NASCAR heads for the Golden State for the Auto Club 400

Auto Club 400 preview

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This Sunday, the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series heads ends its western swing as they head for the high banks of Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. For many, this track is one of the wildcards on the schedule and with this new aero package and the track's two mile length, the racing is sure to be a whole lot closer come Sunday. In this year's off-season testing, drivers Daniel Suarez, defending champion Joey Logano and Martin Truex Jr were all invited to a tire test here at the track with all of the new changes in place including the tapered spacer and new Aero Ducts. Overall, the cars were much more closer together than we have been accustomed to seeing over the years and if that was just with three cars, I can't imagine how crazy it's going to look with a full field of 38. It's shaping up to be one of the most exciting races of 2019.

Last week, Daniel Suarez and Michael McDowell stole the headlines after the two were involved in a scrum after qualifying. Towards the end of the session, Suarez was in the middle of his qualifying lap when he encountered McDowell who was finished with his run. Suarez claimed that McDowell killed his momentum and slowed him down so when the session was over, Suarez approached McDowell to confront him and the "fight" was on. After McDowell pushed Suarez, Daniel threw McDowell to the ground. Both were separated by McDowell's crew-chief, Drew Blickensderfer. It has been a while since we have seen a full on physical altercation in NASCAR, the last time there was anything close was Chase Elliott and Denny Hamlin at Martinsville back in 2017 and even then that was more of a heated discussion than anything. After the chain of events many fans were ecstatic to see the drama and Suarez gained a lot of new fans via twitter as well. Overall, while the reception of the fight was mostly positive there was a section of racing purists who were not to keen on the kind of publicity that would come with the fight. While I can sort of understand their opinion, these kinds of things are what the sport was built off of. Most would say that without the fight that Donnie Allison, Bobby Allison and Cale Yarborough had in Daytona in 1979, this sport wouldn't be as popular as it is today. The emotions we saw with Suarez and McDowell is how racing used to be, fight now then talk it out after words which they did. I for one am glad to see the drivers finally coming out of their shell and showing some character, something we haven't seen very much of over the past few years.

The favorite going into this race has to be Martin Truex Jr. Last year he kicked off his incredible season by getting his first win of the season here. While this year there are much different circumstances and the racing is supposed to be vastly different this time around, it's no secret that MTJ knows his way around Auto Club speedway. Since 2017, Truex hasn't finished lower than second, he has also led more laps than any active driver in that time span as well. While he is with a new team at Joe Gibbs Racing, the fact remains that he will be the car to beat come sunday. Look for Truex to claim his first win of the season and begin his journey to a second NASCAR championship.

While there has been a lot of static about these new cars this year, and this type of racetrack is what these cars are made for; it should be a can't miss race come Sunday.

(All stats and information used in this article is brought to you by the good folks at driveraverages.com and Racing-Reference.com the best website for all NASCAR stats).

THE LEFT TURN

NASCAR at Bristol preview

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This week NASCAR heads to Bristol Motor Speedway for the Bass Pro Shops Night race. With the playoffs approaching this is definitely one of the wildcard races that can truly make or break a driver's chances of getting into the playoffs. Nicknamed the last great colosseum, Bristol Motor speedway is one of NASCAR's most iconic race tracks on the schedule as it's close quarters racing has always been a big hit among fans. The track is an half-mile oval with 22 degrees of banking like you would see at a much bigger racetrack. While the track has been widened over the years, it is still common practice to see drivers use their bumpers to knock someone out of the way. It should be must-see TV come Saturday night.

Last week, Kevin Harvick was able to rebound after a flat tire and win Michigan. This was the second time in two years that Harvick was able to win Michigan's fall race as he was able to save just enough fuel to get his Mobile one Mustang to victory lane. The race was fairly tame compared to what we have seen over the past two months but it was still a fairly intriguing event. Like we usually see at this track, fuel strategy was the deciding factor in who finished were. In the closing laps, both Penske teammates Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano ran out of fuel as they ran second and third eliminating them from victory. Some of the good stories we saw out of last week's race was how great of a run Ryan Preece had as he was able to claim an impressive seventh place finish. This is the rookie's third top ten of the season as he was able to drive all the way up from 29th to finish where he did. Overall, this has been a difficult season for him but if he can continue to improve like he did last week at Michigan, he should have a bright future in this sport.

It appears as if NASCAR's famed "silly season" is upon as drivers look to secure a ride for next year. The first domino to fall is Matt DiBendetto as it was announced that he will not be returning to the #95 Toyota for Leavine Family Racing. This comes as a bit of a surprise considering how well he has done in this car. This season he has four top 10 finishes and two top fives and was definitely gaining ground so it is sad to see a good driver lose his ride. The driver that will move up and take his place appears to be rookie driver Christopher Bell. While he has remained quiet about what he will be doing next season, it would be safe to assume that he will be next in line to drive this car considering car owner Bob Leavine's relationship with Joe Gibbs. As much as I hate to see Matt lost his place, I think that it is a far cry to say Bell doesn't deserve to be Cup racing. This young driver has been lighting it up in the Xfinity series and I think he will translate well in 2020. As far as it goes for DiBenedetto, he isn't without options. With Toyota's newest crop of young drivers such as Harrison Burton and Todd Gilliand being a few years from being ready to be in the cup series, it wouldn't be a bad idea for Matt to scale down into the Xfinity series for a year or two driving for Gibbs. I think this could help his career as here he will be able to compete for a championship besides you never know what other opportunities could arise in the not to distant future.

Coming into Bristol, the driver that I have winning is Kyle Larson. In interviews and on social media, Larson has called this track his favorite and it makes a lot of sense considering how good his results have been. Larson currently has an average finish here of 7.50, the third highest amongst active drivers.This track almost perfectly complements his driving style considering the best line to run around here is the outside and if you have watched him race, you can tell that's his preferred line. This track also being a short-track really plays a lot into why he has been so good here as well considering he has been racing at tracks just like them around the country when he races his dirt car. Over the years, he has always been close here but this week I think he gets it done and gets his first win of 2019.

(All stats and information used in this article is brought to you by the good folks at driveraverages.com and Racing-Reference.com the best website for all NASCAR stats).

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