This weekend we've got the latest run at Auto Club Speedway, and, as all races are this time of year, this one's absolutely critical for anyone hoping to make a run at the Cup. Obviously, all these guys have run here often and well; the only past winners at the track in the 15 races since 2001 who aren't members of the Chase Class of 2010 are Elliott Sadler (2004) and Kasey Kahne (2006).
But just how well have they run? Let's take a look at the last five races. And this is going to be painful for some of you, I'm afraid. In descending order of average finish:
1. Jimmie Johnson (average finish 2.8): Three wins, a second place and a ninth-place finish will do that for you. Worst news for anti-Jimmie fans? If we'd gone back and included a sixth race, he won that one too.
2. Matt Kenseth (average finish 6.2): Here's a surprise. Kenseth has four top-10s, including a win. Cali suits him. Who'd have thunk it?
3. Carl Edwards (average finish 6.6): Aside from Johnson and Kenseth, Edwards has the only other win in the last five races, in 2008. He also has three other top-10 finishes.
4. Jeff Gordon (average finish 8.4): Reliable running, with two second-place finishes and one third-place finish in the mix.
5. (tie) Greg Biffle (average finish 10.2): Not a bad career here, with a fourth-place and a second-place in his resumé.
(tie) Tony Stewart (average finish 10.2): Four top 10s, but they're all in the lower reaches of the top 10.
7. Kyle Busch (average finish 10.4): Three top 10s, but a 24th-place finish drags him down.
8. Kevin Harvick (average finish 12.4): Harvick is a strong competitor here, with four top 10s, including a second-place finish, but a 38th-place finish dragged him down here.
9. Clint Bowyer (average finish 13.0): Not a particularly good track for Bowyer; no better finish than 8th in recent runs.
10. Kurt Busch (average finish 14.2): As with Harvick, he has four good runs dragged down by one 39th-place finish.
11. Jeff Burton (average finish 18.8): He has one third-place finish, but other than that, it's a weak slate for Burton.
12. Denny Hamlin (average finish 23.2): Uh-oh. Hamlin has a sixth- and a third-place finish, but he's also got a 29th, a 37th and a 41st place on the resume. Not so good.
So there you go. Recent history predicts Johnson will win in a rout. Now, past performance is no indicator of future results, as they say, but boy — this is a fairly definitive statement on the state of California racing, isn't it?