LAS VEGAS -- Mother Nature was cranky at the start of the weekend. Rain washed out Friday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice session and qualifying, and also delayed Saturday’s on-track activities. Track time was at a premium, and as is often the case when that happens, experience trumps enthusiasm and places an emphasis on well-funded, veteran teams.
|Fantasy power rankings|
|11||Martin Truex Jr.||14.84|
|14||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||16.05|
|21||Juan Pablo Montoya||19.90|
|22||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||19.93|
A veteran will most likely win Sunday’s Kobalt Tools 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, but dark horses can be found among the list of seven drivers doing double duty in the Cup and Nationwide Series races. Austin Dillon, Trevor Bayne, Brad Keselowski, Kyle Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Joe Nemechek and Josh Wise got extra track time and in each instance, they will be slightly better values than they would otherwise have been.
Dillon posted the fastest time in Nationwide practice, and he will try to keep James Finch’s streak of top 15s alive. As one of the cheapest drivers in the NASCAR Fantasy Live game, he is an easy choice to stretch a player’s budget. He was not particularly strong in Saturday’s practices, but Vegas hosted a Generation-6 car test on Thursday and he was 13th in both of those sessions.
Carl Edwards found something he liked during Thursday’s test. The car he will drive Sunday was originally intended to be used in the test only, but when he posted the fourth-fastest lap that afternoon, the team decided to race this chassis. Edwards maintained his speed Saturday and posted the second fastest lap in Happy Hour.
If Kyle Busch manages to stay out of trouble, he must be considered one of this week’s favorites. He posted the fastest 10-lap averages in both the morning and afternoon sessions Saturday. In interviews, he was confident and determined to win in front of the hometown crowd. A positive attitude means a lot in NASCAR.
It is difficult to count Jeff Gordon out of any race, but he was not very fast in either practice session on Saturday. In the morning, he posted only the 26th fastest time. In Happy Hour, he climbed slightly up the grid to 22nd, but his 10-lap average of 181.375 mph placed him in the bottom half of the list of drivers who made long runs.
Brad Keselowski is in the same ballpark as Gordon. His 10-lap average in Happy Hour was slightly slower than the No. 24 and they posted almost identical fastest laps. Rolling off the grid from the pole, Keselowski will lose place differential points in the NASCAR Fantasy Live game unless he wins, and as the most expensive driver, that is too much of a gamble.