Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 14:05 PM
Best Bets - Auto Club
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Each week during the Monster Energy Cup Series (MENCS) regular season through the Chase, we'll take a look at the best Fantasy plays, as well as Futures and Wagers when applicable, to get you ready for the upcoming race week.
The MENCS West Coast swing continues at Auto Club Speedway in California before the circuit heads back east next weekend. The race is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. ET.
Stewart-Haas Racing's Kevin Harvick (3/1) posted his third consecutive victory last weekend in Phoenx, now he sets his sights on a fourth straight checkered flag. In NASCAR's modern era, eight drivers have picked up wins in four consecutive weekends, with five of those drivers going on to win the series championship. In case you were wondering, Cale Yarbrough accomplished the feat in 1976, Darrell Waltrip did it in 1981, Dale Earnhardt Sr. turned the trick in 1987, Harry Gant rolled to Victory Lane in four straight back in 1991, Bill Elliott did it the following year in 1992, Mark Martin followed suit with four straight wins in 1993, Jeff Gordon did it in 1998 and won a championship and Jimmie Johnson was the latest to post four straight wins in his 2007 championship season.
According to NASCAR's Loop Data, Harvick ranks third in Driver Rating (105.6) over the past five seasons at Fontana, leading 177 laps, most among all drivers. He has managed 134 fastest laps during the span, too, most among all drivers. The dominance of the No. 4 could continue, although he has run just 66.6 percent of his laps inside the Top 15. In 24 career starts at the California track he has picked up just one victory, but 11 of his 24 starts have resulted in a Top 10 finish and he has a respectable 15.0 Average-Finish Position (AFP) overall with just two DNFs. He has also finished outside of the Top 20 on just seven occasions at Auto Club.
The big news from Hendrick Motorsports is that Lowe's will end their sponsorship of Jimmie Johnson (20/1) in the No. 48 Chevrolet. A trying season for the seven-time champion takes yet another turn. He hasn't finished higher than 14th in any of his four starts this season, although there isn't a ton of concern with crew chief Chad Knaus and the No. 48 team just yet. They know one race win could turn things right around. The turnaround could come at Auto Club, a track he has dominated over the years. As such, he is a nice betting and fantasy value. He has made 23 starts at California, winning six times, which is twice as many as any other active driver. He has a 7.1 AFP with 13 finishes inside the Top 5, no DNFs and a whopping 980 laps led. Across the past five runs at Auto Club he ranks fifth in Driver Rating (101.4), posting 77 fastest laps, tied for second during the stretch. Johnson will go off 33rd and it's almost a guarantee for DFS players that he will finish with plenty of positive Place Differential points.
Johnson's teammate, Chase Elliott (12/1) doesn't have a lengthy history in California, but his two MENCS starts at Auto Club have been outstanding. He has finished sixth and 10th in his two starts, leading five total laps while turning in an 8.0 AFP. Loop Data shows him second among with a 109.0 Driver Rating, running 96.6 percent of his laps inside the Top 15. Elliott is set to start 31st on Sunday. Another young gun, California native Kyle Larson (4/1) was on the pole last season at Auto Club, and he ended up picking up the victory after leading 110 of his 202 laps. He has four career Cup starts at Fontana, managing a 17.0 AFP. He'll go off third on Sunday afternoon.
Joe Gibbs Racing's Kyle Busch (4/1) is among the favorites this weekend, and rightly so. Over the past five Auto Club races he tops the charts with a 116.5 Driver Rating while running 95.9 percent of his laps inside the Top 15. He has been out front of the pack for 137 laps, second-most among all drivers, while tying J.J. with 77 fastest laps during the five-year span. The Las Vegas native has fared well in SoCal, going for three wins across 19 career starts while managing an impressive 10.8 AFP. Rowdy will go off on the outside of Row 1 next to the pole sitter.
Busch's teammate Erik Jones (20/1) doesn't have nearly the same kind of history, making just one Cup run at the track, but he finished an impressive 12th last season in his Toyota, posting four fastest laps with 95.5 percent of his laps inside the Top 15. Denny Hamlin (12/1) is also in the Top 10 in Driver Rating across the past five seasons at Auto Club, running 86.7 percent of his laps inside the Top 15. Hamlin has struggled overall at Auto Club, however, finishing inside the Top 5 just twice in 16 career starts while posting just five Top 10s with an 18.3 AFP. For better and fantasy purposes he is a risky play. Jones will start fourth, while Hamlin will go off from the 25th position. The No. 11 could be in line for plenty of Place Differential points on Sunday. Daniel Suarez (80/1) has just one MENCS starts under his belt at Auto Club, running seventh last season after starting 10th. He'll start 30th so he could matriculate up through the field rather nicely.
For the second consecutive weekend Furniture Row Racing's Martin Truex Jr. (4/1) is on the pole, turning in an impressive final round speed of 186.567 mph on Friday. It will be MTJ's 17th career pole, and his first ever at Fontana. The track hasn't been terribly kind to him over the years, as he has just one Top 5 and five Top 10s in 17 career starts with a very modest 19.2 AFP. He has been showing improvement at the track, however, checking in eighth among all drivers with a 93.5 Driver Rating over the past five years, leading 99 laps.
Penske Racing's Joey Logano (10/1) and Brad Keselowski (8/1) will be looking to continue Ford's dominance this season while giving team owner Roger Penske his first win of the season. Logano has been rather impressive over the past five seasons, although most people remember his dust-up wth the No. 11 in 2013 asthe highlight of the stretch. His aggressive driving and block angered former driver Tony Stewart in that '13 race, and then a wreck of Hamlin sent him into the barrier and into the hospital with a compression fracture in his lower back. Both Logano and Keselowski have turned in three straight Top 10s at the track, and could be forces to be reckoned with. Their teammate, Ryan Blaney (15/1), has had mixed results in his two Cup starts at the track. He has a ninth-place finish and a 35th with a DNF. He is set to start eighth this week.
SHR's Kurt Busch (33/1) is well done the odds list to win, and that might make him a really nice sleeper for bettors and fantasy players. He has finished ninth or higher in four of his past six races in Fontana. While he ranks outside the Top 10 in Driver Rating over the past five races, according to Loop Data, overall he has one win, seven Top 5s and 12 Top 10s in 24 career starts with a strong 12.8 AFP.
Austin Dillon (120/1) has finished in the Top 20 in three of his four career starts at California, rolling to a 15.5 AFP despite the fact he hasn't led a lap. His brother Ty Dillon (Field - 22/1) has only one MENCS start at the track, and he turned in an 18th-place finish last season after starting 21st. He is in line to start from the 17th spot as he looks to improve last season's run. Chris Buescher (Field - 22/1) was sharp in qualifying, and he could be one to watch closely. He will start 12th on Sunday. He has three career starts, but he has never finished higher than 20th, averaging a 26.0 AFP.