NASCAR’s west coast swing finishes off this weekend in California at Auto Club Speedway–sometimes referred to as Fontana–with the Auto Club 400. This is a 2-mile race track in which events have a history of coming down to fuel mileage…unfortunately. We’re officially four races into the 2015 season so those mid-tier drivers with momentum will come back down to earth soon–use them while you can. What’s interesting with Fontana is that there are few drivers that consistently finish up front. With that being said, I expect the drivers that were fast at Atlanta and Las Vegas to have a small advantage this weekend as well.
Fantasy Favorites for Fontana
Jimmie Johnson – “Six Time” has ended up 24th, 12th, and 10th in the last three races at Auto Club Speedway but he still has to be considered one of the favorites heading into Sunday. Even with those subpar results, Johnson owns a crazy-awesome career average finish of 6.7 at this venue–his home race track. Yeah, his stats are that good. In the nine races ran here from 2007 to 2011, Johnson ended up 3rd or better in all but one. The exception? A 9th-place finish in 2009. Looking at the two intermediate races thus far in 2015, JJ won at Atlanta and had one of the best cars at Las Vegas before tire issues delegated him to a 41st-place result. Don’t worry: as long as the #48 Chevrolet doesn’t have any mechanical issues at Fontana on Sunday, Jimmie Johnson should definitely challenge for the win. In The Showcase, “Six Time” will receive 4 handicap points for this weekend’s race, which is a pretty good value when you consider he could win the race (5 bonus points) as well as lead the most laps (5 more bonus points). If all of that happens, Jimmie will score 57 points at Fontana, and 114 if he’s your All Star pick.
Kevin Harvick – Is there really an explanation needed here? Kevin Harvick has an average finish of 1.3 over the last six Sprint Cup races. That wasn’t a typo; “Happy” hasn’t had a result worse than 2nd in NASCAR’s top series since the Martinsville race last October. Seriously. With that being said, there should be quite a few fantasy racers that shy away from the #4 Chevrolet this weekend due to Kevin’s rocky record here at Fontana. Over 21 career starts at this race track, Harvick has a career average finish of just 16.4 with only one win and four top 5s. Still, it’s impossible to go against a team that’s this hot; the streak that Harvick and co. are on right now is one of the most impressive I’ve seen in a long time. As I’ve said a few times this year, I truly believe the Kevin Harvick/Rodney Childers match-up should be called Jimmie Johnson/Chad Knaus 2.0. In The Showcase, Harvick will receive 0 handicap points for the race at Fontana, which is to be expected. As usual with those who are set at this level, I’d probably look into alternative options unless you think he can go to victory lane, which is more than likely this weekend.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. – Yeah, a lot of fantasy players got burned by Dale Earnhardt, Jr.’s finish at Phoenix last weekend, but in these games you have to have a short memory or you’re probably not going to succeed. Junior is one of the better racers in the Sprint Cup Series on these 2-mile race tracks and that should be the case once again on Sunday at Fontana. He ended up 12th in this race last season but let’s not forget that Dale was 3rd and 2nd in the two races here in 2012 and 2013. Looking at the two intermediate races we have ran already this year, the #88 Chevrolet came home 3rd at Atlanta and 4th at Las Vegas. I see no reason why Junior won’t be a top 5 threat again on Sunday. In The Showcase, Earnhardt will receive a generous 5 handicap points this week because of his middle-of-the-road average finish in the last six Fontana races as well as his finish last week at Phoenix (it really brought down his average over the last six overall Cup races). This is excellent value for a driver that is a typical top 5 threat on race days.