Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Auto Club 400
Auto Club Speedway Distance: 400 miles (200 Laps)
Sunday, March 17 3:30 p.m. ET TV: FOX, 3:30 p.m. ET Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 60), Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 120), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 200)/. 2018 Winner: Martin Truex Jr.
NASCAR Xfinity Series Production Alliance Group 300
Auto Club Speedway Distance: 300 miles (150 Laps)
Saturday, March 16 5 p.m. ET TV: FS1, 4:30 p.m. ET Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 35), Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 70), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 300). 2018 Winner: Joey Logano
NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series 250
Martinsville Speedway Distance: 131.5 miles (250 Laps)
Saturday, March 23 2 p.m. ET TV: FOX, 2 p.m. ET Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 70), Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 140), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 250). 2018 Winner: John Hunter Nemechek
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series
In A Zone: Kyle Busch looks to scratch another record in the books
Kyle Busch takes a six-point edge over Joey Logano in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series points standings as the series continues its “West Coast Swing.” And this week may be especially significant in the milestone category as Busch faces two chances to claim a historic 200 combined NASCAR national series wins. It could come in Sunday’s Auto Club 400 (3:30 p.m. ET on FOX, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) – if he doesn’t earn it in the NASCAR Xfinity Series race on Saturday. Busch’s historic work at the two-mile California track indicates the driver of the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota will again be a factor in deciding the trophy. His three wins are second only to six-time winner Jimmie Johnson and the two drivers are the only competitors in the field with multiple wins at the track. In fact, Busch and Johnson are the only drivers to score their first career Monster Energy Series victories at Auto Club Speedway – in 2005 and 2002, respectively. And they are the only two drivers to ever win consecutive races at the track – Johnson in 2009-10 and Busch in 2013-14.
In 20 races, Busch has nine top-five finishes and is averaging a 10.4 finish – second only to Johnson among drivers with more than three starts at the track. He has six Xfinity Series wins and is a perfect 2-for-2 in NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series starts there, too. He comes to California on a roll, sweeping last week’s Xfinity and Cup races at Phoenix’s ISM Raceway, making it easy to understand why he likes his chances in California. “I’d assess it as pretty good, I guess,’’ Busch said following his 199th NASCAR national series win. “It would certainly be nice to get it (200th win) done on the West Coast swing, but it’s not a necessity. It will happen when it happens, and you can’t push too hard and do stupid things or make mistakes in order to think too much about that number. “You just have to let the race kind of play out and let it come to you and we’ll see where we are at. Really looking forward to Fontana, it’s been a great place for me over the years and would love to get the Interstate Batteries Toyota back to Victory Lane there again no matter what number win that it ends up being.’’
Back At It: Truex returns to defend Auto Club Speedway victory
Martin Truex Jr. arrives at Auto Club Speedway as the defending race winner and he’ll gladly take the good vibes. Since moving from the Furniture Row Racing team, where he won the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship, to Joe Gibbs Racing this year, Truex is still looking for his first win. Last season, it came on these Southern California high banks. Truex won the 2018 race from the Busch Pole position, leading 125 laps. He has three top-10 finishes in the last four races at the track and led 224 laps in that timeframe. Since moving to the Joe Gibbs Racing operation, Truex has come close to winning twice already. He finished runner-up at both the 1.5-mile Atlanta Motor Speedway three weeks ago and last week at Phoenix’s ISM Raceway one-miler. He has three top-10s in four races this season and is ranked fifth in the standings entering the weekend’s race. Truex ran his first test – a Goodyear tire test – with his new No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota team at California in January and was encouraged by the time on track. “Our team is really looking forward to getting to California this week,’’ said Truex. “It’s one of my favorite tracks and I felt good about the test back in January. “Obviously the weather is going to be different and there will be more than three cars like in the test, but we feel like we’ve learned a lot about the package since then. We need to go in there Friday and unload strong and carry that through the weekend. I’m excited to see if we can go back-to-back there because it’s really turned into one of the most fun tracks on the circuit.’’ If Truex were to win this weekend he would become just the third drivers in series history to win consecutive races at Auto Club Speedway, joining Jimmie Johnson (2009-2010) and Kyle Busch (2013-2014).
The Champ: Auto Club Speedway is mountain still left to summit for Logano
Reigning Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Joey Logano scored his third top-10 finish through the season’s four opening races last week at ISM Raceway in Phoenix, Arizona. He has results of fourth (Daytona 500), first (Las Vegas Motor Speedway) and 10th (ISM Raceway). He had led the points standings up until Kyle Busch’s win at Phoenix last Sunday. This weekend may prove to be a challenge for the reigning champ. Logano is winless in 12 starts at Auto Club Speedway, but half of those have resulted in top-10 finishes. In four of his last six starts at the 2-mile raceway he has finished inside the top five. His best career showing is third in 2013. His driver rating (87.8) is 10th-best at the track.
Right place, right time for California native Jimmie Johnson
Seven-time Monster Energy Series champion Jimmie Johnson (El Cajon) is hoping a return to his home state of California, along with some positive season momentum and a history of success there, will be the key to snapping an unprecedented 21-month winless streak. Johnson earned his second top 10 of the season last week at Phoenix (eighth) and turned his first laps (four) in front of the field.
He’s ranked 15th in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver points standings heading to the two-mile Auto Club Speedway where his six victories (2002, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2016) is most all-time. In fact during the loop data era (2005-Present), Johnson boasts the top driver rating (115.6), best average finish (7.0), laps in the top 15 (3,988 laps, 88.5%) and most laps led (880 laps) of any active driver at the track. His 13 top-five and 17 top-10 finishes are tops in the field too – as are his five career runner-up finishes. And two of those are among the closest five finishes in history at Auto Club Speedway. He lost to Kevin Harvick by 0.144-second in 2011 in the closest finish in track history. Greg Biffle edged him by 0.231-seconds in 2005 – for the third-closest margin of victory. Johnson (2002) and current championship leader Kyle Busch (2005) are the only two active drivers to have scored their first Cup victory at Auto Club Speedway. If Johnson
wins this weekend, he will tie NASCAR Hall of Famers Bobby Allison and Darrell Waltrip for fourth on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series all-time wins list.
Hometown California Heroes: Harvick and Larson
California natives have traditionally fared well at Auto Club Speedway in the Monster Energy Series. Three of the top-10 ranked drivers in pre-race loop data at the track hail from California, including Jimmie Johnson (El Cajon), who boasts the best driver rating (115.6), Bakersfield’s Kevin Harvick (95.5) and Elk Grove native Kyle Larson (91.9). Harvick won the race in 2011 and has two runner-up finishes in the last four years at Auto Club Speedway. Larson won from the pole position in 2017 and has three top-five finishes in five starts at the track, including a runner-up last year on the heels of his victory. There are four Californians in the race, also including Matt DiBenedetto, of Grass Valley, who led a race-high 49 laps in the season-opening Daytona 500. His best finish at Auto Club Speedway is 27th in 2016.
Three of the sport’s popular young drivers arrive at Auto Club Speedway in California this weekend looking for their first top-five finish at the western two-miler – all of them with solid experience at the track, just not a trip to Victory Lane quite yet.
Joe Gibbs Racing driver Erik Jones, 22, has a best showing of seventh place (2018) in two starts at Auto Club Speedway. He has good precedent, however, with two top-five finishes in three Xfinity Series races, including a best of third place in 2015. Jones is currently ranked 14th in the points standings – his first week outside the top-10 following a 29th-place showing in Phoenix last week. He opened the year with a career-best third place in the Daytona 500 – the first of two top 10s so far.
Ryan Blaney, 25, righted his season start last week, earning the Busch Pole position at ISM Raceway, winning the first stage and finishing third – unbelievably, his first top-20 of the season.
California has proven to be a positive place for Blaney. The driver of the No. 12 Team Penske Ford Mustang has back-to-back top-10 finishes in his last two starts there.
Chase Elliott, 23, is also still working on his first top-five finish, or possible win, at Auto Club Speedway. The driver of the No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 has a pair of top-10 finishes in three starts, including a career-best of sixth in his first race there in 2016.
Last year’s three-race winner and Playoff favorite, Elliott, has one top-10 in four starts in 2019 Sunoco Rookie Preview: Auto Club Speedway
Richard Childress Racing driver Daniel Hemric’s 18th-place finish at ISM Raceway, coupled with Ryan Preece’s 34th-place finish, turned over the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series rookie standings lead for the first time this season.
Richard Childress Racing’s Daniel Hemric earned his first top 20 of the season (18th) at Phoenix while Preece was involved in an incident and suffered his second DNF in four races and now trails Hemric by six points heading into Auto Club Speedway this weekend.
Front Row Motorsport’s Matt Tifft remains ranked third among the 2019 rookie class, 23 points behind Hemric. Following Tifft is Rick Ware Racing’s Cody Ware in fourth, 18 points behind Tifft.
All four Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series rookies will be making their series track debut this weekend. Hemric’s career best showing at the track is a fifth-place finish in the NASCAR Xfinity Series race there last year. Tifft was eighth in that Xfinity Series race.
Parade Laps: Insights ahead of this week’s driver media breakouts
Seven drivers from the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series – Hendrick Motorsports’ drivers Jimmie Johnson and Alex Bowman, Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick, JTG Daugherty Racing’s Chris Buescher, Front Row Motorsport’s Matt Tifft, Roush Fenway Racing’s Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Leavine Family Racing’s Matt DiBenedetto – will be participating in this week’s media rotations at Auto Club Speedway in advance of Sunday’s Auto Club 400 (3:30 p.m. ET on FOX, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
Jimmie Johnson, of El Cajon, Calif., is a seven-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion, tying him with NASCAR Hall of Fame members Richard Petty and the late Dale Earnhardt for the most season titles in the history of the sport. Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, leads all drivers with six wins and five runner-up finishes at Auto Club Speedway. His 13 top-five and 17 top-10 finishes are most all-time as well. He arrives for Sunday’s race ranked 15th in the standings with a pair of top-10 finishes (ninth at Daytona and eighth last week in Phoenix) in the season’s opening four races.
Kevin Harvick, of Bakersfield, Calif., is the 2014 Monster Energy Series champion. The driver of the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford Mustang earned a career-best eight victories in 2018, finishing third in the championship. He’s finished third or better in the final standings in six of the last seven seasons. Auto Club Speedway is located a little more than two hours from Harvick’s hometown of Bakersfield. He won at the track in 2011 and has finished runner-up in two (2015 and 2016) of the last four races there. He is currently ranked third in the standings with three top-10 finishes in the four races to date, including a ninth place in Phoenix last weekend.
Chris Buescher, of Prosper, Texas, is the 2015 NASCAR Xfinity Series champion. The driver of the JTG Daugherty Racing Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 has one victory in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, earning it at Pocono, Pa. in his 2016 rookie season. He has one top-10 so far in 2019 – a ninth-place finish at Atlanta three weeks ago. His best showing at Auto Club Speedway is 20th, in his first start there in 2015.
Matt Tifft, of Hinckley, Ohio, has never made a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series start at Auto Club Speedway. In his four series races this season, the 22-year old rookie turned in his best effort last week finishing 20th at Phoenix in the No. 34 Front Row Motorsports Ford Mustang.
Alex Bowman, of Tucson, Arizona, is in his second year driving the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. In three previous starts at Auto Club Speedway, Bowman’s best finish is 13th, last year in his first race at the track with Hendrick Motorsports. He has had a solid start to his 2019 season with a pair of 11th-place finishes in the opening three races (at Daytona and at Las Vegas), and is looking to get back on track after being involved in an accident last week and finishing 35th at his home track, Phoenix.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr., of Olive Branch, Mississippi, comes to Auto Club Speedway ranked 10th in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver standings – the third time in his six-year career he’s been ranked 10th after the first four races of the season. He’s had four solid top-18 finishes so far, leading laps in three races and highlighted by a sixth-place finish in Las Vegas two weeks ago. His best finish at Auto Club Speedway is fifth (2016).
Matt DiBenedetto, of Grass Valley, California, is enjoying the best season start to his four-year full-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup career. He led a race-best 49 laps in the season-opening Daytona 500 only to be collected in a crash with 17 laps remaining in the race. He’s still looking for his first top-20 since moving to the Leavine Family Racing team this season. His best showing is 21st at Las Vegas two weeks ago. His best finish in four Auto Club Speedway starts is 27th with BK Racing back in 2016.
NASCAR Xfinity Series
Saturday is Kyle Busch’s first chance at the 200th NASCAR national series win Joe Gibbs Racing’s Kyle Busch will have his first crack at winning his 200th NASCAR national series race in this Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series Production Alliance Group 300 at Auto Club Speedway at 5 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. Busch currently has 199 NASCAR national series combined wins (52 Monster Energy Series, 94 NASCAR Xfinity Series and 53 NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series).
NASCAR Hall of Famer Richard Petty currently holds the all-time lead in NASCAR national series combined wins with 200 – but, of note, all of his came in the Monster Energy Series. Busch could actually reach 201 combined NASCAR national series wins if he were to sweep the weekend’s NASCAR Xfinity Series and Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races – a feat he accomplished back 2013.
Top Five in All-Time Combined NASCAR National Series Wins
The Production Alliance Group 300 at Auto Club Speedway has a pretty good shot at being the event that gets Busch his 200th win. Busch leads the NASCAR Xfinity Series in wins at Auto Club Speedway with six victories and three of them were from the pole. Though he hasn’t visited Victory Lane in his last three series starts at the track, he has led laps and battled for the win, finishing no worse than third during those contests. In total, Busch has 18 series starts at the track, six wins (2008, Spring 2009, 2010 sweep, 2011, 2013), 12 top fives, 15 top 10s and an average finish of 6.1.The veteran from Las Vegas also leads several of the series’ key pre-race loop data statistical categories at Auto Club Speedway; including driver rating (124.9), fastest laps run (432), quality passes (510), green flag passes (689), laps in the top 15 (2,192 laps; 91.2%) and laps led (800).
California drivers Reddick and Custer are off to hot start in 2019
California is known for producing some of racing’s top talent and this season the NASCAR Xfinity Series has been blessed by several of those West Coasters competing for the driver championship title. Two California natives that stand above the rest this season are Richard Childress Racing’s Tyler Reddick (Corning) and Stewart-Haas Racing’s Cole Custer (Ladera Ranch). The 2018 NASCAR Xfinity Series champ and current standings leader Reddick is racing at a very high level this season. Reddick didn’t even spin the tires when he launched from JR Motorsports to Richard Childress Racing in the offseason, as it only took him four races this year to retake the top spot in the NASCAR Xfinity Series driver points standings. Now the 23-year old is heading to his home state this weekend after accumulating two top fives and three top 10s on the year; as well as leading the third-most laps this season (75). Reddick was born about eight to nine hours north of Auto Club Speedway (Fontana), and the RCR driver has taken to the 2-mile track quite well. In his series track debut last season driving for JR Motorsports, he started 16th and finished inside the top-10 (seventh). Reddick is currently holding the NASCAR Xfinity Series standings lead by a slim four points over Joe Gibbs Racing’s Christopher Bell following the race at Phoenix last weekend.
Hailing from Ladera Ranch, California, is Stewart-Haas Racing’s driver, Cole Custer. The 21-year-old rising star is ranked third in the NASCAR Xfinity Series standings, 11 points behind Tyler Reddick in the standings lead and seven points back from second-place Christopher Bell heading into this weekend at Auto Club Speedway.
Custer has been solid this season, racking up two top fives and three top 10s in the first four starts of the season; including a runner-up finish at Atlanta. He has also banked the second-best average finish this season with a 7.2.
This weekend will be a homecoming party for Custer, as Ladera Ranch is just over an hour drive from Fontana, where Auto Club Speedway is located. Custer has made two starts at the two-mile raceway, posting one top-10 finish (sixth-place, last season).
Custer and Reddick are not the only California natives that have competed in the series this season, Zane Smith (Huntington Beach) and Ja Junior Avila (Los Angeles) have also made starts this season; neither are entered this weekend.
Sunoco Rookie Update: Chase Briscoe finds his footing YTD Sunoco Rookie of the Year Standings
John H. Nemechek
After a slow start to the season, Stewart-Haas Racing with Fred Biagi’s rookie driver, Chase Briscoe, grabbed a gear and scored his first Sunoco Rookie of the Race honors at ISM Raceway with a sixth-place finish last weekend.
Piloting the No. 98 Ford Mustang this season, Briscoe is ranked fourth in the Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings but has made strides to cut into John Hunter Nemechek’s points lead and is now only 28 points back following back-to-back top-10 finishes in his last two starts. Plus, he has posted an average finish of 10.2 this season.
Briscoe now sets his eyes on Auto Club Speedway, where he will be making his series track debut this weekend, but he will not be alone. Fellow rookies Noah Gragson, Justin Haley and Brandon Brown will also be making their track debuts. John Hunter Nemechek is the only rookie this season with Xfinity Series experience at Auto Club Speedway – he made his track debut last season, and after qualifying third and running towards the front in Stage 1, he was caught in an incident on Lap 69 that relegated him to a 29th-place finish. Of note, Chase Briscoe is also ranked 13th in the NASCAR Xfinity Series driver standings, 57 points back from the standings lead.
RSS Racing’s Ryan Sieg is making consistency his calling card
One driver finding consistency to be key to his success this season is RSS Racing’s Ryan Sieg, who is currently having his best NASCAR Xfinity Series career start to a season following his third top-10 finish in the first four races of year. Ryan Sieg has RSS Racing mixing it up with some of the best in the sport. The 31-yeard old from Tucker, Georgia is ranked 10th in the series driver championship standings just 43-points behind the series standings lead. Sieg busted out of the 2019 gate with one top five and three tops 10s; that included a fourth-place finish at Daytona, a sixth at Las Vegas and a 10th at ISM Raceway. Sieg has an impressive average finish of 7.8 this season – tied with series standings leader Tyler Reddick for third-best this season behind Michael Annett (6.5) and Cole Custer (7.2). Sieg has made five series starts at Auto Club Speedway, posting an average finish of 22.4.
Xfinity Team Spotlight: SS Green Light Racing
This week we turn the spotlight on a team out of Mooresville, North Carolina, that is kicking the season off well in the NASCAR Xfinity Series – SS Green Light Racing – with drivers Ray Black Jr.
in the No. 07 Chevrolet Camaro and Gray Gaulding in the No. 08 Chevrolet Camaro. SS Green Light Racing was founded and is operated by Bobby Dotter, a second-generation driver who began his racing career as a teenager in the Chicago area. Dotter and SS Green Light Racing have prided themselves on developing young drivers in the sport. Over the years, several talented drivers have been with Dotter at SS Green Light Racing including, most recently, Ross Chastain, Joey Gase, and Spencer Boyd.
After the first four races of the season, SS Green Light Racing has Gray Gaulding sitting 16th in the NASCAR Xfinity Series standings and his teammate Ray Black Jr. just behind him in 18th. This season, Gaulding, 21, from Colonial Heights, Virginia, has posted one top-15 and two top-20 finishes; including a career-best finish of 12th at Las Vegas Motor Speedway a few weeks back. Working with crew chief Patrick Donahue, Gaulding has an average finish of 19.5 through four races this season. Gaulding’s SS Green Light Racing teammate, Ray Black Jr., from Palm Coast, Florida, is having the best start to a season in his Xfinity Series career. The 27-year-old, in four starts this season, has collected one top-15 and two top-20 finishes; including his series career-best finish of 11th at Las Vegas. Black Jr., working with crew chief Jason Miller, has also grabbed an average finish of 20.5 through the first four races of the season.
Heading to California this weekend, Black Jr. has only made two starts (2016-2017) at Auto Club Speedway in the NASCAR Xfinity Series posting a best finish of 27th in 2017. His teammate, Gaulding, will be making his series track debut this weekend on the 2-mile track.
Auto Club Speedway: Quick stats to know
Below is a quick statistical look at the NASCAR Xfinity Series at Auto Club Speedway:
Auto Club Speedway has hosted 29 NASCAR Xfinity Series races. The first Xfinity Series race held at Auto Club Speedway was on October 19, 1997 and the event was won by Todd Bodine driving the Scott Welliver-owned Pontiac. In total, 332 different NASCAR Xfinity Series drivers have made starts at Auto Club Speedway, 205 drivers have competed in more than one. Kevin Harvick leads the series in starts at Auto Club Speedway with 20 starts.
In total, the NASCAR Xfinity Series has seen 18 different drivers win the pole award at Auto Club Speedway; led by Joey Logano with four poles (2009, 2010, 2012, 2017). Steve Park won the series’ first pole at Auto Club Speedway in 1997 and Christopher Bell won the most recent Xfinity pole at Auto Club Speedway last season. The youngest Xfinity pole winner at Auto Club Speedway is Erik Jones (March 21, 2015, at 18 years, 8 months and 50 days). Dave Blaney is the oldest series pole winner at Auto Club Speedway (Feb. 24, 2007 at 44 years, 4 months, 0 days). Tony Stewart holds the
NASCAR Xfinity Series qualifying record at Auto Club Speedway with a speed of 185.941 mph (Feb. 26, 2005).
In total the NASCAR Xfinity Series has seen 16 different drivers win the race at Auto Club Speedway; led by Kyle Busch with six victories (2008, 2009, 2010 sweep, 2011, 2013). Todd Bodine won the series’ first race at Auto Club Speedway in 1997 and Joey Logano won the most recent Xfinity race at Auto Club Speedway last season. The youngest Xfinity race winner at Auto Club Speedway is Joey Logano (Oct. 10, 2009 at 19 years, 4 months, 16 days). The oldest series winner at Auto Club Speedway is Mark Martin (Feb. 26, 2005 at 46 years, 1 month, 17 days). Hank Parker Jr. holds the race record in the series at Auto Club Speedway with an average speed of 155.957 mph (April 28, 2001).
Parade Laps: Insights ahead of this week’s driver media breakouts
Three drivers from the NASCAR Xfinity Series – Richard Childress Racing’s Tyler Reddick, Stewart-Haas Racing’s Cole Custer and GMS Racing’s standout rookie John Hunter Nemechek – will be participating in this week’s media rotations at Auto Club Speedway. All three drivers are currently in the top 10 of the NASCAR Xfinity Series driver points standings as they prepare for the Production Alliance Group 300 this Saturday, March 16 at 5 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.
Tyler Reddick (No. 2 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet Camaro)
Birthdate: January 11, 1996
Driver’s Age: 23
Hometown: Corning, California
Hobbies: Riding ATVs, gaming, working on cars
Xfinity Career Highlights:
2018 NASCAR Xfinity Series Champion and Sunoco Rookie of the Year
Became just the third driver in series history to win the title in his rookie season, joining Chase Elliott (2014) and William Byron (2017).
Has three career NASCAR Xfinity Series wins; including closest finish in the history of NASCAR last season at Daytona International Speedway with a margin of victory of 0.0004 sec
Graphics & Photos Courtesy of NASCAR