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).

NASCAR heads to Michigan for the FireKeepers 400

FireKeepers Casino 400 preview

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This week, NASCAR heads to Michigan for the FireKeepers 400. This is one of the biggest tracks on the circuit as it is exactly two miles in length and has wide 18 degree banking in the corners making it one of the fastest tracks on the circuit. With the track being as wide as it is, we should be able to see a lot of green flag runs that could very well bring for more pit road strategy.

Like last week at Pocono, it will be crucial for these drivers to make no mistakes in pit road if they want any chance at victory.

Of course the main point of intrigue this week is how these cars will respond to NASCAR's new rules package. It seems like every week, there is always a question about how these cars are going to run. Overall, it would appear that no one has any idea what's going to happen this week. We very well could see a big pack of cars that run together in a draft or we could see the field get spread out like we have been seeing at tracks like this. As important as this rules package is, many drivers and fans are growing tired of talking about it. When last week's winner Kyle Busch was asked how he would rate it, he responded by saying "STOP ASKING ME PACKAGE QUESTIONS! I'M DONE ANSWERING THEM!"

While many people didn't appreciate his attitude towards the question, I think that he is right for the most part about how difficult it is to race under these new guidelines on tracks like Pocono. Last week's race was not good as there was no passing. Kyle Busch lead a good majority of the laps and when it was all said and done the whole field was two or three seconds apart. Now in a 36 race season, I understand that there are going to be races like this, it has been like that since the sport began but NASCAR has continued to talk about how much closer the racing would be under these new rules and a lot of the time most people have been disappointed. It will be interesting to see how it works this week at a similar track in Michigan.

The driver that I have winning this week is Kevin Harvick. While it may sound like I am picking a favorite here, This season has been somewhat of a disappointment for these guys. While they are fifth in the standings and are doing a good job of collecting points, he has yet to win a race this season. While they have had the speed and have been able to run around the top five, they just have not been able to seal the deal. In his five years with Stewart-Haas Racing, this is the longest Harvick has gone without a win. By anyone else's standards, they would kill to have a season like this but for Harvick, I know that he is not happy with where they are right now so I look for them to come to Michigan and finally get their first win of 2019.

Another driver I see doing well this week is Austin Dillion. Despite his issues in the past couple of weeks at Charlotte and Pocono, he has shown good speed this season as he has been able to run around the top 15. Now if you look at the stat sheet, it would tell you that Dillion has struggled here but over the last couple of races at the track, he has steadily improved. In last year's Fall race here, he was able to finish fourth in one of his better races of 2018. It should be a bounce back week for Dillion as he looks to get back in the hunt to make the playoffs.

(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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