5 Storylines For Sunday’s Auto Club 400 (3:30 p.m. ET/FOX/MRN/SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

The third and final race of NASCAR’s early season west coast swing is upon us as before the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup heads back east, they first stop at the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana.

With that being said, here are five storylines to watch.

4 Races, 4 Different Winners

Last year, only three different drivers won 16 of the first 21 races. As we sit here today, we’ve seen four different winners in as many weeks to start 2019 off with. Can we go 5-for-5 this Sunday in Fontana?

There’s a good chance for that.

Martin Truex Jr. is the defending race winner at Fontana as he has three top eight finishes in his last four Fontana starts and three straight on the 2019 season. He came home runner-up in two of those three races this year including just last week in Phoenix.

Kyle Larson is also a factor. He won the 2017 Fontana race and came home runner-up to Truex a year ago. Larson, has three top two finishes in his five Fontana starts. He’s also finished in the top 12 in all four races this season too. He was in the top 10 in Daytona and Phoenix and 12th at both Atlanta and Vegas. If not for pit road penalties in those two middle races, Larson would likely have four top 10’s in as many tries in 2019.

Don’t sleep on Larson’s Chip Ganassi Racing teammate of Kurt Busch either. He has three straight top seven finishes on the season to go along with four top 10 finishes in his last seven Fontana starts.

Then, there’s Kevin Harvick. He has three consecutive top 10 finishes this year and seven top 10 finishes in his last 11 Fontana starts. Also, Harvick was runner-up in 2015 and again in 2016 too.

Those are four very good options to give us five winners in as many races in 2019.

Good Chance Of Repeat Winner Too

I know the point above was about a new winner, but what about a repeat winner in 2019. Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin (Daytona) and Kyle Busch (Phoenix) are usually good in Fontana, so are Team Penske’s Brad Keselowski (Atlanta) and Joey Logano (Las Vegas).

Busch, has four straight top six finishes on the season including a win last week. At Fontana, Busch six top eight finishes in his last seven starts including five of which being in the top three. He won this race in 2013 and 2014 and was third last year.

Hamlin’s had recent Fontana success with two top six finishes in his last three starts. He’s also finished in the top 11 in all four races this season.

Keselowski, has four straight top 10 finishes at Auto Club Speedway including a win in 2015 and a runner-up finish in 2017. He was fourth last year.

Since Logano joined Team Penske in 2013, he’s finished in the top 10 in all but once start at Fontana including a third place run in 2013, a fourth place finish in 2015 and two consecutive fifth place finishes the last two years.

Would you take one of the winless drivers on the list above or one of the four drivers who’ve reached victory lane on this list to win on Sunday?

Will Busch Get To 200 Wins?

Another big storyline is Kyle Busch’s pursuit of 200 NASCAR victories. No matter how you feel about him and the stat, it’s going to happen in 2019. After sweeping the weekend in Phoenix, Busch now has 199 trips to victory lane in NASCAR. Will 200 happen this week in Fontana?

There’s a good chance it will.

First off, Busch is entered in both races again. In XFINITY Series competition at Fontana, Busch has eight straight top eight finishes and 12 top three finishes in his last 14 tries. He’s a six time winner (2008, 2009, 2010, 2010, 2011, 2013) at that. So far in the XFINITY Series this season, Busch is 2-for-2. He won in Vegas, dominated in Phoenix and now looking for the west coast sweep.

If he wins on Saturday, he will try to surpass Petty on Sunday and get his 201st NASCAR victory. Even if he doesn’t win on Saturday, he has a shot to reach 200 on Sunday too.

Busch, has four straight top six finishes on the season including a win last week. At Fontana, Busch six top eight finishes in his last seven starts including five of which being in the top three. He won this race in 2013 and 2014 and was third last year.

Richard Childress Racing Could Be Surprising Team

RCR has had a ton of speed this year. The problem is, the results haven’t been there. Maybe Fontana is just what the doctored ordered.

Daniel Hemric is good there and was good at a similar aged track two races ago in Atlanta. Don’t sleep on him.

Austin Dillon has three top 11 finishes in his five Fontana starts including a 10th place run just last year. He was the pole winner in 2016 and started fifth last season too. If not for running out of fuel last week, he was on his way to a top five finish in Phoenix.

Aero Package

It’s no secret, the highly publicized new aero package has left more to be desired so far. Through the first three races of it, we’ve seen some ho-hum racing. The only thing though is, we haven’t seen the same package used twice yet.

Atlanta was a high tire wear track on an aged surface with a tapered spacer but no aero ducts. Las Vegas is a newly repaved track in the last few years with both a tapered spacer as well as the aero ducts in place. Phoenix, didn’t use either but used the same high rear spoiler as the previous two weeks for added downforce.

That has created racing that in all fairness was better than years past, but just that, only slightly better. It’s not worse, but with so much emphasis put on the new aero package, it should have wowed us.

To give NASCAR a chance here, each of the three tracks are different in size, different in shape and used different variations of the package. Lets get to where we’re using it multiple times so teams can adjust.

This weekend, will be the first opportunity.

Fontana, will have the high spoiler for downforce as well as aero ducts for drag and the tapered spacer to reduce the horsepower. Essentially, it’s the Vegas package. Where this race differs from Vegas is Fontana is a wide, 2-mile D-shaped oval with plenty of room to pass. Where it differs from Vegas too is they are still racing on the original surface. Fontana’s surface is aged like Atlanta’s.

So, will we see a race somewhere in between Atlanta and Vegas or will we see something even closer to Daytona with so much room?

The only problem that we’re getting feedback on so far is, the spoiler is causing so much dirty air in wake that it’s hard to suck up and pass anyone. With some tire fall off sure to happen in Fontana, does that spread the field out more.

The track always has the engines wound up, so with them being restricted and having more drag, will that help?

#Fontana #MonsterEnergyNASCARCupSeries #NASCAR

0 views0 comments