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Race Preview and Fantasy Predictions: Auto Club 500

By admin | February 18, 2009

By Richard Allen

 

Track and Location: Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California.

Track Layout: 2 mile D-shaped oval with 14 degrees of banking in the turns and 11 degrees of banking on the front stretch.

Date of Race: Sunday, February 22, 2009

Radio Coverage: MRN(5:30 Eastern)

Television Coverage: Fox(5:00 Eastern)

Start Time: 6:15(Eastern)

If there is one track that best exemplifies old time NASCAR fans dislike of the direction the sport has taken over the last ten years or so it would be the Auto Club Speedway located just outside of Los Angeles.

The Daytona 500 does not teach fantasy players or anyone else what to expect over the course of an entire season. This race, however, will reveal a great deal as to who will be strong contenders and who will not in 2009. There are so many tracks on the NASCAR Sprint Cup schedule with similar characteristics as this facility.

Just because the series is moving to sunny Southern California does not guarantee good weather. It has rained for much of the last couple of weeks in the L.A. area. And, this race was actually completed on a Monday last year due to rain.

It will be interesting to see just how many people show up for this event. The nation’s economy is bad and California’s economy is worse. Couple that with the fact there really isn’t that much interest for NASCAR in the L.A. area and there is the potential for a lot of empty seats.

Here is some advice for fantasy players for the Auto Club 500. Keep in mind that much of this advice is based primarily on the ESPN Fantasy Stock Car Challenge game(which is still open so see details below for how to join). However, it may be applied to just about any fantasy game.

Drivers who should do well: With the restrictions on testing look for the drivers who did well on this and similar tracks last year to do well this year. With that said, Roush Fenway Racing, Joe Gibbs Racing, Hendrick Motorsports and Richard Childress Racing are certain to dominate the Top 10.

Carl Edwards- The Roush Fenway team may well be the favorites coming into this race and Edwards may be the favorite among that team. Of his nine wins in 2008 six of them came on these 1.5- 2 mile tracks, including a win in this race a year ago.

Matt Kenseth- Every fantasy team should include at least one Roush Fenway driver. At his current price on the ESPN game, the Daytona 500 champion is still probably the best buy of the bunch.

Jimmie Johnson- He had a 1st and a 2nd in the two California races last year. He comes at a high price but usually proves to be worth it.

Kevin Harvick- He was 4th and 8th on this track a year ago. However, he may be a bit pricy at his current rate.

Kasey Kahne- He had two Top 10s here last year and at his current price may be the best value on the board.

David Reutimann- He finished 9th in the fall race here last year. Having him could free up money for higher priced drivers.

Drivers to avoid: Any drivers not from the teams mentioned above are really fighting an uphill battle. Although there will be drivers from outside the ‘Big 4’ to do well, there will be more who struggle.

Joey Logano- Here is one driver who is from one of the top teams but was clearly uncomfortable in Daytona. In all likelihood, he find his way at some point this season but it may be best for fantasy players to make him prove himself first.

Jamie McMurray- Even though he drives for RFR his best finish on this track last year was only a 22nd.

Tony Stewart- He had a good Speedweeks in Daytona but that is an entirely different animal from this type track. This is a new team and it may need to prove its worth before players invest too much money on Stewart.

Martin Truex- Despite the pole in Daytona this Earnhardt- Ganassi Racing organization is another that needs to prove its worth.

Winner of the Auto Club 500: Jimmie Johnson

These are only suggestions. Do your own research and enjoy the Auto Club 500.

Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly column appears in The Mountain Press every Wednesday.

* I have established a fantasy league on the ESPN Fantasy Stock Car Challenge site. Click on the link below and use the information below the link to join in and have some fun.

http://games.espn.go.com/stockcar/frontpage

Click on ‘join a league’.

Group name: RacingWithRich.com

Group password: fantasy2009

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