Many people seem to get the notion that qualifying at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana California is very vital for your chances to win the race. Not quite.
In 2000 Jeremy Mayfield started midpack in the #12 Mobil 1 Ford for Penske racing, 24th, led 26 laps, and won the race.
The following season in 2001 his then Penske racing teammate Rusty Wallace started 19th, led the most laps (95) and went on to hold Jeff Gordon off to win on his late friend's birthday, Dale Earnhardt.
In 2003 Kurt Busch started 16th, led 27 laps while driving the #97 and at the end of the day took the checkers at Auto Club.
The very next year in the February, Jeff Gordon started 16th, led the most laps (81, and won the race.
That fall of 2004 Elliott Sadler started 17th, led 59 laps, and won his 3rd and most recent victory of his career.
In the fall of 2005 Kyle Busch as a rookie started 25th, he led the most laps (95), and won his first career win at Auto Club.
In the spring of 2006, Matt Kenseth started a deep 31st, worked his way up, led 40 laps, and won it all at Auto Club.
The very next season in the Spring of 2007, Matt would lead 133 laps after starting 25th and win again.
Now in the spring of 2009 Matt Kenseth start 24th, led the most laps once again (84) and once again won the race.
There have been 18 races held at Auto Club and 8 of them have had winners that started outside the top 15. 5 of them have winners who started outside the top 20.
At Auto Club with the track being so wide it appears that track position may not be the determining factor at the beginning of the race, but instead if you have a fast car then nothing can stop you.
When you look at some guys who will be threats for the win who will start outside the top 15 Sunday you see Matt Kenseth in 17th, Tony Stewart in 20th, Kurt Busch in 24th, and Kasey Kahne in 23rd. Kenseth, Kahne and Busch former winners here, and Stewart with a nationwide win here and has ran well here in the past.
And you got your dark horses. Jamie McMurray who will roll of 27th, Brian Vickers in 32nd, Ryan Newman in 36th, and Dale Earnhardt Jr who will start 35th.
Don't be to fooled with Denny Hamlin and Greg Biffle on the front row. Nor with Jimmie Johnson and Juan Pablo Montoya starting in the second row.
Auto Club has shown in the past that it's winners can come out of any position back or front, and seems to really shine towards drivers who start midpack.
If I were you I'd keep a close eye and Stewart and Kenseth. Both drivers seem to race best when starting midpack, though 17th and 20th isn't quite there.
Wouldn't surprise me if they ended up 1-2 after it is all said and done.
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