NASCAR preview: A look at the Auto Club 400 in California

NASCAR heads to Fontana, Calif. this week.

This week the Monster Energy series heads for the high banks of Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. for the Auto Club 400. Designed in 1996 by legendary car owner Roger Penske, this track is MASSIVE; it's two miles in length and has fourteen degrees of banking. This place has plenty of room, so it is not uncommon to see three or four wide racing.

Last year Kyle Larson went on to his second career victory after beating Brad Keselowski, a victory that kicked off a career year for the third-year driver. This year you can expect a lot of the same type of racing, lots of passing for position and long green flag runs. The race, however has a trend of late race cautions. (Some for questionable reasons but that’s for a different article) Since 2012, there has been a caution within the final four laps of every race, and as the great Darrell Waltrip always said, "Cautions breed Cautions."

When there is a chance for a restart there is an even likelier chance for another yellow flag, and that was case last year when something as simple as a Corey Lajoie's single car spin lead to a multi-car crash involving Kasey Kahne, Trevor Bayne and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. The favorite going into this race is clearly the man who has won the last three races, Kevin Harvick.

I have been watching NASCAR as far as I can remember being alive and I do not recall someone having this dominant of a start to a season. It was always known that Harvick is good on the West Coast part of the season, but never did I imagine he would have a shot to sweep all four races and sure enough here we are. Auto Club is another track that holds a lot of sentimental value because it's his home track. Harvick grew up two hours away in Bakersfield, so getting a victory in front of his home state crowd would be a signature win for his career, especially considering he has never won here before.

Regardless he has ran great here at this track with a 7.50 since average finish since 2016 which is fifth all time amongs active drivers so look for the Jimmy John's Ford to be freaky fast this weekend. The driver I think that will go to victory lane. however. is Martin Truex, Jr. Truex is coming off three consecutive top five finishes, and while this is not a track that he has been great on, last year he had a good run going as he led the second most laps in the race with 77 and won the second stage. 

This weekend will be the race where Truex breaks through and gets his first win of the season as he defends last year's championship. A dark horse to watch for this weekend is Daniel Suarez. In his debut at Fontana he went on to a seventh-place finish, and the sophomore driver is coming off his best finish of the year last week. He looks to be turning a corner as one of the next great young drivers in NASCAR so look for him and his bright orange Toyota Camry to be up front.

This race is one that I always look forward to due to the amount of lead changes we have seen in years past -- last year this race had 17 and the year before that had 26. With the aero package that NASCAR has brought to this race track over the last few years it is strange that there is only one race here. Nonetheless look for it to be a good race.

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

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The media has mixed feelings about the James Harden trade. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

James Harden was 100-percent exactly right earlier this week when he said the Houston Rockets were "just not good enough."

How could they be? Not when their moody superstar scorer, who makes about half a million dollars per game, shows up chubby, looking like a kielbasa about to explode in the microwave. Hey, some people eat when they're unhappy, it's a defense mechanism. In Harden's case, the only defense he's exhibited this season. At least he had a good excuse for missing pre-season training camp and alienating his teammates - he was busy partying with Cinnamon and Cherish in Atlanta and Vegas without a mask. Worst of all, he went into the tank his last four games in a Rockets uniform, standing around, arms folded, scoring fewer than 20 points each time, all Rockets losses. Fans in the front row were asking him to move, he was blocking their view of players who cared about winning. James Harden sabotaged his own team, a team that offered him $50 million a year to stay. Something that crazy could only happen in professional sports these days.

There's a saying that drives the American labor movement: "a fair day's wage for a fair day's work." It's the motto of the American Federation of Labor. The National Basketball Players Association is not a member. Harden's sulking on the court, cheating the Rockets and their fans, was unforgivable.

Harden, sitting out games while somehow being on the court, forced the Rockets to trade him - and quick - to Brooklyn. The trade, when you ignore the fine print and unindicted co-conspirators Cleveland and Indiana, sent Harden to Brooklyn in exchange for Caris LeVert (immediately flipped for Victor Oladipo), Jarrett Allen, three first-round draft picks and four swapped first-rounders. It's true, when you trade a superstar, you never get back equal value. The other team wins.

If it makes Rockets fans feel any better, the media in New York already has problems with their new problem child. I should say newest problem child. Kyrie Irving plays for the Nets.

"They (the Nets) gave up everybody! There's nothing left now. I just want to cry, It's awful," weeped WFAN Radio talk host Evan Roberts. For those who don't subscribe to weekly Arbitron ratings reports, WFAN is the most powerful, top-rated sports talk station in the Apple.

"You're leading down the road of doom. Harden and Durant could be gone in a year and a half. I'm not convinced this gives them a better chance to win a title. I'm living a nightmare again. They better freaking win."

Circle March 3 on your Rockets schedule. That's when the Brooklyn Nets, with their Big 3 of Kevin Durant, James Harden and possibly Kyrie Irving visit Toyota Center. I hear talk radio salivating over the record jeers that will cascade over Harden's name, although I'm not buying it. Fans don't think like the media does. I'm thinking that Rockets fans will welcome Harden back - one night only - with cheers.

Toyota Center public address announcer Matt Thomas: "Usually when former Rockets come to town for the first time since leaving, I give them a positive introduction. It's up to the fans how to react."

James Harden spent eight seasons with the Rockets. He is a spectacular player who watched other NBA players engineer trades so they could compete for a title. Harden didn't think the Rockets were good enough, and he's right. So he wanted out. We've all been there, a job we didn't like for a company we didn't like, for a boss we didn't respect. Harden wanting to be traded is understandable. How he went about it was deplorable. He hurt his co-workers.

Houston will make Harden pay for his disrespectful departure. He has an upscale restaurant set to open here. The name of the steakhouse will be "13." Harden's business partners may want to change that number ... before the restaurant's telephone number is disconnected. There are plenty of other restaurants in Houston. Rich people who can afford steakhouse prices hold grudges.

Rockets fans searching for a silver lining say, "We got two decent players and a whole bunch of precious first-round picks" for a malcontent who would rather be anywhere (except maybe Sacramento) than Houston." Yes, a bunch of first-round picks does bode well for the future. Anywhere, except maybe Houston.

Houston's draft war room isn't the most successful operation in the NBA. Over the past decade prior to 2000, under the direction of general manager Daryl Morey, the Rockets made 16 draft picks. Not one of them is still in a Rockets uniform, many of them have sought employment outside of America, some outside of basketball. Among their first-round whiffs: Nikola Mirotic, Terrence Jones, Sam Dekker - all out of the league. Best of all, Royce White, who played three whole games in his NBA career and finished with a scoring average of 0.00 points per game.

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