Race: Auto Club 400
Date: Sunday March 24, 2013
Track: Auto Club Speedway
Time: 3 pm ET
by Virginia, NASCAR Handicapper, Predictem.com
Bristol wasn’t quite what I expected. While I was happy with the racing, as there was plenty of side by side and even three wide, Denny Hamlin really ruined the end for me. Joey Logano and Hamlin got into it late in the race. Logano came up the track, and instead of just pulling down and going around him, Hamlin decided to turn him around. Later on a restart, Logano ended up behind Hamlin, running into the back of his car, subsequently hitting Brad Keselowski at the beginning on the restart line. The guys worked it out without wrecking. Denny Hamlin ended up cutting a tire after all was said and done and instead of pulling onto pit road, Hamlin road the top line of the track, scraping the wall and basically getting in the way. He claimed he couldn’t turn the car, but somehow, he magically got the car of the track once the race ended after NASCAR wouldn’t throw the caution he was trying to get.
The pretty well ruined the end. There were 3 cars running for the top spot, and Hamlin interfered with that race, causing guys to have to ruin their chances by avoiding him.
That was my rant on Denny Hamlin. This weekend, perhaps tempers won’t flare quite as badly. We are moving from the mile of Bristol the 2 mile of Auto Club Speedway. This track is huge and fast. It has 14 degree banking in the turns with 11 degrees on the 3100 foot frontstretch. The backstretch is a mere 3 degrees boasting 2500 total feet. As you can see, the track is relatively flat compared to many others, but still has enough banking to give some good momentum out of the corners. We see a ton of speed here, reaching up to 200 mph and then some.
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The biggest concerns on this track are essentially track position and fuel. Track position is key because of the sheer size of the track. It’s hard to catch up and we typically see the leader grab a few seconds over 2nd place. Fuel mileage generally plays a role because of the size of the track as well. These guys are usually willing to gamble over a couple of laps, but if they run out of fuel here, it’s no good. They can’t make up the track position or time it takes to get around the track and onto pit road.
Looking at past winners here, we see multiple drivers with multiple wins. Of course, Jimmie Johnson holds the most, with five total wins. Matt Kenseth, Tony Stewart, and Jeff Gordon are some of the other drivers with multiple wins. Taking a look at the best contenders for this weekend, I think that Matt Kenseth is one to watch. He had a very strong car at Bristol and was perhaps the one to beat before being taken out of the race in a freak collision with Jeff Gordon. He’s my pick for the weekend. I think that he will drive hard and be aggressive. Given the right car, Kenseth has got the right attitude to pull into victory lane this weekend. It goes without saying that Jimmie Johnson is a contender. This really is his “house” as are most other tracks on the circuit. Frankly, though, he hasn’t had the most dominating performances. He will be one to watch, but just maybe not the one to beat this weekend.
Here’s the rundown of your potential winners this weekend at Auto Club Speedway:
My Winner Pick: Matt Kenseth
Middle of the Road Pick: Clint Bowyer
Dark Horse Prediction: Mark Martin
Martin has the 9th best overall record here and is going to continue to prove that he’s competitive still as we head into this big track. Bowyer is just always around. He’s going to be one to watch move through the field and creep his way into the top 10. I think it would do Bowyer some good to be a little more aggressive, and this weekend may be his chance.
Here are your current top 12 in the points after Bristol:
1. Brad Keselowski
2. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
3. Jimmie Johnson
4. Clint Bowyer
5. Greg Biffle
6. Denny Hamlin
7. Kasey Kahne
8. Carl Edwards
9. Paul Menard
10. Kyle Busch
11. Ricky Stenhouse Jr
12. Joey Logano
I’m impressed with Stenhouse. He’s running consistent races, and maintaining his position in the standings. For a rookie, he’s definitely doing a great job. Paul Menard is another driver who is moving up in the points every week. He put on an impressive show at Bristol last week, consistently being in the top 10 drivers.
Auto Club Speedway is going to test the endurance of both the drivers and the cars this weekend. We’ve seen quite a few engine failures so far this year. Let’s see how the teams fare this weekend as we head to the beautiful state of sunny Cailfornia!