NASCAR: Wise Power 400 preview, picks

Keep an eye on Kyle Larson this weekend. Photo via: Wiki Commons.

The NASCAR Cup Series heads west for the Wise Power 400 in Fontana, California to kick off its west coast swing. It’s hard to believe it, but this will be the first race at this track since 2019. Since then, this massive two-mile oval has set dormant both figuratively and literally as there are many questions regarding its future. Back in 2020, it was announced that the track would be reconfigured to a half-mile short track. This was met with mixed reactions among fans and drivers alike. There were many questions about how this would work. How were they going to actively take a two and a half-mile racetrack and turn it into a short track, and most importantly, when? The long-term goal was to run a final race on this current configuration last year, but due to pandemic-related reasons, NASCAR couldn’t go to the track, and now it has moved the renovations back a year. There is even a chance they don’t change it all. Only time will tell. For now, in the track's current iteration, we see a lot of bumps in the racing surface which makes it difficult on tires. There is a good chance we see tire wear come into play this weekend.

Last weekend at Daytona, Austin Cindric took home his first career victory. The race was pretty much your typical race at Daytona, everyone sort of laid back after the first big wreck, then went right back to crashing at the end.

The finish was rather controversial as Cindric threw a block forcing his teammate Ryan Blaney into the wall and causing a melee at the finish line. Over the radio, Blaney exclaimed “I’m going to kill that kid,” then when interviewed outside the infield care center, Blaney thanked everyone but his rookie teammate. This could be an interesting storyline going forward, but more than likely Roger Penske will step in. I don’t see this progressing much further, after all it was for the Daytona 500, and you don’t get many opportunities to win the biggest race of the year.

Bubba Wallce continues to improve on his superspeedway efforts, he backed up his victory at Talladega in the fall last season with another impressive second place finish in the 500. In the final 100 yards, it looked like Wallace was gaining momentum to take the victory, but simply ran out of time. While he was disappointed he didn’t get the victory, this could be a really big building block for the rest of the season. I look for the 23XII racing team to make great strides this year

After all of the dust settles at Daytona, this week we will see a bit more of the usual suspects at the front. This Sunday will be no different as I am taking the defending champion Kyle Larson to win. Even in the early parts of his career, Larson always dominated these tracks like Auto Club and Michigan. At one point, he had four victories in a row on these types of tracks. Overall, he seems to be able to run the outside around the wall here better than anyone and find grip where no one else can. Another thing to consider is how much better a racecar he will have this time around as opposed to his last start here in 2019. I look for Larson to begin his title defense with a win at Auto Club come Sunday.

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