The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will travel to Fontana, California this week for the Auto Club 400.
The race Sunday will complete the West Coast swing for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Kevin Harvick won the races at Las Vegas and Phoenix and he will be looking to sweep the races out West with a win at Auto Club.
Tires will be the other story this week. Drivers who can manage their tires will run up front. Last year Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski and Jimmie Johnson had fast race cars, but also had problems with flat tires. Drivers must figure a way to run fast, but take care of their tires at the same time.
Now that four races are in the books, fantasy teams should have a good idea which drivers are hot and which drivers they should avoid. It is no secret that the Chevy’s are fast and the Fords (not including Team Penske) are slow. Auto Club is an unpredictable race, so many drivers will have a realistic chance of going to Victory Lane this week.
Here are my picks for the Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway…
Yahoo Group A Picks
It was easy to select your driver last week in Group A. Most teams selected Kevin Harvick because he dominates most races at Phoenix. This week there are many good choices in Group A for Yahoo Fantasy Auto Racing this week.
The best driver in this group will not be available for fantasy teams. Kyle Busch has won the last two races at Auto Club. Since he is still injured, a new winner will be crowned this week.
The best selections for Group A are Matt Kenseth and Jimmie Johnson. Kenseth has finished 15 of his 22 starts at the racetrack in the top 10. Johnson has a series-best driver rating and has five wins at Auto Club. I considered these two drivers, but decided to play the hot hand this week.
Here are the two drivers I selected for Group A…
Harvick is on a hot streak which most NASCAR fans have never seen. Harvick has finished the last seven races in the top two. The last driver to put together a string of consecutive top-two finishes like this was Richard Petty’s 11 consecutive top-two finishes in 1975. Harvick is a must start for all fantasy teams until he cools off.
Since I know the chances of starting Harvick are high, the second driver for Group A needs to be a driver who can earn bonus points for qualifying. Logano has started the last three races on the front row and he has a good history of starting up front at Auto Club. He also has a history of running well at this race track.
Other good choices: Matt Kenseth, Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon and Denny Hamlin
Yahoo Group B Picks
Like Group A, there are many good choices in Group B this week. Most of the drivers who have had recent success at Auto Club are from this group.
Kasey Kahne has been a good selection the first four weeks this season. He should perform well Sunday, but I think this is the week fantasy teams can give the No. 5 team a rest.
Auto Club Speedway is one of Tony Stewart’s best racetracks. He is very good at searching the race track to find the perfect groove. He has 13 finishes in the top 10 at Auto Club, but he should be avoided until he shows signs of the old Smoke.
My sleeper pick this week is Paul Menard. He finished the last two races at Auto Club in the top 10 and ran well this season on the intermediate race tracks. Menard would be an excellent choice if you want to save a start with another driver.
Here are the four drivers I selected for Group B…
Edwards has been on my team every week, but I have yet to pull the trigger and put him into my starting lineup. That may be the case this week as well. Everyone knows that Edwards is going to breakout at some point this season and start winning races. It is good to have him on your team just in case that race is Sunday.
It is good to see Busch back in the racecar. Fantasy teams really needed some help in Group B and Busch is just what the doctor ordered. He ran well last week at Phoenix and now he will compete at one of his best race tracks. Busch has three straight top-10 finishes at Auto Club and he came very close to winning this race last year. This is the week to start Busch for your team.
Larson almost swept the weekend last season at Auto Club with a win in the Xfinity Series and a second-place finish in the Sprint Cup Series. His finishes were a career best in both series. This race track sets up well for his driving style. If Larson is going to win a race in 2015, this is the week he could do it.
Martin Truex Jr.
I debated selecting Brian Vickers or Paul Menard for the last spot in Group B. Both drivers have good stats at Auto Club. I decided to go with the hot driver and select Truex for this spot. Truex has finished every race this season in the top 10. It is hard to tell how long the No. 78 team will run up front, so I think it would be wise to get as many starts from Truex as you can while he is hot.
Other good choices: Kasey Kahne, Brian Vickers, Paul Menard and Jamie McMurray
Yahoo Group C Picks
As long as David Ragan is driving the No. 18 car, fantasy players must use him for their team. There is no guarantee how long he will be in the car, so using Ragan now will make managing this group much easier later in the season.
Since fantasy teams know they will most likely use Ragan for the race, teams must figure out which driver to pair with the No. 18 team.
The two best selections are Danica Patrick and Justin Allgaier. Patrick has never qualified in the top 20 at Auto Club and Allgaier has only competed in one race at the race track. Allgaier will have some momentum coming off his top-20 finish last week at Phoenix.
Here are the two drivers I selected for Group C…
Ragan is by far the best choice in Group C. The No. 18 has dominated the last two races at Auto Club with Kyle Busch in the car. Joe Gibbs Racing will provide Ragan a racecar that can finish in the top 10. He just needs to find a way to get it there.
Although she has not qualified well at Auto Club, I am going to take a chance with Patrick. She has surprised people and qualified up front before, so I am hoping she can do it again. Even if she does not qualify up front, I doubt any other drivers from Group C will start up front as well.
Other Good Choices: Justin Allgaier, Brian Scott and David Gilliland
Fantasy Live Picks
The strategy for Fantasy Live last week was to select drivers who started up front with a chance to lead many laps. Track position was very important at Phoenix. If a driver has a good car, he or she can easily drive through the field at Auto Club, so track position will not be as important this week. There is plenty of room to make a pass.
This is the week to take a break from selecting high priced drivers for your team. Since so many drivers have a history of running well at Auto Club, it would be wise to select a balanced team.
Here are the five drivers I selected for Fantasy Live for the race at Auto Club:
Driver 1: Kevin Harvick $28.00
Driver 2: Kurt Busch $22.00
Driver 3: Carl Edwards $22.25
Driver 4: Martin Truex Jr. $18.25
Driver 5: Brian Scott $8.50
Pick to Win: Kevin Harvick
* Driver prices based on prices at Phoenix
Fox Fantasy Racing
The strategy for Fox Fantasy Racing remains the same this week. Select drivers who start the race in the back of the field and have a good chance of finishing up front. Since the game only gives one point for leading laps, a driver who starts first and leads the most laps will be outscored by a driver who starts 25th, finished 10th and leads one lap. Where a driver qualifies is very important in selecting your team.
Here are my selections for Fox Fantasy Racing for Auto Club:
Driver 1: Joey Logano $13,200
Driver 2: Jimmie Johnson $10,700
Driver 3: Matt Kenseth $11,800
Driver 4: Kurt Busch $7,600
Driver 5: David Ragan $6,600
* Driver prices based on prices at Phoenix