Weekend Preview: Auto Club 400

By Blake Smith and Moon Mullins

               Chevrolet celebrated their second win of the season as Kasey Kahne drove his #5 Great Clips Chevrolet into victory lane at Bristol last Sunday.  Kyle Busch finished second, Brad Keselowski finished 3rd, Kurt Busch ended the race in fourth position with Clint Bowyer rounding out the top five. Brad Keselowski leads the series points standing with a 9 point margin over Dale Earnhardt, Jr. heading into this weekend’s race at Auto Club Speedway.

The 2.0 mile D-shaped oval opened in 1997 as California Speedway before being renamed Auto Club Speedway in 2008 following a 10-year contract with the Auto Club of America for naming rights. The Fontana track is known as one of the fastest tracks on the circuit.

This weekend will mark the first appearance of the Gen6 racecar to Auto Club Speedway and also the first visit to a track over 1.5 miles in length without a restrictor plate. Speeds are expected to be in excess of 210 MPH as the cars enter into Turn 1 from the 3,100 foot front straight away. Engine builders will cringe towards the end of Sunday’s race after the engines run 400 miles as such excessive speeds and RPMs. The power plants under the hoods of the cars will definitely be put to the test this weekend.

Kasey Kahne told Fox Sports, he looks forward to the new car. “I think this new car is going to create a better race, a more aggressive race.”

Kyle Busch, who holds the track record for the youngest poll winner at Fontana when he was 19 and the youngest race winner at 20, is hopeful his luck is changing from last year. He told Fox, “Yeah, for whatever reason it was a terrible year.”

The good news for this weekend is there is no chance of rain during any 3 days of this weekend’s schedule. I expect teams will spend a majority of today’s qualifying practice in race trim with the final few minutes spent in qualifying setup. Temperatures are expected to be in the mid 60’s during the practice compared to the forecasted 50 degree temperatures during Saturday’s practice sessions. Race Conditions are forecasted to begin under sunny skies with a temperature of 65 degrees and end under those same sunny conditions in the mid 70’s on Sunday.

Phoenix winner, Carl Edwards will be returning to the bright yellow Subway paint scheme this weekend as he plans to pilot the same car he drove to a fourth place finish at Texas last fall. Edwards’ team mate will also be bringing a 2012 Edwards raced car as he brings Chassis # RK-815, which Edwards drove to an 18th place finish at Martinsville last season. Series points leader, Brad Keselowski and team will be bringing a new chassis to the track this weekend.

Jimmie Johnson will be looking to get his second win of the season on Sunday as he pilots the #48 Jimmie Johnson Foundation Chevrolet at his home track. Johnson leads all drivers with 5 wins at the 2 mile track and also leads in the number of top 5 and top 10 finishes. Crew chief, Chad Knaus has elected, like many teams to bring a new chassis to this weekend’s event. I believe Jimmie will have a strong weekend and bring home the win for his hometown fans!

Tune into Sunday’s coverage of the Auto Club 400 beginning at 1PM on WBKR and WBKR.com! For a complete wrap up of the Fontana racing weekend, tune into my friend Eli Gold at 6pm on Tuesday for NASCAR Live, also on WBKR!