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Kyle Larson
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NASCAR Fantasy Live Preview

Fantasy Live: Auto Club 400

by Dan Beaver

The two-mile tracks of Auto Club Speedway and Michigan International Speedway are probably the closest comparatives fantasy owners see during the season. One was literally built from the blueprint of the other.

That was a lot more useful back when the track in Fontana hosted two races. It is not without its benefit currently. It has been nearly 365 days since the field was last on this track, but fantasy owners can look back at Michigan’s pair of events to help set this week’s roster.

The biggest unknown is going to be how the cars are affected by the new aerodynamic rules. They created some interesting scenarios on the 1.5-mile Atlanta and Las Vegas Motor Speedways, but they did not really change the outcome. On a two-mile track, the draft may play a more important role, so changes for position in the top five could occur all the way to the checkers.

Still, this is one of the tracks on which speed equals money, so don’t expect much from dark horses. Bet on the sure things.


Kyle Busch
Busch is on a collision course with 200 combined wins in NASCAR’s top-three series. He’s added four in the last two weeks with one Truck win, two Xfinity wins and the Cup race at Phoenix. He’s going to get another this week and it could very well happen in the Auto Club 400. Last year he led 62 laps and finished third, which was one of three consecutive top-fives on two-mile tracks. His most recent win at Auto Club came in 2014, which was the second in back-to-back victories.

Kyle Larson
From summer 2016 until last spring’s Auto Club race, Larson had a six-race streak of top-fives. Four of those were consecutive wins. His last two attempts at Auto Club ended in a first- and second-place finish, so there is a lot of reason to be charged about Larson. He lost some of his cache with two bad finishes at Michigan last year, but with a little luck those uncharacteristic bad runs will have your competition looking elsewhere for a roster anchor.

Brad Keselowski
Keselowski had a bad run last week in Phoenix. One risk of starting a driver with a win this early in the season is that his team might begin experimenting with radical setups. While we are not sure that is what cut Keselowski’s tire, it is fair to be a little nervous. The two-mile tracks have been great to Team Penske in general and Keselowski in particular. He enters the weekend with 12 top-10s in the last 14 races on this course type and one of these was a victory in California in 2015.

Kevin Harvick
Harvick is not nearly as dominant this season as he was last year, but he is still perfectly capable of scoring top-fives. If not for a poorly executed strategy last week, he would have finished with the leaders at Phoenix. Even after coming from outside the top 20, he managed to get a top-10 finish. On two-mile tracks, he’s been great more often than not with one win, eight more second-place finishes and 11 top-fives in the last 18 races dating back to 2013.

Greatest Differentiator

Chris Buescher
Buescher is having a career-season. He scored a top-10 at Atlanta a couple of weeks ago and was much stronger than his 18th at Las Vegas demonstrates. Even though we didn’t expect a lot from him at Phoenix, he nearly cracked the top 15. Keeping him in reserve could mean the difference between winning and losing this week if one of the marquee drivers crashes in the first half of the race, but you will want to make certain you are confident in your garage pick.

Garage Pick

Joey Logano
Logano has not yet won at Auto Club, but he’s been close in recent years. He has finished seventh or better in five of his last six starts there and the only time he failed to do so was when he burned up a rear gear in 2014. Team Penske is rejuvenated this year with wins in Cup, IndyCar, and Australian V8 Supercars. They are addicted to excellence and as long as each division is trying to top the others, they are going to challenge for wins.

Red Flag

Erik Jones
Jones is going to be a tempting driver this week. He’s good on unrestricted, intermediate speedways and so is Joe Gibbs Racing in general. On the two-mile versions, he has swept the top 15, but he has only one top-five and another seventh-place finish in six attempts. He’s run with the leaders a lot in the past two years, but he has also made a lot of unforced errors and we suspect he will spin at some point on Sunday.

 

2019 Segment wins and points

Driver

Segment Points

Segments earning points

Segment Wins

Kevin Harvick

53

8

2

Joey Logano

47

8

1

Ryan Blaney

38

5

2

Kyle Busch

37

5

2

Denny Hamlin

33

6

 

Martin Truex Jr.

33

5

 

Aric Almirola

29

4

 

Kyle Larson

27

4

1

Alex Bowman

18

3

 

Chase Elliott

16

5

 

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

16

4

 

Brad Keselowski

15

3

 

Daniel Suarez

12

3

 

Kurt Busch

12

3

 

William Byron

12

2

 

Clint Bowyer

11

3

 

Erik Jones

10

3

 

Jimmie Johnson

7

3

 

Matt DiBenedetto

5

1

 

Ryan Newman

5

1

 

Austin Dillon

4

1

 

 

Dan Beaver

Dan Beaver has been covering fantasy NASCAR for more than 15 years with a little help from his >600,000 record database. He can be found on Twitter @FantasyRace.