Pepsi 500 Preview and Pick – 2008

Race: Pepsi 500
Date: Sunday August 31, 2008
Track: Auto Club Speedway
Time: 7 pm ET
Channel: ESPN
by Virginia Vroom of

This weekend, we’re going back to a track that we were at back in February. This is also a race that this weekend’s Bristol winner won as well. It’s a 2 mile D-shaped oval with a 3,100 foot front stretch and a 2,500 foot back stretch. There is only 14 degree banking in the turns with 11 degree banking on the front and 3 degrees on the back. Basically, this is a fast flat track. Any takers on who the winner this year was? Any takers on who is going to win this weekend?

If you picked Carl Edwards, you’d be right. He’s been challenging Kyle Busch for the last couple of weeks and honestly seems to be the only one who has anything for him. Busch is mad at Edwards for using a CLASSIC Busch move in performing the bump and run to gain positions. This weekend should be interesting as we follow this new rivalry. If anything, this is a perfect track for Edwards. It’s fast. It’s flat. And it’s one of his favorite tracks to boot. He openly said at Bristol that he couldn’t wait for Fontana to race because he loves it so much. Being the defending champion of the track may have something to do with that too. Personally, I think Carl is on a roll, and he’s certainly got something saved up for this Sunday.


The two biggest contenders are going to be, of course, Edwards, and also Jimmie Johnson. Johnson has multiple wins here and also performs well on these types of tracks. If he is able to stay out of trouble this weekend, he may just have a shot at ending his streak of bad luck. If Gordon’s crew can get their act together and build a strong enough car like they did this weekend at Bristol, he may have something for them as well.

Some other notables to watch who are consistently good here are the other Roush guys like Biffle and Kenseth. Both have won here and both have good set-ups like Carl when we head to big flat tracks. Essentially, you have to drive fast and stay out of the walls. Drafts play a role here, but not nearly as much as at the super speedways. At tracks like Fontana, the idea is to get out front and pull away from the rest of the guys. Also, there’s a lot of passing that can happen because there’s so many grooves to run here. The goal is to stay out of lap traffic and keep tempers in check.

Kyle Busch actually managed to keep his anger issues together for the majority of the race at Bristol, which is surprising. Look for him to have another great run. Who actually rules out Kyle Busch? Love him or hate him, he’s got the goods and he always seems to deliver.

Here’s a recap of your top 12 in the points. With only 2 races to go before the Chase contenders are locked in, look for some desperate driving this weekend and also some evasive maneuvers as these guys try to fight there way into those coveted positions:

1. Kyle Busch
2. Carl Edwards
3. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
4. Jimmie Johnson
5. Jeff Burton
6. Tony Stewart
7. Greg Biffle
8. Kevin Harvick
9. Jeff Gordon
10. Matt Kenseth
11. Denny Hamlin
12. Clint Bowyer

There’s not much room between 16th and 12th. There’s actually less than 200 points, which is statistically possible to gain in these last 2 races. As far as guys farther back than that, they may be able to mathematically make it, but practically, I’m ruling them out. Even talking about 16th place Brian Vickers is a stretch, but it could happen. This weekend’s race is another night race, except it’s a Sunday night race because of the holiday weekend. Look for some great racing and some desperate drivers as we come to the closing laps of the regular season.