NASCAR Picks for Auto Club
Length: 2.000 miles
Shape: D-shaped Oval
Location: Fontana, California
Additional article: Auto Club Practice Recap: Drivers to Watch
Just when you think the early obstacles are out of the way, something new comes along to doom a perfectly good afternoon of racing for your fantasy team. Last weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway, a rash of blown tires saddled many big names with bad finishes and even knocked out a few drivers that appeared to be well on their way to top-five finishes. Between the wrecks at Daytona, some early engine issues for various teams and now the Bristol tire issue, a nice normal race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California this weekend would be a welcomed change.
The 2.0-mile oval is a sister track of Michigan International Speedway, and while a wide track surface allows for comfortable side-by-side racing, the high speeds often make clean air and track position the trump card. Not to mention the fact that fuel mileage often becomes the deciding factor because of lack of cautions and extended green flag, which can lead to some tense moments in the closing laps as drivers try to stretch their fuel to the finish. Heck, last year's race even rain shortened. With the way things have gone so far, who knows what to expect Sunday.
Kyle Busch, #18 Mars Brands/Interstate Batteries, Joe Gibbs Racing [Yahoo Class B]
Busch is finding his stride just in time to visit Auto Club Speedway where he is a former winner and has finished in the top 10 in 10 of his last 13 starts. More importantly, he has been inching closer to a return to Victory Lane recently. Busch finished third at the track in 2011 and second last year.
Kasey Kahne, #5 Farmers Insurance/Quaker State, Hendrick Motorsports [Yahoo Class A]
His 14.9 average finish at ACS doesn't do him justice. Kahne is a former winner at the 2.0-mile track, and he has finished in the top 15 in 12 of his 16 starts, including three straight. Throw in the fact that he is probably the hottest driver in the series right now, and he should be in the mix for a win for the third week in a row.
Jimmie Johnson, #48 Lowe's/Kobalt Tools, Hendrick Motorsports [Yahoo Class A]
In 18 starts in Fontana, Johnson has compiled a series-leading 5.4 average finish and has never finished worse than 16th. More importantly, he has finished third or better at the track 12 times in his career, piling up five wins and five second-place finishes. Anything less than a top-five finish would be a big surprise.
Brad Keselowski, #2 Miller Lite, Penske Racing [Yahoo Class A]
Although Keselowski is still looking for his first top-15 finish at ACS, owners should feel free to overlook his 22.8 average finish in four starts at the track. After all, we are talking about a guy that has followed up a championship-winning season with four straight top-five finishes to open 2013. Keselowski is a weekly top-five option until further notice.
Carl Edwards, #99 Fastenal/Aflac/UPS/Subway, Roush Fenway Racing [Yahoo Class B]
Despite having just one win in Fontana in 15 starts, there aren't many drivers that have been more reliable at the track. Edwards has finished seventh or better in 12 of his 15 starts, and his 8.7 average finish is the second best in the series. Owners should consider Edwards a low-risk option this weekend with plenty of upside.
Kevin Harvick, #29 Budweiser/Rheem, Richard Childress Racing [Yahoo Class A]
Harvick has been dialed in at ACS lately. He has reeled off five straight top-10 finishes and has finished int he top five three times in his last four starts. Harvick won at the track in 2011, and during his five-race hot streak, he has compiled an impressive 4.8 average finish.
Matt Kenseth, #20 Husky/Dollar General, Joe Gibbs Racing [Yahoo Class A]
From 2005 to 2009, Kenseth reeled off eight straight finishes of seventh or better at ACS. He has been a little up and down in recent starts, but he remains one of the top options at the track. His 10.3 average finish in the last 20 races is the third best in the series, and Kenseth has tallied three wins in Fontana since the start of the 2006 season.
Clint Bowyer, #15 5-Hour Energy, Michael Waltrip Racing [Yahoo Class A]
Bowyer offers that coveted combination of reliability and upside this weekend. In 12 starts at ACS, he has compiled a 10.8 average finish and has yet to finish outside the top 20. Meanwhile, he has finished in the top 10 four times in his last five starts at the track, including a second-place run in 2010.
Tony Stewart, #14 Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1, Stewart-Haas Racing [Yahoo Class A]
His slow start isn't out of the ordinary, and while he normally does his best work from the summer months on, "Smoke" could make an exception this weekend. After all, he is the defending winner of Sunday's race and has won two of the last three races at the track. In fact, Stewart has finished in the top 10 in five of his last six starts at Fontana, so he should help out fantasy owners even if he doesn't win.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., #88 National Guard/Diet Mountain Dew, Hendrick Motorsports [Yahoo Class B]
Although his overall numbers at ACS aren't pretty, Junior could be a steal this weekend. For starters, he has opened the 2013 season with four straight top-10s. He also finished third in Fontana last season. Junior appears headed in the right direction and should keep the top-10 finishes coming.
Greg Biffle, #16 3M/Bondo, Roush Fenway Racing [Yahoo Class B]
The 2.0-mile tracks have always been some of his best, and Biffle has one win and two second-place finishes among his accomplishments at Auto Club Speedway. Recently, he has finished 11th or better in three of his last four starts at the track, including a sixth-place run last year. Granted, Biffle hasn't made a serious push for a win in Fontana in a few years, but he has remained a steady performer and useful fantasy option.
Denny Hamlin, #11 FedEx, Joe Gibbs Racing [Yahoo Class A]
Hamlin has a pair of victories at the other 2.0-mile track on the schedule, but he hasn't quite had the same success at ACS that he has at Michigan. In 12 starts in Fontana, he has finished 12th or better seven times, but he also has five finishes outside the top 15 and four outside the top 25. Hamlin also has just a single top-five finish at ACS, so he doesn't quite have the upside that he does most weeks.