Posts Tagged ‘auto club 400’

Fab 5: Jason’s Auto Club 400 Picks

March 22, 2014 Leave a comment


Photo Credit: stevelyon

A year ago this weekend I had the good fortune of attending the Auto Club 400 with the Editor-In-Chief of this very website. I had lived in Cali’ close to three years but had yet to take the 90 minute drive from San Diego to Fontana. It turned out to be the best race I’ve ever seen in person, and really opened my eyes to a pretty vibrant west coast racing culture.

It’s no secret that the sport has been dominated of late by El Cajon, CA native Jimmie Johnson. And still in my mind, California’s racing fans had yet to yield the respect I handed over easily to southerners, as well as those I came in to contact with in my native New England. But my experience in Fontana was perfect. The parking was ample and FREE. The tickets were under $40. The beer was easily snuck in. (Although it took two tries because who knew you had to sneak in beers to a NASCAR race?) And the cars were FAST. Seriously, I’ve been to many races at Loudon, but they don’t touch the speeds found in Fontana for obvious reasons.

I even have video evidence I took myself:

Combine all this was some genuinely passionate fans and what looked to me a near-sellout and Fontana is as legit a NASCAR experience as I’ve ever been able to enjoy.

Alas, I spend this weekend back in New England and, while I’m excited to be living again closer to home, when the green flag drops tomorrow I’ll be watching from the couch envious of the sun-soaked Cali’ fans in the stands.

On to this week’s Fab 5, i.e. my top 5 picks for this weekend’s Auto Club 400…

5.) Kasey Kahne

Kasey Kahne’s average finish for his career at Auto Club Speedway is just 14th, but that does include one win (2005) and 10 top 10’s. (Stats courtesy of, as are the stats below.) Kahne’s inconsistency has marred his time with Hendrick to this point, but he’s been competitive each of the last two weeks and he loves the intermediate tracks. Look for the 5 to compete near the front most of the day, and crossing the checkered’s with his fifth career top-5 finish.

4.) Dale Earnhardt, Jr.

Junior came back down to Earth last week, but it had to happen eventually. Unfortunately for the 88 team, Fontana is a track where the driver has struggled at historically. An average finish of 19th in 21 starts, Earnhardt has no wins and five DNFs on his resume when racing in SoCal. So why the prediction that Junior will net just his sixth top-5 in 22 tries this weekend?

Well, because despite last week’s struggles at Bristol, Junior’s confidence is still high and his team still has that laser focus which kept him in the top-2 the first three weeks of the season. Look for a nice bounce back to top-5 form for the 88 this weekend.

3.) Joey Logano

Joseph was involved in multiple scrums in last year’s Auto Club 400, include the memorable last turn incidence that ended his day and, ultimately, Denny Hamlin’s title chances after a hard lick into the interior wall, courtesy of the 22. Logano thrives on the intermediate tracks, and while he’s yet to reach Victory Lane in 2014, the Pennzoil car – and Penske overall – has been very competitive early on. Don’t be shocked if Logano breaks through and locks up his spot in the Chase with a great run this weekend.

2.) Matt Kenseth

How fun was it to see Kenseth threading through the pack with a pretty-severely damaged car at Bristol last week? Most racing fans (including yours truly) consider Kenseth a Super-speedway racer, but the truth is he can win anywhere, be it short track, road course or the intermediates like Fontana.

This track – and the pace it generally produces – is one in which Kenseth thrives in. Long green flag runs will play to the 20’s advantage, and I’d be shocked if Matty Ice isn’t running near the front when this one hits the final stretch. The dude averages a top-10 finish at Fontana and has won here three times. I’m not going out on a limb with this one.

1.) Jimmie Johnson

It’s only a matter of time before JJ and Co. snap out of it, and what better place to do so than the 6-time Champion’s home track? Johnson’s average finish in his career at Fontant is 5.7 and he’s won in SoCal five times. It would make sense for 6-time to make it an even 6 W’s at Fontana, wouldn’t it?

Honorable Mentions: Kyle Bush (defending champion), Carl Edwards (great on intermediates), Paul Menard (sneaky-good on these tracks and he’s off to a hot start), Ricky Steinhouse, Jr. (showed he’s on the cusp of reaching Victory Lane last weekend in Bristol) and Denny Hamlin (what better way to avenge last year’s fiasco in the final turn?).