Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Solid correlation between Vegas and Fontana; Johnson favored to win

Does Logano's Vegas performance transfer over to Fontana?
LAS VEGAS – Jimmie Johnson has been posted as the 5-to-1 favorite to win Sunday's Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, CA. Five is the appropriate number for Johnson considering that the El Cajon, CA native has five wins on the 2-mile D-shaped oval, to go along with five runner-up finishes, and an average finish of 5.7. All three of those stats are track records and a remarkable feat considering he's only started 19 races there. In his first start as a Sprint Cup driver at Fontana in 2002, he grabbed the first of his 66 career wins. Overall, it's safe to say Johnson has a special bond with the facility.

For the third year in a row, we've had four different winners in the first four races of the season. Johnson could keep the “different week, different winner” streak going with a win, but based on what we saw at Las Vegas, the Penske Racing duo of Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano look to have a leg up on the competition.

Although Las Vegas has steeper banking and is a half-mile shorter in distance, much of what the teams learned at Las Vegas with the new aero-package can be applied at Fontana. We have seen a nice correlation between Fontana and Las Vegas in recent years with three different drivers -- Carl Edwards (2008), Johnson (2010) and Tony Stewart (2012) -- winning in the same season at both, only a few weeks apart from each other.

Chances are the drivers who came off the hauler fast in Las Vegas will have the edge from the start this week. And then there are those learned on the fly and who got better as the race went on that could keep that upward progression going this week. Each time the crew chiefs and drivers get to go all out on these big, fast horsepower tracks, they'll pick something else up that will help them. So while Keselowski (8-to-1) and Logano (12-to-1) seem to have things already figured out, the big variable here is whether the Joe Gibbs Racing crew picked up enough at Las Vegas to help them roll this week.

The biggest indicator that JGR did pick some things up was when the three of them battled to finish 10-12. Kyle Busch (6-to-1) led three times for 52 laps in that race and, since he won this race last season, figures to be the best of the bunch this week. Busch also won in 2005 while driving for Hendrick Motorsports. In 16 career starts, he has a 10.7 average finish which is fourth best among all drivers. Matt Kenseth is a three-time winner and is posted at 7-to-1, while Denny Hamlin is 12-to-1. This was the race last year that ruined Hamlin's season, with a little help from Logano. Scratch that – a lot of help.

Carl Edwards is fresh off his Bristol win and comes in at 15-to-1 to win his third career race at Fontana. He is second only to Johnson with a career average finish of 8.4. The pair is the only drivers to average better than a 10th-place finish. Edwards finished fifth at Las Vegas, but didn't ever appear to be a real threat. Still, having three of the top-5 finishers was quite a feat by the Ford brigade.

Read More Here......LVH Odds to Win

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