NASCAR returns to the West Coast this weekend after a controversial beginning to the season in Sunday's 51st running of the Daytona 500. The trip to Auto Club Speedway is always full of excitement and stars (and by stars I mean movie stars of course!).
While the trip out West is long and tiresome on the drivers—and crews—several will be returning to their home state in hopes to bring home a trophy in front of their "home" crowd.
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series
Kevin Harvick (No. 29 driver) – Bakersfield
Casey Mears (No. 07 driver) – Bakersfield
Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 driver) – El Cajon
Robby Gordon (No. 7 driver) – Orange
Scott Speed (No. 82 driver) -- Manteca
John Dullan (No. 33 engineer) – San Diego
Sammy Gonzalez (No. 1 mechanic) – Van Nuys
Ron Hornaday III (No. 19 mechanic) – Palmdale
Robbie Maschhaupt (No. 19 transporter driver) – Huntington Beach
Kirk Almquist (No. 7 crew chief) – Blythe
Clint Almquist (No. 07 catch can) – Blythe
Josh Houghton (No. 00 front tire carrier) – Lancaster
Dave Collins (No. 83 front tire changer – Riverside
Clay Robinson (No. 24 front tire changer – Simi Valley
Doug Newell (No. 83 gas man) – Oxnard
Jeff Patterson (No. 14 gas man) – Escondido
Chad Avrit (No. 82 rear tire changer) – El Centro
NASCAR Nationwide Series
Stanton Barrett (No. 31 driver) – Bishop
John Borneman III (No. 22 driver) - Ramona
Kevin Harvick (No. 33 driver) – Bakersfield
Kenny Hendrick (No. 31 driver) – Chino
Jason Leffler (No. 38 driver) – Long Beach
Brandon Whitt (No. 61 driver) – El Cajon
Jerry Baxter (No. 99 crew chief) – Sacramento
Mikey Drake (No. 32 front tire carrier) – Spring Valley
Scott Myers (No. 11 shock specialist) – Medestow
Daniel Mondragon (No. 32 front tire changer) – Monterey
Marc Reno (No. 1 crew chief) – El Cajon
Brett Sumpter (No. 09 mechanic/rear tire carrier) – Monterey
NASCAR Camping World Truck Series
Matt Crafton (No. 88 driver) - Tulare
Lance Hooper (No. 44 driver) - Palmdale
Ron Hornaday, Jr. (No. 33 driver) - Palmdale
Mike Skinner (No. 5 driver) - Susanville
Danny Stockman (No. 33 truck chief) - Yucaipa
That's an awful lot of West Coast lovin' going on there.
Nationwide Series News and Notes
• Jason Leffler is looking to rebound from a horrendous start to the 2009 Nationwide Series. Leffler was at the center of the NASCAR world after being penalized five laps on Lap 72 of the season's kick off event for aggressive driving. The incident involved Steve Wallace and Scott Lagasse Jr.
Heading out West should be comforting for Leffler who has fared well at Auto Club Speedway in recent trips. Not only his his a California native (Long Beach), but he won the pole for this race in 2004 and finished 11th in the race last year—his best result at the track since finishing seventh in 2005.
• Happy returns home in his own car this weekend. Harvick is still searching for his first win in a Kevin Harvick Inc. Chevy and where better could that be than in the same state as his home town of Bakersfield.
Harvick's start will be his 42nd in his own car. He sat on the pole at Daytona this past weekend and finished 11th. Harvick finished third at Auto Club Speedway in last year's Nationwide race. He has won a pole, collected six top-fives and 10 top-10 finishes at the track, but has yet to bring home the trophy.
• The Roushkateers are among those happy as well to return to California this weekend—especially Greg Biffle. The Biff has the most wins among the drivers entered for Saturday's race in California at three, including his last start there in 2006.
Biffle has made 75 starts in the Nationwide Series since that trip to Victory Lane in 2006, but remains without a win. The 75 race drought is the longest of his Nationwide career.
Auto Club has been kind to Biffle over the years. He has three wins, five top-fives and seven top-10 finishes in 10 Nationwide starts. His fellow Roushkateers lead the way with six wins, but none have been to Victory Lane since Daytona 500 winner Matt Kenseth did so in 2007.
• After one race is in the books, only one non-Cup regular sits in the top-10 in Nationwide Series points and to most peoples surprise it is Jason Keller.
Keller quietly rode around Daytona last Saturday and kept his nose clean to take home a ninth place finish. Most expected the likes of Brad Keselowski, Mike Bliss and Leffler to be up near the front, but all three experienced various problems.
The ninth place finish was Keller's best at Daytona since a ninth place finish in the 2004 season opener. Keller is the series'' all-time starts leader (458) and is driving for Baker Curb Racing this year. His last full-time tour of the series under one owner was in 2005 when he finished ninth in the standings. Keller finished 12th last year driving for two different owners.
Auto Club Speedway Data
• Track size: two miles.
• Banking/corners: 14 degrees.
• Banking/frontstretch: 11 degrees.
• Banking/backstretch: three degrees.
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