Update: Texas (Spring)Saturday, April 08, 2017
Speeds started slowly and built through the weekend. As a result, drivers had to search for a new limit on every lap—on a track that markets itself as having “No Limits.” Denny Hamlin stepped over the line in the first minutes of the first practice session and spun harmlessly.
Bookending the weekend, Trevor Bayne destroyed his car in Happy Hour. In between Kyle Busch, Erik Jones, and Chase Elliott also had incidents that put them behind and contributed to their failing to take a qualification lap.
In qualification, Jimmie Johnson spun as he tried to slow after his first timed lap. He flat spotted his tires and will be forced to go the back of the pack when he changes them. He will be in good company, however, because the entire Hendrick Motorsports organization will be in the back with Kasey Kahne, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Elliott all failing to get through inspection in time for qualification. Kahne also wrecked his primary in practice.
In total, nine cars failed to take a timed lap. Elliott, Kahne, and Earnhardt are joined by points’ leader Kyle Larson, Kyle Busch, Jones, Chris Buescher, Timmy Hill, and Derrike Cope at the back. Add in Bayne and Johnson and there is going to be a lot of speedy racers slicing through traffic.
That changes the focus for fantasy players. In games that award place-differential points, most of those marquee drivers are going to be a good value. But there are too many of them to insure that there are one or two must haves.
Conversely, some drivers one normally expects to earn place-differential points are guaranteed to finish worse than they started.
Notably, the three drivers on the top of the single-lap speed chart in Happy Hour all will come from the back. Johnson had the fastest time of 194.812 mph, Elliott posted a 194.252, with Larson at 193.618. The driver of the No. 42 had the best overall session, however, with the third-quickest 10-lap average of 189.835 to boost his stats.
Kyle Busch was the quickest in that session and he is going to need his long run speed to get to the front. His speed of 190.862 was the only aggregate time above the 190 mark.
Ryan Blaney had the second-quickest time in final practice with a 189.950. He will be able to utilize his speed early since he rolls off the grid from the outside pole. The new pavement has made the outside line treacherous, so expect the No. 21 to fall back early, but once he gets into the bottom groove, he is going to have the speed and quickness to recapture his positions.
Kevin Harvick showed the right balance of patience and speed in qualification. He led all three sessions for the third time in his career. This was only the fifth time that anyone has done that, which adds to the accomplishment. His lap of 198.405 was shy of a track record, but the first time in his career that he will lead the field to green at Texas. That does not mean fantasy owners do not have some stats to consider: Last year, Harvick started on the outside pole in both races before sweeping the top-five in race trim. He is coming off a slow start to the season, so predicting a win this week is difficult.
Matt Kenseth had the quickest time in Saturday morning’s practice session. He rolls off the grid eighth and also had top-10 single lap speed the day before the race. Kenseth has run well when he has stayed out of trouble this year. He represents a good opportunity for players who are willing to take a little risk.