Double duty will prove beneficial in Vegas

March 09, 2013, Dan Beaver,

Track time becomes more valuable after stretch of inclement weather

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
Rank Driver Power Avg.
1 Jimmie Johnson 7.23
2 Matt Kenseth 8.27
3 Greg Biffle 9.29
4 Carl Edwards 10.55
5 Tony Stewart 10.61
6 Kyle Busch 10.92
7 Jeff Gordon 11.50
8 Denny Hamlin 12.20
9 Kevin Harvick 12.22
10 Kasey Kahne 13.07
11 Martin Truex Jr. 14.84
12 Clint Bowyer 14.90
13 Kurt Busch 15.35
14 Dale Earnhardt Jr. 16.05
15 Brad Keselowski 16.29
16 Mark Martin 16.94
17 Paul Menard 17.36
18 Ryan Newman 18.36
19 Jamie McMurray 19.10
20 Marcos Ambrose 19.52
21 Juan Pablo Montoya 19.90
22 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 19.93
23 Joey Logano 20.22
24 AJ Allmendinger 20.23
25 Jeff Burton 21.15
26 David Ragan 21.85
27 David Reutimann 22.61
28 Aric Almirola 23.47
29 Trevor Bayne 24.05
30 Regan Smith 27.13
31 Danica Patrick 28.94
32 Scott Speed 32.81
33 Landon Cassill 33.05
34 Bobby Labonte 33.52
35 Casey Mears 33.87
36 David Gilliland 34.27
37 Travis Kvapil 34.63
38 Mike Bliss 36.83
39 Ken Schrader 37.11
40 Dave Blaney 37.74
41 JJ Yeley 37.84
42 Michael McDowell 38.74
43 David Stremme 39.42
44 Joe Nemechek 39.65
45 Scott Riggs 41.17
46 Josh Wise 41.28

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.