Fantasy NASCAR Picks for Auto Club 400 at Fontana
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series moves back to the West Coast this weekend to race at Fontana, Calif.
After three weeks of high scoring for my fantasy NASCAR teams, I came back down to earth after the Bristol race. Last week I started Kyle Busch, Greg Biffle, Ryan Newman and Aric Almirola in the Yahoo Fantasy Auto Racing game. The lineup was good enough for 239 points (1,137 total points for the season) and dropped me to 98% of Yahoo Fantasy Auto Racing players.
For the NASCAR Fantasy Live game, I started Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch, Greg Biffle, Martin Truex Jr. and Aric Almirola ($98 budget). That lineup scored 284 points and 931 total points for the season. Currently I am ranked 2,056 overall in the nascar.com Fantasy Live standings.
This week fantasy NASCAR players must look for drivers who they think will show up to Auto Club Speedway with the perfect setup for their car. Having a perfectly balanced car is everything in this race. If the car is too loose or too tight, it will be impossible to pass other cars.
I will be looking for drivers who have had past success at Auto Club Speedway. There are many names that stand out from the list of drivers entered into the race on Sunday.
Yahoo Group A Drivers
Like last week, Yahoo Fantasy Auto Racing lineups must be selected by Friday morning. This means fantasy players will have to select their team before any practice or qualifying takes place. Do not worry, I am here to help.
I am providing my selections for the race in this column. Visit my Fantasy NASCAR Tips page on Facebook Saturday night to see which drivers I am starting for the race. You can also see 11 other experts’ picks for the race.
There are many drivers in Group A who have had a lot of success at this track.
Three drivers from California stand out: Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon and Kevin Harvick. The three drivers have combined for nine wins, three pole positions and 1,528 laps led. Each of these drivers would be good picks this week.
Here are my selections for the Yahoo Group A:
Tony Stewart has been dialed in on the intermediate tracks since the beginning of the Chase last season. The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series has raced at six intermediate tracks since the start of the Chase in 2011 (Chicago, Kansas, Charlotte, Texas, Homestead and this year at Las Vegas).
Stewart has won the last three races at intermediate tracks and has an average finish of 4.5 since the beginning of the Chase last season. He also has one pole and has led 498 laps.
Stewart is the driver you must have on your team this week.
I had a tough time selecting my back-up to Stewart this week. I was torn between Johnson and Matt Kenseth. Both have been very good on the intermediate tracks. I decided to select Johnson because his history at Auto Club Speedway is unmatched by any other driver.
In his career at Auto Club Speedway, Johnson has an average finish of 5.1, 849 laps led, one pole and five wins. In the only intermediate track race of the 2012 season (Las Vegas), Johnson finished second to Stewart.
With the news of the No. 48 team’s penalties being rescinded, the team must be motivated to prove they are still the team to beat in 2012.
Other good picks: Matt Kenseth, Jeff Gordon, Carl Edwards and Kevin Harvick
Yahoo Group B Drivers
Most of the drivers in Group B have not had as strong a history at Auto Club Speedway as the drivers in Group A. For my selections, I based my picks on the drivers who have had success this season, and I found two drivers who usually perform well at this track.
Here are my selections for Yahoo Group B:
How can you argue with selecting Biffle? So far this year, he has finished No. 3 in three races and No. 13 last week. He also won the pole position for last week’s race at Bristol.
Biffle has not had much success at Auto Club Speedway, but I am overlooking his past. His average finish at the track is 17.9. He's led 297 laps and has one win.
I selected Biffle because he looks like the best driver so far this season. In the only intermediate track race this season, Biffle finished No. 3. I think he will run in the top-10 again this week.
Bowyer has had the most success at Auto Club Speedway of all of the drivers in Group B. In the last four races at the track, Bowyer has an average finish of 6.5 with 43 laps led.
Bowyer’s success at the track came when he was racing for Richard Childress Racing. He will not have a drop off this year by moving to Michael Waltrip Racing. Bowyer will finish in the top-10 this week.
Martin returns to the No. 55 Michael Waltrip Racing car this week. Last week Brian Vickers was able to drive the No. 55 car to a fifth-place finish at Bristol. Martin’s success at Auto Club Speedway combined with the success of his team this year will make Martin a great selection this week.
In the last four races at Auto Club Speedway, Martin has an average finish of 9.5 with 51 laps led. That is the fifth-best of any active driver.
Martin knows how to get around Auto Club Speedway. If his team gives him a car with a good setup, he should be able to finish near the top-5.
Newman is another driver who has not had much success at Auto Club Speedway, but has looked strong this year.
In the last four races at Auto Club Speedway, Newman has an average finish of 14.25 with 8 laps led. In his only race at an intermediate track this year (Las Vegas), Newman finished No. 4. I am betting that Newman will be closer to his No. 4 finish at Las Vegas than he will be to his career average at Auto Club Speedway.
Newman will finish with another top-10 again this week.
Other good picks: Jeff Burton, Joey Logano, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kasey Kahne.
Yahoo Group C Drivers
Finding drivers for my Group C selections was like trying to find a needle in a haystack.
Last week I said to take Brian Vickers as your Group C driver. I failed to follow my own advice and selected Aric Almirola. I watched Vickers finish the race No. 5. My selection (Almirola) finished No. 19. I will not make the same mistake twice.
This week I am selecting two sleeper picks for my team.
Here are my selections for Group C:
The only Group C driver who has had success at Auto Club Speedway is David Reutimann. His success came when he was racing for Michael Waltrip Racing. Will he have the same success at the track racing for a smaller team? I am willing to take a gamble with him.
In the last four races at Auto Club Speedway, Reutimann has an average finish of 15.5. No other Group C driver even comes close to his average.
I will watch practice this week to see how Reutimann performs. If he finishes near the top of the practice speeds, I will use him for my team. If he looks bad in practice, I think my other selection is a safer pick. (You can see who I select for my team by going to my Fantasy NASCAR Tips Page on Facebook Saturday night.)
Brendan Gaughan may not be the best driver in Group C, but he will be driving the best car.
Gaughan’s Crew Chief, Gil Martin served as the Crew Chief for Kevin Harvick the past two seasons. During his time with the No. 29 team, Martin led the team to finishes of No. 1, No. 7, and No. 2 at Auto Club Speedway. Having a good car at Auto Club Speedway is the most important part of the race. Martin will provide Gaughan a good car for the race.
Gaughan has competed in two races at Auto Club Speedway. In his first race he started No. 5 and finished No. 6. In his second race he started No. 22 and finished No. 42 after being involved in a wreck.
I am taking a chance with Gaughan this week mostly because I want to save my starts with Almirola. This is one of Almirola’s worst racetracks. He has a chance to finish in the top-15, but history suggests he will finish No. 30 or worst.
Other good picks: Aric Almirola, David Ragan, Bobby Lobante, and Casey Mears
Fantasy Live Picks (nascar.com)
Last week’s team: Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch, Greg Biffle, Martin Truex Jr. and Aric Almirola ($98 budget) Total score: 931 points (ranked 2,056 overall)
Last week my strategy was to select drivers who would lead the most laps. Since there were 500 laps in the race and Fantasy Live rewards .5 points per lap led, I was awarded 21 bonus points.
This week there are only 200 laps, so I will go back to the strategy I used in previous weeks: Select a combination of drivers who will lead many laps and drivers who will start in the back and finish up front.
Unlike the Yahoo Fantasy Auto Racing game, Fantasy Live allows players to change their drivers up to the start of the race. I will give my selections for my team now, but I suggest looking at where each driver qualifies in the race before setting your team. My updated selections will be on my Fantasy NASCAR Tips Page on Facebook Saturday evening.
Here are my picks for NASCAR Fantasy Live:
Tony Stewart $26.75
I am selling Kyle Busch for $26 and purchasing Stewart for $26.75. Stewart has won the last three races on intermediate tracks. His qualifying position for those races has not been very good. Stewart may qualify in the middle of the pack for Sunday’s race, but he will finish near the lead.
In his last four races at Auto Club Speedway, Stewart has an average finish of No.6 with 42 laps led. He has proven to be the master of the restart after the caution flag. If Stewart takes the lead Sunday, it will be very difficult to take it away from him.
Stewart is the one driver I think every team should have this week.
Jimmie Johnson $25.00
I am keeping Johnson for another week. Johnson will be at full strength this week after NASCAR rescinded its penalties to the No. 48 team.
Johnson has been dominating at Auto Club Speedway. In his last four starts at the racetrack, Johnson has an average finish of No. 3 with 252 laps led. He will be one of the drivers to beat on Sunday.
Matt Kenseth $26.50
After four great weeks using Greg Biffle, I am deciding to sell him and purchase his teammate Kenseth.
Kenseth has been one of the best drivers at Auto Club Speedway. In his 19 career starts at the track, Kenseth has 13 top-10 finishes, eight top-5 finishes, won three races and led 497 laps.
Kenseth's average start at Auto Club is No. 21 and his average finish is No. 9. He is a safe bet to start in the middle of the pack and finish near the front.
Mark Martin $18.50
Martin Truex Jr. came through for me last week by finishing No. 3 at Bristol. Although I think Truex will perform well this week, I am selling him and purchasing Martin.
Auto Club Speedway is one of Martin’s best racetracks. In his career at Auto Club Speedway, Martin has an average finish of No. 13 with 324 laps led and one win.
After a week off to rest, Martin will be back this week and I am sure he missed his time at the racetrack. Martin is a great pick this week.
Brendan Gaughan $3
I spent the first four weeks of the season with Aric Almirola on my team. I purchased Almirola for only $3 and his price has increased to $8. I am getting out before the price goes down.
I decided to replace Almirola with Gaughan. Gaughan has a better chance to perform well this week. Almirola and the other Richard Petty Motorsports drivers have not been able to figure out Auto Club Speedway. Richard Childress Racing has been one of the best teams at the racetrack. I am going with the driver from Richard Childress Racing, Gaughan.
Total budget: $97.75
Good luck this week!
If you need any further advice with your team, look for me on Twitter @HuskerMagic.
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