On the heels of an eventful trip to Bristol Motor Speedway, fantasy owners should be happy that it has been business as usual so far at Auto Club Speedway with a majority of the big names and pre-race favorites performing well. Matt Kenseth will start on the pole, and he will be joined on the front row by Brad Keselowski, who will be making his fourth straight start from the front row. Overall, three of the top-four qualifiers are former winners at the track.
With many of the top fantasy options living up to expectations thus far, you may want to consider employing an aggressive strategy and loading up your lineups with big names to try for a big points day. While you may sacrifice a little long-term flexibility in many formats by using a lot of big names at once, it is a lot easier to justify when the top drivers are consistently posting great times in both qualifying and practice. After all, it can be just as detrimental to use up a start from one of the big names when they haven't been showing a lot of speed.
The top 3
1) Kevin Harvick
Harvick was already poised to move up in the rankings after a rare top-five effort in qualifying, and he moves all the way to the top of the rankings after topping the charts in the first practice session Saturday and posting the best 10-lap average speed. Harvick also won at ACS in 2011, and in his last six starts at the track, he has a 6.2 average finish. You should definitely consider building your roster around him in all formats.
2) Jimmie Johnson
He has been pretty dominant at Auto Club Speedway throughout his career, and Johnson appears headed for another great run at the track. After qualifying third, he ranked inside the top 10 in both of Saturday's practice sessions. Throw in the fact that he leads all drivers in just about every scoring loop category and has a series-leading 5.7 average finish and five wins at ACS, and Johnson needs to be owned in every format.
3) Matt Kenseth
The three-time Auto Club Speedway winner got his weekend off to a fast start by snagging the pole for Sunday's Auto Club 400. He also cracked the top five in practice Saturday, and he has finished seventh or better in 11 of his last 14 starts at ACS. Considering he has been able to win three races at the 2.0-mile oval after starting outside the top 20, Kenseth could do some serious damage from the pole this weekend.
13) Kurt Busch
Busch didn't have a great run in qualifying, but his car seemed to come to life in race trim Saturday. He turned one of the five-fastest laps in the opening session, and he also posted one of the 10-best 10-lap average speeds. Meanwhile, Busch is a former winner at Auto Club Speedway, and he has five top-10s in his last seven starts at the track. In fact, Busch finished in the top five at ACS last season. Even from the 17th starting spot, he has a lot of upside.
15) Ryan Newman
He has been on a mini roll at Auto Club Speedway, and all signs point to Newman providing a solid finish for fantasy owners this weekend. After qualifying 16th, he cracked the top 10 in practice Saturday and was even stronger on long runs. Newman has reeled off four straight top-10s at ACS, and he should have a shot at extending the streak Sunday.
18) Kyle Larson
The rookie has been having himself a solid weekend at Auto Club Speedway. He qualified 11th Friday, and he was solidly in the top 20 during practice Saturday. More importantly, he had one of the five-best 10-lap average speeds in the first practice Saturday. Larson has never made a Cup start at ACS, but given his love for the high line and his solid practice times, his debut could be an impressive one.
21) Marcos Ambrose
His record at Auto Club Speedway is terrible, but Ambrose has been fast all weekend. He qualified in the top 10 Friday, and he also ranked in the top 10 in race trim during practice Saturday. Ambrose has a little momentum on his side after logging his first top-five finish in more than a year last weekend at Bristol. Everything points to Ambrose having a fast car for Sunday's race, and if you are willing to take a chance on a guy with a 28.8 average finish at ACS, it could pay off in a big way.
Big names outside the top 10
16) Kasey Kahne
Despite an overall solid record at Auto Club Speedway, Kahne has been known to have a bad run at the track on occasion. Based on his lack of speed so far this weekend, one of those rough outings could be on tap Sunday. He qualified a disappointing 26th, and he ranked outside the top 20 again in practice Saturday. Despite four straight top-15s at ACS, Kahne looks like a shaky option this weekend.
22) Martin Truex Jr.
Auto Club Speedway has never been his best track, and while he qualified in the top 10 Friday, he will now start at the rear of the field in a backup car after cutting a tire and smashing the wall in practice Saturday. Worse yet, he didn't crack the top 20 in practice with his backup car. Starting at the back is the last thing Truex needed. In 13 starts at ACS, he has a 19.9 average finish and no top-five finishes. In fact, he has only cracked the top 15 four times.