Anyone who thinks the Chase is a three-man race needs to consider practice for the Hollywood Casino 400. And anyone who believes the top three drivers in the points are not working hard to maintain their advantage should do so as well.
Drivers do not win anything for practicing, but this weekend proved they can lose a lot.
$25 or greater
Jimmie Johnson started the drama with a spin in the first practice session on Friday. On his first lap, before he had completely gotten up to speed, he spun in Turn 4 and nailed the accelerator to keep from hitting the wall. Later in that same session, it appeared he might have an engine failure when a puff of smoke erupted from his Chevrolet, but it was later reported to be a minor incident. He did not change engines and does not have to fall to the back at the green flag, which is good news. He posted the second-quickest 10-lap average in final practice and could dominate Sunday’s race.
Saturday’s morning session was less forgiving. Third in the points, Kyle Busch’s Toyota bottomed out in Turn 1 of his first lap. He chased it up the track, but could not catch it. He pounded the wall and will roll out a backup car for Sunday’s race. His place differential will be based on his official qualification of 18th, and he has struggled for much of the weekend, which makes him a difficult pick in light of his $29 price tag in the NASCAR Fantasy Live game.
Not to be left out, Matt Kenseth spun on the apron of the track while getting up to speed in Saturday morning’s session. His was a lazy spin and no one collected him. Kenseth will not be required to go to a backup, but he has had a see-saw ride weekend with this car. He struggled in Friday’s practice, but found the speed to qualify seventh. In final practice, he had the fourth-fastest single lap and the seventh-quickest 10-lap average speed, but only 16 drivers ran 10 or more laps in that session and he could be looking at a result outside the top 10 unless the team finds some magic overnight.
$20 to $24.99
Kurt Busch was also forced to roll out a backup car after he destroyed his primary in Saturday morning’s session. He was following Marcos Ambrose when that driver abruptly let off the accelerator in Turn 4 to collect if after a severe push. Busch slowed as well, but that caused his Chevrolet to snap loose and back into the wall. Like Kyle, Kurt’s place differential is based on his official qualification of 19th, and it will take a while before he begins to accumulate fantasy points. Discretion dictates leaving him in the garage.
Less than $20
At moments during practice, Danica Patrick was faster than Jeff Gordon. When the final tally was published, she was listed sixth on the 10-lap average speed chart, wedged between Gordon and Kenseth. Starting 29th, she has the potential to gain some place differential points, but she also has a tendency to get off cycle on pit stops and regularly earns quality passing points while in the top 15.
Justin Allgaier had solid speeds in an open test on Thursday and he was disappointed with his 21st-place qualification for the Hollywood Casino 400. This team has the potential to score a top-20 if its pit strategy is perfect, but in the team's first outing at Chicagoland, it fell to 27th in the final rundown. Allgaier earned positive points in that race, however. He can be had for a bargain, so he could still be useful for fantasy owners' rosters.