The West Coast swing of the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season wraps up this weekend with a trip to Auto Club Speedway. The track will host Sunday’s Auto Club 400, and along with Michigan International Speedway, it is one of just two 2.0-mile tracks on the schedule.
Of course, it doesn’t seem to matter to Kevin Harvick what type of track he’s racing at these days. His win at ISM last weekend was his third in a row, and he’ll try for a clean sweep of the West Coast tracks this Sunday.
You have to love this guy, and not just because he will help you win any and all fantasy NASCAR leagues. He’s not afraid to get fired up and speak his mind or stir the pot, but he still manages to display a sarcastic sense of humor and have fun. Shoving Brad Keselowski into the reach of an angry Jeff Gordon a few years ago was hilarious, and I loved when he climbed out of the car this past weekend and slapped is rear window, the same window that was deemed illegal the week before.
Harvick blasted NASCAR for essentially using social media outrage as a reason to penalize him after his Las Vegas win, which NASCAR totally did, then he went out and put another beatdown on the rest of the field. I don’t know if he can make it four wins in a row this weekend, but I suspect he’ll be in the mix.
While big names like Harvick enjoy plenty of success at two-mile tracks like Auto Club, this can also be a race where you have success using mid-tier options, especially as your Group B plays in the Driver Group Game or in Fantasy Live. There are several midrange drivers that have put together solid resumes at the 2.0-mile tracks, and you should be able to find a little roster relief this weekend.
You will also want to keep an eye on qualifying because starting toward the front has been a decent predictor of success at Auto Club recently. In each of the last four races here, at least 10 drivers who started in the Top 15 also finished in the Top 15. Twice during that stretch, a dozen Top 15 qualifiers were also Top 15 finishers.
1.Kyle Larson, #42 CreditOne/DC Solar, Chip Ganassi Racing
Larson has flat out owned the two-mile tracks. He swept all three races last season, leading a race-high 110 laps at Auto Club, and he has won four straight dating back to 2016. Larson has finished third or better in his last five starts at two-mile ovals, and he has to be considered the top option in all formats.
He is going for his fourth win in a row on the season, and he has finished second in two of his last three starts at Auto Club, leading a race-high 142 laps here in 2016. Harvick also has an 8.7 average finish at the two-mile ovals over the last two seasons, finishing in the Top 5 three times in six starts in that span.
As was the case at most tracks last year, Truex was dialed in at the two-mile ovals. He finished sixth or better in all three races, leading more than 50 laps in all three. Truex led 73 laps and finished fourth at Auto Club last season, and I expect nothing less than a Top 5 this weekend.
He was good, not great, at the two-mile tracks last year, finishing in the Top 10 in all three races but failing to finish higher than seventh. On the flip side, Busch has won two of his last four starts at Auto Club, and he was the runner-up at Las Vegas and ISM. He’s not my preferred Group A target in the Driver Group Game, but I think he’ll be a Top 5 threat.
In terms of reliability, Elliott’s numbers at 2.0-mile tracks stack up with any driver in the series. Since joining he Cup Series full time, he is a perfect six-for-six in Top 10s, and he has finished second three times. This could be a week to use Elliott in both Fantasy Live and the Driver Group Game.
Logano has been one of the strongest performers at Auto Club at the 2.0-mile tracks in general recently. In five starts at Auto Club with Team Penske, he has finished seventh or better four times. Over the last two seasons, he has five Top 10s and four Top 5s in the six races at the two-mile tracks.
His numbers at the 2.0-mile ovals are rock solid, and Keselowski has four Top 10s in six starts since 2016. He’s been particularly stout at Auto Club. In addition to reeling off three straight Top 10s at the track, he won here in 2015 and finished second in last year’s race.