NASCAR Fast-Forwards to Fontana: Before the Big Show at the Auto Club Speedway
Hosting its final Chase race this year, the Auto Club Speedway race weekend offers a number of other items of interest for fans both in the area and nationwide.
So without further ado, we count down the top 10 things to do and story lines to follow leading up to the Pepsi Max 400 on Sunday—from hot spots for fans in the area to teams and people to watch in the CampingWorld.com 300.
10. RaceFest 2010 and Other Events
On Thursday night, October 7th, Stater Bros. RaceFest 2010 presented by Pepsi will once again be presented free to the public from 5-9 pm in the DiscoverIE FanZone behind the grandstands.
Over a dozen drivers, including Kurt and Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, Jeff Burton, Kasey Kahne, Clint Bowyer, Joey Logano, Scott Speed, and others will be on hand to sign autographs. Two bands are scheduled to play, and Metal Mulisha will perform.
Beginning at 6:15 pm the Hauler Parade will snake its way from the Citizen's Business Bank Arena in Ontario through Rancho Cucamonga and into Fontana, entering the Speedway and passing by the Fanzone.
Other driver appearances are scheduled in the area, including Tony Stewart, Brad Keselowski, David Reutimann, and many more at the track.
For more information on these appearances as it becomes available, visit the ACS Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/AutoClubSpeedway.
For information on RaceFest and the Hauler parade visit the ACS RaceFest 2010 page at http://www.autoclubspeedway.com/Vanity-Pages/2010/Racefest.aspx.
9. Hot Spots: Where To Eat
For those looking to see drivers, owners, broadcasters, or others away from the track, one need only look to where they eat and where they play.
Mentioned far more often by anyone returning to the area than any of the numerous fancy more expensive restaurants, In-N-Out has a cult-like following and two locations within five miles of the track.
8. Hot Spots: Where To Play
As for recreation, when racers aren't at the track racing they can often be found...at other tracks, racing.
There are three indoor karting tracks within close by. Pole Position (Corona) and K1Speed (Ontario) are the electric karting tracks in the area.
K1Speed is close by—just east of the Ontario Mills Mall. Kurt Busch and Jamie Little have strong ties to Pole Position. In fact, if it's your first time there, you'll watch a video starring Jamie Little teaching you the basics.
But if gas-powered karting is your thing, Fast Lap in Mira Loma is less than 10 miles from the track. Fast Lap has hosted a number of events from Red Bull Racing night to the numerous racing-related fundraisers.
This week Scott Speed and the Red Bull Racing Team present the Fast Lap Challenge where racers 19 and under qualify through the seventh, and the top 12 fastest times advance to the final round on October 8th to race for a chance to win two tickets to the Pepsi Max 400.
Being a local to the area and a fan of gas-powered karts, I spend many nights after the races at Fast Lap. Last February, I was there after a long day at the track and ended up racing Denny Hamlin and others who showed up to unwind.
7. Rookie of the Year Battle Heats Up
Turning our attention back to the races themselves: first up is the Nationwide Series race on Saturday.
After Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.'s rocky start to the season, who would have ever believed he would now be leading the Rookie of the Year standings?
After chalking up five DNF's in the first 12 races, not qualifying for the first Nashville race, and being benched by Jack Roush at Kentucky (as well as sitting out Watkins Glen), Stenhouse has become the comeback story of the year in the series and now leads Brian Scott by five points.
6. Danica Patrick Returns
Now that her open-wheel season is over, Danica turns her attention strictly to stock cars. Coming into the Auto Club Speedway after an incredible battle to a second place finish at Homestead to finish her Indy season, Danica will have familiarity on her side, as ACS is the first track she will be returning to this year.
Also interesting to watch will be the fan reaction to her return to the sport "full-time" for the remainder of the season. In February Danica-mania was in full-swing as fans crowded her merchandise trailer and reporters crowded her everywhere she went. Will Danica-mania still be as intense this time around?
5. The Owner Points Battle
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Although Brad Keselowski holds a comfortable lead in the driver's championship race, the No. 18 JGR team, behind the strength of Kyle Busch's season (aided by co-driver Brad Coleman), leads the No. 22 team by 134 points with six races to go.
With Busch and the No. 18 team winning both the driver's and owner's championships last year and the No. 20 team winning the owner's championship in 2008, JGR could become only the second organization to win three consecutive owner titles (BACE Motorsports did it in 1995-1997).
4. Brad Keselowski
Although Brad Keselowski's performance at the Auto Club Speedway over his eight starts has been less-than-stellar with two Top Five finishes, an average finish of 25.5, and 2 DNFs, his two Top Five finishes have come in the last two races here (fifth last fall and third earlier this year).
Coming in with a fairly comfortable lead in the driver's points standings, look for Keselowski to be running up near the front as he has throughout the majority of the year.
3. Joey Logano
Last year's defending race winner looks to repeat not only this year, but looks to repeat last week's trip to victory lane. Logano's numbers this year mirror Busch's in all but the win category.
Of the 20 races he has started he has two wins, 11 Top Five finishes, and 19 Top Ten finishes. Look for another strong performance and possible battle for the win between the two Joe Gibbs racers.
2. Kyle Busch
Although not running to defend his current driver's championship status, Kyle Busch has dominated the Nationwide Series this year.
Having only entered 24 of the 29 races, Busch already has 11 wins (an all-time series record), 19 Top Five finishes, and 21 Top 10 finishes.
He has won three of the last four races here with the only exception coming last fall—a race teammate Joey Logano won after Busch exited the car at the first pit stop due to illness.
1. Joe Gibbs Racing Dominance
The last five Nationwide races held at the Auto Club Speedway have been won by drivers from Joe Gibbs Racing (Stewart, Busch, Busch, Logano, Busch).
And with Gibbs' cars having won 14 of the 29 races in the series so far this year, expectations are high for the No. 18 and 20 teams this weekend.