Fantasy NASCAR: Polking's Picks for Fontana

by Brian Polking on March 20, 2014 @ 13:26:10 PDT

 


It certainly was an eventful trip to Bristol Motor Speedway last weekend, and my fantasy teams definitely paid the price. Not only did persistent rain turn a day race into a night race and messed with the handling of many early front-runners, but a rash of mechanical issues and tire failures took out several other contenders. The Busch brothers in particular hurt my rosters, and a power steering issue for Joey Logano didn't help. Marcos Ambrose and Kyle Larson ended up being my only real bright spots, and while Matt Kenseth and Brad Keselowski salvaged top-15 finishes with banded up cars, I expected much more out of both. Needless to say, I am hoping for a much smoother day at Auto Club Speedway this weekend.

For this weekend's race, I will be taking advantage of the fact that Auto Club Speedway shares a similar 2.0-mile layout with Michigan International Speedway in order to narrow down my selections. Since ACS hosts only one race and hosts it early in the year, relying solely on a driver's performance in Fontana can sometimes be misleading, especially since fuel mileage can often play a factor at the track. However, looking at the performance of drivers at both Auto Cub and Michigan widens the sample size, which is particularly helpful for evaluating younger drivers that have made a couple of starts at Auto Club and drivers that have been with their current teams for only a year or two. Knowledge is power, but sometimes, you have to be a little creative to get it.

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NASCAR driver Greg Biffle
Biffle to help start new streak

Dale Earnhardt Jr. (A): Junior has been a roll at the 2.0-mile tracks the past couple of seasons, especially at Auto Club Speedway. In his past two starts at Fontana, he has finishes of third and second. In six starts at 2.0-mile tracks since the start of the 2012 season, he leads all drivers with four top-five finishes and ranks second with 174 laps led.

Greg Biffle (B): Biffle has been absolutely dialed in at the 2.0-mile tracks recently. In six starts over the past two seasons, his 4.5 average finish is the best in the series, and he has scored 26 more points than any other driver during the stretch. At ACS specifically, he has back-to-back sixth-place finishes. He should be one of the safest picks this weekend.

Joey Logano (B): His first year with Team Penske was a great one, and Logano was particularly impressive at 2.0-mile tracks in 2013. He posted a 4.3 average finish in three starts, finishing a career-best third at Auto Club Speedway and leading more than 20 laps in all three races. Logano was battling Denny Hamlin for the win on the final lap of last year's race in Fontana, and I love his upside.

Austin Dillon (C): While this will be his first Cup start at Auto Club Speedway, I love what Dillon showed in two starts at Michigan last year. Driving for two different teams, he finished in the top 15 in both starts. Dillon seemed to have a natural feel for Michigan's 2.0-mile layout, and I think it should translate very well to Auto Club Speedway.

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Kyle Busch ($27.00): With the emphasis on laps led and fastest laps in this format, I will gladly pay for Busch. In addition to being the defending winner of this weekend's race, he has three straight top-three finishes at ACS. More importantly, he has led 356 of the 529 laps during the stretch.

Denny Hamlin ($23.75): His overall record at Auto Club Speedway is inconsistent, but he has some upside and his price is still depressed from his struggles last year. After all, Hamlin was fighting for the win on the final lap of last year's race before he tangled with Joey Logano and ended up in the hospital. I also have a feeling that he will have a little extra motivation to have a big day at the track that essentially ruined his season a year ago.

Tony Stewart ($22.50): After a dreadful start to the year, "Smoke" showed some signs of life last weekend at Bristol. Now, he gets a chance to tackle a track that he has been excellent at in recent years. Stewart has six top-15s in his last seven starts at Auto Club Speedway, and he has won two of the last four races at the track. His salary is down as a result of his rough start, and I think he could be a bargain this weekend.

Brian Vickers ($20.25): Although he hasn't had a ride for the past two races at Auto Club Speedway, I don't expect the layoff to hinder Vickers this weekend. He has seven top-12 finishes in his last eight starts at the track so consistency has never been an issue.

Reed Sorenson ($6.50): Sorenson is my salary saver this weekend, and for a near-minimum price, I think he could deliver a top-25. He has four top-25s in 10 career starts at Auto Club Speedway, and this weekend, he will be driving for a Tommy Baldwin Racing team that notched a top-25 at the track last year with Dave Blaney behind the wheel.

NASCAR.com Streak to the Finish

Greg Biffle: I'm starting from scratch after Kurt Busch was one of the many drivers that found trouble at Bristol last weekend, but I like my chances of starting a new streak with Biffle. He has six straight top-10s at 2.0-mile tracks, including back-to-back sixth-place runs at Auto Club Speedway.

FOX Fantasy Auto Racing

Kyle Busch (captain): Since my captain will have his point total doubled, I'll give the honor to the driver that has dominated Auto Club Speedway. Busch has three straight finishes of third or better at the track, including a win last year. In the three races, he has led 67 percent of the laps.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Junior loves to take the high line around Auto Club Speedway's massive layout, and it has been working. He finished third at the track in 2012 and was the runner-up last year. Throw in the fact that he has the most top-five finishes and the second-most laps led at 2.0-mile tracks the past two years, and I'll gladly use up one of his starts.

Carl Edwards: He has been way too consistent at Auto Club Speedway not to get on my roster this weekend. His 8.4 average finish at the track is the second best in the series, and in 16 starts, he has 13 finishes of seventh or better. Meanwhile, Edwards enters Sunday's race with three straight finishes of sixth or better at ACS.

Joey Logano: Logano had a career day at Auto Club Speedway last year, finishing a career-best third and coming within a lap of getting to Victory Lane. He went on to compile a 4.3 average finish in three starts at 2.0-mile tracks in 2013, and I don't think it was a coincidence that the success came in his first year with Team Penkse.

Tony Stewart: I'm hoping that his top-five finish at Bristol last weekend will jumpstart Stewart's season, especially since he has been stout at Auto Club Speedway lately. He has two wins in his last four starts at the track and six top-15s in seven starts since joining Stewart-Haas Racing.

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About Brian Polking

Racing has been part of Brian's life ever since he can remember, and he spent his childhood at dirt tracks throughout Ohio and Kentucky watching his father race. NASCAR naturally became his favorite sport, and he has been following the Cup, Nationwide and Truck Series for most of his life. Brian majored in journalism and economics at Ohio State University and becoming a sports writer has always been his dream. Although he has covered everything from minor league baseball to the NCAA tournament, his passion has always been NASCAR. Brian has served as a NASCAR writer for a variety of sites, eventually becoming head editor of the NASCAR section for Fanball.com. His knowledge of NASCAR comes from his life-long love of racing, and he tries to add a personal touch to every article he writes. Brian is always up for talking NASCAR with anyone that wants to. Brian joined KFFL's team in 2011.

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