The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series travels to Fontana, California this week for the Auto Club 400. The race can be seen Sunday at 3:30 p.m. ET on Fox Sports 1. Be sure to test your knowledge of NASCAR by competing in the Fox Sports Fantasy Auto Racing game.
Auto Club Speedway is a 2-mile tracks that produces some of the fastest speeds of the season. There are multiple grooves in the track for drivers to race on. Since the track is so big and it has wide sweeping corners, it can be very hard on engines. Do not be surprised to see some teams having engine failures in this race. If engines become a problem for a team in practice, avoid drivers from that organization in the race.
Fantasy teams are starting to see which drivers are the creams of the crop now that there have been three races on the intermediate tracks. The Young Guns (Chase Elliott, Kyle Larson and Ryan Blaney) continue to finish up front. Team Penske (Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano) have had fast cars in each race this season. Some veteran drivers (Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr.) are not ready to ride into the sunset yet. This group of drivers is where you should build your team from this week.
Track position is not as important at Fontana as it was last week at Phoenix. Drivers with a good handling car can make their way through the field this week. The scoring system for the Fox Sports Fantasy Auto Racing game rewards drivers who improve their position in the race more than the drivers who lead the most laps. The best strategy is to select the top drivers who qualify outside the top 12 with a good chance to move up in the race.
Pick to Win
Kyle Larson ($12,000) leads the NASCAR Point Standings and he is arguably the best driver in the sport right now. His stats in the last five races on intermediate tracks are outstanding. He finished third at Phoenix, second at Homestead, second at Atlanta, second at Las Vegas and second at Phoenix last week. Larson’s average finishing position is 2.2. His only win in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series came at Michigan last year. That track is almost identical to Auto Club Speedway. Larson will have a great chance to get to Victory Lane in his home state of California.
Jimmie Johnson ($12,100) has to be in the conversation of drivers who have a good chance to win in California. His six wins at the track are the most in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. Since 2007 his average finishing position at Auto Club Speedway is 5.9. The No. 48 team usually does not leave the West Coast without a win on their resume. Johnson will have one of the strongest cars in the field at his home track.
Kevin Harvick ($11,500) has been the most dominating driver at Auto Club Speedway the last two seasons. He started both races on the front row, led 176 laps and finished both races in second place. The No. 4 car has not been qualifying as well this season as they have in the past. The car still has a lot of speed once the race begins. Harvick’s ability to drive through the field and finish up front makes him one of the best choices in a game that rewards position differential points. Harvick is another California native who should run well Sunday.
Chase Elliott ($11,000) is still looking for his first win in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. He has been one of the best drivers this season and it is only a matter of time before he gets his first win. Elliott has the third-best average finishing position, the fourth-best driver rating and led the second-most laps (145) in 2017. He finished sixth in this race last year. The No. 24 car will be one of the cars to beat Sunday.
Brad Keselowski ($10,700) has been one of the most consistent drivers in the Fox Sports Fantasy Auto Racing game. Keselowski scored 48 points at Atlanta, 37 points at Las Vegas and 37 points at Phoenix. The only driver to score more points than Keselowski is Kyle Larson (130 points). Keselowski won this race in 2015 and the way he is performing this season makes him a serious threat to take the checker-flag this week.
Martin Truex Jr. ($9,900) has been the best driver on the intermediate tracks since the race at Auto Club Speedway last year. There have been 14 races on the 2-mile and 1.5-mile tracks since the last race in California. Truex has four wins and led 1,065 laps in these races. The No. 78 car will show up with a lot of speed at Fontana and will have a good chance to get to Victory Lane for the second time in 2017.
Value Picks (Drivers under $8,000)
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. ($7,800) has been one of the surprise drivers this season. Roush Fenway Racing struggled the past two years to find speed but it looks like their Fords are fast again. Stenhouse finished 13th at Atlanta and fourth last week at Phoenix. Auto Club Speedway is one of his best tracks. Stenhouse qualified 18th and finished fifth in this race last year. He is a great value pick for your team Sunday.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. ($5,900) is priced under $6K? Really? I know the No. 88 team is off to a slow start in 2017 but Earnhardt should never be priced this low. His three Hendrick Motorsports teammates (Chase Elliott, Jimmie Johnson and Kasey Kahne) are all running well. It is just a matter of time before Junior finds his groove. Earnhardt has an average finishing position of 6.8 in his last five races at Auto Club Speedway. It would be a good idea to take advantage of his cheap price.
Erik Jones ($5,000) has finished all of the races on intermediate tracks this season in the top 15. He has never competed in a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Auto Club Speedway but that does not mean Jones is not a great value this week. Whenever you can get the ninth-highest scorer in the Fox Sports Fantasy Auto Racing game at the minimum price you need to do it.
Daniel Suarez ($5,000) is another driver who will be making his first start in the Monster Energy NASCA Cup Series at Auto Club Speedway. He has two starts at the track in the Xfinity Series with an average finishing position of 8.5. Joe Gibbs Racing has the horsepower to keep Suarez in the top 15 this week. He will be a great pick if he qualifies outside the top 20.
Here are my pre-qualifying picks for the Auto Club 400:
Driver 1: Kyle Larson $12,000
Driver 2: Kevin Harvick $11,500
Driver 3: Chase Elliott $11,000
Driver 4: Martin Truex Jr. $9,900
Driver 5: Erik Jones $5,000
I will have my picks updated on my website (Fantasy Racing Tips) after the last practice.
FOX Fantasy Auto Resources
And don’t forget – prizes are on the line each race of the fantasy season! First, second and third place each win a prize. Plus, each race builds your point total for larger segment and season prizes.
If you need any further advice with your team or want to see my updated picks after Happy Hour practice, look for me on Twitter (@MrFantasyNASCAR).