NASCAR - Sprint Cup - Auto Club 400 Preview

From The Sports Network

DATE: Sunday, March 25th
SITE: Auto Club Speedway (1997) -- Fontana, California
TRACK: two-mile oval - 3,100 feet (Frontstretch); 2,500 feet (Backstretch)
CAPACITY: 84,000 (Grandstand Seating)
ANNUAL: 16th
ANNOUNCERS: Mike Joy, Darrell Waltrip, Larry McReynolds
RADIO: Motor Racing Network (MRN)/SIRIUS NASCAR Radio
START TIME: 3 p.m. (ET)/Green Flag: 3:15 p.m. (ET)
RUNNER-UP: Jimmie Johnson
POLE WINNER: Juan Pablo Montoya (Finished 10th)
LAPS: 200
MILES: 400
QUALIFYING RECORD: Kyle Busch, 2005 (188.425 m.p.h.)
RACE RECORD: Jeff Gordon, 1997 (155.012 m.p.h.)
TOTAL PURSE: $5,716,005 (2011 figures)
PAYOUTS: 1st Place - $331,961; 2nd Place - $240,7861; 3rd Place - $214,816
2011 Finish
1Kevin Harvick246Carl Edwards18
2Jimmie Johnson167Clint Bowyer17
3Kyle Busch88Brian Vickers19
4Matt Kenseth119Kasey Kahne22
5Ryan Newman910Juan Pablo Montoya1
2011 Auto Club 400 Facts and Figures
AVERAGE SPEED: 150.849 m.p.h.
TIME OF RACE: 2 hours, 39 minutes, 6 seconds
MARGIN OF VICTORY: 0.144 second
CAUTION FLAGS: 4 for 16 laps
LEAD CHANGES: 28 among 10 drivers
POLE WINNER: Juan Pablo Montoya (184.653 m.p.h.)
Past Auto Club 400 Winners (Starting Position) Car -- Speed
2011 -- Kevin Harvick (24th) -- Chevrolet -- 150.849 m.p.h.
2010 -- Jimmie Johnson (7th) -- Chevrolet -- 141.911 m.p.h.
2009 -- Matt Kenseth (24th) -- Ford -- 135.839 m.p.h.
2008 -- Carl Edwards (9th) -- Ford -- 132.704 m.p.h.
2007 -- Matt Kenseth (25th) -- Ford -- 138.451 m.p.h.
2006 -- Matt Kenseth (31st) -- Ford -- 147.852 m.p.h.
2005 -- Greg Biffle (5th) -- Ford -- 139.697 m.p.h.
2004 -- Jeff Gordon (16th) -- Chevrolet -- 137.268 m.p.h.
2003 -- Kurt Busch (16th) -- Ford -- 140.111 m.p.h.
2002 -- Jimmie Johnson (4th) -- Chevrolet -- 150.088 m.p.h.
2001 -- Rusty Wallace (19th) -- Ford -- 143.118 m.p.h.
2000 -- Jeremy Mayfield (24th) -- Ford -- 149.378 m.p.h.
1999 -- Jeff Gordon (5th) -- Chevrolet -- 150.276 m.p.h.
1998 -- Mark Martin (3rd) -- Ford -- 140.220 m.p.h.
1997 -- Jeff Gordon (3rd) -- Chevrolet -- 155.012 m.p.h. (race record)
NOTE: Formerly called California 500 by NAPA (1997-1999), NAPA Auto Parts 500
(2000-02), Auto Club 500 (2003-10). Race changed from 500 to 400 miles
in 2011.
Last Race Results
RACE: Food City 500 (March 18th)
SITE: Bristol Motor Speedway -- Bristol, Tennessee
MILES: 266.5
LAPS: 500
WINNER: Brad Keselowski
RUNNER-UP: Matt Kenseth
THIRD: Martin Truex Jr.
FOURTH: Clint Bowyer
FIFTH: Brian Vickers
POLE WINNER: Greg Biffle (Finished 13th)
TIME OF RACE: 2 hours, 51 minutes, 52 seconds
AVERAGE SPEED: 93.037 m.p.h.
MARGIN OF VICTORY: 0.714 second
CAUTION FLAGS: 5 for 49 laps
LEAD CHANGES: 13 among 7 drivers
LAP LEADERS: G. Biffle 1-41; A. Allmendinger 42-95; B. Vickers 96-116; D.
Earnhardt Jr. 117; B. Vickers 118-216; B. Keselowski 217-254; M.
Kenseth 255-256; J. Gordon 257; B. Vickers 258-262; B. Keselowski
263-341; D. Earnhardt Jr. 342; B. Keselowski 343-346; M. Kenseth
347-389; B. Keselowski 390-500.
Auto Club 400 Entry List
CarDriver, HometownCar/Name
1Jamie McMurray (Joplin, MO)Chevrolet/Bass Pro Shops
2Brad Keselowski (Rochester Hills, MI)Dodge/Miller Lite
5Kasey Kahne (Enumclaw, WA)Chevrolet/Quaker State
7Robby Gordon (Orange, CA)Dodge/Speed Energy
9Marcos Ambrose (Launceston, Australia)Ford/DeWalt
10David Reutimann (Zephyrhills, FL)Chevrolet/Tommy Baldwin Racing
11Denny Hamlin (Chesterfield, VA)Toyota/FedEx Express
13Casey Mears (Bakersfield, CA)Ford/GEICO
14Tony Stewart (Columbus, IN)Chevrolet/Office Depot/Mobil 1
15Clint Bowyer (Emporia, KS)Toyota/5-Hour Energy
16Greg Biffle (Vancouver, WA)Ford/3M
17Matt Kenseth (Cambridge, WI)Ford/Roush Fenway Racing
18Kyle Busch (Las Vegas, NV)Toyota/Interstate Batteries
19Mike Bliss (Milwaukie, OR)Toyota/TBA
20Joey Logano (Middletown, CT)Toyota/Dollar General
22A.J. Allmendinger (Los Gatos, CA)Dodge/ Southern California AAA
23Scott Riggs (Bahama, NC)Chevrolet/North Texas Pipe
24Jeff Gordon (Vallejo, CA)Chevrolet/Drive to End Hunger
26Josh Wise (Riverside, CA)Ford/1-800-Loan Mart
27Paul Menard (Eau Claire, WI)Chevrolet/Menards/Certainteed
29 *Kevin Harvick (Bakersfield, CA)Chevrolet/Jimmy Johns
30David Stremme (South Bend, IN)Toyota/Inception Motorsports
31Jeff Burton (South Boston, VA)Chevrolet/Caterpillar
32Ken Schrader (Fenton, MO)Ford/1 Less Than 2
33Brendan Gaughan (Las Vegas, NV)Chevrolet/South Point Casino
34David Ragan (Unadilla, GA)Ford/TBA
36Dave Blaney (Hartford, OH)Chevrolet/Tommy Baldwin Racing
37Timmy Hill (Port Tobacco, MD)Ford/
38David Gilliland (Riverside, CA)Ford/TBA
39Ryan Newman (South Bend, IN)Chevrolet/U.S. Army
42Juan Pablo Montoya (Bogota, Colombia)Chevrolet/Target
43Aric Almirola (Tampa, FL)Ford/Medallion Financial
47Bobby Labonte (Corpus Christi, TX)Toyota/Charter
48Jimmie Johnson (El Cajon, CA)Chevrolet/Lowe's/J.J. Foundation
49J.J. Yeley (Phoenix, AZ)Toyota/America Israel Racing
51Kurt Busch (Las Vegas, NV)Chevrolet/Phoenix Construction
55Mark Martin (Batesville, AR)Toyota/Aaron's
56Martin Truex Jr. (Mayetta, NJ)Toyota/NAPA Auto Parts
74Stacy Compton (Hurt, VA)Chevrolet/Turn One Racing
78Regan Smith (Cato, NY)Chevrolet/Furniture Row
83Landon Cassill (Cedar Rapids, IA)Toyota/Burger King/Dr. Pepper
87Joe Nemechek (Lakeland, FL)Toyota/AM FM Energy Wood Pellet
88Dale Earnhardt Jr. (Kannapolis, NC)Chevrolet/Diet Mt. Dew/Nat Guard
93Travis Kvapil (Janesville, WI)Toyota/Burger King/Dr. Pepper
98Michael McDowell (Glendale, AZ)Ford/Curb Records
99Carl Edwards (Columbia, MO)Ford/Subway
* - Defending champion
Leading Contenders (Finish the last nine years)
Kevin Harvick29th9th6th29th17th8th38th2ndWon
Jimmie Johnson16th2nd2nd2nd3rd2nd9thWon2nd
Kyle Busch------23rd10th9th4th3rd14th3rd
Matt Kenseth9th4th26thWonWon5thWon7th4th
Ryan Newman42nd3rd9th20th12th10th28th36th5th
Carl Edwards------5th3rd29thWon7th13th6th
Clint Bowyer---------14th6th19th19th8th7th
Kasey Kahne---13th40th4th38th9th12th34th9th
Juan Pablo Montoya------------26th20th11th37th10th
Greg Biffle18th33rdWon42nd15th15th4th10th11th
Dale Earnhardt Jr6th19th32nd11th40th40th39th32nd12th
Tony Stewart41st16th17th43rd8th7th8th9th13th
A.J. Allmendinger------------------29th25th14th
Jeff Burton19th26th19th5th4th12th32nd3rd15th
Paul Menard------------20th27th37th18th16th
Kurt BuschWon23rd3rd16th7th13th5th6th17th
Jeff Gordon11thWon30th13th2nd3rd2nd20th18th
Mark Martin17th11th7th9th5th16th40th4th20th
Martin Truex Jr---------15th42nd6th27th39th21st
Jamie McMurray5th15th4th6th37th22nd16th17th23rd
Joey Logano------------------26th5th25th
Brad Keselowski---------------------21st26th
Marcos Ambrose------------------22nd35th28th
Denny Hamlin---------12th11th41st6th29th39th
Mover of the Week
Jeff Burton - Started in 33rd position and finished 6th
Sports Network Selections
Pick to Win - Jimmie Johnson
Darkhorse - Greg Biffle
Last Week's Pick to Win (Kyle Busch) - Finished 32nd
Last Week's Darkhorse (Paul Menard) - Finished 10th
Off to a solid start this year with two top-10's in four starts, Kevin Harvick is set to defend his Auto Club 400 title from a year ago, and one lap is all it took.

There were 18 lead changes among 10 drivers during the 200-lap race. Kyle Busch dominated, leading five times for 151 laps and Jimmie Johnson led for laps 198 and 199, but it was Harvick who outdueled them both down the stretch to take the checkered flag for his 15th career win.

In 18 starts at Auto Club Speedway, Harvick finally gained his first win to go along with his eight top-10 finishes. In doing so, Harvick turned the tables on Johnson, who had clipped him the previous season. This time around, Harvick made the pass on the final lap and won by 0.144 seconds, the closest finish in Auto Club Speedway history.

Harvick finished last season with four wins and 19 top-10 finishes, but placed 12th in the points race. This year, he's second, just nine points back.

It took eight years, but Jimmie Johnson finally repeated his 2002 performance at Auto Club Speedway by defeating Kevin Harvick for his 48th career Sprint Cup title in 2010. Johnson, who had posted six straight top-10 finishes prior to the win, including four seconds, dominated the field, leading eight times for a whopping 101 laps in posting a 1.523 second victory. Johnson took the lead for good with 24 laps remaining. Seeking his fourth win in the past five years, Matt Kenseth placed seventh after starting 20th on the grid. Pole sitter Jamie McMurray finished 17th.

Kenseth won this race for the third time in four years back in 2009, as he raced to victory. Kenseth reclaimed the lead with 39 laps remaining and held on to defeat Jeff Gordon by 1.463 seconds. Kenseth, who started 24th, led three times for 84 laps, as he posted his 18th career Sprint Cup title. Pole sitter Brian Vickers never led the race and finished 10th.

Carl Edwards, Jimmie Johnson and Gordon battled over the final 40 laps, but it was Edwards who came out on top in the spring 2008 race at California, as he won under caution for his eighth career Sprint Cup title. Edwards, who started ninth, took the lead on lap 211. However, Gordon moved in front on lap 221. Pole sitter Johnson, who led on nine occasions for a race-high 76 laps, reclaimed the advantage just one lap later. But Edwards took over again on lap 238 and then held it for the win, despite the accident on turn 4 of the final lap. The race, which started late Sunday, was completed the next day due to inclement weather.

Dominating. That's the only word that can describe Kenseth in 2007 at California. Kenseth, who became the first back-to-back winner of this race, led seven times for a whopping 133 laps to capture his 15th career Sprint Cup title. Gordon, the pole sitter, finished less than a second behind Kenseth. Gordon led just two laps.

Gordon is a three-time winner of this race, including the inaugural year in 1997. After three straight top-10 finishes, Gordon has failed to crack the top-15 the past two seasons.

In 2006, Kenseth crossed the finish line just 0.338 of a second ahead of Johnson for his 11th career Sprint Cup title and first of that year. Kenseth, who led four times for a total of 40 laps, reclaimed the lead on lap 219 of the 251-lap event and held on for the win. Greg Biffle, who led for a race- high 168 laps, finished 42nd due to engine problems, while pole sitter Kurt Busch finished 16th.

After winning in 2002, Johnson has recorded a 16th place finish in 2003, three consecutive runner-up finishes, a third in 2007, 2nd again in 2008 and 2010, ninth in 2009 and a win in 2010 at his home track. The El Cajon, CA-native has an average finish of 5.1 in 17 races there. In all, Johnson has five wins and 13 top-10 finishes. His starting position is 9.0, the only driver to have a starting position inside the top-10.

Auto Club Speedway, formerly California Speedway, has the distinction of laying claim to the world's fastest two-mile oval. During the 2001 Marlboro 500 Presented by Toyota CART Championship Series qualifying, Marlboro Team Penske driver Gil de Ferran set a new speed record with an average lap of 241.428 m.p.h. That speed topped Mauricio Gugelmin's mark of 240.942 m.p.h. set here in 1997. The speedway is 52 miles east of Los Angeles and 60 miles west of Palm Springs. During the 1997 season the speedway accommodated 80,000 fans with an eventual seating capacity of 107,000. The total cost of the project was approximately $120 million.

The pole sitter has never captured this race in the 15-year history; however, Johnson won the 2008 fall event at California from the pole. The number three position has won this race twice ,while the 31st position is the furthest any driver has started and won there (2006). When Rusty Wallace captured this event in 2001, he became the oldest winner at California at 44 years, 8 months and 15 days. Four drivers have competed in all 21 races: Jeff Burton, Jeff Gordon, Bobby Labonte and Joe Nemechek. Eleven of the 22 races were won from starting positions outside the top 10; only one has been won from the pole (Jimmie Johnson in 2008). The most prolific starting position are third and 24th, with three victories each.

The next Sprint Cup Series race is the April 1 Goody's Fast Pain Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway. Kevin Harvick won last year's race there.

03/20 18:11:24 ET

As of March 20, 2012, at 06:11 PM ET
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