The third stop on the Nascar tour takes a trip to sunny California. Sunday will see the stars of the Nascar Cup Series in action for the Auto Club 400 from Fontana. This race has been one of the most exciting stops on tour. The track is aging expect more exciting racing yet to come.
If you have taken our advice to start the year on who to pick you are two for four. This Sunday, we hope to make you a believer once again. Here are the best bets, value picks and upsets to watch in the Auto Club 400.
Shining Stars in the Auto Club 400
The favorites in this race will be some interesting picks but also ones that you probably will see here quite often. This is the next event to find out who is fast and who’s not at these tracks. Ford and Chevy look to be to the top of the board once again in fact the Chevrolet’s have three cars in the top five qualifying spots and each manufacturer has five in the top five. Toyota is no where to be found with their fastest being 17th.
Sunday’s Auto Club 400 odds on favorite is none other than California’s own Kevin Harvick. The Bakersfield native will start 5th in Sunday’s race and won here in 2011. Harvick is listed at +600 which won’t get you too much unless you put a good amount into but he is still very good in Southern California.
Kyle Busch is the fastest Toyota starting 17th and will also be a solid pick at +650. Much like Harvick, Busch is fast at Auto Club Speedway and is only one of two drivers in the field to visit victory lane three times. Jimmie Johnson is the other. Busch will have to work his way through traffic but has a solid car and good team, expect the Candy Man to get to the front in a hurry.
One name we haven’t mentioned much of this year is another California kid, Kyle Larson. The Elk Grove native is listed at +700 and he’s been outstanding at Auto Club in his entire Nascar career. He dominated the 2017 version of this race winning from the pole. Larson will roll off 9th on Sunday and with his fast car and good numbers traditionally, that’s a pick to look at.
Team Penske Take Over?
Team Penske is well represented in the favorites category. Last week’s winner, Joey Logano is the best one in the eyes of the sports books at +650. He has never won in Fontana but has always been near the front.
Brad Keselowski is listed at +750 which is somewhat low for a guy who runs well at this track. He was able to capture the win here in 2015 and will look for his second win here Sunday.
Ryan Blaney may be listed as the lowest of the trio at +850 but might be the most consistent so far this year. Blaney is currently the points leader after two great runs now he’d like to see his Ford in victory lane.
The final favorite is Alex Bowman who has been bad fast this weekend. He won practice after he posted the quickest time in each practice session. Then, Bowman goes out in qualifying and will roll off 3rd. His Hendrick Motorsports Chevy might just be too tough come green flag on the Auto Club 400.
Value Pick Ups and Possible Winners
This group will have some names that normally fall here and some that you probably wouldn’t expect. Let’s start that off with a couple of Toyota’s.
Martin Truex Jr and Denny Hamlin both are listed as value picks because of their poor qualifying efforts. Well Truex didn’t even get an effort after failing inspection three times and that means he will start last. Truex is listed at +1000 and could find a way to work the traffic to the front and pick up his second win in California.
Hamlin is settled at +2800 and if you are smart you go put $5 on him to win. Here’s why, despite him never winning here, Hamlin is always near the front at the end. He has been wrecked twice coming to the checkered flag and has been kept out of victory lane. Even after a poor qualifying effort of 28th, Hamlin can still work his way to the front. This will be the highest number next to Hamlin the rest of the year.
In his final start at Auto Club Speedway Jimmie Johnson’s daughters will wave the green flag to get the race started. Johnson answered the call by going out and getting to be on the front row for the start. He drove his Ally Chevy to P2 in qualifying. In fact, it came down to the final corner and Johnson just missed out. He is listed at +1200 and this may be his best shot at a win in a long time. He is coming off of a great run in Vegas so expect seven-time to be near the front. Oh by the way, he has won the Auto Club 400 three times.
Outside Looking In
The pole sitter is Clint Bowyer who snagged only the fourth pole of his career by edging out Johnson. Bowyer has had a fast car and it showed as he stuck it on the front row. For Bowyer and company he is listed at +2000 which he is benefitting from since taking the pole. He typically runs well at these two mile type tracks including a win a couple of season ago in a rain shortened race at Michigan.
Other drivers in this group who really stand out as contenders include Aric Almirola and Matt DiBenedetto. Both drivers run Fords and both drivers will roll off inside the top 15.
Almirola will start 6th and showed lots of speed in practice as well as during his qualifying lap. Now he sits at +3000 which is almost a steal for him in a race that shows so much promise for Stewart Haas Racing. Get him while he’s hot.
DiBenedetto has been a great story. He moves over to the Wood Brothers famed 21 car and finished second last week in Vegas. He will start 12th in Sunday’s Auto Club 400 and also goes off at +2800. There is a lot of momentum under his seat right now and expect DiBenedetto to be there at the end.
Underdogs in the Auto Club 400
The story of the underdogs doesn’t have to go any further than Ricky Stenhouse Jr. He has revitalized his career since moving to JTG Daugherty Racing this offseason. The Mississippi native has seen his better days at the top level but in the first two races he has been a bright spot. Stenhouse Jr won the pole at Daytona and then finishes 3rd in Vegas. Sunday the fairy tale continues as he will start 10th in the Auto Club 400. He is listed at +12500 and if you don’t think he can’t win this race then you haven’t watched one lap yet this year.
How about the story that is Bubba Wallace? He has been making that Richard Petty Motorsports team better and better each week and with the addition of crew chief Jerry Baxter, the team is on the upswing. Wallace starts 14th and could be one of those upset picks and win his first career Cup Series race in Fontana. Wallace is listed at +30000.
Final underdog driver to take a lookout is Michael McDowell. He took his Front Row Motorsports Ford to the Top 10 in qualifying and he could be mixing it up with the traditional front runners all day long.
Who to Pick?
Once again, there are so many options in this running of the Auto Club 400. Drivers like Harvick and Logano come to mind pretty easily but there are some guys who have been putting it together here lately like a Johnson or a Bowman.
This may be a day where you look at the match-ups or if you do fantasy picks to select form instead of just an outright odds winner. But what fun is that?
Value Pick and Upset Pick
This week’s value pick is a tough one because of the amount of good drivers out there. Drivers like a Hamlin or Truex, make this pick tricky but something just feels different, especially this week. Jimmie Johnson, has a lot going on with his girls waving the green flag and the tributes that have been gifted to him at and from Auto Club Speedway. The value pick is going to be Jimmie Johnson, stay tuned he may be the pick to win.
— Jimmie Johnson (@JimmieJohnson) February 29, 2020
This week’s upset pick will be in the value category but let’s take Matt DiBenedetto. The driver for the Wood Brothers is very fast and is showing what kind of driver he can be. At +3000 you will not be able to stay away from him.
The Pick for the Auto Club 400 is…?
After picking the winner right with Joey Logano last week, we look to make it back to back and three of the first five races. As previously said, Harvick and Logano are hard to go away from but this week there is that feeling of someone that you least expect to take the flag. The Ford’s have been fast and as shown with Bowyer getting the pole.
Alex Bowman has been fast and is getting better as a driver each time out. Johnson is slowly starting to make strides back to form and Larson has been strong all out of the Chevy camp. This week is just tough to decide who stands out. This week’s pick is…
Bowman is fast and showed it with dominating the practice sessions. He rolls off 3rd and if you want to take it to the bank give the driver of the #88 your bet for the Auto Club 400. He is a favorite at +850 and still gives you some playing room as well. Take him in all fantasy and daily fantasy lineups as well.
The green flag drops on the Auto Club 400 from Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California at 3:30pm EST on FOX and MRN.