The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will travel to Fontana, Calif., this week for the Auto Club 400.
The race at Auto Club Speedway last season was one of the best races of the year. Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin bumped and banged while racing for the lead before Logano had enough and sent Hamlin into the wall. Kyle Busch then raced past both drivers and won the race. Busch was able to win both the Nationwide and Sprint Cup races at Auto Club Speedway last year.
This will be the first race of the season on a two-mile race track. Auto Club Speedway is unique because drivers will be able to drive their cars low into the corners and slide up the race track to make passes. The cars that can find the balance between speed and handling will be the cars to beat Sunday.
The strategy for Yahoo! Fantasy Auto Racing this week is to select the drivers who have been running well this season. Momentum is important in NASCAR, and it is a good strategy in fantasy NASCAR to play the hot hand. The list includes all drivers for Hendrick Motorsports and Penske Racing (Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Kasey Kahne, Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano). Do not forget Kevin Harvick as well. He's had a couple of hiccups, but he's been fast at every race track.
The strategy for Fantasy Live is to pick as many good drivers who start in the back of the field as you can. Some of the top drivers in the sport have yet to figure out the new qualifying procedures. If any of these drivers qualify in the back of the field, you will want to select his (or her) for your team. Some drivers to watch include Matt Kenseth, Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch and Tony Stewart.
Racing for the Win
1. Jimmie Johnson: Never count out Johnson at Auto Club Speedway. He has five wins and 12 top-five finishes in his 19 starts at the race track. Johnson considers Auto Club Speedway his home race track. That just gives him another reason to win this week. He must be getting upset watching other drivers clinch their place in the Chase while he in on the outside looking in. That will change this week when Johnson becomes the fifth member of the 2014 Chase field.
2. Kevin Harvick: Harvick has had a fast race car in every race this season. There is no reason to believe he will not be fast once again Sunday. Harvick won this race in 2011 and has nine top-10 finishes in his 20 starts at the track. This is also his home race track, and he will be extra motivated to win this week.
3. Dale Earnhardt Jr.: If Johnson is racing for the win Sunday, Earnhardt will be one of the drivers chasing him to the checkered flag. He seems to have figured out how to get around Auto Club Speedway, finishing second last year and third in 2012. He will keep his hot streak going this week in California.
4. Kyle Busch: Busch has to be one of the favorites to win this week at Auto Club Speedway. He is the defending race winner and in the last three races in California, his worst finish was third. Busch has finished seven of his 16 starts at Auto Club Speedway in the top five and 11 in the top 10. He is almost a lock for a top-five finish this week.
5. Carl Edwards: Edwards will ride the momentum from his win this past Sunday at Bristol. He is a driver who always finishes up front at Auto Club Speedway. In his 16 starts at the race track, he has finished half of them in the top five and 13 in the top 10. This is the week to get Edwards on your fantasy team.
6. Joey Logano: The Penske cars have been the fastest cars on the race track this season. Do not be surprised to see Logano start on the pole and lead many laps this week. Last year, he started sixth and led 41 laps on his way to a top-five finish. Expect the same type of results Sunday.
7. Denny Hamlin: Hamlin should have won this race last season. He was racing up front when he began to fight with Joey Logano on the race track. Logano got into the back of Hamlin and sent him into the wall. Hamlin suffered a back injury and was not the same the rest of the season. Look for him to make a statement this week with another top finish at Auto Club Speedway.
8. Matt Kenseth: Kenseth has three wins at Auto Club Speedway and has finished 14 of his 21 starts in the top 10. Last season, he started fifth, led 10 laps and finished seventh in the race. Expect the same type of race from Kenseth this week.
9. Greg Biffle: If you are ever going to use Greg Biffle on your race team, this is the week to do it. Biffle has been one of the best drivers on the two-mile race tracks, though he's a little better at Michigan than he is at Auto Club Speedway. Biffle has finished the last two races in California in the top 10. He will do it again this week.
10. Tony Stewart: Stewart would be much higher on this list in any other season. He has the eighth-best average finishing position of all the active drivers at Auto Club Speedway. He has not found his grove this season with his new crew chief, Chad Johnston, but he is getting closer. A top-15 finish is all fantasy teams can expect from Stewart in California.
11. Jeff Gordon: Gordon is another driver who's having a great start to his 2014 season. He has finished the first four races inside the top 10 for the first time in his career. However, Gordon has not finished in the top 10 at Auto Club Speedway since 2010. Expect him to just miss out on another top-10 finish.
12. Brad Keselowski: Keselowski seems to be out to prove that the 2013 season was a fluke. He is off to a great start this season, and there is no reason to believe his momentum will stop this week. Auto Club Speedway is not one of his best race tracks, but he will find a way to finish in the top 15 Sunday.
13. Kasey Kahne: Kahne has been a good racer at Auto Club Speedway when his team gives him a car that handles well. Hendrick Motorsports seems to be on top of its game this season, so Kahne should have the equipment to run well. He will finish just outside the top 10 in California.
14. Ryan Newman: Newman has been one of the surprises of the 2014 season. He has had a fast race car each week and has finished two of the four races in the top 10. Newman will be fast again this week and would make a great sleeper pick for your team.
15. Kurt Busch: Busch has been pretty good in his career at Auto Club Speedway. He has five top-five finishes, 10 top-10 finishes and one win in his 20 starts at the race track. He could be the sleeper driver of the race and finish inside the top 10, but a top-15 finish is more realistic for Busch this week.
16. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.: Stenhouse has only competed in one race in the Sprint Cup Series at Auto Club Speedway. He started 31st and finished 20th. The Ford Racing teams seemed to have found some speed this last week. Can the speed from Bristol translate to Auto Club Speedway?
17. Paul Menard: Menard is another good sleeper pick this week. The Richard Childress Racing cars have been fast this season and should be fast again Sunday. Last season, Menard started 27th and raced his way to a top-10 finish. However, a top-20 finish is more realistic for Menard this week.
18. Jamie McMurray: McMurray has been average at Auto Club Speedway in his career. His average starting position is 19.7, and his average finishing position is 17.8. He will have a hard time finishing in the top 20 in California.
19. Clint Bowyer: Bowyer’s top-10 finish at Bristol was his first top-10 finish of the season. Michael Waltrip Racing seems to be searching for speed this season, and there is no reason to believe it will be fast this week. Bowyer will improve as the season goes along, but I would wait before using him for your fantasy team.
20. Austin Dillon: Dillon has never competed in the Sprint Cup Series at Auto Club Speedway. Michigan is the race track that's the most similar to Auto Club Speedway, though, and Dillon competed in two races at Michigan, earning one top-15 finish and one top-25 finish. Expect a top-20 finish from Dillon this week.
Trying to Stay on Lead Lap
21. Kyle Larson: Larson has only competed in one race at Auto Club Speedway, and it came in the Nationwide Series. In that race, he started ninth and finished sixth. The competition will be much harder this week. A top-25 finish is all that can be expected from the young driver.
22. Martin Truex Jr.: Truex does not have any top-10 finishes this season, and I would not expect one this week. His average starting position at Auto Club Speedway is 14.2, and his average finishing position is 19.9. Truex will finish near his average this week.
23. Aric Almirola: Almirola has only one finish inside the top 20 in his career at Auto Club Speedway. Do not expect him to repeat the excellent race he had last week at Bristol.
24. AJ Allmendinger: Allmendinger has finished six of his nine races at Auto Club Speedway inside the top 20. Most of those finishes came with much better race teams than JTG-Daugherty Racing. A top-25 finish would be good for Allmendinger this week.
25. Casey Mears: Mears has been fast this season with his new Richard Childress Racing engines. The speed has not always turned into top finishes on the race track, though. He will be fast again, but he'll only be able to finish in the top 25.
26. Marcos Ambrose: Ambrose is not very good at Auto Club Speedway. He only has three top-25 finishes in his eight starts at the race track. There are better options for your fantasy team this week.
27. Danica Patrick: Last season, Patrick started 40th and finished 26th at Auto Club Speedway. She has been showing improvement in her last two races, though, finishing 21st at Las Vegas and 18th at Bristol. She may be worth a selection for Yahoo! Fantasy Auto Racing Group C.
28. David Gilliland: Gilliland has been a consistent top-30 driver this season. Expect the same from him Sunday.
29. Justin Allgaier: Allgaier has not had very good results with his new team. He will probably qualify near the back and finish in the top 30. That seems to be the trend this season with him.
30. David Ragan: Ragan could be one of the better value picks this week. He has had success at Auto Club Speedway, but it came when he was racing for Roush Fenway Racing. Ragan should finish inside the top 30 this week.
Yahoo! Fantasy Auto Racing Picks
Group A: Kevin Harvick, Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Group B: Carl, Edwards, Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano, Tony Stewart
Group C: Austin Dillon, Brian Scott
Fantasy Live Picks
Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, Brian Scott, Reed Sorenson
Fox Fantasy NASCAR Picks
Captain: Kyle Busch
Driver 2: Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Driver 3: Kevin Harvick
Driver 4: Tony Stewart
Driver 5: Carl Edwards
If you need any further advice with your team, look for me on Twitter @MrFantasyNASCAR
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