Mar 7, 2015; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Sprint Cup Series driver Kevin Harvick (4) during practice for the Kobalt 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
1. Kevin Harvick– Seriously, can anybody cool Kevin Harvick down? At this juncture, I wouldn’t count on it. Harvick racked up another convincing victory last Sunday at the house of Harvick, and if he can pull off the West Coast trifecta, everyone in the Sprint Cup garage will riot.
Harvick has recorded one victory (2011) in 21-career starts at Auto Club Speedway.
2 Martin Truex Jr.- Marty’s no-quit attitude this season has elevated Furniture Row Racing’s program from lame duck to stud duck in under a year. Gut feeling they get a win before too long.
Truex’s career best-finish at Auto Club Speedway is sixth (2007, ’08)
3. Joey Logano– In spite of Kevin Harvick’s recent stranglehold over the competition, Joey Logano continues his steady march up the standings. Now, if only he could convert those quality finishes (four-consecutive top-10s) into victories, he could easily challenge his newfound rival, “Happy” Harvick, for complete supremacy.
Logano’s career best finish at Auto Club Speedway is third in 2013.
4. Kasey Kahne– Aside from Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kasey Kahne has undoubtedly had the best set up of the Hendrick Motorsports cars this season. Unfortunately, two of his finishes in the first four races would lead you to believe his cars weren’t that fast. Trust me, they were wickedly fast, but there’s no avoidance for plain bad luck. To all the cynics out there, Kahne’s now fourth in the standings, so take that!
Kahne has recorded one victory in 18-career starts at Auto Club Speedway.
Mar 21, 2015; Fontana, CA, USA; Sprint Cup series driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. during practice for the NASCAR: Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports
5. Dale Earnhardt Jr.- Now that Dale Jr. has survived his first real taste of adversity this season, let’s see how “Little E” bounces back from his worst finish since 2007. I am absolutely floored a guy as cool as Dale Jr. has yet to win a race in California. Maybe this could be his year?
Dale Jr. has recorded two top-five finishes in the last three races at Auto Club Speedway.
6. Jimmie Johnson– When JJ glances at Kevin Harvick, wonder if he thinks to himself, “Wow that guy is running really well lately,” and then he looks over at Chad Knaus and says, “Hey, remember when they used to say that about us?”
Johnson has recorded five victories in 20-career starts at Auto Club Speedway.
7. Ryan Newman– I am starting to think Ryan Newman is having a grand ol’ time irking all the critics that seem to enjoy constantly ripping the new points format by consistently hanging out near the top half of the running order despite remaining winless. Come on folks, you know he’s going to win again really soon, but I have to admit, this is quite amusing.
“Rocket Man” has recorded four top-10 finishes in the last five races at Auto Club Speedway.
March 15, 2015; Avondale, AZ, USA; Sprint Cup Series driver Brad Keselowski (2) during the CampingWorld.com 500 at Phoenix International Raceway. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
8. Brad Keselowski– BK has fought tooth and nail to get where he is at this season. I am almost certain nobody has worked this hard to squeak out three -onsecutive top-10 finishes in quite some time. That’s the good news for BK fans; the bad news is your driver has never recorded a single top-10 finish in six-career starts at Auto Club Speedway. Eeeeks!
9. A.J. Allmendinger– A year ago, the Dinger scored his first top-10 finish of the season at Auto Club Speedway. A year later, he has already multiplied his 10 total by twi heading into the great state of California.
10. Matt Kenseth– Let’s face it. Joe Gibbs Racing’s cars have been slightly off the mark this season, but give lots of credit to Matt Kenseth. He’s giving it all he’s got. Unfortunately, he can’t shake that fading late in the race trend just yet.
Kenseth has recorded three victories in 22-career starts at Auto Club Speedway.
11. Paul Menard– Although he has yet to record a single top-10 finish this season, Paul Menard is quietly marching up the point standings. Perhaps it’s time to start thinking of Menard as a Chase dark horse.
Menard has recorded two top-10 finishes in the last two races at Auto Club Speedway.
March 13, 2015; Avondale, AZ, USA; Sprint Cup Series driver Kurt Busch (41) during practice for the CampingWorld.com 500 at Phoenix International Raceway. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
12. Kurt Busch– Kurt’s bend but don’t break spirit carried him through what’s been a tumultuous couple of months for the former champion. So, what does he do upon his return to the #41 car? Only drive his heart out en route to an impressive top-five run. It’s good to see Kurt back in action.
Busch has recorded two consecutive top five finishes in the last two races at Auto Club Speedway.
13. Casey Mears– In the last two races at Auto Club Speedway, Casey Mears has finished 15. Here’s a crazy thought — if the race on Sunday comes down to gambling on fuel mileage, Mears should totally go for the upset of the century.
14. Denny Hamlin– Denny would likely tell you Auto Club Speedway isn’t one of his favorite tracks, even though he’s won three poles there. The idea of winning a race here at this point is nothing more than a California dream.
15. Jamie McMurray– Knocking Kevin Harvick off at a track that could easily be renamed Harvick International Raceway would have been sweeter than indulging in an Oreo McFlurry. Finishing second to “Happy Harvick” after a rough start to the season is like supersizing your fries.
16. Kyle Larson– Last March, Kyle Larson nearly pulled off a weekend sweep at Auto Club Speedway. Well, at least this year he won’t have to contend with the other Kyle on the tour.
17. Jeff Gordon– Winner of the inaugural Sprint Cup Series race at Auto Club Speedway back in 1997, Jeff Gordon hopes he can build upon last week’s encouraging top-10 run at Phoenix. However, Gordon hasn’t won at Fontana in over a decade and hasn’t come close since finishing second in both races in 2009.
18. Aric Almirola– Considering the fact that Aric Almirola hasn’t had much success in the past at Auto Club Speedway shouldn’t deter anyone from picking him as a potential candidate to upstage some of the heavy hitters, but hey, let’s be sensible here. He’s got his work cut out for him.
19. Carl Edwards– In December, I was really excited about this driver/team combination. In March I am feeling really disappointed. come on, Carl, the clock is ticking. Make some noise.
20. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.- Guess this week, Ricky felt it was time to give the Biff a break from making Roush Fenway Racing look good. Who knows? Maybe Trevor Bayne turns it up a notch?