Fantasy NASCAR Practice Recap: Coke Zero 400

by Brian Polking on July 5, 2013 @ 14:30:00 PDT

 


While practice results are never an exact predictor of what will happen on race day regardless of the track, they are even less reliable for this weekend's Coke Zero 400 at Daytona. After all, the entire mindset of drivers and teams is different during a practice session at the 2.5-mile superspeedway. Instead of trying to fine-tune the handling of their cars and making their setups as close to perfect as possible, drivers are just looking to make sure their cars feel comfortable in the draft while staying out of trouble. In fact, staying out of trouble is probably the top priority for any driver in a Daytona practice as evidenced by the fact that just 17 drivers turned in laps in Happy Hour.

Even though practice times carry a little less weight than normal at Daytona, it doesn't mean they are completely useless. A fast lap in the draft can be a good indication that a driver does have a car that is handling well in the draft, and while they still have to survive the big wreck (or wrecks), having a car capable of running up front is at least a decent starting spot for drivers whom fantasy owners eye as they attempt to assemble a lineup that will deliver big results at one of the most unpredictable tracks on the schedule.

NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Junior handles plate tracks

One driver might be able to help fantasy owners achieve the goal is Matt Kenseth. He posted the 11th-fastest lap in the first practice to go along with the third-best 10-lap average speed. Perhaps more importantly, Kenseth has been the best driver in the series at plate tracks dating back to the start of 2012. He leads all drivers in points scored, wins, top-five finishes and top-10s while leading 363 more laps during the stretch than any other driver.

Roush Fenway Racing teammates Greg Biffle and Carl Edwards could also be worth a look from owners this weekend. Biffle posted the second-best 10-lap average speed in the first practice, and Edwards turned in the third-fastest lap in the same session. Meanwhile, Biffle has been running second on the final lap of the last three races at Daytona and has brought home top-six finishes in two of those events. Edwards on the other hand has logged six top-10s in his last eight Daytona starts and has posted the best average finish of any driver at the track during the stretch.

Of course, few drivers can claim to have a restrictor-plate racing resume that is more impressive than the one Dale Earnhardt Jr. has amassed, and the two-time Daytona winner didn't disappoint in practice. He turned in the fifth-fastest lap of the opening session, and although he hasn't won at Daytona since 2004, his 12.9 average finish in the last 20 races at the track is the best in the series. Not to mention the fact that he has finished fourth or better four times since 2010, picking up three second-place finishes during the stretch.

Another driver who didn't disappoint in practice was Clint Bowyer, and despite being winless at Daytona, he hasn't done much disappointing in general at the track. His 15.5 average finish at Daytona is the fourth best among active drivers, and in 15 starts, Bowyer has finished outside the top 20 in only four of those starts. At an unpredictable track like Daytona, Bowyer's ability to avoid major trouble can more than offset his lack of victories.

Fantasy owners looking for some sleeper options may want to consider A.J. Allmendinger or Paul Menard. Driving the Phoenix Racing No. 51 machine, Allmendinger turned in the fastest lap of the first practice session and the best 10-lap average speed. He has also finished 11th or better in two of his last three starts at Daytona, and the No. 51 car has finished in the top 10 in both of the plate races in 2013. For his part, Menard put down the sixth-fastest lap of the opening practice, and in his last five starts at Daytona, he has four top-15 finishes.

For those in deeper leagues or in survival-type leagues where a different driver has to be used every week, Danica Patrick may be worth a look. She recorded one of the 10 fastest laps of the first practice, and she also had one the 10 best 10-lap average speeds. Don't forget, she did start on the pole and finish eighth in the Daytona 500 to open the year. If she is going to manage another top-10 finish this season, Daytona is one of the likeliest spots.

Happy Hour Speeds (sorted by Best Lap)

Rk
Car
Driver Team
Best Time
Best Lap
Laps
1
83
David Reutimann Burger King / Dr Pepper Toyota
45.561
197.537
11
2
34
David Ragan Peanut Patch Boiled Peanuts Ford
45.583
197.442
10
3
9
Marcos Ambrose Stanley Ford
45.599
197.373
9
4
24
Jeff Gordon Axalta Coating Systems Chevrolet
45.605
197.347
18
5
55
Michael Waltrip Aaron's Dream Machine Toyota
45.750
196.721
10
6
38
David Gilliland Long John Silver's Ford
45.924
195.976
6
7
18
Kyle Busch Interstate Batteries Toyota
45.926
195.867
9
8
88
Dale Earnhardt Jr. National Guard Chevrolet
45.937
195.920
12
9
99
Carl Edwards SUBWAY Ford
45.953
195.852
15
10
5
Kasey Kahne Hendrickcars.com Chevrolet
46.036
195.499
17
11
93
Travis Kvapil Burger King / Dr Pepper Toyota
46.196
194.822
13
12
16
Greg Biffle 3M Ford
46.828
192.193
10
13
22
Joey Logano Shell Pennzoil Ford
46.880
191.980
2
14
17
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Fifth Third Ford
46.898
191.906
2
15
21
Trevor Bayne Motorcraft / Quick Lane Tire & Auto Center Ford
46.996
191.506
12
16
14
Tony Stewart Bass Pro Shops / Ducks Unlimited Chevrolet
47.299
190.279
19
17
35
Josh Wise MDS Transport Ford
47.755
188.462
5

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

Rk
Car
Driver
From Lap
To Lap
Avg. Speed
1
51
David Reutimann
1
10
194.480
2
16
Jeff Gordon
1
10
194.453
3
20
David Ragan
1
10
194.395
4
31
Michael Waltrip
1
10
194.336
5
14
Dale Earnhardt Jr.
2
11
194.061
6
22
Carl Edwards
1
10
193.981
7
42
Tony Stewart
1
10
189.628
8
10
Kasey Kahne
2
11
180.720

First Practice Speeds (sorted by Best Lap)

Rk
Car
Driver Team
Best Time
Best Lap
Laps
1
51
A.J. Allmendinger Phoenix Construction Chevrolet
44.951
200.218
22
2
15
Clint Bowyer Blue DEF Diesel Exhaust Fluid Toyota
44.952
200.214
10
3
99
Carl Edwards SUBWAY Ford
45.038
199.831
21
4
42
Juan Pablo Montoya Target Chevrolet
45.066
199.707
15
5
88
Dale Earnhardt Jr. National Guard Chevrolet
45.148
199.344
22
6
27
Paul Menard Rheem / Menards Chevrolet
45.180
199.203
21
7
10
Danica Patrick GoDaddy.com Chevrolet
45.201
199.111
26
8
11
Denny Hamlin FedEx Ground Toyota
45.258
198.860
11
9
9
Marcos Ambrose Stanley Ford
45.290
198.719
17
10
48
Jimmie Johnson Lowe's Dover White Chevrolet
45.309
198.636
30
11
20
Matt Kenseth Home Depot / Husky Toyota
45.325
198.566
25
12
16
Greg Biffle 3M Ford
45.329
198.548
22
13
2
Brad Keselowski Miller Lite Ford
45.333
198.531
33
14
31
Jeff Burton Kwikset Chevrolet
45.340
198.500
29
15
47
Bobby Labonte Scott Products Toyota
45.361
198.408
23
16
30
David Stremme Lean 1 Toyota
45.367
198.382
23
17
38
David Gilliland Long John Silver's Ford
45.389
198.286
6
18
18
Kyle Busch Interstate Batteries Toyota
45.415
198.172
22
19
78
Kurt Busch Furniture Row Racing / Sealy Chevrolet
45.416
198.168
12
20
5
Kasey Kahne Hendrickcars.com Chevrolet
45.421
198.146
25
21
1
Jamie McMurray Cessna Chevrolet
45.454
198.002
12
22
93
Travis Kvapil Burger King / Dr Pepper Toyota
45.459
197.981
22
23
17
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Fifth Third Ford
45.461
197.972
28
24
13
Casey Mears GEICO Ford
45.476
197.907
17
25
34
David Ragan Peanut Patch Boiled Peanuts Ford
45.477
197.902
9
26
22
Joey Logano Shell Pennzoil Ford
45.479
197.894
28
27
29
Kevin Harvick Budweiser Folds of Honor Chevrolet
45.479
197.894
16
28
83
David Reutimann Burger King / Dr Pepper Toyota
45.480
197.889
27
29
43
Aric Almirola U.S. Air Force Ford
45.540
197.628
29
30
14
Tony Stewart Bass Pro Shops / Ducks Unlimited Chevrolet
45.556
197.559
24
31
56
Martin Truex Jr. NAPA Batteries Toyota
45.575
197.477
27
32
24
Jeff Gordon Axalta Coating Systems Chevrolet
45.627
197.252
25
33
21
Trevor Bayne Motorcraft / Quick Lane Tire & Auto Center Ford
45.658
197.118
22
34
39
Ryan Newman Outback Steakhouse Chevrolet
45.700
196.937
10
35
35
Josh Wise MDS Transport Ford
46.076
195.329
17
36
55
Michael Waltrip Aaron's Dream Machine Toyota
47.010
191.449
14
37
98
Michael McDowell Phil Parsons Racing Ford
47.267
190.408
2
38
7
Dave Blaney Florida Lottery Chevrolet
47.318
190.202
9
39
95
Scott Speed Leavine Family Racing Ford
47.561
189.231
10
40
36
J.J. Yeley Golden Corral Chevrolet
47.721
188.596
11
41
33
Landon Cassill LittleJoesAutos.com Chevrolet
47.727
188.573
8
42
87
Joe Nemechek Royal Teak Collection Toyota
47.889
187.935
3
43
32
Terry Labonte C & J Energy Ford
47.993
187.527
10

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

Rk
Car
Driver
From Lap
To Lap
Avg. Speed
1
51
A.J. Allmendinger
2
11
197.280
2
16
Greg Biffle
2
11
196.797
3
20
Matt Kenseth
2
11
196.751
4
31
Jeff Burton
3
12
196.581
5
14
Tony Stewart
2
11
196.459
6
22
Joey Logano
2
11
196.408
7
42
Juan Pablo Montoya
3
12
196.401
8
10
Danica Patrick
1
10
196.265
9
88
Dale Earnhardt Jr.
3
12
196.216
10
43
Aric Almirola
2
11
196.177
11
99
Carl Edwards
4
13
196.067
12
9
Marcos Ambrose
6
15
195.822
13
24
Jeff Gordon
9
18
195.792
14
2
Brad Keselowski
2
11
195.754
15
17
Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
10
19
195.446
16
5
Kasey Kahne
16
25
195.400
17
29
Kevin Harvick
5
14
195.153
18
83
David Reutimann
12
21
193.525

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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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