Race Weekend Central

Matt McLaughlin’s 2007 Fontana Spring Race Driver Handicaps

Jimmie Johnson: Johnson scored his first-ever Cup victory at Fontana back in 2002 (yes, kids, they were racing stock cars way back in 2002). In addition, Johnson has scored three runner-up finishes at California, one of them in this race last year. That’s a total of four first or seconds in eight career Cup starts at the track.

Matt Kenseth: Kenseth won this race last year and has top-10 finishes in six of his 10 Fontana Cup starts. He’s led almost 10% of the laps he’s run here in Cup competition; Kenseth has also won three Busch Series races here.

Denny Hamlin: Hamlin finished 12th and sixth here last year as a rookie.

Kevin Harvick: Harvick has yet to score a top-five finish and has just two top-10 results in nine Cup starts at Fontana. On the other hand, Harvick has top-10 finishes in the last seven Busch races at this track and five of those finishes were within the top five.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Earnhardt finished second in the September race here last year and third here in 2001. However, those two top-five finishes are offset by three DNFs in 10 Fontana Cup starts, which leave Junior with a less than admirable 19th-place average finish here. He did win a Busch race at the speedway way back in 1998.

Jeff Gordon: Gordon has three Cup wins here, including his victory in the inaugural Fontana Cup event back in 1997. But lately, the No. 24 team’s flat-track program has struggled, and Gordon has just one top-10 finish in the last five races here.

Jeff Burton: It’s feast or famine for Burton at Fontana. His three top-five finishes (including a second-place finish in 1999) are offset by three finishes of 30th or worse.

Kasey Kahne: Kahne won here last September and finished second in the Fontana fall event of 2004. Those finishes account for two of his four top-10 finishes in six Cup starts here.

Kyle Busch: Busch won the fall race here in 2005, his first career Nextel Cup win, and scored top-10 finishes in both of last year’s Fontana races.

Tony Stewart: Stewart popped an engine and finished dead last here last year after contending for the win. He’s averaging only about an 18th-place finish at California despite five top-10 finishes in 11 starts.

Carl Edwards: Although he’s never won in a Cup car, Edwards has never finished worse than sixth in five career Cup starts here. In fact, in 11 starts here in NASCAR’s top-three touring series, Edwards has never finished worse than 12th.

Greg Biffle: Biffle won here in the spring of 2005 and finished second in that year’s fall race. Still he’s struggled here in his other starts, so his average Fontana Cup finish remains around 21st. He broke an engine last year while leading the race.

Casey Mears: Mears has never led a lap here in seven starts and is averaging about a 21st-place finish in seven Fontana Cup starts. However, he did finish seventh in this race last year driving for Chip Ganassi.

Brian Vickers: Vickers finished third here in 2005, but that’s his only finish better than 13th at the track; his average finish in six Fontana Cup starts remains 21st.

Kurt Busch: Busch fell on some hard times here last year. Despite having won at this track in 2003, Busch has just one top-10 result in the last six California Cup races.

Clint Bowyer: Bowyer finished 14th in this race last year, but rebounded with a credible third-place finish here last September as a rookie.

Ryan Newman: While Newman has top-10 finishes in three of his seven Fontana Cup starts, he’s missed the top 10 the last three times out here, and hasn’t led a lap at Fontana since 2004.

Martin Truex Jr.: Truex finished mid-pack in both of last year’s Fontana Cup races.

Scott Riggs: Riggs hasn’t found the handle at California yet. He did finish seventh in one race here, but his average finish remains about 23rd at this track.

About the author

Matt joined Frontstretch in 2007 after a decade of race-writing, paired with the first generation of racing internet sites like RaceComm and Racing One. Now semi-retired, he submits occasional special features while his retrospectives on drivers like Alan Kulwicki, Davey Allison, and other fallen NASCAR legends pop up every summer on Frontstretch. A motorcycle nut, look for the closest open road near you and you can catch him on the Harley during those bright, summer days in his beloved Pennsylvania.

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