A recent hot stretch that includes four straight finishes of seventh or better has Clint Bowyer sitting second in the standings, and the only thing missing from his 2013 resume is a trip to victory lane. After posting the fourth-fastest lap in both practice sessions at New Hampshire Saturday to go along with the second-best 10-lap average speed in Happy Hour, it looks like he could get the monkey off his back as early as this weekend. Bowyer is a two-time winner at New Hampshire, and he finished third and fourth in two starts at the track last year. Fantasy owners should feel very confident adding him to their rosters this weekend in all formats.
If Bowyer wasn't the most impressive driver in practice Saturday, Matt Kenseth was. He ranked second and third in the two sessions, and while he hasn't had a top-five finish at New Hampshire since 2005, there is no denying the fact that he has been a different driver with Joe Gibbs Racing this season. Two of his series-leading four victories have come at tracks where he had never won before so a career day at New Hampshire is a real possibility. Forget his average numbers at the track. Kenseth deserves a spot on fantasy rosters.
One guy that always deserves a spot on rosters is Jimmie Johnson, and the three-time New Hampshire winner didn't disappoint in practice. He ranked fifth and sixth in the two sessions, and even though he will have to start from the back after failing post-qualifying inspection, he will likely be near the front before the checkered flag waves. After all, Johnson owns the second-best average finish of any driver at the track, and he has only finished outside the top 15 three times in 22 starts at the track.
The only driver that has better career numbers at New Hampshire than Johnson is Denny Hamlin, and he had himself a solid set of practices, as well. He ranked eighth and 12th in the two sessions, and he appears to have a car capable of building on his series-leading 7.9 average finish at the track. Hamlin already has two wins at New Hampshire, and in 14 starts, he has finished sixth or better eight times. He has also finished third or better four times in his last five starts so he has actually been getting better. Get him in your lineup this weekend.
Two other drivers that owners will want to get in their lineups this weekend are Kurt Busch and Jeff Gordon. Both drivers cracked the top 15 in both practices Saturday, and Busch actually topped the charts in the first session. Both drivers are also three-time winner at New Hampshire, and while Busch has finished sixth or better five times in the last 10 races at the track, Gordon has reeled off 15 straight top-15s, including three straight finishes of sixth or better.
Looking at the sleeper options, Martin Truex Jr. and Joey Logano could both deliver solid results for owners. Truex cracked the top-10 in both practices Saturday, and Logano ranked seventh and 11th. Logano is also a former winner at New Hampshire, and he has finished in the top 15 in his last four starts at the track. Truex on the other hand owns a 14.9 average finish at the track for his career, and he has finished outside the top 20 only three times in 14 starts.
Last but not least, Brian Vickers could be the sleeper driver with the most upside this weekend. After cracking the top 15 in the first practice, he topped the charts in Happy Hour and posted the best 10-lap average speed in the final session. Meanwhile, he has finished in the top 15 in his last three starts at New Hampshire, and he has a pair of top-10s during the stretch. Vickers should be a safe bet for a solid finish, and a top-five effort isn't out of the question.
Speeds (sorted by Best Lap)
10-Lap Average Speeds (must run 10 consecutive laps)
Practice Speeds (sorted by Best Lap)
Average Speeds (must run 10 consecutive laps)