The last stop of the West Coast swing is Auto Club Speedway, the site of the Auto Club 400. As the first race on a 2-mile Intermediate track, it is expected drivers will hit the higher speeds in the Cup Series compared to other tracks due to the large length of the straightaways.
CUP SERIES PREVIEW FOR AUTO CLUB 400
Post Saturday Practices Update: Kyle Busch was first and he had the fourth-best 10 Consecutive Lap Average in final practice. Kevin Harvick was first in second practice, fourth in final practice, and had the best 10 Consecutive Lap Average in second and final practices. Both drivers have shown speeds better than most and will compete for the win.
Martin Truex Jr. ($10,800) was second and had the third-best 10 Consecutive Lap Average in final practice. Truex finished fourth last season at Auto Club and led the second-most laps at 73. Truex starts first and his final practice speeds point to a Top three finish. Jimmie Johnson’s ($9,000) best finish this season is 12th. He was 18th in second practice, third in final practice, and was 11th in the 10 Consecutive Lap Averages during final practice. Johnson will finish in the Top 15, which makes him a nice pick for the PD he will gain. All other driver outlooks remain much the same.
TOP PRICED PICKS
Kevin Harvick ($11,500 on DraftKings) is going for four consecutive wins in a season for the first time in his career. In 24 starts at Auto Club, Harvick has one win and 11 Top 10 finishes. Harvick has two second place finishes in his last three starts at the site. Since 2005 at Auto Club, Harvick has the fifth-best Average Running Position, the third-most Fastest Laps at 227, and the fifth-best Driver Rating of 97.4. He was first in the first practice and starts tenth. Based on his first practice speed, expect Harvick to climb from his starting position to compete for the win, but as the most expensive driver this week, it will be hard to diversify lineups using him. Employ at least one lineup with Harvick based on practice speeds and recent history, but use alternative drivers in other lineups as well.
Kyle Busch ($10,300) is one of only two active drivers with multiple wins at Auto Club. He has three wins, 13 Top 10 finishes, and 611 Laps led, which is second-most among active drivers in 19 starts at Auto Club. Busch has one finish outside of the Top 10 in his last six Auto Club starts. Since 2005 at the site, Busch has the fourth-best ARP of 8.7, the most Quality Passes (Passes of cars in the Top 15 under green flag conditions) at 935, and the third-best DR of 108.6. Busch starts second and was 12th in first practice. Based on first practice, Kyle Busch looks to slip from his starting position a bit, but his statistics rank up there with the best of at Auto Club. His consistency alone in recent Auto Club races makes him worth consideration especially when he can use pit strategies like staying out when other drivers pit to maintain track position.
Kyle Larson ($10,000) is the man to beat at 2-mile Intermediate tracks. Larson has won the last four races at 2-mile Intermediate tracks, including last year’s race at Auto Club Speedway where he also led the most laps at 110. Larson starts third and was fifth in first practice. Based on his starting position and first practice speed, he will move to the front earlier on and lead laps as he was faster than those who start ahead of him. He will also compete for a Top 5 finish.
Chase Elliott ($9,700) is one of two drivers to have finished in the Top 10 in each the last six races at 2-mile Intermediate tracks, including three finishes of second. In two starts at Auto Club, Elliott has two Top 10 finishes. Elliott has the best ARP of 6.3 and the second-best DR of 109.0. Elliott starts 31st after failing pre-qualifying inspection and was 15th in first practice. Elliott is worth starting for the huge amount of Place Differential he will gain for this race and his first practice speed points to a finish in the Top 15.
Denny Hamlin ($9,300) has three Top 10 finishes so far, this season. In 16 starts at Auto Club, Hamlin has five Top 10 finishes., which include a third-place finish two years ago at the site. Since 2005 at Auto Club, Hamlin ranks sixth in ARP at 13.0, and DR at 92.3. Hamlin was sixth in first practice and starts 25th after failing pre-qualifying inspection. Based on his first practice speed, Hamlin will finish in the Top 10 while scoring plenty of PD.
MID-RANGE PRICED PICKS
Aric Almirola ($8,500) is having one of his best seasons to date since joining Stewart-Haas Racing. He has finished 13th or better in every race so far with two Top 10 finishes. Almirola has never finished better than 11th at Auto Club in 10 starts at the site, but he is driving much better equipment this season compared to prior seasons. Almirola starts 27th after failing pre-qualifying inspection and was third in first practice. Almirola will compete for a Top 5 finish based on his first practice speed while scoring plenty of PD, making him one of the best picks.
Clint Bowyer ($8,000) finished third in his first start with Stewart-Haas Racing last year at Auto Club Speedway. In 17 starts at the site, Bowyer has eight Top 10 finishes. Bowyer has two Top 10 finishes this season and has more experience with Stewart-Haas since his last start at Auto Club. Bowyer was second in first practice and starts 26th after failing pre-qualifying inspection. Expect Bowyer to compete for a Top 5 finish based on his first practice speed while picking up plenty of PD points.
Alex Bowman ($7,600) will make his first Auto Club start with Hendrick Motorsports. His best finish in two starts at Auto Club was 22nd. He is in much better equipment compared to his two previous starts, therefore, Bowman will score a new career best finish this week. He starts 28th after failing pre-qualifying inspection and was 10th in first practice. Watch for Bowman to compete for a Top 10 finish based on his first practice speed, while scoring PD points.
Daniel Suarez ($7,000) finished seventh in his only start at Auto Club last season. Suarez scored his first Top 10 finish of the season last week at Phoenix. Suarez was 23rd in first practice and will start 30th after failing pre-qualifying inspection. Suarez’s practice speeds indicate a finish in the Top 25, but I expect him to make use of pit strategy to finish better, like he did last season.
William Byron ($6,600) is making his Cup Series debut at Auto Club Speedway. In his only start in the Xfinity Series at Auto Club, Byron started sixth and finished fifth. He starts 29th and was 26th in first practice. Despite the inexperience, Byron will finish better than his starting position in the Top 20 due to his Xfinity experience. Less experienced drivers like Elliott, Larson, and Suarez have performed well at Auto Club in recent years. Byron will make use of pit strategy to score a good finish this week.
Ty Dillon ($6,300) finished 18th after starting 21st in his only start at Auto Club last season. In the Xfinity series, Dillon has two Top 10 finishes in four starts at the site. He starts 17th and was 24th in first practice. Based on his first practice speed, Dillon will lose a few positions, but he will remain in the Top 25. He will still score a solid number of points through his finishing position compared to other drivers of his value who are slower in first practice compared to Dillon, making him one of the better bargain values.
Chris Buescher ($5,700) has two Top 15 finishes so far this season. In three starts at Auto Club Speedway, Buescher has two Top 25 finishes with a career best finish of 20th. He finished sixth in his last race at Michigan, a track with a similar layout to Auto Club. Buescher was 16th in first practice and starts 12th. Expect Buescher to drop a small number of positions based on his first practice speed, but expect him to finish better than other drivers of similar value in the Top 20.
XFINITY SERIES PREVIEW FOR ROSANNE 300
Post-Qualifying Saturday Update: Dylan Lupton smacked the wall during qualifying and will go to a backup car. Based on his practice speeds, it will not be a surprise to see Lupton climb up several positions and earn a lot of PD points. Since he starts 40th, he is a no-risk pick with PD too great to ignore.
Austin Dillon and Tyler Reddick will both start 19th and 16th, respectively. Both drivers displayed speeds that indicate finishes in the Top 10, therefore, they will both pick up points from PD. These drivers should be placed in your lineups for the PD they offer. All other driver outlooks remain much the same.
Joey Logano ($11,200) and Austin Dillon ($10,200) are the only two Cup regulars to compete in this week’s Xfinity race. Logano was second in both practices and had the third-best 10 Consecutive Lap Average in final practice. Logano has very good history at Auto Club by finishing seventh or better in each one of his nine starts at the site, which includes two wins. Expect Logano to compete for the win. Dillon was third in first practice and 10th in final practice while having the 10th best 10 Consecutive Lap Average. Dillon won in his last Xfinity start and based on practice speeds, will compete for a Top 10 finish.
Christopher Bell ($9,700) has looked good throughout practices as he was first in first practice and fourth in final practice. He had the ninth-best 10 Consecutive Lap Average in final practice and is making his Xfinity debut at Auto Club. Bell will easily finish in the Top 10 based on practice speeds. Tyler Reddick ($9,300) was fifth in both practices and had the seventh best 10 Consecutive Lap Average in final practice. Watch for Reddick to compete for a Top 5 finish based on practice speeds. Daniel Hemric ($9,100) finished 11th in his only Xfinity start last season at Auto Club, but expect him to improve on that result since he has gained more experience at 2-mile Intermediate tracks since his last start. Hemric was fourth in first practice, first in final practice, and had the fifth-best 10 Consecutive Lap Average in final practice. Hemric will compete for a Top 5 finish based on practice speeds.
John Hunter Nemechek ($8,700) is making his first Xfinity start at Auto Club. He was 11th in first practice and third in final practice while having the fourth-best 10 Consecutive Lap Average. He will compete for a Top 5 finish. Spencer Gallagher ($7,300) is having his best season yet in the Xfinity Series with four finishes of 14th or better and two Top 10 finishes. He was 14th in first practice 17th in practice, and was 11th in the 10 Consecutive Lap Averages, showing that he will finish in the Top 15 for the fifth race in a row. Dylan Lupton ($6,600) is the top bargain of the week. He was 21st in first practice, 12th in final practice, and was 16th in the 10 Consecutive Lap Averages. Lupton’s practice speeds point to a finish in the Top 15.