The NASCAR Sprint Cup teams travel back to the west, this time all the way to the Greater Los Angeles area for the Auto Club 400 in Fontana, California. They will race at the two mile D-shaped oval of Auto Club Speedway.
NASCAR no longer races twice a year in Southern California so this will be the only time the 20 million folks who live in the area will be able to see a Sprint Cup race. The Cup drivers first started running at Fontana 15 years ago (California native Jeff Gordon won) with the last winner being California native Kevin Harvick (source - L.A. Times). So who might be a favorite to win at Fontana in 2012? Here are five possibilities listed alphabetically.
Kyle Busch - A lot is expected of him and so far this year, he hasn't really delivered but Kyle has a win and a pole at Fontana plus finished third last March. He's always a threat to win every time he puts on a helmet.
Carl Edwards - He too has a win and a pole at the two mile track and Edwards also is a driver who should be considered a favorite every time he suits up for a race. He has 11 Top 10 finishes in 14 starts in Southern California which should mean he'll be a race winning contender.
Jimmie Johnson - He calls Fontana his home track and home cooking must be agreeable to the native Southern Californian because he has five wins and an astounding total of 12 top three's in 17 races. He's probably the overall favorite - although he might be without his crew chief Chad Knaus which is the big news story everyone is following.
Matt Kenseth - Okay, throw out two races, one in 2010 and one in 2009. Now what has Kenseth done over the last 12 races? No finish out of the top seven with three wins over that same period. He has to be considered highly for another win in 2012.
Tony Stewart - He bagged a win two years ago at Auto Club Speedway and has stayed in the Top 10 in four of the last five contests in Fontana. He should be a contender again this year.
A couple of other drivers who may be top five contenders are Jeff Gordon and Kevin Harvick. Gordon's success has been hit or miss at the big two mile oval while Harvick didn't used to do too well at Fontana but won last year which gave him four Top 10s in-a-row.
My only idea for a longshot is to check out the Michael Waltrip Racing threesome of Clint Bowyer, Martin Truex Jr. and Mark Martin. Bowyer was always solid here when he was with Childress; Truex is a hot driver right now; and Martin has been consistently in the top 10 recently at Fontana.
I've spent a lot of time going to many races at California Speedway - and it's worth every penny. The facility holds roughly 90,000 seats and it's a beautiful track with all the amenities. The race will start at 11:30 AM Pacific time on March 25. Tickets are available though they may be on pace to sell 90% of the seats on hand.
Source - Racing Reference, NASCAR
Daryle has been involved in motorsports most of his life and has three decades of experience inside racemarketing, plus blogged about every type of racing for several years.