Break out the caffeine and Adderall: the Sprint Cup Series is returning to California and the Auto Club Speedway for another 500-mile parade. With its lengthy straightaways and wide, sweeping corners, ACS often lends itself to long green-flag runs and a strung-out field, meaning both passing and track position will be at a premium. The latest leg in an intermediate circuit-heavy segment of the Chase, you can expect the usual suspects to be up front early and often on Sunday.
Who will those suspects be? Read on to find out in the Frontstretch Fantasy Insider, and you’ll ensure your team will run well enough to hold your interest on the racing… and not the shopping under Fontana’s grandstands.
By the Numbers
Best Average Finish at Auto Club Speedway (since 2005, active drivers)
Jimmie Johnson, 9 starts, 5.2
Matt Kenseth, 9 starts, 6.7
Carl Edwards, 9 starts, 6.8
Kyle Busch, 9 starts, 7.6
Jeff Gordon, 9 starts, 12.6
Johnson may call Lowe’s Motor Speedway “his house,” which must make ACS his “home away from home.” With two wins and seven top 10s in his last nine starts, Johnson holds the distinction of being the only driver to finish on the lead lap at ACS every race since 2005. What’s more, one year ago he scored one of the most dominant wins in recent memory, leading all but 22 laps from the pole. Johnson is making this year’s Chase look like a rerun of the last three, and expect him to dominate again in Sunday’s race. – Bryan
Kenseth is still searching for that momentum he had at the beginning of the year. But after an engine failure last week derailed his confidence, he couldn’t be going to a better track for him to turn things around. Fontana, statistically, has been the best track for the ’03 champ on the entire schedule throughout his career.
With an average finish of ninth, he’s scored more wins (three) there than at any other track, and he’s scored more top fives, on average, on the 2-mile oval than anywhere else. He also hasn’t finished outside the top 10 there since the first race of the 2005 season, scoring five top fives in the process. Watch for Kenseth to back up his early season victory at California with another strong run. – Mike
While Biffle has not set the Chase on fire like he did in the first three races last year, his run at Kansas was enough to both keep the No. 16 team within striking distance of a title and hint that Roush Fenway Racing may have finally found something on the intermediate ovals. Biffle has back-to-back top-five finishes at Fontana coming into this weekend, and he’ll carry the RFR banner again on Sunday. – Bryan
Kurt Busch has been up and down this year. Last weekend, he did end up briefly leading the race, but finished up 11th after wearing his car out while moving up from 39th starting spot. His record at the 2-mile sect of intermediate ovals reveals a similar resume. The last time the series was at Michigan, the sister track to California, he was involved in a wreck and finished 36th.
But the first trip to Michigan in June, he finished eighth, while finishing fifth at California earlier this year. That’s in line with Busch’s average finish at California (12.9), and he has won at the track before. It seems like it’s time for the No. 2 to go back up, so anticipate another strong run from him this weekend. – Mike
AJ Allmendinger has come a long way since his DNQ the first time he tackled ACS. The ‘Dinger has since averaged a top-20 finish in his career starts at Fontana, including a top-15 run in this race one year ago after qualifying on the outside of the front row. Speaking of qualifying, Allmendinger has averaged a starting spot of 9.3 on the 2-mile oval, including back-to-back top-10 qualifying runs. That’s not a bad trend at a track where passing is next to impossible. – Bryan
Sam Hornish Jr. finished fifth at Michigan in August, and finished 18th last weekend at the 1.5-miler in Kansas. While he still isn’t much of a threat to win, he’s becoming more of a threat for top 10s and occasional top fives. Put Hornish in your lineup and cross your fingers for a good race this weekend. – Mike
The Last Word
California is a wide-open multi-groove racetrack. Drivers can adjust their lines to make their cars handle, maximizing their potential throughout the race. But when it comes down to the end of the day, it’s the cars with the most horsepower who’ll have the advantage on an oval where track position is at a premium. Also, as we’ve mentioned already during the Chase, the drivers in it are there for a reason and most likely will be near the top of the field – just like at Kansas. The more of them you can pick up and get in your lineup this week, the better, as the track doesn’t lend itself to many underdog surprises.
Results of our Experts in the Frontstretch Fantasy games
Game of Tomorrow
Bryan – 7,983
Mike – 7,432
Bryan – 5,811
Mike – 5,906
Bryan – 14,996
Mike – 13,466
Mike – 465
To help the readers track how well our experts are doing, we’ll keep track of the cumulative points scored by their three drivers every week, as well as the total for the season.
Bryan – 361 9,856
Mike – 334 9,565
About the author
The Frontstretch Staff is made up of a group of talented men and women spread out all over the United States and Canada. Residing in 15 states throughout the country, plus Ontario, and widely ranging in age, the staff showcases a wide variety of diverse opinions that will keep you coming back for more week in and week out.
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