2009 Auto Club 500 Preview and Picks

Race: Auto Club 500
Date: Sunday February 22, 2009
Track: Auto Club Speedway
Time: 5 pm ET
Channel: FOX

Heading from one big track to another in the sunny skies of California, this weekend we will be at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. This has notoriously been an excellent track for the Roush drivers and Jimmie Johnson. Well, Jimmie Johnson has been good at every track, so that’s a bit redundant saying that he’s good here.

Johnson is the defending winner here, but I think that we are going to see something different this year. This speedway is a 2-mile D-shaped oval with 14 degree banking in the turns. The straights are composed of 11 degree banking on the frontstretch and 3 degree banking on the backstretch with the frontstretch boasting 3100 feet of wide open space for the drivers to get ultimate speed.

There have been a lot of changes this year so far, just from watching speed weeks at Daytona. I don’t think that Johnson is going to defend his title at this track. I’d be willing to put money on someone who has never won here before. In fact, this driver is with a new team, a new owner, and a new sponsor. I must be crazy, right? Well, Tony Stewart has been beyond impressive since he’s shown up running his own team under Hendrick power. Stewart has been solid in every race so far, showing nothing less than the potential to dominate. While we saw Kyle Busch lead much of Daytona, I think that Stewart could rule on a track like this under his new equipment.

Carl Edwards is another guy to watch, but when it comes down to it, Stewart is hungrier and more aggressive. I think that this is a race that he can easily win and shut the mouth of all the nay-sayers at the same time. Jeff Gordon is also good at this track, but I don’t think that he can hold off Tony Stewart. When Stewart wants something, Stewart gets it one way or another.

We also saw a big disparity in teamwork at Daytona. The Gibbs guys worked together very well as did the Roush guys. The Hendrick guys went against all odds and all drove basically separate races. This is going to hurt this team in the long run. Mark Martin tried to hook up with Jeff Gordon, but wasn’t so successful the majority of the time. It’s almost like there’s 4 completely different personalities that completely clash in the Hendrick garage. I don’t really get it because the Hendrick team has been groomed to be the best, to work together, and to have class. They lacked just about all of that this past weekend.

Here’s a look at your top 12 in points, who just happen to be your top 12 finishers as Daytona.

1. Matt Kenseth
2. Kevin Harvick
3. A.J. Allmendinger
4. Clint Bowyer
5. Elliot Sadler
6. David Ragan
7. Michael Waltrip
8. Tony Stewart
9. Reed Sorenson
10. Martin Truex Jr.
11. Kurt Busch
12. Jeff Gordon

Definitely look for these standings to get jumbled up. I doubt you’ll see but 4 or 5 of the same guys in the top 12 after this weekend. California is usually a pretty exciting race, especially now that we know what Jr. is capable of. If Stewart can manage to elude the big wrecks, I wouldn’t hesitate to say that he is going to be seeing a lot of checkers as well by the end of the night.