Who will get their first 2014 trip to Victory Lane today?
If Saturday’s sensational NASCAR Nationwide Series race was any indication, today’s Auto Club 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Auto Club Speedway ought to be a barnburner.
The worn-out pavement at ACS – the oldest racing surface of any NASCAR oval track – and 85-foot wide surface make passing easy and gives drivers multiple racing lines. Depending on setup, there are at least three good lines around the track and maybe four. All race long, expect drivers to move up and down the track as they battle for positions.
Some things to look for today:
FIRST-TIME WINNERS – The first four races of the season have produced four different winners, and there’s no reason to think there won’t be a fifth today. Pole-sitter Matt Kenseth, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Joey Logano and Clint Bowyer are among the drivers who are looking for their first victory of 2014 and so far at ACS have been fast. Don’t count out Kenseth’s Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin, either.
TIRE ISSUES – There were at least eight tire failures on Saturday, mostly on the left rear. Five of the eight tire failures came on the Penske Racing Fords of Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano. According to Goodyear, the problems were caused by a combination of too-low air pressure and too much camber in the left-rear tires. Teams, especially Penske, will have to walk a careful balance to make sure they can make their tires last without slowing their cars down too much.
SHR SPEEDY – It’s been an erratic season for the newly expanded Stewart-Haas Racing team. Kevin Harvick already has one race victory and has been fast everywhere he’s raced. Harvick will start fourth and is one of the clear favorites to win today. He will be tough to beat. His boss and buddy Tony Stewart starts 10th and is coming off his first top-five finish of the year. And keep an eye out of Kurt Busch, who has had rotten luck this year but is a past champion. As usual, Danica Patrick is well back of her teammates and does not figure to be a factor in today’s outcome.
KYLE THE KID – On Saturday, 21-year-old Kyle Larson put on a fantastic display of racing over the final 15 laps to hold off Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch and win the NASCAR Nationwide Series race. Despite intense pressure from the two veteran drivers, Larson held on for his first series victory. Today, Larson rolls off 11th, best of any of the rookies in the field, and it’s not farfetched to think he could win again in the Cup race.
SELLOUT – The transformation at Auto Club Speedway in the past few years has been nothing short of amazing. This used to be one of the most boring races on the circuit and one of the worst attended. Now, ACS produces thrilling racing and the track has sold out all 68,000 grandstand seats. The weather is perfect and we should be in for a great afternoon of racing.