The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stops at Auto Club Speedway's two-mile oval for the fifth race of the 2011 season, the Auto Club 400. Brian Brown took a look at past performances, season trends, and spoke with NASCAR contacts to predict how the field should finish on Saturday. When:
Saturday, March 27, 2011 at 3:16 p.m./et.Weather:
Sunny with a daytime high around 63; wind out of the WSW at 9 mph. There is a 10 percent chance of precipitation.The Track:
Auto Club Speedway
ACS is a two-mile long D-shaped oval. It has intermediate (14 degree) banking on the corners which allows for drivers to run their cars nearly wide-open the entire way around the track. Key to Race:
RUN WITH THE BIG DOGS OR GO HOME
This is a race that used to be won or lost in the wind tunnel, but with "today's car" not as dependent on aerodynamic packages as the car driven a few years ago, driver skill plays a greater factor in winning or losing. Judging from the last few races at the track, Saturday should be very competitive with Roush-Fenway, Gibbs, and Hendrick bringing the cars to beat. Qualifying Procedures:
43 cars will attempt to qualify for 43 spots. Cars not in the top 35 in the final 2011 owner point standings will have to qualify based on speed. Starting positions 1-43 will be determined during qualifying on Friday, March 25 at 7:10 pm/et.Fantasy Cheat Sheet:Top 5
No. 48 Jimmie Johnson
: It is tough not to pick the native Californian. Johnson has won four of the last seven races at the track he considers his home oval.
No. 18 Kyle Busch
: Busch has finished in the top 10 in eight of the past 11 races at Fontana. He is a great fantasy pick on Saturday.
No. 17 Matt Kenseth
: Kenseth won last year's spring race for his third career win at the track. He should finish in the top five again this weekend, but we don't see him notching another win in the Sunshine State.
No. 99 Carl Edwards
: Edwards has finished seventh or better in 10 of his 13 Cup starts at Fontana. He won the February 2008 race at the track and is one of our favorites to win again this weekend.
No. 24 Jeff Gordon
: Gordon has three career wins at Fontana and had one of the best cars on the track in last season's races. He is a great choice.6 to 10
No. 16 Greg Biffle
: Biffle has been a top 10 driver in 11 of the past 12 races at ACS. He will be fast again.
No. 14 Tony Stewart
: Stewart finally won his first race at Fontana last fall. He will be Smoking again this week.
No. 22 Kurt Busch
: Busch has been strong at ACS during his career. He has a win and six top five finishes in 17 career starts at the track. He won't have a problem finishing inside the top 10.
No. 29 Kevin Harvick
: Harvick has averaged a top 14 finish the past eight trips to Fontana. He will be fast again.
No. 5 Mark Martin
: Martin has 10 top 10 finishes in 19 career starts at Fontana. This is a great weekend to get the wily veteran onto your roster.11 to 20
No. 4 Kasey Kahne
: Kahne has been great at Fontana during his career. He has eight top 10 finishes, including a win, in 14 career starts at the track.
No. 11 Denny Hamlin
: Hamlin has four top 10 finishes in 10 career starts at Fontana. He is a great second driver on most fantasy teams this weekend.
No. 33 Clint Bowyer
: Bowyer has never finished worse than 20th in 10 career starts at Fontana. He is a great third driver on any fantasy team this weekend.
No. 31 Jeff Burton
: Burton has run well in seven of the past nine races at Fontana. We think he is a lock to finish inside the top 15.
No. 20 Joey Logano
: Logano has top 15 finishes in his past three trips to Fontana. This is a good weekend to sneak "Sliced Bread" onto your roster.
No. 83 Brian Vickers
: Fontana has always been one of Vickers' top tracks. He is going to be a great pick this weekend.
No. 42 Juan Pablo Montoya
: Montoya has averaged just a 21st place finish at Fontana. He will just miss the top 15 this trip to California.
No. 00 David Reutimann
: Rudy has been fast in four of the past five trips to Fontana. He is a decent sleeper pick this weekend.
No.56 Martin Truex Jr.
: Truex looked great in three of the past seven races at Fontana. He could crack the top 15 with a little luck.
No. 6 David Ragan
: Fontana is one of Ragan's top tracks. This is a rare weekend to add him to your roster.21 to 30
No. 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr.
: Junior has struggled at Fontana lately. We recommend avoiding him.
No. 2 Brad Keselowski
: Keselowski finished 21st and 26th in his first Cup starts at Fontana. He averaged a 12th place finish in five career Nationwide Series starts at the track so he will have no problem being competitive this weekend.
No. 39 Ryan Newman
: Newman has defined average in nearly all of his 11 career starts at Fontana. This is a good weekend to take a pass on the Purdue Boilermaker.
No. 27 Paul Menard
: Menard has cracked the top 27 in six of his eight career starts at Fontana. With the way his is driving this year he shouldn't have a problem cracking the top 27.
No. 1 Jamie McMurray
: McMurray has five top 10 finishes in 15 career starts at Fontana, but he hasn't cracked the top 10 in the past nine races at the track. His lack of recent success in his home-state bumps him out of our top 20.
No. 43 A.J. Allmendinger: Allmendinger has had mixed results at Fontana during his career. He is a little too risky of a choice for our blood.
No. 9 Marcos Ambrose
: Ambrose has struggled to crack the top 20 at ACS during his career. We don't think he will have enough speed to be anything but a fourth driver in fantasy leagues this weekend.
No. 13 Casey Mears
: Mears has been very average at Fontana. He is only worth using for those of you in the deepest leagues.
No. 47 Bobby Labonte
: Labonte has cracked the top 30 in eight of the past nine races at Fontana. We expect he will struggle to have another top 30 finishes this weekend.
No. 34 David Gilliland
: California native Gilliland has done well in his previous trips to Fontana. He is a deep, deep, deep sleeper for those of you desperate for a driver no one else in your league will use.Field Fillers
No. 21 Trevor Bayne
No. 78 Regan Smith
No. 7 Robby Gordon
No. 38 Travis Kvapil
No. 37 Tony Raines
No. 71 Andy Lally
No. 87 Joe Nemechek
No. 46 J.J. Yeley
No. 09 Landon Cassill
No. 32 Ken Schrader
No. 36 Dave Blaney
No. 60 Todd Bodine
No. 66 Michael McDowellBrownie's PicksTop Four:
1. Jimmie Johnson
2. Kyle Busch
3. Matt Kenseth
4. Carl Edwards Sleepers:
1. Joey Logano
2. Brian VickersBust of the Week:Dale Earnhardt Jr.