Race: Auto Club 400
Date: Sunday March 25, 2012
Track: Auto Club Speedway
Time: 2:30 pm ET
By Virginia Vroom, NASCAR Racing Handicapper
Bet the Auto Club 400 using your credit card at one of the web’s biggest and MOST TRUSTED racebooks: Bovada.
Bristol came away with mixed reviews. On the one hand, we have winner Brad Keselowski saying this was the best race at Bristol he’s ever raced. On the other hand, you have the fans that seem to be disappointed with fewer wrecks. The new configuration of Bristol leads to more doublewide racing throughout the entire track as well as some 3-wide racing in certain conditions! The irony of the fans being upset about fewer wrecks is that I remember the days when Bristol was nothing short of 3 laps and a caution and 3 laps and a caution and maybe 10 laps and another caution. Honestly, that’s not racing! I got sick and tired of seeing the cars trudge around the track behind the pace car instead of winding down laps with real racing.
Bristol aside, we are moving into Fontana this weekend, which will be a welcomed normal race for the fans. Hopefully, we will see some higher numbers in the stands than last weekend, where it looked pretty sparse at Bristol.
Fontana is a huge track when compared to the mere mile of Bristol. This 2-mile D-shaped oval is fast! There is 14 degree banking in the turns, 11 degrees on the frontstretch, and 3 degrees on the backstretch. Similar to Bristol, though, track position will play a key factor here. Because of the speed and length of this track, drivers tend to pull away from the field. They have a 3100 foot frontstretch and 2500 foot backstretch to pull away from the other drivers.
Along with track position, fuel mileage will also play a role, especially since the track is so large. At the short tracks, it’s a lot easier to gamble on fuel simply because you can get back to pit road so much quicker. On the big tracks, you lose so much more time by running out of fuel. When we look at the history of the winners here, we see that Kevin Harvick is the defending champ. He’s also where I’d put my money this weekend. He’s been great so far this season, and has lived up to his name of “The Closer” because he comes from nowhere to end up with a solid finish. I think that he is going to pull it out this weekend. In terms of other guys to watch for, Jimmie Johnson is excellent at this track, so he could definitely be competitive for the win. Tony Stewart and Matt Kenseth are the other 2 big names I’d expect to see challenging Harvick at the front of the field. Here is the breakdown of my picks this week:
Winner Pick: Kevin Harvick
Middle of the Road Pick: Kasey Kahne
Darkhorse Pick: Marcos Ambrose
I’m going to give Kahne the benefit of the doubt. He’s just had some absolutely terrible luck. If he can stay out of trouble, his cars are definitely good enough to get him to victory lane. Now, Marcos Ambrose is someone that I’d like to see get a win. He’s had good days and bad days but doesn’t seem to have a consistent pattern. I’m going to throw him out there this weekend based on his performance at the bigger tracks. He’s done well and should he have a fast car, he’s got a shot to get to the front.
BET DRIVER VS. DRIVER HEAD TO HEAD MATCHUPS AT INTERTOPS
Here’s a recap of your current top 10 in the points:
1. Greg Biffle
2. Kevin Harvick
3. Matt Kenseth
4. Martin Truex Jr.
5. Denny Hamlin
6. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
7. Tony Stewart
8. Clint Bowyer
9. Joey Logano
10. Paul Menard
Jimmie Johnson is in 11th place, moving a whopping 12 positions after Bristol. He’s creeping up there only 36 points behind the leader. Never count him out! Kevin Harvick is 9 points out of the lead, but I think that he will capture that from Biffle this weekend.
Look for Fontana to be a good race. This is the race where the points will begin to stabilize some. Look for a change at the top of the leader board after we leave sunny California this Sunday!