The last time Clint Bowyer was making major news, he was being penalized for intentionally bringing out a caution at Richmond and igniting a series of changes to the Chase field. After turning fast laps in practice at New Hampshire Saturday, Bowyer could be in the headlines for a different reason after Sunday's Sylvania 300. He topped the charts in the opening session and ranked fifth on the charts in Happy Hour. He also ranked in the top five in terms of 10-lap average speed in both sessions. Meanwhile, Bowyer is a two-time winner at New Hampshire, and he has a 6.7 average finish at the track since joining Michael Waltrip Racing. He can help fantasy teams in all formats this weekend.
Keep an eye on Bowyer
The only driver to crack the top five in both practice sessions Saturday was Dale Earnhardt Jr. In fact, he posted the second-fastest lap in the first practice and paced the field in Happy Hour. He also logged the best 10-lap average speed in the opening session. Junior has finished in the top 15 in six of his last seven starts at New Hampshire, including three straight. Considering he was already one of the more reliable drivers available, his fast practice times only make him a more attractive pick.
Of course, one driver that is always an attractive fantasy option is Junior's teammate, Jimmie Johnson, and the three-time New Hampshire winner didn't disappoint in practice Saturday. After turning the ninth-fastest lap in the first session, he jumped to sixth on the charts in Happy Hour. Johnson also posted the second-best 10-lap average speed in the final session. He owns a 9.4 average finish at New Hampshire for his career and a 7.9 average finish in the last 10 races. As usual, Johnson should be owned in all formats this weekend.
Sticking with the Hendrick Motorsports theme, Kasey Kahne is yet another HMS driver fantasy owners may want to target. After logging the sixth-fastest lap in the first session, he jumped to third on the charts in Happy Hour. Meanwhile, Kahne is riding a streak of six straight top-15s at New Hampshire, and in three starts at the track since joining HMS, he has one win and a 5.7 average finish. His value at New Hampshire is as high as it has ever been, and he looks like an elite option this weekend.
Last weekend's winner Matt Kenseth also looks like an elite option for Sunday's race. After turning the seventh-fastest lap and posting the fourth-best 10-lap average speed in the opening practice, he jumped to second on the charts and logged the best 10-lap average speed in Happy Hour. New Hampshire has never been his best track, but he does have four straight top-15s, including a ninth-place run earlier this year. Kenseth appears to be on track for an even better showing in the return trip to New Hampshire.
Don't be surprised if Kenseth's Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch is battling at the front of the field Sunday, as well. Busch turned one of the 10-quickest laps in both practices and posted one of the 10-best 10-lap average speeds in both practices. He is also a former winner at New Hampshire, and he finished second when the series visited the 1.0-mile oval earlier this year. Busch has run a little hot and cold at New Hampshire, but when he is dialed in, he is a top-five driver at the track.
While he didn't make the Chase, Brad Keselowski should still get plenty of consideration from fantasy owners this weekend. He ranked eighth and seventh in the two practices Saturday, and he logged the third-best 10-lap average speed in Happy Hour. Keselowski has also ripped off four straight finishes of sixth or better at New Hampshire, and he looks like a safe bet for at least a top-10 this weekend.
Another non-Chaser worth targeting this weekend is Denny Hamlin. After turning the 11th-fastest lap in the first practice, he moved up to fourth on the charts in Happy Hour. Hamlin also posted one of the five-best 10-lap average speeds in both sessions. Yes, he has been mired in a terrible slump, but New Hampshire has been one of his best tracks. In fact, his 8.8 average finish at the track is the best in the series. Throw in the fact that he has finished in the top three in five of his last eight starts at the track, and Hamlin is worth taking a chance on, especially for owners that are looking to gain ground in their leagues.
There weren't many sleeper options that stood out in practice Saturday, but Paul Menard was the best of the bunch. He cracked the top 20 in both practices, turning the 11th-fastest lap in Happy Hour. Granted, he has never been great at New Hampshire and is still looking for his first top-10 at the track. However, he has finished in the top 20 in his last four starts at NHMS, and he finished a career-best 12th last September. A top-15 isn't out of the question.
Happy Hour Speeds (sorted by Best Lap)
Happy Hour 10-Lap Average Speeds (must run 10 consecutive laps)
Second Practice Speeds (sorted by Best Lap)
Second Practice 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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