For years, people who closely follow NASCAR have understood that "fastest in practice" is a bit of a misnomer.
After all, being fast for a single lap (which is how the practice charts are ordered) and being fast on a longer run during the race are completely different.
When the cars go several laps at a time and the tires drop off, that's a much better indicator of how fast a driver will be during the race.
Fortunately, NASCAR has made a new statistic available to the media, starting Thursday in Daytona: "Best 10 Consecutive Lap Average."
You may have seen this statistic periodically on Speed's practice coverage. But it has never been available to the general media until now.
It may not matter as much at a restrictor-plate track like Daytona, but it will be a much more accurate predictor at upcoming downforce tracks like Chicagoland or Indianapolis.
Here are the drivers who had the best consecutive 10-lap average during Thursday's final practice at Daytona. In parentheses is their position in the "traditional" practice charts, so you can see how much of a difference it makes.
- Jeff Gordon (8th on traditional speed chart)
- Juan Pablo Montoya (10th)
- David Reutimann (11th)
- Jeff Burton (12th)
- Jimmie Johnson (17th)
- Martin Truex Jr. (13th)
- Kevin Harvick (22nd)
- Clint Bowyer (6th)
- Kyle Busch (25th)
- Ryan Newman (15th)