NASCAR Picks for Auto Club
Length: 2.000 miles
Shape: D-shaped Oval
Location: Fontana, California
What a difference a week makes. Last Sunday, drivers were practically running on top of each other at Bristol Motor Speedway. This Sunday, drivers will be spread out across the 2.0-mile Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California that is roughly four times the size of Bristol. Of course, there wasn't nearly enough space in the closing laps at ACS last year as a wild finish sent Denny Hamlin to the hospital, put Kyle Busch in victory lane and left Tony Stewart looking to get a piece of Joey Logano. Whether Sunday's Auto Club 400 lives up to last year's race remains to be seen, but in the meantime, fantasy owners need to focus on overhauling the short-track oriented lineups from a week ago.
Downforce and horsepower will play a much bigger role this weekend than last, and while that really doesn't impact the value of the big names much, it will shuffle up the pecking order a bit (while somewhat significantly impacting which sleeper drivers are worth targeting). After all, success at Bristol is often tied more to a driver's feel for short track racing than the resources at their disposal. At Auto Club, drivers can often benefit from driving for teams with strong equipment, and organizations often run well as a whole at the track. It is something worth thinking about as we dive into this weekend's rankings.
Kyle Busch, #18 Mars Brands/Interstate Batteries, Joe Gibbs Racing [Yahoo Class A]
He is the defending winner of this weekend's race and a two-time winner at ACS for his career. Busch has been on a serious roll at the track lately. He has finished third or better in each of the last three races at the track, and during the stretch, he has led 356 of the 529 laps. Meanwhile, Busch has always been consistent at Auto Club, logging 11 top-10s in his last 14 starts.
Jimmie Johnson, #48 Lowe's/Kobalt Tools, Hendrick Motorsports [Yahoo Class A]
In terms of consistency, no driver can match Johnson's numbers at Auto Club. His 5.7 average finish at the track is by far the best in the series, and he also leads all drivers with five wins. Johnson has actually finished either first or second in 10 of his 19 starts at ACS, and he has never finished worse than 16th.
Kevin Harvick, #4 Budweiser/Jimmy Johns, Stewart-Haas Racing [Yahoo Class A]
After struggling at ACS early in his career, Harvick has emerged as one of the best options at the track of late. He has finished in the top 15 in his last six starts, compiling a 6.2 average finish. During the stretch, Harvick has finished fourth or better three times, including a win in 2011.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., #88 National Guard/Diet Mountain Dew, Hendrick Motorsports [Yahoo Class A]
Over the past two seasons, Junior has become one of the best in the business at 2.0-mile tracks. In six starts since the start of the 2012 season, his four top-five finishes are the most in the series, and he ranks second with 174 laps led. At Auto Club Speedway specifically, Junior has finishes of third and second in his last two starts.
Carl Edwards, #19 Arris/Stanley, Joe Gibbs Racing [Yahoo Class B]
Edwards just never seems to have a bad day at Auto Club Speedway. His 8.4 average finish at the track is the second best in the series, and in 16 starts, he has only finished outside the top 15 twice. In fact, Edwards has only finished worse than seventh in three starts at the track.
Matt Kenseth, #20 Dolllar General/DeWalt, Joe Gibbs Racing [Yahoo Class A]
He is a three-time winner at Auto Club, and Kenseth is also one of the most consistent drivers at the 2.0-mile oval. His 10.5 average finish at the track since 2001 is the third best in the series, and in his last 14 starts, he has 11 finishes of seventh or better.
Joey Logano, #22 Shell-Pennzoil, Team Penske [Yahoo Class B]
Logano has always been a solid performer at ACS and 2.0-mile tracks in general, but he really took his performance to another level in 2013. He compiled a 4.3 average finish in three starts at 2.0-mile ovals, finishing a career-best third at Auto Club and leading more than 20 laps in all three starts. Overall, Logano has finished in the top 15 in four of his last six starts in Fontana.
Kurt Busch, #41 Haas Automation, Stewart-Haas Racing [Yahoo Class A]
Since the start of the 2001 season, Busch's 12.4 average finish at ACS is the fifth best in the series, so it's clear that he likes the track. What's more impressive is that he has managed to finish ninth and fifth in his last two starts, despite driving for Phoenix Racing and Furniture Row Racing. If Busch can finish in the top-10 for two different single-car operations, he should at least be able to do the same for Stewart-Haas Racing this weekend.
Greg Biffle, #16 Ortho, Roush Fenway Racing [Yahoo Class B]
When it comes to 2.0-mile tracks, nobody has been better the past two years than Biffle. In six starts during the stretch, he has a series-leading 4.5 average and has scored 26 more points than any other driver. Biffle also has top-10 finishes in all six starts, including a pair of sixth-place finishes at ACS.
Ryan Newman, #31 Caterpillar, Richard Childress Racing [Yahoo Class B]
Entering Sunday's race, no driver has a longer active streak of top-10s at ACS than Newman. He has reeled off four straight top-10s at the track; and during the stretch, he has compiled a 6.8 average finish. His career numbers at Auto Club are just average, but it is tough to ignore his recent run of success.
Clint Bowyer, #15 5-Hour Energy, Michael Waltrip Racing [Yahoo Class A]
Although he is winless at Auto Club Speedway, Bowyer has been reliable at the 2.0-mile oval. His 12.7 average finish is the sixth best in the series, and in 13 starts, he has only finished outside the top 20 on one occasion. More importantly, Bowyer has nine top-15 finishes at the track, including five in his last six starts.
Kasey Kahne, #5 Farmers Insurance/Quaker State, Hendrick Motorsports [Yahoo Class A]
The former ACS winner was a little hit or miss at the track early in his career, but Kahne has been enjoying a nice stretch of solid finishes the past few seasons. He has four straight top-15s at the track, logging a 9.0 average finish during the stretch. On the flip side, Kahne has just one top-five finish in 11 starts since his 2006 victory at ACS, so his consistency has come at the expense of some upside.