Sunday, March 17, 2019

Kyle Busch wins second straight week, grabs NASCAR win No. 200

Kyle Busch didn't wait long for win No. 200.
Date: March 17, 2019
Event: Auto Club 400 (Round 5 of 36)
Series: Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series
Location: Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California (2-mile oval)
Format: 200 laps, broken into three stages (60 laps/60 laps/80 laps)
Start/Finish:      4th/1st (Running, completed 200 of 200 laps)
Point Standing: 1st (237 points, 15 ahead of second)

Race Winner:    Kyle Busch of Joe Gibbs Racing (Toyota)
Stage 1 Winner: Kyle Busch of Joe Gibbs Racing (Toyota)
Stage 2 Winner: Kyle Busch of Joe Gibbs Racing (Toyota)

Stage 1 Recap (Laps 1-60):
● Kyle Busch started fourth, finished first.
● After starting from the fourth position, Busch jumped to third early and made his way to the second spot in his No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota by lap 12.
● Busch took over the top spot on lap 13, and only briefly relinquished the lead when he pitted on lap 31 for four tires and fuel.
● Once returning to the track, the driver of the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota again took over first with 28 laps to go.
● A late-stage caution on lap 56 brought the Toyota down pit road for four tires and fuel, and Busch maintained the top spot at the conclusion of Stage 1.

Stage 2 Recap (Laps 61-120):
● Started first, finished first.
● Busch dropped briefly at the start of Stage 2, but within three laps he was back to the top of the leaderboard.
● Green-flag pit stops started, and Busch brought his Toyota Camry down to pit road for four tires and fuel on lap 92 but managed to return to the track in the first position.
● Busch finished the second stage in the first position and reported he had gotten tighter the last 10 laps.
● The Interstate Batteries team went to work at the end of Stage 2, adjusting the air pressure, changing four tires and adding fuel. Unfortunately, a speeding penalty when returning to the track dropped him to the tail end of the lead lap for the start of the final stage.

Stage 3 Recap (Laps 121-200):
● Started 18th, finished first.
● At the start of the final stage, Busch and the Interstate Batteries team had some work to do to get back to the front of the field, but it was evident quickly they were up for the challenge.
● The 2015 NASCAR Cup Series champ sliced his way through the field, moving up to 12th by lap 133, back into the top-10 by lap 137 and all the way up to fourth as green-flag pit stops began for the final time.
● As the laps wound down, while Busch sat in fourth, he was almost eight seconds behind the leader and needed a break to gain back the track position that was lost on the pit-road speeding penalty.
● Busch got the break he needed on lap 163 when the caution waved for debris. He came to pit road for four tires and fuel for the final time on lap 165, and the Interstate Batteries crew quickly returned Busch to the track as the first car that pitted.
● Busch lined up second on the final restart behind Ryan Blaney, who did not pit. On that restart, Blaney’s Team Penske teammates Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski slipped ahead of Busch. It didn’t take Busch long to gain his footing, passing both Logano and Keselowski at the exit of turn two on lap 175, and he never looked back, bringing home his 53rd career Cup win and his impressive 200th overall race win among NASCAR’s top three series.

Notes:
● Busch won the Auto Club 400 to score his 53rd career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victory, his second of the season and his fourth at Auto Club Speedway. His margin of victory over second-place Logano was 2.354 seconds.
● This was Busch’s milestone 200th victory across the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (53 wins), Xfinity Series (94 wins) and Gander Outdoors Truck Series (53 wins).
● Busch led seven times for a race-high 134 laps.
● This is Busch’s fourth top-five of the season and his 10th top-five in 21 career starts at Fontana.
● With his second consecutive Cup Series win, Busch has now won back-to-back races for the fourth straight year.

Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:
You finally did it. It’s complete. How does 200 feel?

“Feels just like number one. Feels just like yesterday. Man, that was such an awesome racecar. I mean, dang. This Interstate Batteries Camry was awesome today. I’m glad we put on a heck of a show for all these fans out here in California at Auto Club Speedway. It takes green to get in victory lane today. Today is St. Patty’s day. All these other guys were at a disadvantage. The Interstate Batteries Green Machine was flying today. Just awesome. Just awesome. To win 200, I mean, whatever it means, it means a lot to me.  It means a lot to all my guys, everybody at Joe Gibbs Racing. You guys are all the best – Toyota, TRD. It’s an amazing opportunity to drive for Joe Gibbs. I cherish every minute of it, love it always. Just wish that we could keep it going, keep it going like this, running strong, running well and winning these races.”

When that speeding penalty happened, what was going through your mind? Did you think your chances of winning this race and getting to 200 were maybe over?

“Yeah, that thought certainly crosses your mind. I knew we had a great racecar. We had a great racecar all day long. We were fast. I wasn’t sure how well we were going to be able to come through the field, get back in traffic, get our way worked back up to the lead. Brad (Keselowski) was really fast that run, he was way out front. We were catching the 22 (Joey Logano), the 4 (Kevin Harvick). If it went green to the end, I wasn’t sure how it was going to play out. Sometimes you have to a little bit of luck on your side. Fortunately, we were in the Interstate Batteries green today with it being St. Patty’s day. Cool to get all these guys in victory lane. To win my 200th race with Interstate Batteries, with Norm Miller (Interstate Batteries), Scott Miller (Interstate Batteries), everybody that does such an awesome job of supporting us since day one, the reason why Joe Gibbs Racing exists. It certainly is a monumental moment for all of us, including M&M’s, Skittles, Snickers. Maybe the stars aligned a little bit more perfectly today.”

Do you pay attention to various milestones other than this number 200 accomplishment?
“It’s something that I don’t necessarily pay attention to. As long as you’re successful and doing a good job and doing your job about what you know how to do and you’re winning those races, then you’re going to be eclipsing a lot of milestones, and certainly it’s been pretty awesome so far.”

Team Interstate Results:
● Kyle Busch (Finished 1st / Running, completed 200 of 200 laps)
● Denny Hamlin (Finished 7th / Running, completed 200 of 200 laps)
● Martin Truex Jr. (Finished 8th / Running, completed 200 of 200 laps)
● Erik Jones (Finished 19th / Running, completed 200 of 200 laps)

Next Up: The next event on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule is the STP 500 on Sunday, March 24 at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway. The race starts at 2 p.m. EDT with live coverage provided by FS1.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Fontana Post-Practice Report: Team Penske Mustangs look amazing

Brad Keselowski looks poised to win at Fontana.
Brad Keselowski was fastest in Saturday's final practice session at Auto Club Speedway in preparation for Sunday's Auto Club 400. He laid down the fastest lap at 176.648 mph on the 27th of his 47 laps turned on the wide 2-mile Speedway. He also had top-3 average speeds in the 10, 15 and 20 consecutive lap category.

All three Team Penske Mustangs showed their strength on the long runs with the three best 20-consecutive lap averages. Joey Logano had the best average and the sixth fastest single lap (176.082 mph) and Ryan Blaney had the second-best average and fifth fastest single lap (176.130).

Keselowski won at Atlanta and the week after Joey Logano won at Las Vegas, both downforce tracks like Auto Club Speedway, and both using the 550 horsepower engine package that is being used this weekend.

I would be surprised if a Team Penske Mustang didn't win this week just because of those speeds on the long runs. I was expecting more teams to bounce back stronger this week with two races using the engine, but I didn't see as much as I thought.

One driver I expected more from was Kyle Larson because of his solid Atlanta run and also had three of his four career win coming on 2-mile tracks. But he posted only the 16th fastest lap (175.563) and was eighth-best on 10-consecutive lap averages.

The pleasant surprise was Richard Childress Racing with Daniel Hemric posting the second fastest lap (176.548) while also having the fastest 10-consecutive lap average. Austin Dillon starts from the pole and had the ninth fastest lap (175.940) in the final practice.

The race should be interesting, but I kind of see it as being similar to what we saw in Atlanta and Las Vegas where a Penske Mustang takes over at the end to win.

Good luck, happy wagering!

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Fontana Betting Preview: 2019 Auto Club 400

A full house is expected again this Sunday.
Sunday's Auto Club 400 on Auto Club Speedway's 2-mile layout in Fontana, California will end NASCAR's three-race West Coast swing. It'll be the fifth race of the season and the race package they'll be using with aero ducts and 550 horsepower was that used at Las Vegas, which is a good handicapping starting point. They used a similar package at Atlanta without the aero-ducts, but the Atlanta results might be just as telling because of the asphalt.

“Auto Club Speedway is by far one of my favorite tracks we go to," said Kevin Harvick who won there in 2011. "It’s top three on my list as far as tracks that I’m excited to go to, just for the fact that the asphalt is so worn out. It is very similar to Atlanta in a much different shape of a racetrack.

"The crowd has been great over the last few years since we went from two races down to one. It has changed the whole vibe at Auto Club Speedway. It’s in my home state. It’s a big week and I know, from a driver standpoint, Auto Club Speedway and Atlanta Motor Speedway are right up there at the top of everybody’s list because there is so much falloff and the asphalt is so worn out.”

Are Fontana and Atlanta all that similar as Harvick suggests?

“I don’t know," said Kyle Larson, who also hails from California. "Auto Club is a totally different race track. It’s a worn-out surface, but it doesn’t race anything like Atlanta. Nothing really does. Atlanta is so unique. So, I don’t know. But, it’s been a place where I’ve ran well and I think the bigger the track, the more worn out it is, seems to suit me. So, I would hope that we can go there and be strong. We’re going to learn each and every week and get better every week, too. So, we’ll see how it goes.”

Larson and Harvick are both basically saying the same thing. Tires are going to be an issue this weekend like Atlanta.

Larson is going to be one of those drivers to watch closely this weekend during practices and one that you might want to include in your betting strategy because of his past history at Fontana and also what he did at Atlanta last month leading a race-high 142 laps. He finished 12th due to being penalized for speeding on pit road. However, he managed his tires very well.

Larson has some nice history at Fontana, which includes one of his four career Cup wins. His first Cup start there in 2014 saw him finish second. He won in 2017 and was second last season. He's also got two wins at Fontana's 2-mile sister track in Michigan. And for good measure to show how much he likes Fontana, he's also has won two Xfinity races there.

A Chevrolet has to step up at some point, right? NASCAR's new era of parity this season with the new package has produced four different winners in four races between two different organizations and two different manufacturers. Chip Ganassi Racing has looked the best so far for Chevrolet, especially Larson's teammate Kurt Busch who is one of three drivers to have top-five finishes between the two 1.5-mile tracks at Atlanta and Las Vegas.

And speaking of the elder Busch brother, he's been very good at Fontana at all stages of his career and he's 20-to-1 to win. In 2002, he finished second in perhaps the greatest duel ever at Fontana. The next season Busch won and he's averaged a 12th-place finish in 25 Cup starts and he's also got a Truck series trophy there in 2000.

Paul Menard using Vegas package at Fontana but says it'll race more like Atlanta

Paul Menard is 100/1 to win at Fontana.
For Paul Menard and the No. 21 Menards/Moen team, Sunday’s Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., will be like a mix of racing at Atlanta and Las Vegas.

Sunday’s 400-miler, the fifth race of the 2019 Monster Energy Cup Series season, will be run using the high downforce/lower horsepower package that was in place two weeks ago at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. But the track, with its worn asphalt, is expected to produce results more like the second race of the season, on the excessively worn pavement at Atlanta Motor Speedway. At Atlanta, the cars did not run the aero ducts that were used at Las Vegas and will be in place at Auto Club, and tire wear was a big factor.

“It will be Vegas rules, with the air ducts, but the surface will be more like Atlanta, which means there will be a lot of unknowns,” Menard said. “I believe it’ll race a little more like Atlanta because of the tire fall-off.”

Menard said he expects the uppermost groove at Fontana will be the place to run to be the fastest.

“You’ll see the top groove come in, and you’ll definitely see us running up by the fence,” he said.

Menard will be making his 17th career Cup start at Fontana, where he has a best finish of fourth in 2015 and two other top-10 finishes.

His No. 21 Wood Brothers team will be running its 22nd race at Fontana.

Qualifying for the Auto Club 400 is set for Friday at 2:40 p.m. (5:40 Eastern Time), and the race is scheduled to start just after 12:30 p.m. (3:30 Eastern Time) with TV coverage on FOX.


Menards

A family owned company started in 1958, Menards is headquartered in Eau Claire, WI. Menards has more than 300 retail stores located throughout the Midwest in the states of IL, IN, IA, KS, KY, MI, MN, MO, NE, ND, OH, SD, WI and WY. Menards is known throughout the home improvement industry as the low price leader. It’s famous slogan “Save Big Money at Menards” is widely known and easy to remember. For more information, visit Menards.com, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter, Instagram or Pinterest.

Wood Brothers Racing

Wood Brothers Racing was formed in 1950 in Stuart, Va., by Hall of Famer Glen Wood. Wood Brothers Racing is the oldest active team and one of the winningest teams in NASCAR history. Since its founding, the team won 99 races (including at least one race in every decade for the last seven decades) and 120 poles in NASCAR’s top-tier series. Fielding only Ford products for its entire history, the Wood Brothers own the longest association of any motorsports team with a single manufacturer. Glen’s brother, Leonard, is known for inventing the modern pit stop. The team currently runs the Ford Mustang driven by Paul Menard in the famous No. 21 racer.

Richard Childress Racing Preview: Austin Dillon 80/1 to win at Fontana

Austin Dillon had best Cup finish at Fontana last season (10th).
Richard Childress Racing’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series History at Auto Club Speedway … In 88 overall Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series starts at Auto Club Speedway, RCR Chevrolet teams have earned one win (Kevin Harvick – 2011), two pole awards (Mike Skinner – April 2000, Austin Dillon – 2016), 12 top-five and 29 top-10 finishes. RCR has a 19.3 average starting position and a 16.4 average finishing position at the moderately-banked D-shaped race track.

RCR in the MENCS … In 2,928 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series starts dating back to 1969, RCR has amassed 48 pole awards,108 wins, 488 top-five finishes and 1,067 top-10 finishes, with an average starting position of 17.8 and an average finishing position of 16.2. RCR has earned 15 total championships (six Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championships with Earnhardt in 1986, ’87, ’90, ’91, ’93 and ’94, six NASCAR Xfinity Series titles, two NASCAR Camping World Truck Series titles and one ARCA Menards Series title) and was the first organization to win titles in NASCAR’s three national series.

#RCR50 … Richard Childress Racing celebrates it’s 50th Anniversary in 2019. Follow our social channels season-long to join in the celebration.

Interactive RCR … For up-to-date news and exclusive content, visit RCR’s corporate Twitter page – @RCRracing – along with the RCR Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series team Twitter page – @RCRCup, and driver Twitter pages @austindillon3, @TylerReddick and @DanielHemric. Information about the 15-time championship winning organization can be found on Facebook at www.facebook.com/RichardChildressRacing and at www.RCRracing.com along with official driver pages – http://www.facebook.com/austindillon3 and www.facebook.com/DanielHemric.

Catch the Action
… The Auto Club 400 will be televised live Sunday, March 17 beginning at 3:30 p.m. ET on FOX and will be broadcast live on the Motor Racing Network and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

This Week’s Dow Coatings Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 at Auto Club Speedway … Dillon has five previous Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series starts to his credit at Auto Club Speedway, earning his best finish of 10th in 2018. He sat on the pole in the 2016 edition of the race to earn his best starting position at the 2.0-mile track.

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AUSTIN DILLON QUOTES:

Is it easier to lose control of the car with the new aero package you guys are running this year?

“I think drivers are really confident now with the downforce that is in the cars, so you drive aggressively. I think that moment of losing the car is just a bigger moment now because you’re hanging it out there already so when you slip with the grip you have, it’s a big correction. You have to get in front of it pretty quick. We noticed at the Vegas test that if you lost the air on the car you had to pretty much stop to save it. It’s going to be an interesting season, for sure, to see how it plays out.”

A lot of people in the garage say RCR has taken a big step forward this season. Have you noticed that internally?
“I think RCR has definitely taken a big step forward in terms of increasing the speed of our cars. We’ve really got to do a good job of executing now at this point and making sure our car holds on. It’s great to bust out a really fast lap, but you need to be able to hold on to that speed during a long race run. There’s a happy medium and that’s what we’re looking for. I am very proud of the off season that RCR has had. We’re working hard to make sure we can figure out the best balance of these cars now.”


TAKE ON DILLON FROM MICAH ROBERTS IN LAS VEGAS
Another longshot I expect to run well is Austin Dillon because they're using the same package they tested in the preseason at Las Vegas that was fast in all three sessions. And then he was fast at Las Vegas three weeks ago but finished 21st after getting a penalty putting him a lap down that he could never recover from with no cautions other than between stages. His 10th-place finish at Fontana last season was a career-best and he won a 2016 Xfinity Series race there as well.

Dillon is 80-to-1 to win this week so take away the money from just one of your expected beers purchased on the Las Vegas strip -- about $9 -- and throw it on an option that has a legitimate shot to cash. And then take the rest of your allotted beer money and head over to the Stage Door Casino (across from Bally's) or Casino Royale (next to Harrah's) to get the most beer bang for your buck. If he doesn't win, at least you have a souvenir for him to sign someday and you have also saved a couple $20 spots on beer. It's a win-win situation!



This Week’s Liberty National Life Insurance Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 at Auto Club Speedway … Hemric will be making his first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series start at Auto Club Speedway. The 2019 Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender has two NASCAR Xfinity Series starts at the 2-mile track, earning an average start of 3.5 and an average finish of 8.0.

Review Mirror: ISM raceway
… Hemric and the Luke Lambert-led team worked on the handling of the No. 8 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 throughout the weekend at ISM Raceway and qualified in the 11th position. During the 312-lap race, Hemric ran inside the top 15 for much of the event and used a bit of pit strategy to lead a total of four laps. When the checkered flag flew, the No. 8 Chevrolet was in the 18th position, making Hemric the highest-finishing rookie.

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Meet the Driver … Hemric is scheduled to sign autographs at the RCR merchandise hauler in the Auto Club Speedway fan midway on Saturday, March 16, starting at 11:00 a.m. local time.

DANIEL HEMRIC QUOTES:

How do you think this new package is going to race at Auto Club Speedway and is there anything you can learn from the race at Atlanta since both surfaces are worn out?

“I think Auto Club is a huge variable right now for the fact that we know the place has no grip. We know the lap times are going to fall off substantially just from what we are going to be asking out of the tire itself. There is a ton of straightaway, just a huge racetrack that nobody knows what that speed delta is going to be. I wouldn’t be surprised to get there and you see some cars that at times are a second and a half faster by themselves and see those cars leading the race at one point. It’s going to be crazy to see how everybody adjusts to that, but Auto Club is a place that I love going, love the character of that place and hopefully it still transitions to be the same style of racing that it used to.”

Chase Elliott expects tire wear to be an issue at Fontana

Chase Elliott is 25/1 to win at Fontana on Sunday.
Chase Elliott on expectations for Auto Club Speedway:
“The surface is obviously still old there, so, I would have to assume tire wear is still going to play a factor at some point in the run. I think everybody is just going to be balancing the tire wear versus the speed and how much drag you can get out of your car to go fast.”

Elliott on traveling during the West Coast swing:
“I usually like to stay out. I lived in Colorado for a couple of years, so I enjoy going back there and kind of commuting from there instead of coming all the way back. It’s a lot of travel and I’ve done it both ways and your schedule doesn’t always work out, but when you can stay, I think it’s nice.”


WO-MILE PROWESS: This weekend, Chase Elliott is set to make his fourth NASCAR Cup Series start at Auto Club Speedway (ACS) and his 10th Cup start at a two-mile track (ACS and Michigan International Speedway). In his nine previous Cup Series starts on two-mile tracks, Elliott has garnered three top-five finishes – all runner-up results – and eight top-10 finishes. He also averages a starting position of 12.9 and finishing position of 7.1 at two-mile tracks.

GUSTAFSON AT ACS: No. 9 team crew chief Alan Gustafson is set to call his 21st race from atop the pit box at the Fontana, California, track this weekend. In his previous 20 starts, Gustafson has one win, four top-five finishes and 11 top-10s. His sole win at ACS came in Sept. 2005 with Kyle Busch – his first career victory as a crew chief. In his three Cup starts with Elliott at the track, Gustafson averages a starting position of 17.3 and finishing position of 10.7.

CALIFORNIA IS HOME: No. 9 NAPA AUTO PARTS rear-tire changer Chad Avrit will compete at his home track in the Golden State this weekend. Avrit grew up in El Centro, California, and was an avid surfer before moving to Mooresville, North Carolina, to pursue a career in motor sports. When not at the track, he enjoys spending time with his two sons, hanging out on the lake and mountain biking.

LAST TIME IN CALI: During last season’s visit to ACS, the No. 9 team started 31st, but Elliott quickly moved through the pack and broke into the top 20 by Lap 12. The NAPA AUTO PARTS team continued to gain positions as Elliott climbed inside the top 10 with 12 laps remaining in the opening stage. At the conclusion of Stage 1, Elliott was scored 14th. During the stage break, the No. 9 pit crew gained five positions with quick work on pit road that moved Elliott back into the top 10 for the beginning of Stage 2. The driver was shuffled back on the restart to 18th, but with another quick stop he regained his position in the top 15. Over the course of the final run, Elliott slipped back several positions to 16th, where he’d ultimately end the race.

CHECK OUT THOSE HATS: This weekend in California, the No. 9 team will wear special, limited-edition NAPA hats at the racetrack. The hats are part of NAPA AUTO PARTS' March in-store promotion. In the month of March, when customers spend $25 in store they will receive the No. 9 NAPA Racing/Chase Elliott hat, while supplies last.

Six-time Fontana winner Jimmie Johnson 50-to-1 to win this week

Jimmie Johnson last won at Fontana in 2016.
Jimmie Johnson on Auto Club Speedway:
“Thinking of Fontana, my mind goes to Atlanta and how important handling was in Atlanta and that will be the case in Fontana. We do have more room to run around there, more lanes and options from that standpoint with really long straightaways, so it could be a pretty exciting race that involves a lot of drafting. I think the longer the straightaway, the better this package will show and the more competitive racing it will put on. California should be a really good test for it.”

Johnson on the rules package so far and if he thinks the field will be closer together at Auto Club Speedway:
“Yeah, from a being strung out or how close we will be, I think the more tire wear, the further the gaps will be. So, I anticipate there being some good gaps between competitors at California. You cannot get around the fact that the lead car has the best air and when you add such a big handling characteristic to the equation, you need that handling. So, Atlanta, Fontana, those tracks have high tire wear and we do have a lot of lanes to choose and run from, so that will hopefully close things back up, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there are more gaps. I think tracks like Vegas we will have the closest kind of racing proximity to one another just because the tire is still there and you can run wide-open in somebody’s wake.”


PUTTING THE ‘ALL’ IN ALL-TIME: Jimmie Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Ally Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, leads drivers in almost every category at Auto Club Speedway (ACS). In 24 starts at the track, Johnson is the all-time leader in wins (six), runner-up results (five), top-five finishes (13), top-10s (17) and laps led (980). His average finish at the track of 7.2 is also the best all-time and his best at any track in his career.
AIMING FOR 1,000: With 20 laps led this Sunday, Johnson would reach 1,000 laps led at ACS. He has topped that total at four tracks in his career – Dover, Martinsville, Charlotte and Texas. He has led 994 laps at ISM Raceway, just six away from the milestone.

STILL RUNNING: In each 24 starts at his home track, El Cajon, California, native Johnson has been running at the end of the race. Additionally, five of the six times Johnson has won in California, he has gone on to win the NASCAR Cup Series championship (2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2016).

'SUPER' WIN: Johnson’s last win at ACS came on March 20, 2016, in the “Superman” Chevrolet. Later that season he scored his record-tying seventh NASCAR Cup Series championship.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, KEVIN: No. 48 team crew chief Kevin Meendering will celebrate his birthday on top of the pit box as he turns 38 on Sunday, March 17. Fellow crew chief Alan Gustafson has won races twice on his birthday (Aug. 5) – last year with Chase Elliott and in 2012 with Jeff Gordon.

FIRST-TIME WINNERS: The only two drivers to ever win their first race at California as rookies drove for Hendrick Motorsports. Johnson scored his first win in just his 13th career start on April 28, 2002, at the track. Former teammate Kyle Busch was the other driver who scored his first Cup Series win during his rookie season at the venue in 2005.

WATER POLO?: Johnson grew up roughly 116 miles south of the Fontana, California, speedway in El Cajon, just outside of San Diego. Johnson started racing mini-motorcycles up and down the West Coast at age four. He graduated from Granite Hills High School in 1993, where he was a varsity water polo player.

VERGE OF A MILESTONE: Johnson is on the verge of his 84th points-paying NASCAR Cup Series win. He secured his 83rd in June 2017 to tie NASCAR Hall of Famer Cale Yarborough for sixth on the all-time wins list. An 84th win would tie Hall of Famers Darrell Waltrip and Bobby Allison for fourth all-time. Johnson is currently 10 wins behind former teammate Jeff Gordon, who has 93 victories and is third on the list. Johnson has the most wins of all active drivers.

 

2019 Season

  • 15th in standings
  • 4 starts
  • 0 wins
  • 0 pole positions
  • 0 top-five finishes
  • 2 top-10 finish
  • 4 laps led
 
 

Career

  • 619 starts
  • 83 wins
  • 35 pole positions
  • 224 top-five finishes
  • 354 top-10 finishes
  • 18,707 laps led
 
 

Track Career 

  • 24 starts
  • 6 wins
  • 1 pole positions
  • 13 top-five finishes
  • 17 top-10 finishes
  • 980 laps led
 

Chevrolet has won nine of past 15 Cup races at Fontana

Jimmie Johnson has six wins at Fontana.
TEAM CHEVY ADVANCE
AUTO CLUB 400
AUTO CLUB SPEEDWAY
FONTANA, CALIFORNIA
MARCH 17, 2019
BOWTIE BULLETS
NATIVE SON:
California native, seven-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion and career-long Chevrolet driver, Jimmie Johnson, is the all-time wins’ leader at Auto Club Speedway with six victories. The driver of the No. 48 Camaro ZL1 also has more top five (13) and more top 10 (17) finishes than any other driver at Auto Club Speedway.
CHEVY ON POLE:
Since the first race at Auto Club Speedway in 1997 (won by Chevy driver Jeff Gordon), Bowtie Brand drivers have earned half of all poles (14) at the 2-mile, Fontana, California venue. Only three times has a driver won the Auto Club 400 from the pole. Two out of three times it has been a Chevrolet driver – Jimmie Johnson in 2008 and last season Kyle Larson in 2017, took their Chevy’s to victory lane after starting from the top spot.
MANUFACTURER MINUTE:
Did you know? Chevrolet has more wins than any manufacturer at Auto Club Speedway with 14 victories. Six different drivers have piloted the Bowtie Brand to wins in Fontana, taking five different Chevy models (Monte Carlo, Monte Carlo SS, Impala SS, Impala and SS) to Winner’s Circle.
CALIFORNIA CHEVYS:
There will be four California natives entered to compete in this weekend’s Auto Club 400. Of those drivers, two will start the race behind the wheel of a Camaro ZL1. Seven-time series champion Jimmie Johnson hails from El Cajon, California and driver of the No. 42 Camaro ZL1, Kyle Larson is a native of Elk Grove, California.
TUNE-IN:
The Auto Club 400 is scheduled to begin on Sunday March 17th at 3:30 pm, ET. Live coverage can be found on FOX, MRN and Sirius XM NASCAR Radio Channel 90.
BY THE NUMBERS:
Chevrolet has won 39 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Manufacturer Championships
Team Chevy drivers have scored 779 wins and 700 poles in MENCS competition
Chevrolet drivers have won 14 of 29 races at Auto Club Speedway. Victories by current Team Chevy drivers are:
Kurt Busch, No. 1 Monster Energy Camaro ZL1, has one victory at Auto Club Speedway (’03)
Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Ally Camaro ZL1, has six wins at Auto Club Speedway (’02, ’07, ’08, ’09, ’10 & ‘16)
Kyle Larson, No. 42 Credit One Bank Camaro ZL1, has one win at Auto Club Speedway (’17)
A Chevrolet driver has sat on the pole at Auto Club Speedway 14 times
Team Chevy drivers have scored 67 top-five and 128 top-10 finishes at Auto Club Speedway
A Chevrolet has led 3,312 laps (49.0% of possible 6,756 laps) at Auto Club Speedway
QUOTABLE QUOTES:
KYLE LARSON, NO. 42 CREDIT ONE BANK CAMARO ZL1 – 6TH IN STANDINGS
ON IF THE RACE AT AUTO CLUB WILL LOOK SIMILAR TO ATLANTA
“I don’t know. Auto Club is a totally different race track. It’s a worn-out surface, but it doesn’t race anything like Atlanta. Nothing really does. Atlanta is so unique. So, I don’t know. But, it’s been a place where I’ve ran well and I think the bigger the track, the more worn out it is, seems to suit me. So, I would hope that we can go there and be strong. We’re going to learn each and every week and get better every week, too. So, we’ll see how it goes.”
CHASE ELLIOTT, NO. 9 NAPA AUTO PARTS CAMARO ZL1 – 13TH IN STANDINGS
ON WHY DRIVERS LIKE TO RACE ON OLD WORN OUT SURFACES
“It typically allows us to move around. That was probably one of the widest Atlanta’s I’ve ever seen in my first four races there. I think the speeds being down probably helped it be a little wider this past weekend, but typically older surfaces allow you to move around and usually that is more fun.”
ALEX BOWMAN, NO. 88 NATIONWIDE PET INSURANCE CAMARO ZL1 – 16TH IN STANDINGS
“I think all the California races are pretty wild on restarts and stuff. The grip is so low there I feel like it will be somewhat like Atlanta where we got pretty spread out and it was a pretty normal race, but I could be totally wrong about that. We all thought we were going to pack race last weekend and there were going to be all these big crashes and we were going to tear up so much stuff and there wasn’t a single caution. It’s so hard. We think we have an idea of what is going to happen. We think we have an idea of how we need to approach things, but we don’t really know.”
WILLIAM BYRON, NO. 24 AXALTA CAMARO ZL1 – 18TH IN STANDINGS
“I think it’s going to be a lot of four and five wide racing. Obviously, at Vegas, I wouldn’t say the pace was that much slower than a normal race, but we were able to be more aggressive on the restarts and position ourselves better before things get become more single file. I think those first four or five laps are going to be really crazy still. I think that the lane choices that you have at Auto Club Speedway will help keep the racing a little bit closer, and with that, you are going to have to kind of be gritty throughout the run to keep your position. I think it’s going to be a crazy race and we are going to have to deal with that especially on the restarts and will need to try to maximize that.”
TY DILLON, NO. 13 GEICO CAMARO ZL1 – 22ND IN STANDINGS
Fontana – “I think Fontana is going to be a fantastic race. None of us know what to expect. It has massive tire wear, but it is a big enough track to keep the pack really tight. You could probably go seven-wide in the corners there if you wanted to. The racing groove is so wide. I know that our team is excited to get the GEICO Camaro ZL1 out there. This season is going to bring a lot of fun, exciting races that I think fans are really going to enjoy.”
CHRIS BUESCHER, NO. 37 KROGER FLAVOR FILL UP CAMARO ZL1 – 23RD IN STANDINGS
ON IF HE EXPECTS PACK RACING AT FONTANA:
“I think Michigan will be, but when you look at Fontana the surface there is so much older, it drives a lot different than Michigan because you do have the ability to go across five lanes plus the apron. So, I think we will be able to move around quite a bit there. It will be fast for I think a longer period of time than say in Atlanta, but I do think that track is going to widen out some as well as you get late into tire runs and late into our stages. Done a little bit of simulation on that track just preliminary stuff and that is single car, you don’t really know for sure, but doing that the top is not fast by itself, but once that bottom wears out and gets hot and slick out there, I think then you will see us start to spread out more.”
DANIEL HEMRIC, NO. 8 LIBERTY NATIONAL CAMARO ZL1 – 25TH IN STANDINGS
“I think Auto Club is a huge variable right now for the fact that we know the place has no grip. We know the lap times are going to fall off substantially just from what we are going to be asking out of the tire itself. There is a ton of straightaway, just a huge race track that nobody knows what that speed delta is going to be. I wouldn’t be surprised to get there and you see some cars that at times are a second and a half faster by themselves and see those cars leading the race at one point. It’s going to be crazy to see how everybody adjusts to that, but Auto Club is a place that I love going, love the character of that place and hopefully it still transitions to be the same style of racing that it used to.”
RYAN PREECE, NO. 47 KROGER CAMARO ZL1 – 28TH IN STANDINGS
“I think, Fontana is going to be a good race depending on how everybody has their package and everything running. Tire wear comes into play, there are multiple lanes to run and then you are going to get guys that are going to keep migrating up towards the top and then you are just going to see that big sniff of air with the draft coming in. I couldn’t tell you exactly how it is going to play out, but I think the racing is going to be fun not only for the fans, but for the drivers too.”
BUBBA WALLACE, NO. 43 PLANBSALES.COM CAMARO ZL1 – 29TH IN STANDINGS
“It’s like the stuff you used to see really spread out, but inside the car we are fighting it because the tire fall off there is huge. We lose tenths and seconds over a long span of time. That is what makes it fun. It’s super rough, you run right against the fences, a lot of fun, takes a lot of finesse and skill to get around there fast. We have had some good races there in the Xfinity stuff. We have had some bad races, but it’s still fun. I remember trying to pay attention to the entry to Turn 1, but also looking at how fast we were going, 218 mph or 220 mph whatever it was, was incredible. Just right up against the fence. It’s always fun being able to do that, but it comes with a high risk. Now, going with a different package, less horsepower, more downforce, I don’t know. I think we will still be slipping and sliding, but I think the race is going to be a little longer.
Chevrolet Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Statistics
Manufacturers Championships:
Total (1949 – 2015): 39
First title for Chevrolet: 1958
Highest number of consecutive titles: 13 (2003-2015)
Years Won: 1958, 1959, 1960, 1961, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1976, 1977, 1978, 1979, 1980, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1993, 1995, 1996, 1998, 2001, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015
Drivers Championships:
Total (1949 – 2016): 31
First Chevrolet champion: Buck Baker (1957)
Highest number of consecutive titles: 7 (2005 – ’11)
Years Won: 1957, 1960, 1961, 1973, 1976, 1977, 1979, 1980, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1990, 1991, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 2001, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2013, 2014, 2016
Event Victories :
Record for total race wins in single season: 26 – (in 2007)
2019 STATISTICS: 
Wins: 0
Poles: 1
Laps Led: 248
Top-five finishes: 2
Top-10 finishes: 12
CHEVROLET IN NASCAR SPRINT CUP CUMULATIVE STATISTICS:
Total Chevrolet race wins: 779 (1949 – to date)
Poles Won to Date: 700
Laps Led to Date: 232,504
Top-Five Finishes to Date: 3,971
Top-10 Finishes to Date: 8,184

Daniel Suarez gets lots of love at Fontana, his favorite track

KANNAPOLIS, North Carolina (March 13, 2019) – The 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series heads west to wrap up its three-race West Coast swing. Daniel Suárez will pilot the No. 41 Haas Automation Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) for Sunday’s Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. It marks the third time Suárez will pilot the black-and-red Haas Automation livery this season.

Fontana is the home track for Haas Automation, which is located approximately two hours west in Oxnard, California. Haas Automation, founded in 1983 by SHR co-owner Gene Haas, is America’s leading builder of CNC machine tools. The company manufactures a complete line of vertical and horizontal machining centers, turning centers and rotary tables and indexers. All Haas products are constructed in the company’s 1.1 million-square-foot manufacturing facility in Oxnard and distributed through a worldwide network of Haas Factory Outlets.

Last weekend at ISM Raceway near Phoenix, Suárez had a tough qualifying session which relegated him to a 28th-place starting spot. As the Mustang driver was working his way forward in the 500-kilometer race, an electrical issue plagued the No. 41 team, causing Suárez to lose multiple laps that he was never able to regain. Even though the record book shows a 23rd-place finish, the No. 41 team continued on its path to gel and provides a solid racecar each week.

Suárez has two Cup Series starts at the 2-mile Fontana oval. In March 2018, he earned both his best starting position of 10th and his best finish of seventh. The 2016 Xfinity Series champion also has two starts in that series at Fontana. In March 2016, he earned the pole position and went on to lead four laps and finish fourth.

Fontana is the first 2-mile track on the schedule this season with the new rules package implemented. “Restarts were pretty crazy the last two weekends at Atlanta and Phoenix,” Suárez said. “They’ve always been a little crazy at Auto Club, so I can only imagine how they’re going to be this weekend with the new rules package. The fans are going to enjoy it, that’s for sure.”

Suárez climbed behind the wheel of the No. 41 Ford Mustang for the first time this season in a Goodyear tire test at Fontana January 9 and 10. It was also the first time Suárez had a chance to try out the 2019 rules package.

Before hitting the track this weekend at Fontana, Suárez will tour Haas Automation’s headquarters Thursday with SHR team co-owner Haas. Suárez who grew up working on cars in his father’s restoration shop in his native Mexico has an affinity for CNC machines. “I went and toured the Roush Yates engine shop and spent hours in there just looking at everything and all of the Haas CNC machines they use to build everything for engines,” Suárez said. “I was like a kid in a candy store, so I’m really excited to go to Oxnard and see where Gene builds the machines.”

This weekend, fans will have the opportunity to view Suárez’s perspective from inside the Haas Automation Mustang courtesy of Coca-Cola, which is sponsoring his in-car camera for this weekend’s event. Additionally, there will be 500 “Daniel’s Amigos” in the grandstands Sunday, supporting the Monterrey, Mexico driver. “Daniel’s Amigos” is a fan-focused movement to engage and celebrate with Latino NASCAR fans.

Daniel Suárez: Driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:

You’re four races in to the season. How do you feel things are going with your team?

“The expectations are high and we’ve had fast racecars, but for one reason or another we’ve had things happen. Qualifying and track position are more important than ever. We’ve been putting so much time into our qualifying plans because it is so important to get a really good starting spot and a good pit stall. We’ve had a lot of speed in the cars, but that hasn’t translated over to results. We had the electrical thing at Phoenix and, before that, we had some pit-road issues, so we have a couple of things to clean up. We’ve had top-10 cars the entire year, but we haven’t had those results every week.”

What do you enjoy about going to Fontana?

“Fontana is a fun race for me. We don’t get to race in Mexico, so Fontana is one of the closer tracks to home for me. A lot of Hispanic fans come to the race and it feels really good to see a lot of Mexican flags in the stands. I know when I see them exactly who they are supporting.”

Out of all the racetracks out West, which one is your favorite?

“I like Phoenix a lot, but Fontana is my favorite. It is just so different from everywhere else we go. You get into the corner and it’s a super-wide race track compared to the other tracks we go to. We go into the corners on restarts four-, five-, or six-wide. It’s just incredible.”

California NASCAR Cup Series Notes: 2019 Auto Club 400

Kyle Larson won at California in 2017.
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series
Next Race: Auto Club 400
The Place: Auto Club Speedway
The Date: Sunday, March 17
The Time: 3:30 p.m. ET
TV: FOX, 3:30 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 400 miles (200 Laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 60),
Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 120), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 200)
2018 Winner: Martin Truex Jr.

NASCAR Xfinity Series
Next Race: Production Alliance Group 300
The Place: Auto Club Speedway
The Date: Saturday, March 16
The Time: 5 p.m. ET
TV: FS1, 4:30 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance:  300 miles (150 Laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 35),
Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 70), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 300)
2018 Winner: Joey Logano


Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series

In A Zone: Kyle Busch looks to scratch another record in the books
Kyle Busch takes a six-point edge over Joey Logano in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series points standings as the series continues its “West Coast Swing.” And this week may be especially significant in the milestone category as Busch faces two chances to claim a historic 200 combined NASCAR national series wins. It could come in Sunday’s Auto Club 400 (3:30 p.m. ET on FOX, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) – if he doesn’t earn it in the NASCAR Xfinity Series race on Saturday.

Busch’s historic work at the two-mile California track indicates the driver of the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota will again be a factor in deciding the trophy. His three wins are second only to six-time winner Jimmie Johnson and the two drivers are the only competitors in the field with multiple wins at the track.

In fact, Busch and Johnson are the only drivers to score their first career Monster Energy Series victories at Auto Club Speedway – in 2005 and 2002, respectively. And they are the only two drivers to ever win consecutive races at the track – Johnson in 2009-10 and Busch in 2013-14.

In 20 races, Busch has nine top-five finishes and is averaging a 10.4 finish – second only to Johnson among drivers with more than three starts at the track. He has six Xfinity Series wins and is a perfect 2-for-2 in NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series starts there, too.

He comes to California on a roll, sweeping last week’s Xfinity and Cup races at Phoenix’s ISM Raceway, making it easy to understand why he likes his chances in California.

“I’d assess it as pretty good, I guess,’’ Busch said following his 199th NASCAR national series win. “It would certainly be nice to get it (200th win) done on the West Coast swing, but it’s not a necessity. It will happen when it happens, and you can’t push too hard and do stupid things or make mistakes in order to think too much about that number.

“You just have to let the race kind of play out and let it come to you and we’ll see where we are at. Really looking forward to Fontana, it’s been a great place for me over the years and would love to get the Interstate Batteries Toyota back to Victory Lane there again no matter what number win that it ends up being.’’

Back At It: Truex returns to defend Auto Club Speedway victory
Martin Truex Jr. arrives at Auto Club Speedway as the defending race winner and he’ll gladly take the good vibes. Since moving from the Furniture Row Racing team, where he won the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship, to Joe Gibbs Racing this year, Truex is still looking for his first win.

Last season, it came on these Southern California high banks. Truex won the 2018 race from the Busch Pole position, leading 125 laps. He has three top-10 finishes in the last four races at the track and led 224 laps in that timeframe.

Since moving to the Joe Gibbs Racing operation, Truex has come close to winning twice already. He finished runner-up at both the 1.5-mile Atlanta Motor Speedway three weeks ago and last week at Phoenix’s ISM Raceway one-miler. He has three top-10s in four races this season and is ranked fifth in the standings entering the weekend’s race.

Truex ran his first test – a Goodyear tire test - with his new No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota team at California in January and was encouraged by the time on track.

“Our team is really looking forward to getting to California this week,’’ said Truex. “It’s one of my favorite tracks and I felt good about the test back in January.

“Obviously the weather is going to be different and there will be more than three cars like in the test, but we feel like we’ve learned a lot about the package since then. We need to go in there Friday and unload strong and carry that through the weekend. I’m excited to see if we can go back-to-back there because it’s really turned into one of the most fun tracks on the circuit.’’

If Truex were to win this weekend he would become just the third drivers in series history to win consecutive races at Auto Club Speedway, joining Jimmie Johnson (2009-2010) and Kyle Busch (2013-2014).

The Champ: Auto Club Speedway is mountain still left to summit for Logano
Reigning Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Joey Logano scored his third top-10 finish through the season’s four opening races last week at ISM Raceway in Phoenix, Arizona. He has results of fourth (Daytona 500), first (Las Vegas Motor Speedway) and 10th (ISM Raceway). He had led the points standings up until Kyle Busch’s win at Phoenix last Sunday.

This weekend may prove to be a challenge for the reigning champ. Logano is winless in 12 starts at Auto Club Speedway, but half of those have resulted in top-10 finishes. In four of his last six starts at the 2-mile raceway he has finished inside the top five. His best career showing is third in 2013. His driver rating (87.8) is 10th-best at the track.

Right place, right time for California native Jimmie Johnson
Seven-time Monster Energy Series champion Jimmie Johnson (El Cajon) is hoping a return to his home state of California, along with some positive season momentum and a history of success there, will be the key to snapping an unprecedented 21-month winless streak.

Johnson earned his second top 10 of the season last week at Phoenix (eighth) and turned his first laps (four) in front of the field. He’s ranked 15th in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver points standings heading to the two-mile Auto Club Speedway where his six victories (2002, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2016) is most all-time.

In fact during the loop data era (2005-Present), Johnson boasts the top driver rating (115.6), best average finish (7.0), laps in the top 15 (3,988 laps, 88.5%) and most laps led (880 laps) of any active driver at the track. His 13 top-five and 17 top-10 finishes are tops in the field too – as are his five career runner-up finishes.

And two of those are among the closest five finishes in history at Auto Club Speedway. He lost to Kevin Harvick by 0.144-second in 2011 in the closest finish in track history. Greg Biffle edged him by 0.231-seconds in 2005 – for the third-closest margin of victory.

Johnson (2002) and current championship leader Kyle Busch (2005) are the only two active drivers to have scored their first Cup victory at Auto Club Speedway. If Johnson wins this weekend, he will tie NASCAR Hall of Famers Bobby Allison and Darrell Waltrip for fourth on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series all-time wins list.

Hometown California Heroes: Harvick and Larson
California natives have traditionally fared well at Auto Club Speedway in the Monster Energy Series. Three of the top-10 ranked drivers in pre-race loop data at the track hail from California, including Jimmie Johnson (El Cajon), who boasts the best driver rating (115.6), Bakersfield’s Kevin Harvick (95.5) and Elk Grove native Kyle Larson (91.9).

Harvick won the race in 2011 and has two runner-up finishes in the last four years at Auto Club Speedway. Larson won from the pole position in 2017 and has three top-five finishes in five starts at the track, including a runner-up last year on the heels of his victory.

There are four Californians in the race, also including Matt DiBenedetto, of Grass Valley, who led a race-high 49 laps in the season-opening Daytona 500. His best finish at Auto Club Speedway is 27th in 2016.

Youth Movement
Three of the sport’s popular young drivers arrive at Auto Club Speedway in California this weekend looking for their first top-five finish at the western two-miler – all of them with solid experience at the track, just not a trip to Victory Lane quite yet.

Joe Gibbs Racing driver Erik Jones, 22, has a best showing of seventh place (2018) in two starts at Auto Club Speedway. He has good precedent, however, with two top-five finishes in three Xfinity Series races, including a best of third place in 2015. Jones is currently ranked 14th in the points standings – his first week outside the top-10 following a 29th-place showing in Phoenix last week. He opened the year with a career-best third place in the Daytona 500 – the first of two top 10s so far.

Ryan Blaney, 25, righted his season start last week, earning the Busch Pole position at ISM Raceway, winning the first stage and finishing third – unbelievably, his first top-20 of the season. California has proven to be a positive place for Blaney. The driver of the No. 12 Team Penske Ford Mustang has back-to-back top-10 finishes in his last two starts there.  

Chase Elliott, 23, is also still working on his first top-five finish, or possible win, at Auto Club Speedway. The driver of the No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 has a pair of top-10 finishes in three starts, including a career-best of sixth in his first race there in 2016.

Last year’s three-race winner and Playoff favorite, Elliott, has one top-10 in four starts in 2019

Sunoco Rookie Preview: Auto Club Speedway
Richard Childress Racing driver Daniel Hemric’s 18th-place finish at ISM Raceway, coupled with Ryan Preece’s 34th-place finish, turned over the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series rookie standings lead for the first time this season.

Richard Childress Racing’s Daniel Hemric earned his first top 20 of the season (18th) at Phoenix while Preece was involved in an incident and suffered his second DNF in four races and now trails Hemric by six points heading into Auto Club Speedway this weekend.

Front Row Motorsport’s Matt Tifft remains ranked third among the 2019 rookie class, 23 points behind Hemric. Following Tifft is Rick Ware Racing’s Cody Ware in fourth, 18 points behind Tifft.

All four Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series rookies will be making their series track debut this weekend. Hemric’s career best showing at the track is a fifth-place finish in the NASCAR Xfinity Series race there last year. Tifft was eighth in that Xfinity Series race.

Parade Laps: Insights ahead of this week’s driver media breakouts
Seven drivers from the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series – Hendrick Motorsports’ drivers Jimmie Johnson and Alex Bowman, Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick, JTG Daugherty Racing’s Chris Buescher, Front Row Motorsport’s Matt Tifft, Roush Fenway Racing’s Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Leavine Family Racing’s Matt DiBenedetto - will be participating in this week’s media rotations at Auto Club Speedway in advance of Sunday’s Auto Club 400 (3:30 p.m. ET on FOX, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

Jimmie Johnson, of El Cajon, Calif., is a seven-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion, tying him with NASCAR Hall of Fame members Richard Petty and the late Dale Earnhardt for the most season titles in the history of the sport. Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, leads all drivers with six wins and five runner-up finishes at Auto Club Speedway. His 13 top-five and 17 top-10 finishes are most all-time as well. He arrives for Sunday’s race ranked 15th in the standings with a pair of top-10 finishes (ninth at Daytona and eighth last week in Phoenix) in the season’s opening four races.

Kevin Harvick, of Bakersfield, Calif., is the 2014 Monster Energy Series champion. The driver of the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford Mustang earned a career-best eight victories in 2018, finishing third in the championship. He’s finished third or better in the final standings in six of the last seven seasons. Auto Club Speedway is located a little more than two hours from Harvick’s hometown of Bakersfield. He won at the track in 2011 and has finished runner-up in two (2015 and 2016) of the last four races there. He is currently ranked third in the standings with three top-10 finishes in the four races to date, including a ninth place in Phoenix last weekend.

Chris Buescher, of Prosper, Texas, is the 2015 NASCAR Xfinity Series champion. The driver of the JTG Daugherty Racing Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 has one victory in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, earning it at Pocono, Pa. in his 2016 rookie season. He has one top-10 so far in 2019 – a ninth-place finish at Atlanta three weeks ago. His best showing at Auto Club Speedway is 20th, in his first start there in 2015.

Matt Tifft, of Hinckley, Ohio, has never made a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series start at Auto Club Speedway. In his four series races this season, the 22-year old rookie turned in his best effort last week finishing 20th at Phoenix in the No. 34 Front Row Motorsports Ford Mustang.

Alex Bowman, of Tucson, Arizona, is in his second year driving the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. In three previous starts at Auto Club Speedway, Bowman’s best finish is 13th, last year in his first race at the track with Hendrick Motorsports. He has had a solid start to his 2019 season with a pair of 11th-place finishes in the opening three races (at Daytona and at Las Vegas), and is looking to get back on track after being involved in an accident last week and finishing 35th at his home track, Phoenix.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr., of Olive Branch, Mississippi, comes to Auto Club Speedway ranked 10th in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver standings – the third time in his six-year career he’s been ranked 10th after the first four races of the season. He’s had four solid top-18 finishes so far, leading laps in three races and highlighted by a sixth-place finish in Las Vegas two weeks ago. His best finish at Auto Club Speedway is fifth (2016).

Matt DiBenedetto, of Grass Valley, California, is enjoying the best season start to his four-year full-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup career. He led a race-best 49 laps in the season-opening Daytona 500 only to be collected in a crash with 17 laps remaining in the race. He’s still looking for his first top-20 since moving to the Leavine Family Racing team this season. His best showing is 21st at Las Vegas two weeks ago. His best finish in four Auto Club Speedway starts is 27th with BK Racing back in 2016.