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Last Updated Feb 27, 2022, 20:42 PM

Wise Power 400 Picks, Predictions, Odds

My dear friend Fontana, I had this weird dream after the last time I saw you the world shut down, everyone was unkind to each other, and hundreds of thousands died from a pandemic. It was absolutely horrible, but I’m glad I woke up and glad to be back. Wait, I’m awake and it’s been two years?

It was March 1, 2020, Alex Bowman led a race-high 110 laps to win his second career Cup race. And then Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert caught COVID-19, the NBA shut down, the NCAA Basketball Tournament was canceled, and NASCAR followed suit.

That was one lonely March and April I’ll never forget. The unknown of the virus constantly occupied my mind and then it felt exasperated more by not having sports to follow. But then NASCAR set a May 17 date at Darlington for a return to action, the first sports back on network TV. They raced on May 20th also at Darlington. Midweek racing didn’t catch on as I hoped, but I loved it.

WISE POWER 400 PICKS & PREDICTIONS

Back to the future, so let’s get this California re-boot started with momentum coming off a strong Daytona 500 audience and the possibility of also welcoming new NASCAR fans found at the L.A. Coliseum for the Busch Light Clash won by Joey Logano the week before the Super Bowl played in Inglewood.

NASCAR is on a roll to start the 2022 season and I think Sunday’s NASCAR Power Wise 400 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, CA can bring it just as strong because it's a wide sweeping two-mile D-shaped oval offering multiple grooves for the drivers. Kyle Larson and Tyler Reddick will likely rim ride at the top while Kyle Busch will stick with whatever groove his car likes.     

The performance of the NextGen car for varying teams will be a learning experience for me, but I’ll look for the positives in all garages.

I think how Brad Keselowski runs this week off a solid superspeedway week at Daytona will be a major glimpse at what we’ll see for the series moving forward. He’s the perfect in between specimen to observe. He’s 40-to-1 to win at a track he won at in 2015 with a quality Team Penske ride. He’s now with a Roush team that hasn’t been stellar at Fontana since Matt Kenseth won in 2009. 

How he does this week gives hope and insight for all the non-elite teams with the NextGen car? It’s got 670 horsepower and has the appearance of being all-equal, but I have it stuck in my head that Hendrick Motorsports and Joe Gibbs Racing are the elites, Penske isn’t far behind, and then it’s everyone else. At least that’s the way it always seemed to be. But if it’s not the case this time around, Keselowski will shed light this weekend. 

Brad Keselowski saw a Top 10 finish in last week's Daytona 500. (AP)

Keselowski says he’s glad to be back at Fontana.

“Fontana starts a long stretch of racing on the West Coast, but we’re excited for it and glad to have momentum as a company coming off Speedweeks,” Keselowski said. “Despite we have not been to Auto Club in a couple of years, it is a track I have been fortunate to be strong at the last few outings. We’re looking forward to getting things going in the Violet Defense Ford come Saturday, and are excited for the weekend.”

Keselowski is 40-to-1 to win at Caesars sportsbooks and he wasn’t kidding about his recent success on the 2-mile layout. After his win in 2015, he was ninth, runner-up, fourth, third, and fifth. He obviously loves the track’s worn-out surface or has an instinctive edge on how to manage it that some others don’t have. 

But you still have to have the car.

And this is where it gets difficult when betting this week. I feel like I’m walking on eggshells when discussing stuff I don’t fully know the answers to. I’m reluctant to bet as normal on just a hunch that Hendrick or JGR will be the best equipped to start the season on non-superspeedways. I have to trust the driver’s past history the most with a boost of confidence if those Fontana-friendly drivers also drive for HMS or JGR.

WISE POWER 400 BETTING ANALYSIS

All this is spinning in my head as common sense responds with the fact that Ford won the Clash at the Coliseum, both Daytona Duels, and the Daytona 500. Ford is a big 4-0. They had an aerodynamic edge with the Ford bumpers connecting better in the draft. The Austin Cindric-Ryan Blaney teamwork was spectacular.

Caesars has Penske drivers Joey Logano at 14-to-1, Ryan Blaney at 10-to-1, and the rookie Cindric at 50-to-1. When I saw those odds on Cindric my immediate feeling was to not let that price slip away again. I bet Blaney and Logano aggressively last week and left the other teammate out of the mix. Maybe a super small wager on Cindric just so I don’t feel left out like last week when I had second, third, and fourth place locked up with wagers. 

As for Stewart-Haas Racing Fords, I don’t feel confident in them after the complete collapse last season when only one driver won a race and it was Aric Almirola and not Kevin Harvick who won a series-leading nine races in 2020. In 27 Cup starts at Fontana, Harvick has a 2007 win. But Harvick says it's all new this week with the NextGen cars.   

“For sure, because you just don’t know,” he said. “It’s always tire management, it’s always moving around the racetrack – being able to run the top and the bottom – but this car is so different in the way that it uses the tires, and the way it uses the right-rear tire, especially. I think as you look at that, it could turn into a tire conservation type of situation to where just have to pick a speed and run the speed so you can make it through a whole fuel run. You just don’t know those things until you go do it, so being able to adapt and adjust is going to be important.”

Yes, he sounds like me at the bet window this week.

Harvick is 12-to-1 to win at Caesars because, because……well, I don’t know. Is it because he’s from Bakersfield just northwest of Fontana? 

That Harvick number doesn’t make sense, but no one knows with this new car at Fontana’s abrasive surface. Maybe practice on Saturday will show he’s a contender.

WISE POWER 400 BETTING RESOURCES

  • Date: Sunday, February 27, 2022
  • TV-Time: FOX, 3:30 p.m. ET
  • Venue: Auto Club Speedway
  • Location: Fontana, California
  • Distance: 400 miles
  • Laps: 200

The first bet I made this week was Bowman at 15-to-1 odds just because he loves the track, he’s from HMS, and he’s the most recent winner at Fontana. 

“I’m excited to get back to Fontana,” Bowman said. “I feel like we had the best car we have had ever when we raced there in 2020. I love the track and how big it is, so going back with a win in my last appearance and a lot of good thoughts gives me a lot of confidence. Obviously, the car is different so we can’t lean too much on our notes from last time, but I know our team will put together a great car for this year’s event.”

His sentiment is encouraging, I feel a confidence boost about my bet.

WISE POWER 400 CONTENDERS

Kyle Larson+400
Chase Elliott+800
Kyle Busch+800
Denny Hamlin+850
Martin Truex, Jr. +1000

Kyle Larson is the deserving +250 to win Sunday, but is he really since we haven’t seen the new cars race on the track? That unknown makes his driver rating lower for this race, or at least until Saturday’s practice where 10-consecutive laps averages will be the gateway to finding a gem.

If it’s Larson that is fastest or second fastest in those 10 lap averages it might be a long day for the rest of the field because Larson thrives on 2-mile D-Shaped sister tracks in Fontana and Michigan. He won four straight races on them from 2016-17. A win and two runner-ups at Fontana is a strong resume.

“I don’t know what to expect,” Larson said. “Obviously, we will all learn a lot during practice and qualifying on Saturday. We used to run low for a few laps then move up a couple lanes. Then after seven or eight laps you could run all over the place. But I believe they put resin down, so I don’t know how that will affect it.”

HANDICAPPING THE WISE POWER 400

The driver I invested the most in this week is Kyle Busch at 8-to-1 odds to win just because he leads all active drivers in wins (4), top-fives (11), top-10s (16), laps led (807) in 22 Cup starts at Fontana. He was runner-up the last time there in 2020, dominated in 2019 winning all three stages, and third in 2018. He’s been third or better in seven of his last nine starts (3 wins). He’s also got JGR behind him, so it wasn’t hard for my money to follow the driver skills combined with the ownership money that demands excellence. 

“I really enjoy the 2-mile track,” Busch said. “I love going out to California. It’s a driver’s track and it’s aged over time. The surface has been ground, but I don’t think it’s been paved since it was first built back in 1997 or 1998. It’s been a long time with the place being aged, and it’s aged well. You can run all over it. Typically, recently you run up around the wall in the turns but you can still move around a bit. I hope the NextGen car will also allow us to move around and be pretty racy. We’ll go there this weekend with our Interstate Batteries Camry and try and get another win there.” 

Busch also has six Xfinity Series wins and two Truck Series wins at Fontana..

Welcome back Fontana!

WISE POWER 400 TOP-5 FINISH PREDICTION

  1. #18 - Kyle Busch +800
  2. #48 - Alex Bowman +1500
  3. #5 - Kyle Larson +250
  4. #24 - William Byron +1200
  5. #20 - Christopher Bell +3000

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