1) Kevin Harvick Auto Club Fantasy NASCAR Spin – Kevin Harvick will be a good fantasy NASCAR pick to win the Auto Club 400. Right now he’s in the midst of an unprecedented hot streak in the NASCAR modern era. In the last seven races he has four wins and three second place results. I really don’t see any reason why that trend will stop especially when you consider he’s coming off back to back wins. In the four intermediate tracks visited over this stretch he has a 1.5 average finish, 3.8 average running position and the best driver rating by a wide margin. California shouldn’t throw him a curve ball. He’s an elite performer here and at Auto Club’s sister track Michigan he has four straight runner-up results. In practice the #4 car was fast. In both practice sessions on Saturday his ten lap average ranked as the 2nd best.
Starting Position – 2nd
Track History – Auto Club Speedway has been a great track for Kevin Harvick. He’s a former winner and since 2008 minus his problems last spring and a 2009 crash he has a 6.1 average finish. Last year his car was very strong but his race was far from problem free. The 2014 race was a tire fiasco and Harvick wasn’t spared. He had his first flat while running in 3rd on lap 19 and he had another flat while running in 3rd with 62 laps to go. He couldn’t bounce back from his second incident due to the damage he sustained. Our PROS Rankings show you who subjectively had the best car and in that metric he ranked as the 3rd best. In 2013 Harvick finished 13th but his car was better than that. During the final caution he restarted in 4th but faded against competition that was on fresher tires. From lap 130 to the finish I would estimate his average running position was around 5th. In 2012 at Auto Club he finished 4th, had a 7th place average running position and earned the 8th best driver rating. In 2011 he made a last lap pass on Jimmie Johnson and raced his way to victory lane.
Recent Similar Track Trends – This year at intermediate tracks Kevin Harvick has been very impressive and has results of 1st and 2nd. Michigan is a two-mile oval like Auto Club Speedway and at that venue he currently has four straight second place results.
Momentum –Kevin Harvick sits atop the point standings and has seven straight results of 1st or 2nd. This season his average finish is 1.5.
Chassis Selection – On Sunday Kevin Harvick will be using a chassis he’s used at a variety of tracks in 2014. It was very competitive at Bristol in spring 2014 until he had trouble, was good enough to win at Dover in the spring until he had trouble, finished 2nd at Pocono and 5th at Richmond in September.
NASCAR Odds To Win – 7/2
2) Jimmie Johnson Auto Club Fantasy NASCAR Spin – Jimmie Johnson will be tough to beat in the Auto Club 400. At this venue he’s been a super-elite performer. He’s won here five times, has 6.7 average result and has finished in the top three 60% percent of the time! Last year he had the field covered and would’ve won his 6th race if he didn’t get a flat while leading with 7 laps to go. This year at high-speed intermediate tracks it could be argued he’s been the strongest performer in the series. He won at Atlanta and was leading at Las Vegas until he had a loose wheel. Between the two venues Atlanta is the more similar of the two. Kurt Busch has been making all the headlines this weekend but I wouldn’t bet against Johnson. His tenth lap time was only a few thousandths slower than Busch’s in Happy Hour. In that session his ten lap average ranked as the 3rd best. In practice #2 his ten lap average ranked as the 4th best.
Starting Position – 14th
Track History – Jimmie Johnson has been an awesome performer at Auto Club Speedway and among high-speed intermediate tracks I would argue it’s his best. At this venue he has a 6.7 average finish, has led 955 laps and prior to last year he never had a result outside the top twenty. In 2002 Johnson won his first race here and since then he’s been to victory lane four more times. Last year he would’ve got his sixth win except he had a flat tire while leading with only 7 laps remaining. Even with his problem he still earned the best driver rating, had a 4th place average running position and led more than half the race (104 laps). Johnson’s strength in that event was that his car maintained speed better than anyone through the duration of a run. In 2013 he had an off-year, but he still managed to finish 12th. In 2012 Johnson finished 10th. In 8 of the 9 races between 2007 and 2011 Johnson finished in the top 3. His one finish not in the top three over that stretch was a 9th place finish.
Recent Similar Track Trends – Last season at 2.0 mile ovals Jimmie Johnson was arguably the best performer in the series. He won at Michigan in June, finished 9th in August and would’ve won at Auto Club Speedway if he didn’t have a late flat. This season at high-speed intermediate tracks he’s been a stellar performer. He won at Atlanta and was leading at Las Vegas at the time of his loose wheel which marked the end of his competitive afternoon.
Momentum – Minus Las Vegas where Johnson had a loose wheel while leading he has a 5.6 average finish for the season.
Chassis Selection – On Sunday Jimmie Johnson will be using the chassis he finished 9th with at Homestead last year. This chassis also finished 12th at Chicagoland, 9th at Michigan (August) and 14th at Indy in its debut.
NASCAR Odds To Win – 6/1
3) Kurt Busch Auto Club Fantasy NASCAR Spin – Kurt Busch has looked very competitive this weekend. He’s starting on the pole and in both practice sessions on Saturday he had the best 5 lap average and 10 lap average speeds. Also in practice the attitude of his car has looked good. Going over the bumps nobody looked smoother than him. Kurt Busch hasn’t run at an intermediate track this season but last year in his races with Tony Gibson as his crew chief he ran well.
Starting Position – 1st
Track History – Auto Club Speedway has been a good track for Kurt Busch. He’s a former champion and has finished in the top ten the last three straight races. Over this stretch his 5.7 average finish is tied for the third best. In his career his top ten percentage is 52% and his top twenty percentage is 81%. Last season he was very competitive. In the event he finished 3rd, earned the 6th best driver rating and had a 9th place average running position. Over the final 80 laps I would estimate his average running position was 5th. I will note he was aided by the final caution when he took two tires and moved up to 2nd. If the final caution didn’t come out and multiple competitors didn’t have late flats he likely would’ve finished around 7th. In 2013 he ran a solid race. He finished 5th and had the 9th best driver rating. In 2012 when he drove for Finch Racing he finished 9th. That’s impressive when you consider the equipment he was piloting. It’s important to point out though his good result was inflated at the end because some drivers who ran well decided to pit at the end and due to the weather it never went back green.
Recent Similar Track Trends – Last year at two-mile ovals Kurt Busch was pretty good. If you were to credit him with a top five finish like how he ran last August at Michigan before he got into the wall he would have a single digit average finish. Last year in his two intermediate track races with Tony Gibson as his crew chief he had results of 8th and 11th.
Momentum – In his last four races dating back to last season with Tony Gibson as his crew chief he has a 7.75 average finish.
Chassis Selection – On Sunday Kurt Busch will be using the chassis Danica Patrick used last spring at Kansas and finished 7th with. She didn’t finish nearly as well in her other starts with this chassis.
NASCAR Odds To Win – 15/1