Although his chances of running down Jimmie Johnson to win the championship are slim, Matt Kenseth doesn't seem ready to throw in the towel. After winning the pole in qualifying Friday, Kenseth topped the charts in the opening practice session at Homestead Saturday and posted the fourth-best 10-lap average speed. He also paced the field in Happy Hour. Kenseth is a former winner at Homestead, and in his last eight starts at the track, he has five top-10 finishes. He may not win the title, but he clearly has his sights set on leading the most laps and winning the race. He should make an excellent fantasy option in all formats.
Logano: big risk, big payoff?
The other driver who is still mathematically eligible for the title is Kevin Harvick, and he also flexed plenty of muscle in practice Saturday. He turned in the fifth-fastest lap in both sessions, and making him one of two drivers to land in the top five in both practices. Keep in mind that Harvick's 7.9 average finish at Homestead is the second best in the series, and in his last five starts at the track, he has a 4.8 average finish. Fantasy owners should consider him one of the safest options available this weekend.
Outside the two title contenders, Martin Truex Jr. was arguably the most impressive driver in practice Saturday. In the opening session, he turned in the eighth-fastest lap and recorded the best 10-lap average speed. In Happy Hour, he jumped to fourth on the charts and posted the fourth-best 10-lap average speed. Of course, fast times at Homestead aren't exactly new for Truex. He has a 6.7 average finish at the track in seven starts since becoming a full-time Cup driver, and he hasn't finished worse than 11th during the stretch. He looks a like a top-five fantasy option this weekend.
Greg Biffle appears to have top-five potential this weekend, as well. After turning in the third-fastest lap in the first practice Saturday, he logged the second-best 10-lap average speed in the final session. Meanwhile, Biffle is no stranger to sealing the deal at Homestead; his three victories at the track tie him with Tony Stewart for the most in the series. He finished in the top five at Homestead last fall, and a repeat performance could be on tap for Sunday.
Defending race winner Jeff Gordon also deserves heavy consideration from fantasy owners this weekend. In addition to cracking the top 15 in both practices Saturday, he logged the second-best 10-lap average speed in the opening session. Including his victory last year, Gordon has five finishes of sixth or better in his last six starts at Homestead. Fantasy owners should be able to count on him for another strong showing Sunday.
One driver who doesn't have a great track record at Homestead but stood out on the practice sheets was Joey Logano. He ranked second in the first practice Saturday, and in Happy Hour, he turned in the eighth-fastest lap and recorded the seventh-best 10-lap average speed. With a 24.0 average finish in four starts at Homestead, Logano isn't a great option for fantasy owners leading their leagues heading into the finale. On the flip side, owners who need to take some risks to gain some ground may want to gamble that he can back up his strong practice times.
Dipping into the sleeper options, veteran Mark Martin needs to be on the short list of candidates. He turned in the ninth-fastest lap in the first practice Saturday, and he jumped to sixth on the charts in Happy Hour. In addition, Martin has a 13.5 average finish in 13 starts at Homestead, and he has finished outside the top 20 only twice and just once in his last eight starts at the track. At the very least, Martin should deliver a top-15 finish this weekend.
Another potential sleeper is Paul Menard. He got off to a fast start in practice, ranking sixth on the charts in the opening session. He didn't fall off much in Happy Hour either, ranking 12th on the charts. Meanwhile, Menard has improved his results at Homestead in his last six starts at the track, including a career-best 11th-place finish last fall. Yes, the trend has to end sometime, but given his practice times, another top-15 finish isn't out of the question.
Click here for Homestead practice figures, including Happy Hour speeds.
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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