards, Jeff Gordon, Paul Menard and Kyle Busch followed Logano, and all four drivers warrant consideration from fantasy owners. Edwards is a two-time winner at the track, and Gordon is a five-time winner and the defending winner of this weekend race. Busch has never won at Pocono, but he has finished third or better in three of his last four starts at the track. Menard is more of a sleeper pick, but with three straight top-15s and a career-best 10th-place run at Pocono last August, his value is on the rise.
The big names continued to dominate on the long runs. Johnson posted the best 10-lap average speed in Happy Hour, and his teammate Kasey Kahne ranked second. Kahne is a former winner at Pocono, and he has been lightning fast in the testing sessions on the track's new pavements. He and Johnson have combined to win the last four races of 2012, and if the practice times are any indication, they could be extending the streak this weekend.
Tony Stewart, Martin and Denny Hamlin rounded out the top five, and Stewart and Hamlin can definitely be added to the list of fantasy studs. Stewart is a two-time winner at Pocono, and in his last seven starts at the track, he has six finishes of 11th or better. During the stretch, he has finished third or better four times. Meanwhile, Hamlin has been a master of Pocono since joining the Cup Series. He is a four-time winner at the track, and he has finished sixth or better in eight of his 12 starts at the track. Last year, Hamlin led the most laps in both races at Pocono.
Subbing for the suspended Kurt Busch, David Reutimann performed admirably. He ranked 17th and 18th in the two practices, setting himself up for a solid showing Sunday. Reutimann probably isn't heading for a top-10, but his practice times and his recent results at Pocono indicate that a top-20 finish is well within his reach.
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.Follow @BPolking
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