5 Key Storylines Entering NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at California

Michael Guadalupe@The_GuadaFeatured ColumnistMarch 22, 2013

5 Key Storylines Entering NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at California

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    NASCAR will be heading to California this weekend for the Auto Club 400 at the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana.

    The season is just getting started, but there are already several storylines that race fans can expect to hear about this weekend.

    We saw Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano battle it out at Bristol and even saw a more aggressive side of Logano as he tried to push the No. 11 team out of the way so he could exchange words with his former teammate.

    Twitter was where the clash between Hamlin and Logano began, as Hamlin expressed his anger toward Logano after the Daytona 500.  Their feud continues to build and could carry over into California.

    As drivers get ready to race this weekend, the Hamlin vs. Logano story won't be the only one fans will be talking about.

    Here are five storylines to keep an eye on as NASCAR enters California.

5. Landon Cassill vs. Burger King

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    One of the smaller storylines heading into California will be about Landon Cassill and his relationship with BK Racing.

    Cassill feels that BK Racing owes him about $205,000 in unpaid winnings and is also suing the race team for "deceiving" him.

    Normally, a story involving Cassill or a smaller racing organization wouldn't be an important storyline heading into California. But what makes the Cassill vs. BK Racing interesting is how something like this doesn't really happen in NASCAR.

    After all, when was the last time a driver sued a racing team?

    “I really hated to go the legal route but at the end of the day I’m ultimately asking to be paid what I earned last season,” Cassill said via the Sporting News. “I was excited to race for BK in 2013 and was disappointed when my contract was not renewed for this season."

    BK Racing has yet to react to the driver’s lawsuit, but as the sport heads into California, it will be interesting to see if NASCAR gets involved as well.

4. Kyle Larson Goes from Nobody to Somebody

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    Before last week’s race at Bristol, Kyle Larson was really only known as the Nationwide driver who went into the fence during the Daytona race. After his driving at Bristol, though, he has emerged as one Nationwide driver who is ready to take the sport by storm.

    Heading into California, Larson will be a big storyline mainly because of how well he was able to race against drivers like Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch in the Nationwide Series last week.

    Even after taking damage to the front of his car, Larson barely lost to Busch and had the second-closest finish seen at Bristol in the Nationwide Series.

    He showed a lot with his performance last week and without a doubt will be a big focal point when NASCAR heads to California.

3. Hamlin vs. Logano

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    Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano may have been teammates last year, but that didn't stop Logano from going over to Hamlin after the Bristol race to tell Hamlin how he felt.

    During the final laps of Bristol, Hamlin and Logano made contact, with Logano getting shoved up the track.

    "Probably the worst teammate I ever had, so I learned that now. He chose to run into the back of me. I have a scorecard and I'm not putting up with that. What goes around comes around,” Logano said (h/t ESPN.com).

    After the race, Joey was the one doing the shoving, as he tried to get past the No. 11 team to have a little chat with his former teammate. Hamilin, though, didn't seem too worried about Logano.

    "He said he was coming for me. I usually don't see him, so it's usually not a factor," Hamlin said. (h/t ESPN.com).

    Probably the most ironic outcome of the Logano/Hamlin conflict is what Kyle Busch had to say about his current and former teammates. "I just heard the crowd,'' he said, via ESPN.com. "It's a little disheartening that we can't all just get along."

    Will Logano and Hamlin carry their feud over into California? We'll need to wait until Sunday to find out.

2. Danica Continues to Spiral Downward

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    Danica Patrick haters rejoice. It looks like your wish is coming true.

    After a fantastic start to the season, one during which Patrick was the talk of the entire Daytona 500 race weekend, she now seems to be on an uncontrollable downward spiral.

    The driver was a major storyline going into Bristol last weekend, and she remains a big focus this week as well.

    Patrick seemed likely to run decently this season after a good finish at Daytona. After her initial success, though, Danica has spiraled downward.

    Whatever the reason, or the excuse, for her horrible performance week after week, Danica needs to figure out what her problem is before the haters have even more reasons to dislike the rookie driver.

    She sits 28th in the Cup standings, and if she hopes to make a serious name for herself in NASCAR, she needs to start placing well rather than failing to do anything at all. 

    Danica is paid like a top-10 driver. It's time she starts racing like one.

1. Keselowski Rises to the Top

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    While Danica struggles to find solid ground in NASCAR, Brad Keselowski is quickly proving his 2012 title run was no fluke. Keselowski now sits in first place in the standings and should be what every NASCAR fan is talking about when the sport heads to California.

    His growth over the last year has been impressive, to say the least. Not only is the driver holding his own this season, but he's doing it after Penske made a huge transition from Dodge to Ford.

    The defending Sprint Cup champion has yet to win a race this season, but he has had top-five finishes in every race so far this year. He has quickly risen to the top in NASCAR and is already looking like championship material.

    While a big focus may be on a driver like Danica, the biggest story heading into California is how Keselowski has quickly emerged as one of the best drivers in the sport. Now, fans will get to see if he can keep his momentum going as the season moves on.