Fantasy Live: Auto Club 400

Dan Beaver

A couple of the top teams last week will be looking to ride the wave of momentum into California. Team Penske, and Hendrick Motorsports have traditionally been strong on this track and it is likely that their seven drivers will dominate the top-15.

Last week was rough for Joe Gibbs Racing. Caught coloring outside the lines before technical inspection, they came out of the garage last and never really gained speed. Currently Kyle Busch and Erik Jones are outside of playoff contention. Martin Truex Jr. barely cracked the top 16 after his modest effort in Las Vegas. And while it is much too early to panic, they need strong runs to stop their downward slide.

Meanwhile, Matt DiBenedetto, Bubba Wallace, Corey LaJoie, Chris Buescher, and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. have shown impressive numbers out of the gate. Don’t get caught napping where the sleepers are concerned. Early in the season is a great time to gamble.

Joey Logano
The 2-mile tracks are rhythm courses and the driver with the top-10 beat most often in the past six seasons has been Logano. In allocation management games, players need a very good reason to hold onto a driver two weeks in a row and the driver of the No. 22 provides that in the form of an 83.3% top-10 ratio since 2013. It would be even better (88.9%) if not for the errant strategy employed by all three Team Penske drivers last August. At Auto Club specifically, Logano enters the weekend with a four-race streak of top-fives. He hasn’t won there yet, but he came up just one spot shy last year.  

Brad Keselowski
Ultimately Keselowski earned a strong finish last week in Las Vegas, but he was not as dominant as we thought he’d be. He burned his tires off during the first stage and spent much of the afternoon trying to recapture lost track position. He survived the final frenetic laps with a top-10 and should carry that momentum to Auto Club. On this 2-mile course he has three consecutive top-fives to his credit and five straight top-10s. One of these was a victory in 2015.

Kyle Busch
Busch sustained crash damage in the 2016 Auto Club 400. Other than that, he has been perfect in regard to top-10 finishes since 2011. In fact, six of his last eight attempts ended in top-three results including three wins (2013, 2014, and 2019). Busch has had a difficult two weeks. He languishes 27th in the points standings – 25 markers behind 16th-place Martin Truex Jr. – but he knows that one win can completely change a driver’s season. Busch will either challenge for the win this week or crash trying.

Kevin Harvick
Harvick has been a little uneven at Auto Club in recent years. The same thing was true of him at Las Vegas until last week when he posted another stellar performance. That showing earned the second-most points in the NASCAR Fantasy Live game. Thirteen of these points came in the first two segments. When Harvick brings his ‘A’ game to California, he is great. He won the 2011 edition of this race and finished second in 2010, 2015, and 2016. Last year he finished fourth, which is part of a five-race streak of top-seven results on 2-mile tracks. Two of these were victories on the sister track of Michigan.

Value Pick

Austin Dillon
At some point in the season, you will have to go deeper in the lineup and take a risk. If you survived Daytona and the chaotic end of the Pennzoil 400 last week, now might be the time to roll the dice on Dillon. He sits seventh in the points standings ahead of several of last year’s powerhouses. Dillon has been the model of consistency in Southern California with results of 10th or 11th in his last three Auto Club starts. He’s been almost as strong at Michigan and has seven top-15s in the last nine races on this track type. He was one of our drivers to watch at Vegas [https://www.rotoworld.com/article/chasing-cup/four-watch-vegas-austin-dillon] and we watched him score a top-10. He could easily get another this week.

Garage Pick

Kyle Larson
In another season, Larson would easily be one of the favorites at Auto Club. He won the 2017 edition of this race, which was part of a four-race streak of wins on 2-milers and a six-race, top-three streak. He’s not infallible, however; bookending that streak is a 39th in the 2016 Auto Club 400 and a 28th in the 2018 Firekeepers Casino 400. His next three races on this track type ended in results of 12th through 17th. He deserves the garage slot this week because of a third-place finish last August in Michigan 2.

Red Flag

Clint Bowyer
Bowyer could be front of mind for several competitors this week based on his dramatic win over Kevin Harvick in Michigan two years ago and his third-place finish in the 2017 Auto Club 400. Those are his only top-10s in the last four years on 2-milers, however, and even with them factored in, his average is 22.25. Last year Bowyer failed to finish any of the three races on this course type after qualifying among the top 10 each time. Don’t get lulled into a false sense of security if he is fast in time trials.  

NASCAR America “Beat the Broadcasters”

In the NASCAR America “Beat the Broadcasters” league, Dale Jarrett jumped into first place with 377 points. That placed him 52nd overall. Kelli Stavast is close on his heels with 373 points. Daniel McFaddin climbed from sixth to third with Nate Ryan fourth. Last week’s leader Steve Letarte faded to fifth. After seeing all of his drivers crash out of Daytona, your intrepid writer finished second among the broadcasters at Vegas with 210 points.

Auto Club Coverage

Auto Club 400 Cheat Sheet
Power Rankings after Las Vegas 1
Four to Watch at Auto Club: Kyle Larson
Four to Watch at Auto Club: Daniel Suarez

Segment Points,
Auto Club L 3Yrs

Driver

Segment
Points

Segments
earning #

Kyle Busch

47

6

Martin Truex Jr.

39

4

Joey Logano

36

6

Kyle Larson

27

4

Erik Jones

26

6

Brad Keselowski

26

4

Denny Hamlin

21

6

Chase Elliott

17

3

Clint Bowyer

16

4

Jimmie Johnson

13

3

Ryan Blaney

12

3

Kevin Harvick

12

2

Jamie McMurray

12

2

Aric Almirola

11

2

Kurt Busch

7

2

Daniel Suarez

6

1

William Byron

1

1

Daniel Hemric

1

1