The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stops at Auto Club Speedway's two-mile oval for the fifth race of the 2012 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 Sunday.
When: Sunday, March 25, 2012 at 3:16 p.m./et.
Weather: A few showers with a daytime high around 63; wind out of the SSW at 9 mph. There is a 30 percent chance of precipitation.
The Track: Auto ClubSpeedway
ACSis 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 is usually won or lost in the wind tunnel. The cars with the top aerodynamic packages will generally dominate and drivers from multicar teams have a clear advantage. Sunday should be very competitive amongst the usual favorites. Look for a driver from RCR, Roush-Fenway, Gibbs, and Hendrick to take the checkers.
46 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 23 at 7:10 pm/et.
Fantasy Cheat Sheet:
No. 48 Jimmie Johnson: It is tough not to pick the native Californian. Johnson has won four of the last eight races at the track he considers his home oval.
No. 29 Kevin Harvick: Harvick won at Fontana last season and has been one of the top drivers so far in 2012. Use him in all leagues.
No. 17 Matt Kenseth: Kenseth won the 2010 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 11 of his 14 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 leads all active drivers with eight career wins in the state of California. He is a great choice.
6 to 10
No. 18 Kyle Busch: Busch has finished in the top 10 in nine of the past 12 races at Fontana. He is a great fantasy pick on Sunday.
No. 16 Greg Biffle: Biffle has been a top 11 driver in 12 of the past 13 races atACS. He will be fast again.
No. 14 Tony Stewart: Stewart finally won his first race at Fontana in 2010. He will be Smoking again this week.
No. 5 Kasey Kahne: Kahne has been great at Fontana during his career. He has nine top 10 finishes, including a win, in 15 career starts at the track.
No. 11 Denny Hamlin: Hamlin has four top 10 finishes in 11 career starts at Fontana. He is a great second driver on most fantasy teams this weekend.
11 to 20
No. 2 Brad Keselowski: Keselowski hasn’t cracked the top 20 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. 15 Clint Bowyer: Bowyer has never finished worse than 20th in 11 career starts at Fontana. He is a great third driver on any fantasy team this weekend.
No. 55 Mark Martin: Martin has 10 top 10 finishes in 20 career starts at Fontana. This is a great weekend to get the wily veteran onto your roster.
No. 31 Jeff Burton: Burton has run well in eight of the past 10 races at Fontana. We think he is a lock to finish inside the top 15.
No. 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Junior has struggled at Fontana lately. We recommend him as just a third driver in most fantasy leagues.
No. 20 Joey Logano: Logano has top 15 finishes in three of his four trips to Fontana. This is a good weekend to sneak “Sliced Bread” onto your roster.
No.56 Martin Truex Jr.: Truex looked great in three of the past eight races at Fontana. The speed he has shown this season means he is a good bet to crack the top 15.
No. 51 Kurt Busch: Busch has been strong atACSduring his career, but the way he has driven so far this year we advise avoiding him.
No. 42 Juan Pablo Montoya: Montoya has averaged just a 19th place finish at Fontana. He will just miss the top 15 this trip to California.
No. 10 David Reutimann: Rudy has been fast in four of the past six trips to Fontana. He is a decent sleeper pick this weekend.
21 to 30
No. 39 Ryan Newman: Newman has defined average in nearly all of his 12 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 seven of his nine career starts at Fontana. With the speed he is driving with this year he shouldn’t have a problem cracking the top 27 once again.
No. 22 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. 1 Jamie McMurray: McMurray has five top 10 finishes in 16 career starts at Fontana, but he hasn't cracked the top 10 in the past 10 races at the track. His lack of recent success in his home-state bumps him out of our top 20.
No. 43 Aric Almirola: Almirola hasn’t returned a heck of a lot of glory to the famed No. 43 car. He shouldn’t change that this weekend.
No. 9 Marcos Ambrose: Ambrose has struggled to crack the top 20 atACSduring his career. We won’t 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 10 races at Fontana. We expect he will struggle to have another top 30 finishes this weekend.
No. 38 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.
No. 78 Regan Smith: Smith has been a top 20 driver so far this season. He is worth taking a chance on.
No. 33 Brendan Gaughan
No. 93 Travis Kvapil
No. 34 David Ragan
No. 83 Landon Cassill
No. 32 Ken Schrader
No. 7 Robby Gordon
No. 87 Joe Nemechek
No. 98 Michael McDowell
No. 30 David Stremme
No. 23 Scott Riggs
No. 36 Dave Blaney
No. 49 J.J. Yeley
No. 19 Mike Bliss
No. 74 Stacy Compton
No. 26 Josh Wise
No. 37 Timmy Hill
1. Jimmie Johnson
2. Kevin Harvick
3. Matt Kenseth
4. Carl Edwards
1. Mark Martin
2. Martin Treux Jr.
Bust of the Week:
Dale Earnhardt Jr.