Driver Group Game Picks Auto Club


The Fantasy NASCAR season has begun, and it is important to remember that the season is 36 races long. Do not panic if your drivers crashed and burned in the Daytona 500. There is plenty of time to make up the points.

My picks looked decent until the final Stage. Ryan Blaney crashed and somehow, he ended up as my best driver. Aric Almirola had the best average running position in the Daytona 500, and he somehow finished 21st. Austin Cindric had the fourth-best average running position and he finished 23rd. I took a chance with Corey LaJoie and it looked like it was going to pay off when he was running in the top-10 with 15 laps to go. LaJoie was a casualty of a late race wreck, and he finished 16th (still not too bad). I guess it is better to be lucky than good. Now, onto Auto Club Speedway….




Forget what you saw last week in the Daytona 500. The racing this week is completely different from what we had at Daytona. Auto Club Speedway is a two-mile, high tire wear track. The drivers who can maintain their speed by searching the track for grip will be at the front of the pack Sunday. There is an art to this type of racing and some drivers are better at than others.

The race Sunday is another tough race to predict because each manufacture was allowed to redesign the front end of their cars for the 2023. We do not know for sure which teams will benefit and which will be behind on speed with their newly shaped Gen-7 cars. Denny Hamlin said on his Actions Detrimental pod cast that he thinks the Chevy’s will be the fastest at the intermediate tracks (Auto Club Speedway falls into this category). He also thought the Fords would be the best at Daytona and he was right. I plan to diversify my lineup this week, but I will have more Chevy’s than the other manufactures this weekend.

Here are the picks for the Pala Casino 400





(START) KYLE LARSON (9): Larson won the race at Auto Club last year. Can he win again in his home state? I think he can. Larson qualified 13th, led 28 laps, scored 12 Stages Points and went to Victory Lane in this race last year. The last race on a similar track to Auto Club is the race at Homestead last October. Drivers are required to search the track for grip at Homestead, just like they will this week at Auto Club. Larson won that race too. The two-mile ovals have been his best tracks, so I will have Larson in my lineup and see how he runs in practice and qualifying (If it is not rained out ☹).

(BENCH) JOEY LOGANO (9): I have a Chevy in my lineup, so now I need a Ford or Toyota. I decided I will go with Logano. He has been on a hot streak since the Round of Eight started in last year’s playoffs and I will play the hot hand. Logano has also been on a hot streak at Auto Club Speedway. He led 14 laps, scored 11 Stage Points and finished fifth in this race last year. Logano has a fifth-place average finishing position at Auto Club since 2015. Roger Penske owns this track and I expect his drivers to be ready to run well Sunday.

(CONTRARIAN PICK) DENNY HAMLIN (9): Most people will look at Hamlin’s results last year (He finished 15th) and think… “I am not using him.” The only reason why Hamlin finished outside the top-10 at Auto Club last year was because his car (and many of the Toyota’s) had overheating problems. Hamlin finished his prior three races in the top-seven at Auto Club and he finished third at Michigan. If you are a Toyota fan and want one of their drivers in your lineup, take a chance with Hamlin.

GROUP A DRIVER RANKINGS: 1) Kyle Larson 2) Joey Logano 3) Denny Hamlin 4) William Byron 5) Chase Elliott 6) Ross Chastain 7) Ryan Blaney 8) Christopher Bell



TYLER REDDICK (9): You are not doing your homework if Reddick is not in your lineup this week. Yes, Reddick finished 24th in this race last year, but he was the best driver in the field. Reddick won both Stages (scored 20 Stage Points), led the most laps (90) before he had a tire go down and he hit the wall. Reddick was also awesome at the similar tracks in 2022. He finished second and third in the two races at Darlington and he was running fourth at Michigan last year when his engine exploded. I am not worried about the switch from Richard Childress Racing to 23XI Racing. The only thing that can keep Reddick from running up front is a flat tire or blown engine. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen.

KYLE BUSCH (9): Busch was not very good on the two-mile ovals last year when he was on his “I Don’t Give a Shit Tour 2022”. Rowdy has been one of the best drivers on the two-mile ovals when he is motivated. His average finishing position in his last 10 races on two-mile ovals (not counting last year) is third. Busch seems to be motivated with his new team. He should be excited to know that he will be driving for the team that completely dominated this race last year. I expect the old Rowdy Busch to show up in California Sunday.  

KEVIN HARVICK (9): Harvick is known as “The King of Phoenix” and the fast way around Atlanta Motor Speedway was referred to as “Harvicking”. The truth is… the best tracks for Harvick have been the two-mile oval tracks. Harvick has won four of the last five races at Michigan and his average finishing position at Auto Club Speedway since 2018 is sixth. This is the final season for Harvick. He is not going to be pushed around Sunday. I expect the No. 4 car to muscle his way to the front of the Pala Casino 400.

ALEX BOWMAN (9): Bowman dominated the race at Auto Club in 2020. He led 110 laps, scored 19 Stage Points and won the race. Bowman then came back last year (the Cup Series did not compete at Auto Club in 2021) and ran the fifth-fastest lap in practice and was running third when he had a tire go down and he hit the wall. Bowman had a car fast enough to contend for the win at Auto Club last year. Instead, he won the next week at a similar track in Las Vegas. Bowman will start fourth if qualifying is rained out. I am picking Bowman based on his potential starting position, his potential top pit stall and the fact he just completely dominated the field two races ago at Auto Club.

(CONTRARIAN PICK) ERIK JONES (9): Jones has proven to be the best driver in the Cup Series at high tire wear tracks. He won the race at Darlington last year and he was the second-most dominant driver at Auto Club (behind Tyler Reddick). Jones qualified second, finished second in both Stages (he scored 18 Stage Points), led 18 laps and finished third. I was planning on starting Jones this week, but Jones will start 34th if qualifying is rained out. I am not sure I will trust him if I cannot see the No. 43 car in practice, so I will pivot to Alex Bowman instead.


GROUP B DRIVER RANKINGS: 1) Kyle Busch 2) Kevin Harvick 3) Tyler Reddick 4) Alex Bowman 5) Erik Jones 6) Martin Truex Jr. 7) Austin Dillon 8) Daniel Suarez 9) Chase Briscoe 10) Aric Almirola



RICKY STENHOUSE JR.:  Do you believe in momentum? No driver in the Cup Series has as much momentum heading into the race at Auto Club as Stenhouse. The Daytona 500 winner also had one of his best races of the 2022 season at this track last year. Stenhouse qualified 17th, finished 10th in Stage 1 and finished 10th in the race. He was asked on SiriusXM this week how the win at Daytona would affect his season. Stenhouse said, “The win moves us up in the point standings and that means about $600K more for our charter. We have an alliance with Hendrick Motorsports, but we do our own downforce setups for our cars. This extra money will help us pay HMS to setup the cars for us so we have the same cars that they do.” I am not sure if they will have time to let HMS provide a fully setup car for the race at Auto Club Speedway, but it is something to keep in mind.

AJ ALLMENDINGER (9): I want to pair a veteran driver in Group C and let the young drivers (Ty Gibbs and Noah Gragson) get some more experience. Allmendinger only drove the No. 16 car in one intermediate track race last year and it was a good one. He started 21st and finished ninth at Las Vegas last October. Allmendinger also had success at the two-mile ovals in the Xfinity Series. He won at Michigan in 2021 and Allmendinger finished seventh at Auto Club last year. Allmendinger will have some momentum after his sixth-place finish in the Daytona 500.

(CONTRARIAN) TY GIBBS (9): Gibbs probably is not a “contrarian pick” because he will be popular this week. Maybe I should call him “another option.” I expect Gibbs to be good this week, but he is still in the learning stages of his Cup Series career. I think Gibbs will be better in the second half of the season, so I will save my allocations with the No. 54 until after the west coast swing.

GROUP C DRIVER RANKINGS: 1) AJ Allmendinger 2) Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 3) Ty Gibbs 4) Ryan Preece 5) Noah Gragson

* Be sure to check back Saturday after qualifying for my updated starting lineup.



The weather forecast for Saturday’s Xfinity Series race does not look good. There is a 100% chance of rain Saturday according to the Weather Channel. NASCAR said if the race is rained out Saturday, they will run the Xfinity Series race after the Cup Series race Sunday (on FS1). The forecast for Sunday evening does not look too good either. Hopefully NASCAR can get the race in this weekend.



(START) COLE CUSTER (9) is the best pick in the field. He has won the last two races at Auto Club (his home track). Custer drove the No. 07 car for SS Green Light Racing to Victory Lane in Fontana last year. He should have no problem driving his No. 00 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford to Victory Lane this weekend.

(BENCH) BRANDON JONES (9) is the best pivot from Cole Custer. Jones finished 33rd and 30th in his last two races at Auto Club, but those finishes do not tell the story. Jones completely dominated this race is 2020 (he led the most laps and won both Stages), but he had a flat tire. He was one of the best drivers again last year and he had another flat tire. His Junior Motorsports car should be really fast this week and Goodyear is bringing a more durable tire to the track. Jones should be a good pick “if” his tires stay inflated.



(START) RILEY HERBST (9) has not been as good as his teammate (Cole Custer) at Auto Club Speedway, but he has been better than most of the drivers in the field. He has two races at Auto Club on his resume and Herbst finished 2nd and 9th in those races. I will pair the two SHR drivers in my lineup for the race in Fontana.

(START) DANIEL HEMRIC (9) is usually at his best when he is driving at a track that requires a driver to manage their tires over a long run. Hemric had a 8.8 average finishing position on tracks similar to Auto Club last year (4th best in the Xfinity Series) Hemric does not lead many laps in these races, but he should be a safe pick for a top-10 finish.

(BENCH) CHANDLER SMITH (9) is teammates with Daniel Hemric and Austin Dillon. He has never driven an Xfinity Series car at Auto Club but he qualified 9th and finished 7th at Homestead last October (The most similar track to Auto Club Speedway). Smith is a good play if you want to stack the Kaulig Racing cars this week.   

(BENCH) SAMMY SMITH (9) will be driving the No. 18 car for Joe Gibbs Racing this week. Trevor Bayne drove this car to a 3rd place finish in this race last year. He was also one of the top dominators in the race. I do not expect Smith to be as good as Bayne, but he will have the speed to finish in the top-10. Smith will be a good play if you want to pivot from one of the drivers listed above.



(START) AUSTIN DILLON (9) will be behind the wheel of the No. 10 car for Kaulig Racing. This car should have a lot of speed. AJ Allmendinger drove his Kaulig Racing car to a 7th place finish last year at Auto Club. This is one of the best tracks for Dillon so he should have a good chance to lead some laps and finish up front.

(BENCH) TYLER REDDICK (9) completely dominated the Cup Series race at Auto Club last year. What will we get from Reddick in the Xfinity Series this week? Reddick will be behind the wheel of the No. 24 car for Sam Hunt Racing. I am sure this car had some support from Joe Gibbs Racing, but it still is not a JGR car. Reddick won the race at Texas last year in a Big Machine Racing car, so his talent should be good enough to get Reddick to the front this weekend. I like Austin Dillon a bit more based on the car he will be driving compared to Reddick’s car.



* No race this week for the Truck Series. They will be back on the track at Las Vegas.


Good Luck This Week!

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