Friday, February 28, 2020

Chase Elliott is 8/1 to win 2020 Auto Club 400 at Fontana

Chase Elliott won first two stages at Las Vegas last week.
Chase Elliott
No. 9 NAPA AUTO PARTS Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE

Chase Elliott on the challenges at Auto Club Speedway:
“Fontana, being 2-mile racetrack, that place it can expose flaws pretty easily because you are trying to take drag off the car for as long as the straightaways are, but you also want it to drive pretty good there.”

Elliott's goals and expectations for 2020:
“You always have goals and you always want to do good and you always want to do better than you did last year. You are always trying to move forward and get better. I’d say that’s the biggest thing, just try to do better than last season.”

STAGE WIN STREAK: After just two races in the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series season, Chase Elliott already has garnered three stage wins. That's more than half of what he collected in 2019 (five). Since stage racing was established in 2017, Elliott has earned at least three stage wins in each season (2017 – three, 2018 – four, 2019 – five).

2-MILE STATS: This weekend, Elliott is set to make his fifth NASCAR Cup Series start at Auto Club Speedway and his 12th Cup start at a 2-mile track (ACS and Michigan International Speedway). In his 11 previous Cup Series starts on 2-mile tracks, Elliott has earned three top-five finishes – all runner-up results – and nine top-10 finishes.

GUSTAFSON AT ACS: No. 9 team crew chief Alan Gustafson is set to call his 22nd race from atop the pit box at the Fontana, California, track this weekend. In his previous 21 starts, Gustafson has one win, four top-five finishes and 11 top-10s. His sole win at ACS came in September 2005 with Kyle Busch – his first career victory as a crew chief.

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.

LAS VEGAS REWIND: Elliott proved to be a factor at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, leading for 70 laps and winning both Stage 1 and Stage 2. His average running position during the 267-lap event was the fourth highest in the field (7.3). Unfortunately, a flat left-rear tire sent Elliott into the outside barrier, resulting in a caution. The No. 9 team was forced to make multiple pit stops to repair the damage. He fell to 27th and ultimately finished the day in 26th.

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


2020 Season

  • 6th in standings
  • 2 starts
  • 0 wins
  • 0 pole positions
  • 0 top-five finishes
  • 0 top-10 finishes
  • 93 laps led 


  • 151 starts
  • 6 wins
  • 8 pole positions
  • 44 top-five finishes
  • 74 top-10 finishes
  • 1,937 laps led

Track Career 

  • 4 starts
  • 0 wins
  • 0 pole positions
  • 0 top-five finishes
  • 2 top-10 finishes
  • 5 laps led

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Jimmie Johnson is 25/1 to win 2020 Auto Club 400 at Fontana

Jimmie Johnson has six wins at Auto Club Speedway.
Jimmie Johnson on the wins that are most meaningful:
"People always ask me what was my most special win or memory. I guess you have to go with the first one and your last one. You never know how these things go. That first win in 2002 gave me confidence. It made me realize that I belonged in the NASCAR Cup Series and I would be able to win at this level. I couldn't have dreamed bigger or imagine things could have gone any better. It will be bittersweet taking the checkered flag this weekend. There will be so many good memories to relive. I can't wait."

Jimmie Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Ally Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE will be in the media center at Auto Club Speedway on Friday, Feb. 28 at 11 a.m. local time.

JIMMIE JOHNSON SPEEDWAY: Jimmie Johnson’s final trip to Auto Club Speedway as a full-time driver will be one for the memory books for both the driver of the No. 48 and his fans. Some of the major events and activation the track is planning include: A five-wide salute at the start of the race; Johnson’s long-time mentor, childhood friend and motocross racer Ricky Johnson as the
Honorary Pace Car Driver; Chandra, Genevieve and Lydia Johnson as honorary starters; famed Los Angeles artist Jonas Never will create a large mural in the Fan Zone and second mural in the infield tunnel exit will be painted as a tribute to Johnson’s career; a street at the main entrance of the speedway will be named Jimmie Johnson Dr., intersecting with Jeff Gordon Way; and Johnson is featured on the cover of the event program.

ALL THE THINGS: Seven-time NASCAR champion Johnson is the proud owner of six victory lane trophies at Auto Club Speedway – the most all time. He has led 980 laps around the 2-mile track located in Johnson’s home state of California. On top of the six wins, the driver of the No. 48 Ally Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE owns the most all-time records with five second-place results, zero DNFs (did not finish), 25 lead-lap finishes and an average finish of 7.6.

FIRST WIN: As a rookie in just his 13th start, Johnson pulled into victory lane as a NASCAR Cup Series driver for the first time on April 28, 2002 at Auto Club Speedway (then California Speedway). He led 62 laps en route to the victory, then followed up two weeks later with his second Cup Series victory at Dover International Speedway. Johnson is the only driver to win at ACS in his twenties, thirties and forties.

YEARS OF THE CHAMPIONSHIP: Winning at Auto Club Speedway – at least for the driver of the No. 48 – has been an indicator of his championship form. Johnson’s four wins at the Fontana track during the 2007-10 seasons, as well as his 2016 win, all served as a premonition of good things to come. Johnson was crowned the NASCAR Cup Series champion in those particular seasons.

NOT DONE YET: There are some huge milestones on the horizon for Johnson. The next time he crosses the finish line first, he will have scored his 84th points-paying Cup Series win to tie Hall of Famers Darrell Waltrip and Bobby Allison for fourth all-time. Johnson currently is 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 with 83.

#VROOM LOUNGE PRESENTED BY ALLY: In a first-of-its-kind installation in NASCAR, the #VROOM Lounge, presented by Ally, is targeted toward a tech-savvy millennial audience. Located in the Fan Zone at ACS, the lounge will feature “Instagrammable” photo stations, an Ally-branded “pod,” or photo station, featuring Johnson’s signature #OneFinalTime message and a life-size standee of Johnson, where fans can take photos. There also will be a unique photo booth where fans can leave special messages for Johnson to wish him well. “Pop-up Helmets” replicating Johnson’s No. 48 driver helmet will be available for the first 2,000 fans through the gate on Sunday.


2020 Season

  • 11th in standings
  • 2 starts
  • 0 wins
  • 0 pole positions
  • 1 top-five finish
  • 1 top-10 finish
  • 3 laps led 


  • 653 starts
  • 83 wins
  • 36 pole positions
  • 228 top-five finishes
  • 365 top-10 finishes
  • 18,837 laps led

Track Career 

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

Alex Bowman is 20/1 to win 2020 Auto Club 400 at Fontana

Alex Bowman had one the fastest cars on late runs last week at Las Vegas.
What Alex Bowman expects going to California:
“Fontana is neat track. There are a lot of different groves that you can move around a lot. Obviously, tire fall off is really big. I think it’s a place where you have to go pretty gripped up with a lot of downforce in the car and not super trimmed-out. So, I think it will fit our race car pretty well. It should be a really good race for us.”

CINCINNATI IS BACK IN 2020: In September 2019, Hendrick Motorsports announced a 10-year agreement with leading machine tool manufacturer Cincinnati Inc. As the new Official Metal Fabrication and Additive Equipment Provider of Hendrick Motorsports, the Ohio-based company will serve as the primary sponsor of the No. 88 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE this weekend at Auto Club Speedway and at Kentucky Speedway later this season. Click here to see the No. 88 paint scheme for this weekend’s race.

CALIFORNIA STATS: Alex Bowman will make his fifth start at Fontana this weekend. The 26-year-old driver recorded his best finish of 13th at the 2-mile track in 2018 after rolling off 28th. He has completed 99.8% of the total laps during those four events. The Hendrick Motorsports driver has one start at Fontana in the NASCAR Xfinity Series in 2013, where he qualified sixth and finished 12th in the spring event.

TRACK STATS: In 2019, Bowman made 13 starts on tracks measuring 2 miles in length or greater. He qualified on the outside pole position three times last year on tracks of this length. Bowman brought home a runner-up finish at the Charlotte ROVAL and the spring Talladega event last season and captured four top-10 finishes.

LAS VEGAS REWIND: Prior to a late-race caution with six laps to go at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Bowman and the No. 88 team battled inside the top 10 for the majority of the 267-lap event. With less than 20 laps left in the race, Bowman’s Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE came to life and was moving up through the field. The Tucson, Arizona native entered the top three with 17 laps to go and eight laps later made the pass for second. During the caution on lap 261, the No. 88 team made the decision to come to pit road for four tires and fuel, putting the team 14th on the restart with two laps to go. Bowman ultimately finished the event 13th and earned valuable stage points for two top-10 finishes in Stages 1 and 2. Bowman’s average running position throughout the 400.5-mile event was 8.3.

CALIFORNIA DREAMIN’: Crew chief Greg Ives will call the shots for the sixth time for the No. 88 team at Fontana this weekend. The Michigan native led the No. 88 team to a sixth-place finish at the track in 2015. Ives’ drivers have completed 99.9% of the total laps during those five events. He has two starts as a crew chief in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, with a best finish of third coming in 2013 with driver Regan Smith. From 2006-12, Ives was a race engineer for the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports team. During that time, he was part of four wins, two pole awards and nine top-five finishes at ACS.

IVES ON SIRIUS: Starting this week, Ives will join Sirius XM Speedway on channel 90 with Dave Moody every Monday at 5:00 p.m. ET to talk about the previous race and the upcoming event for the No. 88 team. Time is subject to change.


2020 Season

  • 14th in standings
  • 2 starts
  • 0 wins
  • 0 pole positions
  • 0 top-five finishes
  • 0 top-10 finishes
  • 3 laps led 


  • 155 starts
  • 1 win
  • 2 pole positions
  • 10 top-five finishes
  • 26 top-10 finishes
  • 477 laps led

Track Career 

  • 4 starts
  • 0 wins
  • 0 pole position
  • 0 top-five finishes
  • 0 top-10 finishes
  • 1 lap led

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Fontana Betting Preview: 2020 Auto Club 400

Kyle Busch won his 200th NASCAR race at Fontana in 2019.
Date: Sunday, March 1, 2020
Venue: Auto Club Speedway
Television-Time: FOX, 3:30 p.m. ET

Keep an eye on JJ and the #48

It’s been 97 races since Jimmie Johnson last won a race, but I’ll be betting the streak ends soon in what will be his final season racing full-time in the NASCAR Cup Series. If last week’s performance at Las Vegas was any indication -- it is, then Hendrick Motorsports should be poised to win more than once as they did in 2019 in the 18 races using this week’s race package with 550 horsepower, aero ducts, and an 8-inch spoiler.

The Chevrolet Camaro made some offseason changes to its aerodynamics and got a new front end that proved to make them faster than most in Sunday’s Pennzoil 400. They didn’t win the race and Johnson’s fifth-place was the only top-10 finisher among the four Hendrick drivers, but it was clear to everywhere that Hendrick had an edge and I believe it goes much further than just the body.

They’ve got the package figured out, something that Hendrick always did before other teams with changes which is why they’ve won so many season championships. This particular race package just happened to take them longer to dominate.

Auto Club 400 Betting Odds
Top 10 Contenders

Kevin Harvick 4/1
Kyle Busch 5/1
Joey Logano 6/1
Chase Elliott 8/1
Kyle Larson 8/1
Brad Keselowski 8/1
Martin Truex Jr. 8/1
Ryan Blaney 16/1
Alex Bowman 20/1
William Byron 20/1

Las Vegas Betting Recap - Pennzoil 400 Notes

I may be getting a little ahead of myself with Hendrick enthusiasm because it’s only one race using this race package and Las Vegas is a high-banked 1.5-mile layout while Sunday’s Auto Cub 400 at Fontana has a wide 2-mile layout. But there was kind of an awakening at Las Vegas that not only Hendrick was better, but everyone was better.

Nine different organizations placed cars within the top-10 and surprisingly one of the teams wasn’t Joe Gibbs Racing. Parity is a good thing in NASCAR and also great for betting the races because more candidates have a legitimate chance to win which will stretch the odds out on the usual favorites.

I don’t think the Vegas race was an anomaly even though some late cautions with a few teams pitting late shuffled the deck and produced such a diverse top-10.

Still, Matt DiBenedetto’s Mustang finished second, Ricky Stenhouse Jr.’s Camaro finished third, Austin Dillon’s Camaro was fourth, and Bubba Wallace’s Camaro was sixth. Six Camaros in the top-10, four Mustang’s, and no Toyotas.

JGR Toyotas were the best with this race package last season, which includes Kyle Busch winning the Fontana race last season for his 200th NASCAR career win between the Cup, Xfinity, and Trucks. They just had a bad day collectively and they’ll be fine moving forward.

But let’s get to Hendrick and what stood out in Vegas. Chase Elliott was not on my radar at 14-to-1 odds to win, but after winning the first two stages and blazing fast closing speeds at the end of fuel runs, I was ready to surrender. He wasn’t going to be stopped despite being very ordinary in practices and I knew the only way I would cash is if Elliott had some bad luck and it happened just as the final stage started as he had a flat tire and lost a lap.


Denny Hamlin is 20/1 to win 2020 Auto Club 400 at Fontana

Denny Hamlin has never won at Fontana.
Denny Hamlin
#11 FedEx Office Toyota
Joe Gibbs Racing

Race Info:

Race: Auto Club 400
Date/Time: March 1/3:30 p.m. ET
Distance: 200 laps/400 miles
Track Length: 2 miles
Track Shape: D-shaped oval
Banking: 14 degrees
2018 Winner: Kyle Busch

Express Notes:

Las Vegas Recap:
Denny Hamlin finished 17th in Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, unable to overcome an ill-handling #11 FedEx Ground Toyota in the race won by Joey Logano. Hamlin lined up fourth on the grid, but had to drop to the back of the field after the team was penalized for a technical inspection violation. At the drop of the green flag, Hamlin began reporting that the car was extremely loose, and he felt like he was driving on ice. As the race progressed, the FedEx crew made significant adjustments to the chassis during each pit stop, but Hamlin continued to struggle with the handling. Despite best efforts from Denny and crew, the FedEx11 team sat in 17th place as Logano took the checkered flag.

Fontana Preview: Continuing on the West Coast swing, the series heads to Fontana, Calif., for Sunday’s 400-mile race at Auto Club Speedway. After 18 career starts at the Southern California track, Hamlin has recorded two top-five finishes, seven top-10 finishes and three pole positions, as well as a career-best finish of third (2008 and 2016). Following a disappointing performance in Las Vegas, Hamlin and team will be looking for Hamlin’s second win of 2020, thus moving forward in the standings, where Hamlin currently ranks ninth two races into the season. The #11 FedEx Toyota will promote the FedEx Small Business Grant Contest on the TV panel of the car for this weekend’s race in Las Vegas. The reminder encourages small business owners to apply for a collective prize pool of more than $250,000 by the entry deadline of March 2nd at

Hamlin Statistics:
Track: Auto Club Speedway
Races: 18
Wins: 0
Poles: 3
Top-5: 2
Top-10: 7
Laps Led: 147
Avg. Start: 11.2
Avg. Finish 16.9

Hamlin Conversation – Fontana:

What are you most focused on moving forward as the series heads to Fontana this weekend?

“We just need to get back on track. We obviously started off the season with a bang in Daytona, and then had a little hiccup in Las Vegas. We know what we need to do to win, and we’re focused on the next race. Hopefully we’ll be able to get back up front at Fontana.”

How do you bounce back after a disappointing effort in Las Vegas this past weekend?

“It was just a tough day all the way around for our FedEx team. We just didn’t have a good handle on the car throughout the entire race. We finally worked our way up into the top 15, and the pit road speeding penalty killed our chances of any kind of decent finish. We just need to regroup and get the car ready to go for next weekend.”

Hendrick cars are good bet in Auto Club 400

Jimmie Johnson is 25/1 to win Sunday.
None of the four Hendrick Motorsports cars won Sunday’s Pennzoil 400 in Las Vegas, but they were the talk of the day from most folks in the NASCAR betting and bookmaking community because at different junctures, at least three of them looked to have the best cars on the track.

It’s one of the main storylines heading into Sunday’s Auto Club 400 at Fontana because the race package used at Las Vegas will be used this week as well.

Do the Hendrick cars get a rating upgrade from the oddsmakers?

“No doubt,“ said Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook director Ed Salmons. “It was obvious today (Sunday at Las Vegas) that the best long-run speeds were from Chase Elliott and William Byron. And then late in the race, I thought (Alex) Bowman looked great. He closed strong and had a car good enough to win.”

If simply looking at the Las Vegas results, you wouldn’t see much of an indication that it’s time to adjust rating on all four Hendrick Camaros because Joey Logano won and two other Camaros driven by Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (3rd) and Austin Dillon (4th) finished ahead of Hendrick’s best finisher of Jimmie Johnson (5th). The three other Hendrick cars didn’t even finish in the top-10 due to mishaps in the final stage, but they were elite.

Hendrick cars only won one race last season with this race package (Bowman at Chicago), and the rules for the package are the same except for some tweaks to the front end and body of the Camaro. It’s obvious those changes had a huge impact and I can guarantee after seeing it just once that Chevrolet will win more than it did in 2019 when winning just twice in 18 races using this race package.

Elliott had the best car on Sunday, winning the first two stages and leading five times for 70 laps until he got a flat tire to start the final stage which put him a lap down and he settled for a 26th-place finish. The odd part about Elliott’s amazing performance, who was 14-1 to win, is that it wasn’t detected in either of Friday’s practice sessions. He was very ordinary and it was Bowman and Johnson that shined in single lap and average speeds.

When he went down, it was Byron, and then Bowman, who was chopping two-tenths of a second off the leader’s lead in the final 20 laps. And then it was Johnson who just keeping grooving like it was 2008. He can still win his fifth Vegas race this fall in what is expected to be his final playoffs.

But after a competitive race in Las Vegas, why would Johnson want to retire? The junk he’s been given the last two years probably made him feel as if he lost a step, or his reactionary time was slower. But Sunday’s race showed a vintage J.J. who has won 83 Cup races and seven Cup titles.


Kyle Busch is 5/1 to win his 5th Auto Club 400 at Fontana

The New Green Machine

HUNTERSVILLE, North Carolina (Feb. 26, 2020) – When Kyle Busch takes to the track at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California this weekend, Interstate Batteries will debut a sharp new “green machine’ paint scheme as the founding sponsor of Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) starts its 29th season riding along with one of the top teams in NASCAR.

While there are many paint schemes created throughout the years, rarely does a driver and the chairman of a sponsor’s company collaborate on a scheme, and even more rare is a 34-year-old collaborating with someone from the Greatest Generation. However, that is exactly what happened with the new Interstate Batteries scheme debuting this weekend in the NASCAR Cup Series Auto Club 400.

Starting late last season, Interstate Batteries chairman Norm Miller teamed up with Busch on the new design. The end result is a powerful new green scheme that Busch will run this weekend in Southern California and during the remaining Interstate-sponsored races in 2020. 

Busch, driver of the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota for JGR, would like nothing more than to repeat his Auto Club 400 victory from last March, which happened to be his 200th career victory in NASCAR’s top three series and 54th in the Cup Series. He’s since lifted those totals to 209 overall and 57 in the Cup Series.

This weekend, Busch and his Interstate Batteries team will be shooting for his fifth career Cup Series win at the track located approximately 50 miles east of Los Angeles.

In addition to his four Cup Series wins, Busch’s overall stats are quite strong at Fontana. He is near the top of several categories there behind only seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson. Busch’s average finish of 9.3 is second to Johnson’s 7.5. Busch’s 807 laps led ranks second to Johnson’s 880. Busch’s 3,779 laps spent running in the top-15 at Fontana is also second only to Johnson’s 4,156. Busch’s 1,005 quality passes at Fontana tops Johnson’s 972.

Before last year’s milestone victory, Busch and Interstate Batteries also brought home back-to-back wins at Fontana in 2013 and 2014 – both in dramatic fashion. He is looking to add another win to his impressive record at the track, having scored his maiden victory there in September 2005 and rattling off 10 top-five finishes and 15 top-10s during his career. The two-time and defending Cup Series champion also has six NASCAR Xfinity Series wins at Fontana – October 2008 and 2010, February 2009 and 2010, March 2011 and 2013 – which included a weekend Cup-Xfinity sweep in 2013.

So as Busch and the No. 18 Toyota team head back to Fontana, they will look to bring home back-to-back Cup Series wins at Fontana as they hope the new-look “green machine” can pull off another victory in Southern California’s Inland Empire. If they can make it to victory lane, both Busch and Miller know they had a hand in how the victory lane photos turn out. 
KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing: 
You have a new scheme this weekend with your longtime friends and partners at Interstate Batteries. How did that new scheme come about? Talk about your relationship with Interstate Batteries?

“Interstate Batteries is not only important to me, but really everyone at Joe Gibbs Racing. Norm (Miller, Chairman) was very involved in how the scheme was developed. It was really amazing to work with Norm on this design. Both of us had a big part in how it turned out and we both think it looks great. I think it’s something Norm and I both are excited to run and would like to get it to victory lane sooner rather than later. I was proud to get those guys the win last year, being my 200th, and I know those guys were excited. JGR wouldn’t be what it is today without Norm and everyone at Interstate Batteries believing that Joe could build a team. And look at us today – we still appreciate their support as there are not many sponsors that have been around with the same team like they have. They’re great sponsors and also great friends. We’ll do our best to get another win at Fontana for them this weekend. We would love to get the new scheme to victory lane.”

With so many crew chiefs coming and going these days, what does it say about you having Adam Stevens working with you this long, especially going in as the defending champion?

“It’s weird because you look at it and him and I haven’t really been together all that long, I think five seasons, and I think we’re the second-longest pair besides (Kevin) Harvick and (Rodney) Childers. You’re used to talking about Chad (Knaus) and Jimmie (Johnson) being together for 15, 16 years, whatever it was, and Paul (Wolfe) and Brad (Keselowski) were obviously together a very long time. So it’s quite interesting now how the dynamic of crew chiefs has kind of changed, switching teams around and such like that. But I’m glad I’ve kind of found that connection with Adam, and the relationship that he and I have developed and the success that we’ve had over the last few years has been really, really great. And he and I both having a little bit of a fiery drive together, we kind of elevate one anotherto be able to perform, and he’s very good at responding to my criticisms as well as me to his. So it works well.”

What’s next after your 200-win achievement one year ago?

“I don’t know – 250, I guess – the race to 250. Certainly as I get older here, it’s going to start slowing down, and with the restrictions that I’m under, it already has slowed down. I would have been to 200 a hell of a long time ago if I could have run as many races as I wanted to in Truck and Xfinity and what-not. It’s about being able to win on Sundays and I feel like I’ve won a bunch of races on Sundays – I’ve got 56 of them and the race there is going to be the race to 100 on that side. I think that’s kind of what the next goal will be – to try to get 100 Cup wins.”

How has Auto Club Speedway changed over the last several years, going from a relatively new track to a place that has a lot more character and racing grooves?

“That place is tough. It’s really a hard racetrack to get ahold of, now, especially when it’s hot and the sun is out. There are two completely different types of racing when you run the top versus the bottom groove. You can run from the top to the bottom but, when you run the bottom, you really feel like you’re puttering around the racetrack. You feel like you aren’t making up any time on the bottom. But when you are running the top groove, you feel like you’re getting the job done. The guys who run the bottom have a little bit more patience and handle it better than the guys who are on the gas on top.”

What do you remember about that night in 2005 when you captured your first Cup Series win at Fontana?

“We ran in the top-five all day long but we really didn’t think we had a winning car. When we got the lead a few times throughout the race, we just pulled away and led by quite a bit. It was really cool to have a really dominant racecar. I remember having to drive the car really loose. That was the loosest I think I’ve ever driven a racecar that was still moving forward. It was crazy because I came over the radio and told the guys I couldn’t believe how loose I have to drive the car. But it was fast. All of my wins there have been a little different, but memorable at the same time.”

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Clint Bowyer is 60/1 to win 2020 Auto Club 400

Advice for Rookie Teammate Cole Custer

KANNAPOLIS, North Carolina (Feb. 25, 2020) – Clint Bowyer has some interesting advice for rookie teammate Cole Custer, who makes his NASCAR Cup Series debut at his home track of Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California this weekend.

The 22-year-old native of Ladera Ranch, California is Bowyer’s newest teammate at SHR joining the driver lineup that includes veterans Kevin Harvick and Aric Almirola. Bowyer’s rookie year in the Cup series came in 2006 season, when he drove the No. 07 car at Richard Childress Racing

“I don’t remember any of it,” joked Bowyer. “I was sponsored by Jack Daniels and that was kind of a fog area in my life, as a matter of fact. So, first thing I would tell him is stay off of the bottle.”

Bowyer actually does remember that season.

“He’ll have this, the shock of looking over, ‘Oh my gosh, that’s Jeff Gordon, that’s Tony Stewart,’ and then all of a sudden I remember I’m fixing to pass Tony Stewart. ‘What is going on here?’ And, you know, and then all of a sudden I’m racing Tony Stewart!

“That is a critical moment in which you need to realize you’re a rookie, realize the situation you’re in and get the hell out of Dodge or they’re going to just teach you a lesson. That will happen in his rookie season. Be ready for it. You know one or two things are going to happen. You’re going to learn from it or you’re going to bull up and you’re going to make it hard on yourself. I did both. There’s no question I did both.”
Bowyer said Custer will go through all the trials every other driver goes through to establish himself in the Cup Series, but the key for Custer and any of the notable full-time Cup Series rookies in 2020 is to remain confident.

“You can’t lose your confidence because that’s exactly what’s going to happen,” Bowyer said. “Racing is all – competition is all about confidence, and the first thing that they’re going to try to take from you is your confidence. You have to stay confident, you have to stay focused on the prize and you have to set realistic goals.

“Cole has come out of the Xfinity Series. He won a ton of races last year. That’s exactly what his lifestyle and his brain is trained to think is going to happen. Might happen. But you’ve got to be ready to set realistic goals and not think you’re just going to go out there and dominate every lap and every race. When that happens, when you think that is going to happen, the next thing you know you’re 10 feet over your head and you wreck, and then you take it all away. Now you’ve knocked that confidence down a notch and another notch and another notch. Now you’re trying even harder than you ever were before. Now it’s another notch. Now you’ve rock bottomed and you’re lost.”

Bowyer doesn’t have to worry about confidence going to Auto Club Speedway. He finished sixth at the season-opening Daytona 500 and 12th at Las Vegas Motor Speedway last weekend. His SHR No. 14 Ford is 13th in points coming in to Sunday’s race at the ultra-fast, 2-mile California oval where cars are often four- and even five-wide as they battle for all-important track position once the green flag flies.

Drivers know that it’s easier to gain spots in the opening laps than later in the run, when passing is most difficult.

“The restarts at California have always been awesome,” said Bowyer, who added that drivers can choose from among five different racing lines on the D-shaped oval. “I think it’s great for the fans. As a driver, you think I should get up there and race and get as many positions as I can. But, part of you is thinking that maybe I should just be safe this early in the race, hang back a bit and make sure we survive. Problem is, if you hang back and they don’t wreck, you feel stupid.”

Bowyer’s No. 14 Mustang will carry the logos of Rush Truck Centers and Haas Automation this weekend. Rush has been the primary partner for the No. 14 team since Bowyer arrived at SHR in 2017 and has been with the organization since 2010. The Texas-based company has used Bowyer and the team to appeal to NASCAR fans as one way to recruit the technicians it needs to operate the largest network of commercial truck and bus dealerships in the country, with locations in 22 states. According to Rush Truck Centers, the trucking industry is expected to need 200,000 diesel technicians over the next 10 years to keep up with maintenance demands.

Rush Truck Centers wants to make NASCAR fans aware of these opportunities and knows that, with Bowyer’s background working in his dad’s towing service in Emporia Kansas, he understands the importance of keeping trucks up and running. That is why Rush is proud to partner with Bowyer and support the trucks that haul the racecars as well as customers across the country with its total service management package, RushCare Complete. This all-inclusive solution provides dedicated concierge service, vehicle telematics, mobile service, express routine maintenance, real-time service updates and a comprehensive source for all-makes parts. 

Haas Automation, owned by SHR co-owner and California native Gene Haas, is America’s leading builder of CNC machine tools. Founded by Haas in 1983, Haas Automation manufactures a complete line of vertical and horizontal machining centers, turning centers and rotary tables and indexers. All Haas products are built in the company’s 1.1-million-square-foot manufacturing facility in nearby Oxnard, California, and distributed through a worldwide network of Haas Factory Outlets.

“I know Rush and Haas will have a lot of guests this weekend,” Bowyer said. “I’d love nothing better than to give them a good run. Heck, I’d let the Haas folks take the trophy back to Oxnard if we win it.”

Clint Bowyer, Driver of the No. 14 Rush Truck Centers/Haas Automation Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:
What are your thoughts on Auto Club Speedway?
“The speeds are always very fast at California and, on top of that, the grip level goes away drastically fast. For me, I love that. I love how the track slicks off and you have to focus on the balance. You can’t have that front end turning too good and have that rear end pulling out from under you, and vice versa.”

What are your thoughts about SHR co-owner and California native Gene Haas?
“Everybody knows what Tony (Stewart) brought to the table. Gene is that rock. He is the rock behind all of us. That enables us to go out and perform at our best. It’s never a question of, ‘What does it take financially?’ or anything else. It’s, ‘What does it take to win?’ What does it take to be better? What does it take to find victory lane?’ Those are the questions Gene Haas asks and that’s it. He doesn’t talk about, ‘Well, that was a good top-10 finish.’ You can be proud of a good run somewhere. Maybe that was a track you struggle at, maybe you run fifth or sixth – no call. Winning and winning only is what he does in his industry. It bleeds through to his employees and everybody at Stewart-Haas Racing.”

Kevin Harvick is 4/1 favorite to win 2020 Auto Club 400

Homecoming 2020

KANNAPOLIS, North Carolina (Feb. 25, 2020) – It’s Homecoming week for Kevin Harvick as he heads to the Auto Club 400 NASCAR Cup Series race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California.

Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Mobil 1 Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), is from Bakersfield, Calif., which is about three hours north of Fontana. There will be no cheerleaders, bands or football players, however. Instead, it will be members of his Mobil 1 crew and a loud and powerful No. 4 Mobil 1 Ford Mustang that will greet him as he returns to his home state.

Fontana has been good to Harvick as he has one win, seven top-five finishes and 12 top-10s in 27 career NASCAR Cup Series starts at the 2-mile oval. The 44-year-old driver has led 237 laps there and has an average starting position of 14.8, an average finish of 15.4, and has completed 98.6 percent – 5,874 of 5,956 – of the laps he’s contested.

He has competed in some sort of race at Fontana every year since 1997, the year Auto Club Speedway opened. He started in October of that year in a NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series race driving for Wayne Spears. He finished 20th. No one, probably not even Harvick, could have imagined he would race there each year since. He now enters his fourth decade of racing at Fontana.

In addition to crew chief Rodney Childers and the No. 4 team helping Harvick, he will also have the support again of sponsor and technical partner Mobil 1.

Mobil 1 isn’t just the world’s leading synthetic motor oil brand, it also provides the entire SHR team with leading lubricant technology, ensuring that all SHR Mustangs have a competitive edge over the competition on the track. In its 18th consecutive season as the “Official Motor Oil of NASCAR,” Mobil 1 is used by more than 50 percent of teams throughout NASCAR’s top three series.

Harvick is hoping he can put the No. 4 Mobil 1 Ford Mustang in victory lane at Fontana. Because much like any Homecoming game, it’s much sweeter when it ends with a win.

KEVIN HARVICK, Driver of the No. 4 Mobil 1 Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing: 

Is Auto Club Speedway a place you look forward to going to, and why?

“Auto Club Speedway is by far one of my favorite tracks we go to. 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. It’s a very unique racetrack because it is so wide and you have so many options to run all over the racetrack. When you add in the tire falloff, then it becomes strategy and how many laps do you stay out when everybody else starts pitting because you’re going to give up three seconds a lap. If the caution comes out, you can get caught a lap down. So there are so many things that come into play, but it has become a great race and a great racetrack to race on. The crowd has been great 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.”

Why do your prefer Mobil 1 synthetic?

“I’m a synthetic guy because, in 1993 when we were sitting in the engine shop, we dumped Mobil 1 synthetic in and that’s all we did and gained seven horsepower. From that day on, we would actually save our money and then go to the local auto parts store because, at that time, it was like $5.50 a quart and the conventional and other oils were like $3.50. At the big races, we would put the Mobil 1 in the car and the regular races would put the regular oil in there. You know I’m going to say synthetic.”

NASCAR used to be considered a Southern regional sport, but now so many drivers have come out of California. Can you describe what the culture was like there, racing-wise, when you and some of the other drivers came up and how it led to what we have now?

“I think, when you look at California, there are a lot of racetracks up and down the coast. Whether it’s asphalt, dirt tracks, go-kart tracks, there is a well-supported community of racing up and down the state of California, even into Washington and Oregon. As I was coming up, there was the Southwest Tour, Winston West Series, and the (NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors) Trucks that raced on the West Coast a lot. There was also a fairly good following for Late Models. Things have slowed down from what they used to be, but you have the Kern County Raceway in this particular area. There is definitely a lot of racing when you look at way back in the day it was mostly a Southeastern sport. I think Jeff Gordon was obviously somewhat responsible for being able to allow guys like myself in and pave the way for us to have a path to have an opportunity to come and race in NASCAR. It’s always been a well-supported racing area and I was fortunate to grow up in Bakersfield, California, which is a very well-supported racing town no matter what you race. There is a lot of racing. It just took a while for everybody to figure that out.” 

Now that there is just one race a year at Fontana, talk about what the atmosphere has been and how the crowds have gotten better and how the drivers’ perceptions of the way things are starting to turn around there.

“This racetrack is a great example of lessons that a lot of people who run racetracks don’t pay attention to. Sometimes, if you take one really great thing, you can easily make them into two mediocre things. I don’t understand that with racetracks a lot of the time, but this one has come full circle. When you look at the crowds that we’ve had over the last couple of years, they’ve been really good. The racing has been really good as that track surface has aged. As a driver, you look forward to going there now because it’s one of those tracks where you can run all over the place, the cars slide around, and you’re going to have fun from the driver’s seat. That bleeds over into the perception that the fans get because everybody is talking about enjoying racing on this particular track. Some markets are just one-race markets. I would say ninety percent of them are one-race markets, but a lot of them still have two races and you just see those mediocre crowds and, when people know that you’re only coming once a year, you have to go to that one particular race. Having a race with a good date is obviously good for the weather and the people to come out and enjoy it. It’s not 115 degrees in August, which was always fun to be a part of in the racecar (laughs). But, I think, it’s all come full circle and everything is going well for this particular track.”

Aric Almirola is 60/1 to win 2020 Auto Club 400

Giving Back in Fontana

KANNAPOLIS, North Carolina (Feb. 24, 2020) – The No. 10 Smithfield Ford Mustang team for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) heads to the second stop of this year’s three-race “NASCAR Goes West” swing with Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. 

This time, Almirola and the No. 10 Smithfield Ford team have some work to do to move up in the point standings. Last weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Almirola saw the promise of a top-10 start fall by the wayside when his left-rear fender was damaged when a car made contact with his under caution. He was able to finish the race 21st and on the lead lap, but it hasn’t been the start to the season the team has been looking for. The week before, at the season-opening Daytona 500, Almirola ran up front and had potential to visit victory lane until he was involved in a late-race accident. 

“We certainly had a car fast enough for a top-10 (at Las Vegas) and we did everything we could to adjust it and make it better,” Almirola said. “We made some gains and learned a lot. That damaged fender and cut tire put us off course for a decent points day and we have some making up to do at Auto Club this weekend after a tough two weeks.” 

Last year, Almirola earned his first top-10 in 12 starts at Fontana after leading seven laps and running in and around the top-10 for the majority of the race. Crew chief Mike Bugarewicz has called the shots in four starts at Fontana with a best finish of third with Clint Bowyer in 2017.  

“We ran well there last year and I’m confident we can do it again,” Almirola said. “We just need a few things to go our way to get us on the right track and build momentum. I know our Smithfield team is capable of it.” 

Almirola has career totals of two wins, two poles, 18 top-five finishes, 61 top-10s and 543 laps led in 318 starts. His last win came in October 2018 at Talladega (Ala.) Super Speedway. 

In addition to the on-track action, Smithfield and Almirola are teaming up to surprise the students at Joe Baca Middle School in Bloomington, CA with a $10,000 donation to further support the education and growth of their students on Friday morning.  

Media is invited to attend the assembly where Almirola will lead a Q&A session speaking to his personal life experiences, meet the students, and sign autographs. To close out the event, he will present a $10,000 check donation to support the school’s creation of the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Lab. 

This assembly is the first of a series of community visits led by Smithfield and Almirola to support the academic advancement of students across the nation, while providing them with the tools and resources needed for success. 

The Tampa native will again sport the iconic black, white and gold No. 10 Smithfield Ford Mustang this weekend. 

Smithfield Foods, Inc., who will sponsor a majority of the races this season, is an American food company with agricultural roots and a global reach. Its 40,000 U.S. employees are dedicated to producing “Good food. Responsibly®” and have made it one of the world’s leading vertically integrated protein companies. It has pioneered sustainability standards for more than two decades, including many industry firsts, such as an ambitious commitment to cut carbon impact by 25 percent by 2025. The company believes in the power of protein to end food insecurity and has donated hundreds of millions of food servings to neighbors in need. For more information, visit, and connect on FacebookTwitterLinkedIn, and Instagram.

Almirola is back with season two of his documentary series Beyond the 10, where fans can get VIP, behind-the-scenes access by subscribing to his YouTube channel. Episodes showcase never-before-seen footage of Almirola at the racetrack, on family trips, and “A Day in the Life” during the week, as well as all that goes into a NASCAR Cup Series driver’s season. Click here to subscribe on YouTube and watch the latest episode. 

He enters the third race of the season 17th in the standings with 48 points, 37 out of first place. He’ll look to shake off the bad luck from the first two weeks and advance in the point standings or secure a playoff position with a trip to victory lane. 

Aric Almirola: Driver of the No. 10 Smithfield Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:

Is the West Coast swing one of the most difficult stretches of races throughout the season?

“This is where it really becomes the grind. You go out to Vegas, you come back home, then go back out two more times. The jet lag is really starting to set in and, when you wake up, you’re trying to figure out when you wake up in the morning what time zone you’re in, and then you have to go back and do it one more time. Some of the crew guys stay out on the West Coast but, with me having a 6- and a 5-year-old and wife at home, I’ve been going back and forth. This coast-to-coast travel definitely turns into a grind.”

What kind of racing can we expect this weekend at Auto Club Speedway? 

“The racing is going to be incredible at Auto Club Speedway. The restarts have always been really wild and the track is really wide, so it promotes five-wide racing on the restarts. Now, with this new rules package, you’re going to see us all over the place. We’re going to be four- and five-wide for multiple laps in a row. I think it’s going to be insane and I’m excited. Any time you see the racing get crazy like that, it’s an opportunity. Hopefully, we can get our Smithfield Ford Mustang positioned up front and they are doing four- and five-wide behind us and we can race off into the sunset.”