Creature Vs. Creature Writers Pool: Picks for Pepsi 500 at California

Kelly CrandallSenior Writer IOctober 9, 2009

Three down, four races to go and this week the Sprint Cup Series is back under the lights at the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. Matt Kenseth won at California in February, but returns not part of this years Chase field.

Jimmie Johnson comes home to California as the defending winner of this event and looking to close the gap on teammate and point leader Mark Martin. And past winners at California, Greg Biffle and Carl Edwards, head to the West coast hoping to pick up their first win of the season.

As for our Creatures, most had solid days in Kansas last weekend and some have started to separate themselves from others in the championship fight. This weekend they’ll be looking for the driver and team that can keep up with their car through the changing track conditions: going from daylight and ending under the lights.

Who do they think can pull it off? Here’s a look at their picks for the Pepsi 500 at Auto Club Speedway.

Ben Bomberger: Jeff Gordon

Gordon is poised to win a race and it could come this weekend at Auto Club Speedway in California. In 18 starts at the two-mile oval Gordon has three wins, nine top-fives (50 percent), nine top-10s, two poles and a 10.9 average finish.

All that includes a runner-up finish earlier this year to Matt Kenseth. Gordon's driver rating of 98.4 is sixth best, his average running position of 9.8 is fourth best and his 148 fastest laps run is third most.

Though it pains me deeply to root for the No. 24 car on any given weekend, I'll be cheering Gordon on Sunday in hopes that he takes the checkered flag and extends my points lead heading into the final six races.

James Broomhead: NO PICK SENT

No pick sent.

Mary Jo Buchanan: Jimmie Johnson

While Johnson struggled at the end of last week's Kansas race, I predict he and crew chief Chad Knaus will be on a mission of not only redemption, but also of bouncing back into their usual Chase form.

Kelly Crandall: Greg Biffle

I saved Biffle for this race and I hope good things will come to those who wait. After picking him for this race in February he brought home a fourth place finish after having a shot at winning.

Then at sister track Michigan he looked to pull into victory lane before running out of fuel and last weekend at anther oval he dominated the race before making a pit road call that backfired.

This team is hungry and due for a win, what a better place to pull that off than at a large oval track that he and Roush-Fenway Racing always run well at. He knows how to get to victory lane, finding it in 2005, now he needs to find it again on Sunday to help his and my Chase chances.

Let’s hope he doesn’t run over his air hose, or run out of gas, or take too many tires this weekend.

Mason Dunn: Jeff Gordon

It’ll be another California snoozer and Gordon will catch them all sleeping for a vital Chase win.

Adam Heasley:  NO PICK SENT

No pick sent.

Danielle Henderson: NO PICK SENT

No pick sent.

Kara Martin: Jeff Gordon

Three wins plus nine top-five finishes in 18 starts at Fontana is just good math where Gordon is concerned. I look for him to take the checkered flag this weekend at a track that he loves.

SM Napier: Kyle Busch           

Busch is always tough in Fontana, and he’ll get back to victory lane on Sunday.

David Phillips: Jeff Gordon           

No comments sent.

Jen Preston: Carl Edwards

Last week I picked the home state favorite and it didn't exactly go my way. So, I thought I'd stick with one of the boys from my own home state, which means I’m picking Carl Edwards, broken foot and all, to win the Pepsi 500.

He has the second best average of active drivers with a 6.7, and I hope he's going to get Roush-Fenway out of its slump.

Rob Tiongson: NO PICK SENT

No pick sent.

Point Race

After the third race in the Chase at Kansas last weekend in the Price Chopper 400, here is a look once again at which Creatures are making moves.

Ben Bomberger (5,524) Greg Biffle finished third (3)

Rob Tiongson (-13) Mark Martin finished seventh (2)

Mary Jo Buchanan (-40) Jeff Gordon finished second (0)

James Broomhead (-60) Jeff Gordon finished second (3)

Kara Martin (-74) Jimmie Johnson finished ninth (3)

Kelly Crandall (-83) Juan Pablo Montoya finished fourth (2)

Jen Preston (-120) Clint Bowyer finished 21st (1)

David Phillips (-144) Carl Edwards finished 10th (2)

Mason Dunn (-146) Jimmie Johnson finished ninth (0)

SM Napier (-280) Clint Bowyer finished 21st (2)

Danielle Henderson (-339) NO PICK SENT (2)

Adam Heasley (-494) NO PICK SENT (3)

Final Thoughts            

Jimmie Johnson, second in points, will be looking for his third straight win in this race come Sunday. He won this race in 2007 and 2008 and went on to win the championship each of those years.

Statistic show that if a driver wants to win this race it will help if he starts from a top 10 position. Since the Sprint Cup Series started racing at the California twice a year in 2004, three of the five winners have come from the top ten.

The lowest starting position was Kyle Busch in 2005 when he started 25th and captured his first career Sprint Cup win.


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