Auto Club Speedway is considered to be an intermediate racetrack on the NASCAR schedule. This simply means that the racetrack is not a Superspeedway and not a short track. It is somewhere in between.
Tony Stewart has won the last three races on intermediate racetracks (Las Vegas, Homestead and Texas).
Ever since the Chase started last year, Stewart has been dialed in on his intermediate racetrack program. Since the start of the 2011 Chase, Stewart has an average finish of 4.5 on the intermediate racetracks. That includes four wins in six races. The No. 14 team will be the team to beat on Sunday.
Stewart may be the hottest driver on intermediate tracks dating back to last season, but Jimmie Johnson has dominated Auto Club Speedway over his career.
The California native has 17 career starts at the racetrack, with 13 top-10 finishes, 12 top-5 finishes, 849 lap leads and five wins. No other active driver has stats anywhere close to Johnson’s at Auto Club Speedway.
The No. 48 team received some good news this week when NASCAR rescinded the suspension of Crew Chief Chad Knaus and restored the 25 points the team was docked for alleged violations to their car before the Daytona 500. The team will be motivated this week to prove once and for all they are not cheaters.
Jeff Gordon struggled in the first three races of 2012, but he looked like he had the car to beat last week in Bristol. Gordon was racing up front when his teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. tapped the side of his car. Unfortunately for Gordon, when the two cars touched, the exhaust pipe of Earnhardt’s car cut the tire on Gordon’s car, causing him to spin and hit the wall.
This will be a bounce back week for Gordon.
Gordon has 22 career starts at the Auto Club Speedway with 11 top-10 finishes, 10 top-5 finishes, 619 lap leads and three wins. This will be the week Gordon kickstarts his 2012 season.
Matt Kenseth is the last Ford driver to win a race at Auto Club Speedway in the Sprint Cup Series. If a driver from Roush Fenway Racing is going to win this week, my money would be on Kenseth.
Currently, Kenseth is No. 3 in the point standings. His 2012 season has gotten off to a fast start, and it is unlikely to slow down this week.
In his 19 career starts at Auto Club Speedway, Kenseth has 13 top-10 finishes, eight top-5 finishes, 497 lap leads and three wins. His smooth and steady approach to the race will put him near the top on Sunday.
Auto Club Speedway is Clint Bowyer’s best racetrack. In his 11 career starts at the racetrack, Bowyer has seven top-10 finishes and two top-5 finishes. He currently has a streak of four top-10 finishes at Auto Club Speedway.
Changing from Richard Childress Racing to Michael Waltrip Racing will not hurt Bowyer’s chances this week. The cars from Michael Waltrip Racing have been great this year. Bowyer’s chances of winning the race may have improved with his move to Michael Waltrip Racing.