Today's Auto Club 500 is the second race of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season. For many drivers in the garage area, however, this 250-lap race marks the start of what they refer to as "the regular season," a phrase coined by the variation in track rules throughout the NASCAR Series.
The Difference in Rules
Last week's Daytona 500 had a totally different set of rules than today's race, with restrictor plates reducing speeds by more than 25 mph, thereby allowing drivers to keep the gas pedal on the floorboard.
But today the out-of-bounds lines are gone, along with the restrictor plate and air-deflecting strips, making today's cars and engines the same as those that will be used in 32 of 36 regular-season races. As such, drivers will have to find a perfect balance between their gas and brake pedals.
The Difference in Style
Despite the fact that this week's race will be a restriction-plate free competition, other elements fall into play.
With the Auto Club Speedway track configuration, drivers prefer to be by themselves—nobody in front, behind, or beside them—because there's no drafting. With the exception of possible opportunity on the straightaway for a short portion, there's no such thing as drafting, and overall clean air is the most important element in today's game!
Who's On the Pole?
With his season-opening Daytona 500 victory—won in a wild scramble on the final lap more than six hours after the race began—Jamie McMurray will lead the 42-car field alongside Earnhardt Ganassi Racing teammate Juan Pablo Montoya, qualifying at 183.744 mph and 183.477 mph, respectively.
McMurray has history working for him and against him at the same time.
"I think this weekend is what really sets the standard for the rest of these races," McMurray said. "The way the cars are and the way the set-ups are, when you unload, if your car is good, you're going to have a pretty good weekend. And if it's not, you can't fix it. I mean you're just stuck with what you have."