The top five Chase drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series this week—Jimmie Johnson, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Carl Edwards and Jeff Gordon—talk the two-mile, D-shaped oval with 14-degree banking at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California.
The Pepsi Max 400, Race 4 in the 10-race Chase to the Sprint Cup, commences this Sunday at 3:00 p.m. on ESPN.
This fast series includes comments by three of NASCAR’s most popular drivers—Tony Stewart, Kasey Kahne, and Dale Earnhardt Jr.
FYI WIRZ is the swift presentation of pertinent motorsports topics compiled, condensed, and often written by Dwight Drum @ Racetake.com. Quotes provided by NASCAR and Sprint Cup team media.
Driver’s thoughts about Fontana and the Chase:
Jimmie Johnson (No.48 Chevrolet)
“I really enjoy the race track,” Johnson said. “I enjoy the weather, the atmosphere, In-N-Out Burger, Mexican restaurants I am fond of in the area. It is always good to go home. There is a certain feeling about it. I won my first race there. My 48th race there and there are a lot of cool things about that race track for me. Oh yea, fish tacos, lots of lime. Post-race, add a Corona to the mix and we are in good shape."
Denny Hamlin (No. 11 Toyota)
“Any big track is good for us at this point, Hamlin said. “I feel like we’re definitely heading into some tracks that are definitely in our favor.
“California is a multi-groove race track, but it’s just a track where you have to setup your car on one specific line because when you run the top, your car changes a whole lot different than what it is on the bottom. It’s very line-sensitive track, and the restarts are obviously interesting there because of the draft.”
Kevin Harvick (No. 29 Chevrolet)
“We’re looking forward to going back, Harvick said. “It’s been a good race track for us over the last few years. We have been consistent and had solid top-five finishes all year. So, we just have to keep doing those things, keep our cars in contention running up front, lead some laps, and grab those bonus points when we can, and we'll see where we are when we get to Homestead."
Carl Edwards (No. 99 Ford)
“The strength of the Roush Fenway organization is as good as it’s ever been,” Edwards said. “We’re going to California, which is a track we’ve had a lot of success at, and we’ve run very well as a team there. This is a track on the Chase schedule that I feel very confident at and feel like we have a great shot at a win there.”
Jeff Gordon (No. 24 Chevrolet)
“You have to have good power (at Auto Club Speedway), have to have good balance in the car,” Gordon said. “Right now, there’s a lot of stuff going around the garage with teams that are trying to run soft in the back versus stiff in the back and at a track like that. You can really experiment with because the straight-aways are so long and it’s a big, fast race track to try to get the spoiler out of the air a little bit. Just trying to work that balance out.”
Tony Stewart (No. 14 Chevrolet)
"We're not out until we're mathematically out,” Stewart said. “Who would have dreamed we would have two weeks in a row like we had the first two weeks. So, it's proof it can happen. Talladega is still on the schedule (laughs) so that can jumble everything up too. So, we've just got to go out and do what we did at Kansas and that's just go out and try to win the race and take what it gives us."
Kasey Kahne (No.9 Ford)
"I like California,” Kahne said. “California doesn't have a lot of banking but it is a pretty fast track. I think, like every track, getting the car to handle in the corners is the biggest thing. It's a two-mile track and the front and back stretches are pretty long.
“There’s a lot of time at this track where you can relax going down the straightaway a little bit. The corners are so long that you can have a loose car and work through the corners a lot which can wear you out and get your heart rate up. I wouldn’t say that it’s one of the more physically demanding tracks.”
Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 88 Chevrolet)
"We have had some decent runs at California, but just haven't had the luck and they are a good reference,” Earnhardt said. “The thing about California is that you can hunt around as the groove changes. You've got to have that adjustability in your setup. My teammates have been good there.”
Photo credit: Dwight Drum @ Racetake.com