NASCAR Fantasy: Who's Hot, Who's Not (Auto Club Speedway)

Ben BombergerSenior Writer IFebruary 19, 2009

OK, so I'm going to try something new this week. I'm going to give you the top-3 drivers for each series (Nationwide and Cup) as well as a couple guys to stay away from in your Fantasy Leagues and/or work polls.

We'll begin with the Nationwide Series:

Who's Hot

busch.jpg1. Kyle Busch: It's no surprise to see him atop a list of who's hot in any series. Let's face it, this guy could race cardboard boxes with 150 weights as the wheels and he'd be fast.

In the Nationwide Series at Auto Club Speedway he has been outstanding. Last August, Busch managed a perfect driver rating and an average running position of 1.3 en route to his seventh Nationwide victory of the season.

His other start at ACS last year you ask? A runner-up to then teammate Tony Stewart. Busch ranks fifth in average running position (7.7) and second in fastest laps run (16.8 percent). 


edwards.jpg2. Carl Edwards: Who was the runner-up in the Aug. Nationwide Race? You guessed it, Edwards. He finished both races inside the top-5 and ranked third among drivers with a 3.2 average running position.

In the last seven races, Edwards has racked up a driver rating of 102.5 or greater. He ranks third in Nationwide drivers on the fastest laps run (10 percent) and in his last eight starts he has one win, five top-fives and six top-10 finishes.


vickers.jpg3. Brian Vickers:A third "Hot" driver and of course it's no surprise that it comes from a Cup regular. Vickers looked strong back in Aug. at ACS and came home third (behind the two drivers above.) He ranked third in driver rating (119) and fourth in average running position (5.3).

Vickers strength came late in the races, however. He ranked second in speed late in a run (170.419 mph) and in his last three starts, he has one top-five and two top-10 finishes. Overall, Vickers leads the pack with an average of 43.3 quality passes (passes on a top-15 car under green flag).


jason-keller.jpgNationwide Dark Horse: OK, so this is a spot that I'm going to dedicate to who I think will be the top Nationwide ONLY driver in the weekends race. So for this week, I'm going with Jason Keller. While his numbers aren't overly impressive (back to back 14th place finishes), he has proven he can hang with the Cup regulars on most weekends.

Keller led the way in 2006 at ACS with 99 green flag passes and in 2005 he had the most quality passes with 54. He currently sits eighth in Nationwide Championship points and was the only non-Cup driver to finish Daytona in the top-10.

Who's Not

keselowski.jpg1. Brad Keselowksi: Two trips out west provided finishes of 32nd and 33rd for Keselowski and his No. 88 JR Motorsports Chevy. Keselowski started the 2009 season with a rough beginning and has already lost a lot of ground on the Cup regulars on the championship hunt.

If Keselowski wants to keep within grabs of Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch in the championship hunt, he can't afford another finish of 30+ in California.

Now, onto the Cup guys.

Who's Hot

johnson.jpg1. Jimmie Johnson: There aren't many tracks that Johnson and the No. 48 Lowe's team doesn't do well at and California is no different. The team has three wins and eight top-fives at ACS, while averaging a finish of 5.9.

Johnson leads the way with an average running position of 6.3, a driver rating of 119.1 and 262 fastest laps run. He also has the series' fastest average green flag speed of 171.977 mph and paces the field with 1,880 laps in the top-15 (93.8 percent.) In quality passes, Johnson is fourth highest with 393.


matt-kenseth.jpg2. Matt Kenseth:Though the Daytona 500 winner typically doesn't fare so well at California the next week, it's hard not to include Kenseth in the Who's Hot category. He has two wins, six top-fives and 10 top-10 finishes at the track.

His average finish is 9.6 and he is second-best among drivers with an average running position of 8.3. Kenseth has a driver rating of 110.8 (second best) at ACS and has run 91 of the fastest laps (ninth most). His average green flag speed of 171.514 mph is third best, he has 1,727 laps in the top-15 (86.1 percent, second most) and has recorded 338 quality passes (eighth most).


busch.jpg3. Kyle Busch: Since 2005, Busch has one win, three top-fives, seven top-10 finishes and one pole He averages a finish of 9.9 and has an average running position of 9.4 (third best).

Busch also has an average driver rating of 107.6 (third best), has run 117 fastest laps (fifth most), has an average green flag speed of 171.4 (fourth fastest_, has run 1,657 laps in the top-15 (82.6 percent, third most) and is tied for a series high 431 quality passes.


kahne.jpgDark Horse Driver: Kasey Kahne. Sure, Dodge has struggled recently, but if Daytona is any indication (and it may not be as many Dodges were the beneficiary of the big wreck), then Dodge could be on an upswing.

Kahne is looking to lead the return to Victory Lane and could do so at California. At ACS, Kahne has one win, three top-fives, seven top-10 finishes and one pole.

He averages a finish of 13.1, has an average running position of 13 (10th best), a driver rating of 99.2 (fifth best), has run 96 fastest laps (tied for seventh most) and has an average green flag speed of 171.177 mph (eighth fastest). Kahne also has run 1,435 laps in the top-15 (71.6 percent, seventh most) and has 387 quality passes (fifth most).

Who's Not

earnhardt.jpg1. Dale Earnhardt Jr.: In 14 starts at ACS, Earnhardt has only four top-10 finishes and three top-fives. In that same stretch, he has four Did Not Finishes and an average finish of 20.6.

While Earnhardt hasn't done so bad in the Fall race at ACS, he has finishes of 40th, 40th, 11th, and 32nd in his last four Feb. starts at the two-mile oval (two of which were DNF's.)


michael-waltrip.jpg2. Michael Waltrip: In 16 starts at ACS, Waltrip has managed a top-10 only twice (never recording a top-five.) He also has three DNF's and an average finish of 26.3.

Waltrip missed this race in 2007 and has finished 28th or worse in six of the last seven races. (His best being 13th in September 2005.)


Auto Club Speedway Quick Facts:

Races: 17

Pole Winners: 12

Youngest Pole Winner: Kyle Busch (2/27/05—19 years, nine months, 25 days)

Oldest Pole Winner: Mike Skinner (4/30/00—42 years, 10 months, two days)

Race Winners: 12

Youngest Winner: Kyle Busch (9/4/05—20 years, four months, two days)

Oldest Winner: Rusty Wallace (4/29/01—44 years, eight months, 15 days)

Races Won From Pole: one

Last Race Won From Pole: Jimmie Johnson (8/31/08)

Auto Club Speedway Data

Race No. 2 of 36 (2-22-09)

Track Size: 2 miles

• Race Length: 250 laps/500 miles

• Banking/Corners: 14 degrees

• Banking/Frontstretch: 11 degrees

• Banking/Backstretch: 3 degrees

Driver Rating at Auto Club Speedway

Jimmie Johnson: 119.1

Matt Kenseth: 110.8

Kyle Busch: 107.6

Carl Edwards: 105.3

Kasey Kahne: 99.2

Mark Martin: 98.5

Greg Biffle: 98.1

Tony Stewart: 97.8

Jeff Gordon: 94.0

Kurt Busch: 90.9

Note: Driver Rating compiled from 2005-2008 races (8 total) at Auto Club Speedway.Qualifying/Race Data

2008 pole winner: None (weather)2008 race winner: Carl Edwards (132.704 mph; 2-24-08)Track qualifying record: Kyle Busch (188.425 mph; 38.248 seconds, 2-25-05)Track race record: Jeff Gordon (155.012 mph; 6-22-97)Estimated Pit Window: Every 40-44 laps; based on fuel mileage

Editor's note: Come join the newest NASCAR Community on Bleacher Report — The Nationwide Series Community, a place where we talk about everything Nationwide. The good, the bad and everything in between. Any comments or questions about the Series? Feel free to let me know.


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