The Auto Club 400 will be the second race with the full NASCAR Monster Energy Series rules package including the aero ducts that were used at Las Vegas. The Auto Club’s old and weathered surface is one of the oldest Nascar will race on this season, and should come into play this week. It hasn’t been resurfaced since the 90’s, which is a very long time in today’s Nascar. Handling and tire management will be a big priority throughout the week. Goodyear did tire testing at Auto Club back in January, and although conditions will be different this week, hopefully tires won’t spoil what should be a great race. The track is longer than the last few races which also brings other factors into play, such as drafting and horsepower. Dominator points here could play a role given that five of the last six races have seen a driver lead 100 or more laps in each. Leading all those laps doesn’t insure victory though, as only 3 of the five have actually won the race. Auto Club is a difficult track to come from the back of the field to the front on race day, so we want to keep that in mind when building lines. Lastly, Auto Club has a high line. There are a handful of drivers in Nascar that excel using that groove, and that’s a definite advantage we want to have a share of. Two notable drivers among that group are listed below, and are high priorities this week.
I’m adding something new this week at the end of the article. Drivers with dominator potential, and drivers that should provide fantastic positional movement. As always, my articles are directed at DK gpp formats, but I will be around in chat to discuss FD options and cash plays for those players interested. Let’s get to it.
Kyle Busch (12600) – Busch is a three-time winner at Auto Club Speedway and should be everyone’s favorite again this year. He takes over the top salary on DK this week, and with good reason. He won his inaugural race here, and with the exception of a single race where a flat tire took him out of contention, he has averaged an incredible finishing position of 3rd. He finished no worse than 5th place on 2 mile ovals for the entirety of the 2018 season last year. Another notable stat is that Busch is off to an incredible start to the 2019 season, having started eight races in all Nascar series combined forms, and won FIVE of them, while finishing no worse than sixth in any. Busch, despite his price tag, needs to be considered again this week.
Brad Keselowski (11500) – Keselowski won at Auto Club in 2015 and also has the best average finish in Nascar at Auto Club over the last four races here. He’s on an incredible roll at present with a 1st and 2nd in the last two races. He hasn’t led a lot of laps at Auto Club including in the race he won, but in his typical fashion, he is a late charger and always seems to find his way to the front here. Keselowski has a better starting spot than his teammate Logano, but they project as similar value, as they do most weeks. Keselowski has steadily climbed up my priority list this week with the 2nd best 20 lap avg in practice, as well as the 5th best 15 lap avg.
Kyle Larson (10800) – Larson should be on everyone’s radar this week. I’ll start with his most important stat line….Larson has won 4 of the last 9 races on this track type. Last year, despite repeated incidents that dropped him back in the field, he still made his way to the front for a runner up finish, and won here the year before. Larson will always be boom or bust, as trouble sometimes finds him with his aggressive driving style, but if there was ever a track type you want to go for the boom with him on, this is it. He loves running up high, and this is one of the most beneficial tracks on the circuit for doing so. He hasn’t had the best practice speeds this week and slapped the wall on Saturday morning, complaining his car has been loose. That said, he starts near the middle of the field, and should be a great play on Sunday.
Joey Logano (10400) – Logano is the poster child of consistency here, having finished between 4th and 7th in each of the last four races at Auto Club. He’s a teammate of Keselowski and is similarly good on intermediate to 2 mile tracks. They provide nearly the same projected totals week in and week out (depending on starting position), so while DK continues to price Logano lower, I plan to have him on my radar and take full advantage of that extra value. Keselowski has a better starting position for DFS, but Logano is still in play. For those that play cash, his consistency at Auto Club is a fantastic asset. He had the best long run speed in practice this week.
Martin Truex Jr. (10000) – Truex Jr. will be on everyone’s short list this week, and is priority number one for me as well. He slipped in qualifying, starts in the back, and should be locked in everyone’s lineups. Last year he dominated here, and raced his way to victory lane. He’s been running strong in recent weeks, and it would be easy to see him repeat last year’s success here. At his discounted price comparative to the other top tier drivers, I expect his ownership numbers to be very high. That’s just a marginal issue in Nascar racing however, as we still want high owned drivers if they’re projected to get dominator points because of field size. He won both stages here last year (and 3 of the last 4 here overall, since Nascar went to stage racing), on his way to winning the race. He lead 125 laps along the way, and has as good of a recent history leading laps here, as any driver in the field. He’s still looking for that first win with his new team, but he’s been competitive and running up front throughout the races nearly every week. You’ll need to be patient early in the race this week, as he works his way thru the field. Keep in mind his dominator points will be leaner than some others starting up front, but coupled with positional points, he could be in for a huge week.
Kurt Busch (9100) – Busch is very solid at Auto Club and could be a sneaky play this week. He’s not done well here in recent years, but overall he projects much better. He’s having a great year with his new Chevy team, and we’re going to have to find value somewhere to get the top plays in. I’m not sure Busch gives us the value we’re looking for as he’s well above what could be considered a discounted salary now (DK has finally caught up with his great start), but he needs to be considered. He starts towards the back, and the positional points should be there. The Chevys love the draft as well, so there’s that. I’m hoping with his recent bad results here, that everyone outside of FTA won’t dig deeper and see that he’s a former winner at Auto Club who also has 19 top tens in his 25 starts here. His 20 lap avg was 7th best in the final practice session.
Erik Jones (8200) – Jones has been a great middle of the pack pick so far this season. If you’re looking for someone in this price range, he’s a solid pick. His teammates are among the best in Nascar, and his ride is rumored to be on the line this year, with Christopher Bell up and coming in the Gibbs organization. He’s on the hot seat, and he knows it. He didn’t have a good race last week, but his starting position this week provides great opportunity for DK positional points. He has the 5th best driver rating here over the last two years, which is fantastic at this price, IF he can do it again this year. Overall, he was outside the top ten in Nascar at 2 mile tracks last season, but just barely. Jones is averaging nearly the same exact results this year on intermediate tracks at this point of the season. Think 10th place as a solid average finishing position for him this week. He had the best 15 lap avg in the final practice session, and is good to go for lines this week.
Alex Bowman (7000) – Bowman will be part of my core lineup this week, and is priority number two for me. He projects as the second best value of all drivers on DK. He’s priced on the low side for the consistency he provides weekly. Auto Club has a high line, something Bowman excels at, and that’s a great asset here, with tire wear an issue down on the low line. Bowman isn’t someone you expect to win here, but he has a history of running close to, if not just inside the top ten on intermediate tracks, and that’s great value for someone at his price, especially given his starting spot. On an intermediate track with a high line, that value ramps up quickly. Having the 6th best 15 lap avg in late practice only makes him that much more appealing.
Paul Menard (6700) – Menard hasn’t looked good in recent weeks, but it doesn’t change his value when starting in the rear of the field. He also hasn’t turned any heads in practice this week, as he’s steadily been middle of the pack. He’s simply priced too low however, given he is someone that could easily finish in the top ten here. I think expectations of mid teens is more realistic, but at his price, that’s still great value. He’s someone to consider when looking to round out a line after filling in studs at the top end. He’s finished in the top ten here in roughly half of his starts at Auto Club.
Ryan Preece (6200) – Preece has been a mystery so far this year. I don’t think anyone expected him to be a frontrunner for RoY, but that’s a definite reality. He didn’t have a very good race last week, but he clearly has the talent to finish well in any given race considering his other starts this season. He starts in the back, and if he can avoid going down laps in stage one, he could easily pay off his salary this week. He ran well at Atlanta, which is very similar in size and track surface. Think mid to high teens on Sunday.
Other drivers I like are Blaney, Hemric, Byron, and JJ (purely based off of his history here, but he starts 11th, use with caution if you must).
Fades for me this week are Austin Dillon, and Ryan Newman (lost his crew chief for the week due to inspection failures).
Drivers with dominator potential this week are Kyle Busch, and Harvick.
Movers this week are Truex, Kurt Busch, and Larson.
My pick to win the race this week is Kyle Busch. Rowdy is on a roll, and there’s no reason to suspect that will change this week.NASCAR