The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and its new aero package takes to Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California, Sunday for the Auto Club 400.
New package or not, it has been business as usual for the series through four races, with Denny Hamlin, Jimmie Johnson, Brad Keselowski and Kevin Harvick picking up wins.
Granted, the much-talked about aero packages have created some thrilling finishes, and some would point out the small sample size means a reduction in cautions. Possibly, though the event in California will put any budding theories to the test while the old guard jockeys for position in the standings.
Before the spectacle gets underway, here is everything to know.
Where: Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California
When: Sunday, March 20, at 3:30 p.m. ET
Live Stream: Fox Sports Go
Sprint Cup Standings
|10||Martin Truex Jr.||117|
|11||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||115|
NASCAR at California Lineup
|17||Martin Truex Jr.|
|18||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.|
|27||Dale Earnhardt Jr.|
Lineup courtesy of Fox Sports.
Drivers to Watch
Keselowski knows a thing or two about winning at Auto Club Speedway.
The Team Penske driver took home the checkered flag last year at the same event, leading all of one lap—albeit the most important one. A late debris caution sealed the deal there, but it's something Keselowski recalls rather fondly, as captured by USA Today's Jeff Gluck:
The karma police caught up with me, because there were probably a half-dozen races after that I had stolen from me in the same sense because of debris cautions or whatever. Looking back on it, if I could have traded that one out for races I lost to debris cautions, I would have in a heartbeat.
In the same note, Keselowski said he has a strong understanding of a track he used to dislike. Getting a win there last year certainly didn't hurt things.
Keselowski has looked good so far this year, especially at the start of March, when he led 24 laps to win the Kobalt 400 event in Las Vegas. He's in a good position to hit the familiar track in an aggressive manner and see what happens.
A repeat isn't out of the question, especially as Keselowski continues to like the track more by the year.
Harvick sits atop the standings for good reason.
The man recorded a top-10 finish at each of the four events this year, including a pair of top-five performances highlighted by taking the checkered flag last time out in Phoenix.
Maybe "highlight" isn't the best word, though few come to mind after a finish as epic as the one Harvick put on in the desert. SportsCenter snapped the photo:
Another photo finish: Kevin Harvick beat Carl Edwards (19) earlier today by a hair. https://t.co/h6YbhjdWPH2016-3-14 04:56:03
"That's really what NASCAR racing is all about," Harvick said, according to the Associated Press (via the Boston Herald). "You're coming to the checkered flag and he wants to win for his team and I want to win for my team. There's a lot on the line."
Harvick had a similarly strong start last year, tallying two checkered flags before the event in California, where he wound up finishing second after leading 34 laps.
In other words, the cream continues to rise to the top, and Harvick has both the experience and momentum to take down this race Sunday and put some serious distance between himself and the rest of the field.
Should he do so, a new package might not even be enough to help the rest of the drivers keep pace.
It's been a while since folks have seen Kyle Busch at Auto Club Speedway.
Technically, Busch hits Sunday looking to make it three in a row after winning the 2013 and 2014 versions of this event, though most know he missed it last year while on the way back from an injury before his epic run.
It's easy to forget, though NASCAR shared a critical reminder this week:
Best average finish position at @ACSupdates: 1) @JimmieJohnson - 6.8 2) #CarlEdwards - 8.8 3) @KyleBusch - 10.1 https://t.co/pDgO97wsfx2016-3-16 23:30:40
As one would expect, Busch is excited to get back to it at one of his preferred tracks.
"[Auto Club is] a fast racetrack and you just have to be able to carry a lot of speed through the corners," Busch said, according to the Sports Xchange (via KCII.com). "You're in the corner for a long time, but the more speed you carry through the turn, the better it makes your straightaways."
Busch has yet to win an event outright this year, but it's clear he's due. He's finished in the top four in as many races, leading laps in all.
Driving perhaps the best of anyone right now, Busch in familiar settings in a locale he's dominated over the years is bad news for the rest of the field.
And good for fans, of course.
Stats and info courtesy of ESPN.com unless otherwise specified.