Auto Club 500 Race Preview and Picks to Win

Race: Auto Club 500
Date: Sunday February 21, 2010
Track: Auto Club Speedway
Time: 3pm ET
Channel: FOX

If the 500 is any indication of how the rest of the season is going to go, we are in for a very exciting ride this year. Jamie McMurray took the checkers as he managed to hold off Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s late charge for the win. The emotions were incredible as McMurray took a win in his first ride in a points race in the #1 car.

There were so many strong contenders in Sunday’s race and so many who should’ve done well but didn’t. Jeff Gordon was running in the front pack for the majority of the day and ended up wrecking on the last lap of a green-white-checker finish. Teammate Jimmie Johnson had rear end troubles in the closing laps as well, with his car unable to finish the race. Tony Stewart, who won the Nationwide race on Saturday, struggled with a poor handling car all day long, which only got worse as the race unexpectedly extended into the night.


We were all kind of curious to see how the effects of a standardized start time would affect the race. Before, Daytona started a little later, therefore ending under the lights. With the 1pm start time, we all expected it to be over with the sun still up, which changes a lot in regards to the setups of the cars. However, NASCAR had to spend nearly 2.5 hours repairing over and over again a piece of asphalt that came off the track. This caused the race to have 2 pretty large breaks, with the drivers taking some time off to work on their cars and take a bite to eat and chat with each other.

The patch of asphalt that came up could pose a bigger problem than some think. Carl Edwards, who is strongly opposed to resurfacing of the tracks, made his voice known. While there is a possibility that Daytona could be resurfaced because of this incident, a good majority of the drivers don’t want such a thing to happen. The track has a lot of character and makes it a lot of fun for both drivers and fans. Personally, I think that resurfacing would take a lot away. But then again, NASCAR needs to do what’s best as far as safety is concerned for everyone involved.

With NASCAR allowing 3 attempts at a green-white-checker finish, the race certainly proved to be great there at the end. Drivers were in shootout mode, trying to muscle their way to the front of the pack. Drivers like Kevin Harvick, Clint Bowyer, and Kasey Kahne, who were battling for the lead all day, got shuffled in the pack, although they still had strong finishes.

Ultimately, that’s the beauty with these restrictor plate races. Positions change within seconds, and it’s truly anyone’s game. Here are your top 10 finishers from Sunday’s Daytona 500:

1. Jamie McMurray
2. Dale Earnhardt Jr
3. Greg Biffle
4. Clint Bowyer
5. David Reutimann
6. Martin Truex Jr.
7. Kevin Harvick
8. Matt Kenseth
9. Carl Edwards
10. Juan Montoya

With those finishes, your top 10 hold the top 10 in the points with Jeff Burton and Mark Martin rounding out the top 12.

This week, we are headed to Auto Club Speedway in Fontana. This is a 2-mile D-shaped oval track. It’s a pretty big speedway boasting a 3100 foot frontstretch and a 2500 foot backstretch. The turns are 14 degrees with the frontstretch holding an 11 degree banking. There’s a minimal 3 degrees on the backstretch.

This particular track is a favorite of golden boy, Jimmie Johnson. Carl Edwards also has a liking for this particular track. Kenseth is the defending winner of this particular race, though he was unimpressive at Daytona. Other notables to watch are Kyle Busch and definitely Kasey Kahne. He had an extremely strong run at Daytona and seems to be getting in the groove at RPM. The switch of crew chiefs, teams, and drivers has been an improvement for other drivers like Truex, who came away with an impressive top 10 finish at the 500.

If I had to go with anyone this weekend, I’d have to go with Jimmie Johnson. He’s a 4-time winner here and always a strong competitor. The 500 is uniquely not a good indicator of how his season will go as he usually does poorly there to begin with. He won his duel and definitely still has the fire. Teammate Jeff Gordon will do well here also, with Kasey Kahne expected to make another solid showing. It seems like all teams are on even playing ground right now.

All 4 makes of cars were present in the top 4 at Daytona at one point, showing that there’s been an evening of the playing field. Roush and Childress seem to also have worked hard during the off season to improve off of last year’s disappointing runs. This year may truly be the end of a dominating team and/or driver. We could finally see these guys get back to the roots of racing where it’s the best driver in victory lane. NASCAR has handed the reins back to the drivers, allowing them to create their own code of conduct on the track.

This weekend will be a good show to see if those pretty California boys mind their manners or stay true to their racing roots.