NASCAR Cup Series Pala Casino 400
Auto Club Speedway The Purse: $8,484,302
Sunday, February 26 3:30 p.m. ET TV: FOX, 2:30 p.m. ET Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 400 miles (200 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 65), Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 130), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 200)
NASCAR Xfinity Series Production Alliance Group 300
Auto Club Speedway The Purse: $1,659,396
Saturday, February 25 5 p.m. ET TV: FS1, 4 p.m. ET Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 300 miles (150 Laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 35), Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 70), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 150)
NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series Victoria’s Voice Foundation 200 presented by Westgate Resorts
Las Vegas Motor Speedway The Purse: $703,062
Friday, March 3 9 p.m. ET TV: FS1, 8:30 p.m. ET Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 201 miles (134 Laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 30) Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 60), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 134)
NASCAR Cup Series
Last chance to catch NASCAR on the 2-mile Auto Club Speedway
With the announcement that this weekend’s Pala Casino 400 (Feb. 26 at 3:30 p.m. ET on FOX, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) will be the last NASCAR Cup Series race on the 2-mile configuration, the anticipation for a spectacular final event is steadily growing. Planning continues for a proposed half-mile short track located on a portion of the speedway’s current property, but timing for commencement of that project remains uncertain making this weekend that much more special.
The 2023 Pala Casino 400 will be the 33rd-time the NASCAR Cup Series has competed at the paved 2-mile oval located in Fontana, California. The first NASCAR Cup Series race at Auto Club Speedway took place on June 22, 1997, and was won by NASCAR Hall of Famer Jeff Gordon driving the Hendrick Motorsports No. 24 Chevrolet.
In total, 172 different drivers have competed in at least one NASCAR Cup Series race at Auto Club Speedway producing 21 different pole winners and 18 different race winners. Kurt Busch leads the series all-time in poles at Auto Club Speedway with four (2015, 2007 and 2006 sweep), and Jimmie Johnson leads the series in wins with six (2002, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2016).
Five of the 21 NASCAR Cup Series Auto Club Speedway pole winners are active this weekend, led by Denny Hamlin with three poles (2009, 2012, 2013).
Active Auto Club Pole Winners Poles Seasons
Denny Hamlin 3 2009, 2012, 2013
Austin Dillon 2 2016, 2019
Kyle Larson 1 2017
Martin Truex Jr 1 2018
Kyle Busch 1 2005
Six of the 18 NASCAR Cup Series race winners at Auto Club Speedway are active this weekend, led by Kyle Busch with four victories (2005, 2013, 2014, 2019).
Active Auto Club
Race Winners Wins Seasons
Kyle Busch 4 2005, 2013, 2014, 2019
Alex Bowman 1 2020
Martin Truex Jr 1 2018
Kyle Larson 1 2017
Brad Keselowski 1 2015
Kevin Harvick 1 2011
All the NASCAR Cup Series on-track activity begins with practice and Busch Light Pole Qualifying on Saturday, Feb. 25 and both events will be televised on FS1 starting at 2 p.m. ET.
JTG Daugherty DAYTONA 500 victory was bog for the organization
JTG Daugherty Racing accomplished a few feats this past weekend at Daytona International Speedway.
First, owner Brad Daugherty became the first African American car owner in the NASCAR Cup Series to win the DAYTONA 500.
Secondly, JTG Daugherty Racing grabbed their second NASCAR Cup Series career victory with the DAYTONA 500 win last weekend, snapping a 482-race winless streak dating back to 2011 when the organization got its first victory with driver A.J. Allmendinger at Watkins Glen International. With the win they became the first single-car team to win the DAYTONA 500 since the Wood Brothers in 2011.
And last but not least, with the win to open the season JTG Daugherty Racing has earned a spot in the NASCAR Cup Series Owner Playoffs, and it is just the second-time the organization has qualified for the postseason (2011, 2023) in the series.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. earns infamy with DAYTONA 500 win, plus a trip to the Playoffs
No bigger race to win than the DAYTONA 500 and JTG Daugherty Racing’s Ricky Stenhouse Jr. found this out firsthand on Sunday and the following days. Not only did Stenhouse grab his third victory of his career snapping a 199-race winless streak, but also secured his spot in the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs – which will be his first appearance in the postseason since 2017.
Now, the Olive Branch, Mississippi native, Stenhouse, heads to Auto Club Speedway looking to become the sixth different driver to win the first two races of a NASCAR Cup Series season; joining Marvin Panch in 1957 (Lancaster, Concord), Bob Welborn in 1959 (Daytona, Champion), David Pearson in 1976 (Riverside, Daytona), Jeff Gordon in 1997 (Daytona, Rockingham) and Matt Kenseth (Daytona, Auto Club). Stenhouse has made nine career starts at Auto Club Speedway posting one top five and two top 10s. His average finish of the 2-mile track is a 17.5.
Joey Logano back on top of Cup point standings just like he ended 2022
Team Penske’s Joey Logano finished the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season as the champion on top of the point standings and following the season-opener of 2023 at Daytona, the 32-year-old finds himself back atop the points right where he left off. Following Daytona, Logano holds a two-point lead over RFK Racing’s Chris Buescher in second.
Logano, finished a close second to Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in the 2023 DAYTONA 500 earning 42 points on the day, but the Connecticut native managed to win the Duel he was in last week, and in doing so earned an additional 10 points to catapult him to the standings lead heading to Auto Club Speedway.
Logano will look to keep the early season success flowing this weekend at Auto Club Speedway where he has made 15 series career starts, posting seven top fives and eight top 10s. He finished fifth in the NASCAR Cup Series Auto Club Speedway race last season.
Californian Kyle Larson returns to Auto Club Speedway to defend his last season win
Hailing from Elk Grove, California, Kyle Larson returns to his home state to defend his last season NASCAR Cup Series win at Auto Club Speedway, located in Fontana, California about 420 miles south of Larson’s hometown.
Kyle Larson is looking to become just the third different driver to win back-to-back victories at Auto Club Speedway; joining Jimmie Johnson (2009-2010) and Kyle Busch (2013-2014).
If Larson were to win this weekend, he would extend Hendrick Motorsport’s all-time record for the most NASCAR Cup Series wins at Auto Club Speedway to 13 victories. Larson is one of five Hendrick drivers to win at Auto Club Speedway – 12 victories – Jeff Gordon (1997, 1999, 2004), Kyle Busch (2005), Jimmie Johnson (2002, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2016), Alex Bowman (2020), Kyle Larson (2022).
Larson has made eight career starts at Auto Club Speedway posting one pole, two wins and four top fives. His average finish at Fontana is 13.0.
Harvick to make 750th consecutive NASCAR Cup Series career start this weekend
Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick will reach a career milestone this weekend, as he will be making his 750th consecutive NASCAR Cup Series career start at Auto Club Speedway, becoming just the third different driver to accomplish the feat.
Kevin Harvick is ranked third on the NASCAR Cup Series all-time consecutive starts list, behind only Jeff Gordon with 797 consecutive Cup starts from 1992-2015 and Ricky Rudd with 788 consecutive Cup starts from 1981-2005. Harvick’s streak of consecutive starts began on April 21, 2002 at Talladega Superspeedway.
Harvick has made 28 series career starts at Auto Club Speedway posting one win (2011), seven top fives and 14 top 10s.
Among active drivers, Joe Gibbs Racing’s Martin Truex Jr. has the next longest active streak of consecutive starts in the NASCAR Cup Series behind Kevin Harvick with 613.
NASCAR Cup Series, Etc.
Sunoco Rookies jumped right in at Daytona – This season’s Sunoco Rookie of the Year class jumped right into 2023 season with both feet and already this season looks as though it will be a close one.
Legacy Motor Club’s Noah Gragson finished in 24th, just ahead of fellow rookie and Joe Gibbs Racing driver Ty Gibbs in 25th in the season-opening DAYTONA 500 and earned the season’s first Sunoco Rookie of the Race award.
Gibbs currently ranks higher in the NASCAR Cup Series standings than Gragson due to his sixth-place finish in the first stage of the DAYTONA 500. Gibbs is ranked 23rd in the series standings with 17 points to Gragson’s 25th-place ranking with 13 points.
Both rookies will be making their NASCAR Cup Series track debuts this weekend at Auto Club Speedway, but both drivers have competed at the 2-mile track in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. Gibbs made his Xfinity Series Auto Club Speedway debut last season finishing 13th, and Gragson has made three career Xfinity starts posting a best finish of runner-up last season.
Misty May-Treanor Named Honorary Starter for Pala Casino 400 – Auto Club Speedway has named three-time Olympic gold medalist and California native Misty May-Treanor as the honorary starter for the Pala Casino 400 on Sunday, Feb. 26. The beach volleyball champion will wave the green flag ahead of the highly-anticipated NASCAR Cup Series follow-up to the DAYTONA 500.
“We’re thrilled to have Misty as our honorary starter at Auto Club,” said Dave Allen, President of Auto Club Speedway. “She’s an incredible athlete and a sporting legend of the highest degree – the perfect fit for this historic last race on the 2-mile oval.”
Throughout her career, May-Treanor amassed more than 100 championships and competed in four Olympic games, her first in Sydney in 2000; however, it wasn’t until the 2004 Athens games she won her first Olympic gold alongside teammate Kerri Walsh-Jennings. From there, the pair went on to win another gold medal in the 2008 games and again in 2012, becoming the most successful duo in the history of women’s beach volleyball with 112 consecutive wins – a record that still stands today.
Michael Rooker Named Grand Marshal for Pala Casino 400 – Michael Rooker will serve as the Grand Marshal for the Pala Casino 400 on Sunday at Auto Club Speedway. The actor known for his role as Rowdy Burns in “Days of Thunder” will bellow the famous command “drivers start your engines!”
“Michael Rooker is an immensely successful actor, but his turn as Rowdy Burns is one of the most memorable on-screen depictions of motorsports on the big screen,” said Auto Club Speedway President Dave Allen. “We are proud to welcome him as our Grand Marshal, and we can’t wait to hear him give the command for the historic last race on the 2-mile oval.”
“I am grateful for the chance to give the command for this historic event,” Rooker said. “As someone who was raised in NASCAR country, I’ve always appreciated fans asking about my portrayal of Rowdy Burns in ‘Days of Thunder’. As I return to another NASCAR race, I can unequivocally state that I agree with Robert Duvall’s character Harry Hogge who said, ‘rubbin, son, is racin’.”
Alfonso Ribeiro Named Honorary Pace Car Driver for the Pala Casino 400 – Auto Club Speedway announced this week that veteran entertainer Alfonso Ribeiro will serve as the honorary pace car driver for the Pala Casino 400, the final NASCAR Cup Series race on the famed 2-mile oval on Sunday.
Ribeiro serves as host of ABC’s longest running show, “America’s Funniest Home Videos” and worked alongside Tyra Banks to co-host “Dancing with the Stars” for its 31st season.
“We’re ecstatic to have a performer of Alfonso’s caliber leading the field to green for the historic final race on our 2-mile oval,” said Auto Club Speedway President Dave Allen. “As a veteran in the television industry, Alfonso is all about entertaining and bringing joy to fans. He’ll find himself right at home here at Auto Club Speedway, where fans are first.”
NASCAR Xfinity Series
Richard Childress Racing’s Austin Hill goes back-to-back at Daytona
It seems that Richard Childress Racing’s Austin Hill has made himself very comfortable in Victory Lane at Daytona International Speedway as he just won his second consecutive season opener in the NASCAR Xfinity Series in a dramatic overtime finish.
Not only does he have two Daytona wins under his belt in the Xfinity Series, but he also won the season opener in the NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series in 2019 at the 2.5-mile track. His wins make him one of only four drivers to have Daytona wins in both the Xfinity and Truck Series, joining Kyle Busch, Tyler Reddick and Mike Wallace.
With his win last weekend, Hill will once again have the opportunity to become the fourth different driver to win the first two races of the Xfinity Series season; joining Tony Stewart (2008: Daytona, Auto Club), Chad Little (1995: Daytona, Rockingham) and Dale Earnhardt (1986: Daytona, Rockingham). Last season, he started his race at Auto Club in the eighth position but ultimately finished 27th.
John Hunter Nemechek, who is running his first full-time season in the NASCAR Xfinity Series since 2019, finished runner up while Xfinity Series veteran Justin Allgaier finished in third. Rookie Parker Retzlaff and Myatt Snider rounded out the top five.
Going back to Cali: Auto Club Speedway up next
After an action-packed race to kick off the season, the NASCAR Xfinity Series will be making its way back to the West Coast to keep the momentum flowing. Drivers will take the grid for the Production Alliance 300 at Auto Club Speedway on Saturday, February 25 at 5 p.m. ET, airing on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR radio.
This will be the 33rd NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Auto Club Speedway, the previous 32 have produced 18 different race winners and 21 different pole winners. Five races have been won from the pole or first starting position, most recently by Kyle Busch in 2013.
Joey Logano leads the NASCAR Xfinity Series in poles at Auto Club Speedway with four (2009, 2010, 2012, 2013) while Kyle Busch leads the Xfinity Series at the Fontana, California track in wins with six (2008, 2009, 2010 sweep, 2011, 2013). Two former winners are entered in this weekend’s Production Alliance 300 – fulltime driver Cole Custer (2019, 2022) and NASCAR Cup Series regular Austin Dillon (2016), who will be behind the wheel of the No. 10 Chevrolet for Kaulig Racing.
The NASCAR Xfinity Series will hold practice at 12:05 p.m. ET followed by qualifying at 12:35 p.m. ET on Saturday, February 25 on FS1.
JR Motorsports ready for Auto Club
Last season at Auto Club Speedway, there was one team in particular that stood out at the two-mile oval – JR Motorsports. All four drivers finished within the top 10 at the second race of the year and now they come back with the hope of landing themselves in Victory Lane.
With Noah Gragson now competing full-time in the NASCAR Cup Series, Brandon Jones sits behind the wheel of the No. 9 Chevrolet, and he is sure to join his teammates in finding success at the California track.
Although Jones fell victim to a crash last season at Auto Club, he started the race in the third position and won the pole in 2020, proving he can hit his marks and find his way around the track. In his six starts, he has posted two top 10s and has led 76 laps.
Josh Berry and Sam Mayer will be making their second start at Auto Club Speedway, while Justin Allgaier has 13 starts under his belt, posting one top five and seven top 10 finishes.
2023 Sunoco Rookies: How’d they do?
After an impressive top-five finish at his Daytona International Speedway debut, Jordan Anderson Racing’s Parker Retzlaff finds himself second in the Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings, just one point behind Chandler Smith, who finished his race in 12th and heads into this weekend leading the rookie class with 34 points. Smith earned the additional points to surpass Retzlaff in the standings by finishing second in the first stage at Daytona.
Joe Gibbs Racing’s Sammy Smith finished in 19th while Blaine Perkins fell victim to a crash early on in Lap 19 and finished in 37th.
All four drivers will be making their Xfinity Series debut at Auto Club Speedway this weekend.
NASCAR Xfinity Series, Etc.
Cup Series drivers running double duty this weekend – Two Cup Series regulars will be getting some extra time on the track this weekend at Auto Club Speedway – Austin Dillon and Tyler Reddick.
Dillon will be behind the wheel of the No. 10 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet. He has made five starts at the California track in the Xfinity Series, posting one win (2016), four top fives and four top 10s.
Reddick will pilot the No. 24 Toyota for Sam Hunt Racing. He has made two Xfinity Series starts at Auto Club, posting one top five, two top 10s and one pole (2019).
NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series
Zane Smith does it again
Front Row Motorsports’ Zane Smith appears to still have his momentum from last season. After winning the season opener in Daytona in 2022 and eventually becoming the 2022 NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series champion, he found Victory Lane once again at Daytona to kick off his 2023 season.
With his victory, Smith became the second driver in Truck Series history to post a back-to-back wins at the iconic Daytona track. The first was Todd Bodine (2008, 2009).
Smith will have this week to soak up his win before heading to Las Vegas Motor Speedway in hopes of taking the checkered flag and becoming the fourth driver in the NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series to post back-to-back wins to start the season, joining Mark Martin (2006: Daytona Auto Club), Johnny Sauter (2013: Daytona Martinsville) and Ben Rhodes (2021: Daytona, Daytona Road Course).
Sunoco Rookie Class learned a lot at Daytona
Daytona International Speedway has a reputation for being a wild card with tough racing and unexpected finishes and last weekend’s NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series race was no exception.
Of the rookies, only one made it to the end of the race – Nick Sanchez, who also won the pole for his NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series debut. He finished 26th and is leading the Sunoco rookie class with 24 points.
Rajah Caruth, who made his Daytona debut in the national series, fell victim to a crash on Lap 57 and finished 29th. He sits in second in the rookie standings.
One point behind Caruth is Daniel Dye who made his NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series debut. Like his fellow rookie contender, Caruth, he also fell victim to a crash and finished the race in 30th.
Rounding out the rookie class is Bret Holmes, whose race was cut short, leaving him in 31st.
Next stop: Sin City
The NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series drivers will have the week to go over what they learned at the season opener in Daytona and hopefully apply it to their next race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Friday, March 3 at 9 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR radio.
There have been 30 Truck Series races at the Las Vegas track, producing 25 different race winners and 21 different pole winners. Nine races have been won from the pole or first starting position, most recently by Kyle Busch in 2019.
Kyle Busch also holds a couple records in the Truck Series at the Nevada track, including the qualifying record with his speed of 178.903 mph in 2019 and sits as the winningest driver with three (2018, 2019, 2020) victories.
Fans last saw Chandler Smith fight his way to Victory Lane after battling it out with his then team owner, Kyle Busch, who ultimately posted a runner-up finish. Smith led 32 laps while Busch led 31.
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