Next season Atlanta Motor Speedway will try and wrestle the daunting task of selling out a race over the Labor Day Weekend.
California didn't deserve a second date—the race didn't have the glory or popularity that it did when it was in the South.
However, times change and NASCAR must follow suit. I'm OK with this. But, if California STILL can't sell out a race next year, a CHASE RACE to be specific, it needs to forfeit at least one of its dates.
The market in sunny southern California is just not what was expected. Auto Club Speedway does not deserve a race in the Chase and doesn't provide a unique track like Atlanta was able to.
Regardless, this is where the series is headed this week and it is time to take a look at who to watch for:
MY TOP PICKS:
1) Jeff Gordon—He's not hungry for a win, he's STARVING. Where better to get that win than at one of his home tracks?
2) Greg Biffle—Biffle seems to be off and on here, but has a win and also is still trying to win for the first time this season
3) Carl Edwards—Won the spring race and has been strong of late. With the momentum and knowing that he's a solid lock for the Chase, he's going to go all out
4) Matt Kenseth—He's been strong here as of late, and I look for him to start contending for wins soon.
5) Kasey Kahne—He's going to have to push it hard these next couple of weeks to even think of making the chase this year, he's won before in Fontana and knows he needs to contend. Look for the No. 9 car to be fast this weekend.
NOT WHAT THEY NEEDED:
1) Clint Bowyer—He has not been that great historically here, but in a sport that emphasizes momentum, he may shock everyone and contend.
2) Denny Hamlin—The Chase could definitely be shaken up again after this race—Hamlin has an average finish of 17.8 at Auto Club Speedway. I don't see him contending for a win unless it turns into a fuel mileage race.
3) Dale Earnhardt, Jr.—He's pretty much locked in unless he blows up on the first lap. But, he does not have a good record at Fontana, and unless Tony Eury Jr. can pull some magic out of his sleeves, Junior fans might as well take a week off and look for him to be strong again in Richmond.
LONG SHOTS (for the win)
1) Kasey Kahne—It has been hit-and-miss for him all season—I'm not sure if he can hit it here or not.
2) Jimmie Johnson—Usually Johnson would be a strong pick for either California track, but with the way his season is going, I just don't see him getting to Victory lane this week.
3) David Ragan—Roush-Fenway Racing is usually fairly strong at ACS, and Ragan had a good finish last week. Watch to see if he can ride the wave.