Although he has never won a road-course race, Carl Edwards has quietly been one of the most consistent options at Watkins Glen in recent years. After posting the third-fastest lap in the first practice at the track Friday and topping the charts in Happy Hour, he could be ready for a breakout performance at the track. Edwards has finished in the top 15 in his last seven starts at The Glen, posting an 8.0 average finish during the stretch and cracking the top 10 five times. He was already one of the safer fantasy options heading into the weekend, and after his strong showing in practice, he definitely deserves heavy consideration this weekend.
Another driver who showed plenty of muscle throughout both practice sessions was Juan Pablo Montoya. He turned in the fourth-fastest lap in both practices, and in six starts at Watkins Glen, he has finished seventh or better four times. More importantly, he won at the track in 2010 and has two road-course wins at the Cup level. Montoya was also the pole-sitter at The Glen last year and had one of the best cars on the track until getting caught up in a wreck. Fantasy owners should consider him a top-five option for Sunday's race.
Kyle Busch is another former Watkins Glen winner who impressed during Friday's practices. He ranked sixth and seventh in the two sessions, and his seven straight top-10 finishes at the track make up the longest active streak in the series. During the stretch, he has posted a 5.6 average finish, and he won the 2008 event. Busch was also out front on the final lap of last year's race when he got into some oil put down by a lap car and slid back to seventh. A win isn't out of the question this weekend, and Busch is definitely a top-five fantasy option.
Mears smears comp at The Glen?
While he hasn't won a road-course race in the Cup Series yet, Brad Keselowski has come close in his last two starts at Watkins Glen. He was passed for the lead during a green-white-checkered finish in 2011, and he exchanged the lead with eventual winner Marcos Ambrose on the final lap of last year's race before again settling for second. After ranking ninth and fifth in the two practices Friday, he looks like a safe bet to contend for the win once again.
Fantasy owners should also put Kurt Busch on the short list of drivers who should be contenders for the win this weekend. He was solid in the practices Friday, ranking 10th and 11th. Meanwhile, he has finished 11th or better in four of his last six starts at Watkins Glen, finishing as high as second during the stretch. Busch was also very fast in the first road-course event of the year, overcoming two pit-road penalties to finish fourth at Sonoma. If he is anywhere near as fast this weekend and can avoid the penalties, he may run away with the race.
Two-time defending race winner Marcos Ambrose didn't turn great laps in both practices Friday, but after ranking second on the charts in the opening session, he could afford to focus on race trim in Happy Hour. Not to mention the fact that he has never finished worse than third in five starts at Watkins Glen. Ambrose should still be considered the favorite to three-peat at a track he has owned his entire career.
Like Ambrose, Martin Truex Jr. didn't wow in both sessions, but he didn't have to do so after pacing the opening practice. Meanwhile, an argument can be made that Truex is one of the up-and-coming road-course aces in the series. He has finished in the top 15 in five of his last six starts at Watkins Glen and has four top-10s during the stretch. He also went to victory lane at Sonoma earlier this year, and even if he doesn't complete the season sweep at the road-courses, Truex should deliver a top-10 finish.
Fantasy owners looking for a serious sleeper option this weekend may want to consider Casey Mears. After ranking fifth in the first practice Friday, he ranked 13th in Happy Hour. Perhaps more importantly, he has reeled off five straight top-20 finishes at Watkins Glen, including a 16th-place run last year. At the very least, Mears seems to be on tap to continue his streak of top-20 finishes at The Glen, and a top-15 certainly seems possible.
On the flip side, fantasy owners hoping that Max Papis would make a nice sleeper option as he replaces Tony Stewart in the No. 14 this weekend may want to go in another direction. Papis struggled in his first Cup action since 2010, ranking 27th and 30th in the two practice sessions Friday. At this point, fantasy owners shouldn't expect anything more than a top-25 finish out of "Mad" Max this weekend.
Happy Hour Speeds (sorted by Best Lap)
Happy Hour 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.
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