Driver Handicaps: California

    This weekend the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series heads to California Speedway for the Sony HD 500. To help you make your Dale Jr. Reality Cup Racing fantasy picks, RacingOne brings you our weekly detailed look at some of the field for the 250-lap event.


    Who's HOT at California Speedway
  • Matt Kenseth has led 246 laps, and is the most recent winner.
  • Jeff Gordon is the only driver that has scored multiple victories. His three victories, five top fives, and 413 laps led currently leads all drivers.
  • Carl Edwards, the 2005 September pole winner, has yet to finish worse than sixth in four starts.
  • Mark Martin leads all drivers in races led and top-10 finishes.
  • Kyle Busch, who finished 10th in February, made NASCAR history at California Speedway in 2005 as he became the series' youngest pole and race winner.
  • Jimmie Johnson has one victory and the best finishing average (7.6) among all drivers that have started the last seven events.

    Keep an Eye on at California Speedway
  • Greg Biffle won the spring Busch race and will race the same car that dominated in the spring Cup race before a part failure took him out of the race.
  • Jamie McMurray has the best average finish (7.0) over the last five years.
  • Elliott Sadler, the 2004 winner of this event, started second and finished 10th two weeks ago at Michigan, a track similar to California.
  • Dale Earnhardt Jr. will be racing the same chassis (No. 39) he led 40 laps with en route to a sixth-place finish at Michigan in August.
  • 2003 winner Kurt Busch won the pole in February and has led 193 laps.
  • Tony Stewart suffered a flat tire in February but was still able to lead 28 laps and challenge for the win until his car blew its engine on lap 214.
  • Denny Hamlin has the best average finish (11.0) on 2-mile speedways among the rookies.
  • Kasey Kahne will be driving the same car that he captured all four of his wins with in 2006.

    February California Recap
    Matt Kenseth was able to hold off Daytona 500 winner Jimmie Johnson on a green-white-checkered finish to win the Auto Club 500 at California Speedway. It was Kenseth's 11th of 14 career victories and it completed a sweep for car owner Jack Roush, whose teams won all three NASCAR races at the two-mile track that weekend. Johnson, Carl Edwards, Kasey Kahne and Jeff Burton rounded out the top five. Greg Biffle led a staggering 168 of the first 218 laps before mechanical problems ended his day. Complete Results

    Track Performers
    Bill Elliott, who is driving Michael Waltrip's No. 00 Chevrolet this weekend, is the active leader in wins and poles with seven each on 2-mile speedways. Jeff Gordon and Mark Martin are tied for second in wins with five each. Martin leads all with 34 top 10s. Carl Edwards and Matt Kenseth have the best finishing averages at 6.8 and 9.9, respectively, in a combined 34 starts. Gordon has the best average start at 9.9 in 41 races.

    California Speedway Rookie Report
    With the exception of J.J. Yeley, every Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidate made their first California NEXTEL Cup start in February. Yeley is the only one among the group that has captured a top-10 finish and has led laps, accomplishing that this year in his third series start at the track. Denny Hamlin was the second highest finishing rookie in 12th. He was followed by Clint Bowyer (14th) and Martin Truex Jr. (15th). All of the rookies have posted at least one top-10 finish in the Busch Series at California Speedway. Bowyer has had the best NBS results with one pole and two finishes of fourth or better. Rookie Standings

    Qualifying Tidbits
    Kasey Kahne possesses the best starting average (8.6) among all drivers with five or more starts at California Speedway. There have been 11 different pole winners in 12 races at California. Qualifying in 1999 was rained out. Kyle Busch is the current track record holder with a lap of 188.435 mph. Five of the 12 events (42%) have been won from within the top 10. Past Pole Winners | Starting Positions of California Winners

    Califorina Speedway Loop Data Stat Leaders (2005-2006 season)
  • Greg Biffle is the fastest driver early in a run during the first 25 percent of a green flag run since a pit stop at 177.296 mph (Must have completed 75% of scheduled laps). Matt Kenseth, Carl Edwards, Jimmie Johnson and Kurt Busch round out the top five.
  • Mark Martin and Matt Kenseth, respectively, hold average running positions of 5.8 and 7.5. Greg Biffle, Jimmie Johnson, Carl Edwards and Kurt Busch are the only other drivers to hold an average place of less than 10.0.
  • Mark Martin is the fastest driver late in a run since a pit stop at 172.807 mph (Fastest speed during last 25 percent of standard green flag run. Must have completed 75% of scheduled laps). Greg Biffle (172.611), Matt Kenseth (172.546), Tony Stewart (172.369) and Jimmie Johnson (172.258) round out the top five.
  • Kasey Kahne and Denny Hamlin, respectively, have completed 172 and 51 quality passes (Passing a car running in the Top 15 while under a green flag).
  • Greg Biffle has the best average Driver Rating at 117.7.

    Dale Jr. Reality Cup Tiebreakers

    Last Five Number of Lead Changes
    2006-18
    2005-30
    2005-26
    2004-29
    2004-23

    Last Five Number of Cautions Laps
    2006-26
    2005-43
    2005-40
    2004-51
    2004-39

    RacingOne Staff Picks

    Jeff Wackerlin: Dale Earnhardt Jr.
    Pete Pistone: Jimmie Johnson
    Jorge Mondaca: Clint Bowyer
    J.J. O'Malley: Jimmie Johnson
    Shawn Akers: Matt Kenseth

    Fan Vote (based on votes from RacingOne community members): Matt Kenseth

    More Driver Notes (In Order of Points Standings)

    1. Jimmie Johnson (Points: 3499): This weekend Johnson returns to the site of his first NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series win, which was scored back on April 28, 2002, in his first start at California Speedway. Since then, Johnson has finished no worse than 16th and has three second-place finishes, one of which was captured this year. The February race marked the third time in seven starts that Johnson has not led a lap at the 2-mile speedway. Overall, Johnson has led a total of 104 laps, with the most (62) coming in the race that he won. Johnson's primary chassis (No. 48339) is the same car that finished 10th at Pocono in June.

    2. Matt Kenseth (Points Behind: -7): Kenseth won the February event at California Speedway marking his fifth top 10 in nine starts. He has led in seven races for a total of 246 laps, which ranks fourth among all drivers. Kenseth has won three Busch races at Fontana with crew chief Robbie Reiser. Kenseth will be back in the same car (chassis RK-323) that won at California and Michigan.

    3. Kevin Harvick (Points Behind: -321): In five out of eight races at California Speedway, Harvick has failed to finish in the top 25. His best performance (sixth), and second top 10, came in the 2005 February race. He will race a brand new chassis (No. 174) in the Sony HD 500.

    4. Kyle Busch (Points Behind: -402): Busch made NASCAR history at California Speedway in 2005 as he became the series' youngest pole and race winner. He won the pole in the February event last year after setting a track record of 188.245 mph. In September, Busch set the mark for the youngest winner at 20 years, four months and two days, after leading 95 laps en route to his first career NEXTEL Cup win. He finished 10th in this season's race. In his first two starts at the track he finished 24th and 23rd, respectively.

    5. Jeff Gordon (Points Behind: -408): Gordon is the only driver that has scored multiple victories at California Speedway. His three victories, five top fives, and 413 laps led currently leads all drivers, and his finishing average (12.3) is the best among all drivers that have raced in every event since 1997.

    7. Jeff Burton (Points Behind: -435): This spring, Burton broke a streak of finishing 15th or worse in the seven races prior at California Speedway when he finished fifth. Burton's other top-10 finishes came with Roush Racing from 1998-2000. His career best was a runner-up finish in 1999. Burton will be behind the wheel of the same car (chassis No. 173) that most recently won the pole at Michigan before a blown engine relegated him to a 42nd-place finish in the race.

    8. Tony Stewart (Points Behind: -443): In February, Stewart suffered a flat tire but was still able to lead 28 laps and challenge for the win until he blew an engine on lap 214. The 43rd-place finish was his worst in 10 starts at the 2-mile speedway. Stewart's best finishes at the track is a pair of fourth-place efforts in 1999 and 2001. In this event last year, Stewart scored his third top five - first in five races - with a fifth-place finish. Stewart dominated the 2003 event, leading three times for 100 laps, before a connecting rod broke within the engine, giving him a 41st-place finish.

    9. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (Points Behind: -448): Earnhardt Jr. scored his career-best finish at California in 2001 (third) after crashing the primary car on Friday and changing the engine on Saturday. During the race, Earnhardt ran out of fuel on lap 107 and was able to battle back from a lap down. Junior's only other top-10 came in 2003 after he brought the Budweiser Chevrolet home sixth after starting a career-best eighth at the 2-mile speedway. Junior finished 38th in this event last year, which marked his fourth finish of 32nd or worse in nine starts. Earnhardt will be racing the same chassis (No. 39) he raced to a sixth-place finish at Michigan in August.

    10. Mark Martin (Points Behind: -450): Martin dominated the 1998 race leading 165 laps en route to his only victory at California Speedway. In February, Martin finished ninth for his series leading sixth top-10 finish in 12 races. He is currently the leader in races led, with nine, and is second to Jeff Gordon in laps led with 268. The No. 6 AAA team will be bringing the same car (chassis RK-381) that finished fifth at Indianapolis and Michigan in August.

    11. Kasey Kahne (Points Behind: -540): Kahne scored his best finish (second) in his second of five starts at California Speedway. Since the 2005 February race when Kahne suffered his only DNF, he has gone on to finish sixth and fourth, respectively. In his first two starts, Kahne led a combined 116 laps, won a pole and posted a finishing average of 7.5. Kahne will be driving the same car (chassis No. 128) that he captured all four of his wins with in 2006.

    12. Greg Biffle (Points Behind: -701): Biffle, who swept both Busch races in 2004 at California Speedway, won his first NEXTEL Cup race at the track in the February event in 2005. He led 46 laps en route to the win and it was his first finish of 13th or better in five starts at the 2-mile speedway. Last September, Biffle scored another top-five with a runner-up finish after leading 16 laps. The only other times Biffle has led laps at Fontana came in 2004 when he led for 28 laps, and this year's race when he led 168. Both races resulted in finishes of 33rd and 42nd, respectively, due to mechanical problems. Biffle, who won the spring Busch race, will race the same car (chassis RK-239) that dominated in the spring at California before a part failure took him out of the race.

    13. Carl Edwards (Points Behind: -711): Edwards will be shooting for his fifth top-10 finish at California Speedway in his fifth start. He bested last September's finish of fourth, by one position, when he placed third in February. His 4.5 finishing average leads all drivers. Edwards, who has led a combined 54 laps in two races at Fontana, will race a brand new car (chassis RK–387) in the Sony HD 500.

    14. Kurt Busch (Points Behind: -840): Busch has one victory (2003) and one runner-up finish (2002) at California Speedway. His last top 10 came in the 2005 February event when he finished third. Earlier this year, Busch won the pole and finished 16th in his first track start with Penske Racing. Busch, who is fifth in laps led (193) at California, will be driving chassis PRS-088 for the first time in Sunday's Sony HD 500.

    15. Ryan Newman (Points Behind: -913): Newman will make his eighth California Speedway start and his 177th career NEXTEL Cup Series start this Sunday. In his previous seven starts at the speedway, Newman has posted three top-10 finishes. He won the pole in his first start at the track in 2002 and has gone on to post a total of three more starts of ninth or better. His worst start, of 28th, came in this event last year. Newman, who finished 20th in February at California, will race chassis PRS-048 in the Sony HD 500. This is the same chassis that finished 25th at Michigan two weeks ago.

    16. Casey Mears (Points Behind: -935): Mears returns to his home state for his seventh Cup start at California Speedway. Mears has posted two top-10 finishes on the 2-mile speedway, with all his other finishes being 22nd and worse. His best finish at Fontana came in February when he finished seventh. Mears does have some other unique experience at the track, having raced there in four different series; CART, Indy Lights, Busch and Cup. The No. 42 Havoline Team will unload the same car (chassis No. 403) that most recently finished 16th at Michigan.

    17. Brian Vickers (Points Behind: -951): Vickers, the 2004 pole winner, captured his best finish - and only top 10 - at California Speedway in this event last year. He led a combined 46 laps in his first three of five starts at the 2-mile speedway.

    18. Jamie McMurray (Points Behind: -968): McMurray has one finish (15th) outside the top eight in six starts at California Speedway. In February he finished sixth in his first track start with Roush Racing giving him the best average finish (7.0) among drivers that have made six or more starts. The only time McMurray led a lap at the 2-mile track came in his first start, in 2003, when he led for 41 laps. He will pilot a brand new chassis (No. RK-393) with the Smirnoff Ice colors in the Sony HD 500.

    19. Scott Riggs (Points Behind: -1022): Riggs will be seeking his second top-10 finish on Sunday when he makes his sixth start at California Speedway. He will do that driving one of the team's favorite chassis (No. 130). This is the same car that led 90 laps en route to a 13th-place finish in the Coca-Cola 600 at Lowe's Motor Speedway.

    21. Elliott Sadler (Points Behind: -1104): This weekend will mark Sadler's first track start with Evernham Mototrsports. He will be driving the same car that he drove to a 10th-place finish in his debut with the team two weeks ago at Michigan, a track similar to California. Sadler posted his first top-20 finish at California in seven races when he drove the Robert Yates Racing Ford to victory in the 2004 Labor Day event. He followed the win up with his second top-10 finish (8th) in the 2005 February event. The only time Sadler has led at the 2-mile speedway was when he led for 59 laps en route to his victory. His average finish (22.0) is the worst among all drivers that have at least one victory at the speedway.

    24. Robby Gordon (Points Behind: -1239): In February, Gordon captured his best finish (26th) in his three starts at California Speedway with his No. 7 Team. In this event last year, he led two laps before a crash relegated him to a 34th-place finish. Gordon's best finish (ninth) in eight starts came with Richard Childress Racing in this event in 2004. This weekend Gordon will also return behind the wheel of Dale Earnhardt Jr's No. 88 NAVY Chevrolet in the Busch race.

    25. Bobby Labonte (Points Behind: -1243): Labonte has raced in 12 races at California Speedway and has captured two runner-up finishes (2000, 2003) and a total of four top fives. Labonte, who has one pole at Fontana (2001), finished 31st in his first track start with Petty Enterprises in February.

    26. Dale Jarrett (Points Behind: -1261): Jarrett has captured five top-10 finishes at California Speedway, with his best (fifth) coming in 1999. Jarrett's 17.8 finishing average is hampered by a 41st-place finish (engine) in 1998 and a 37th-place finish (accident) in 2003. He has led at least one lap in four different races at California for a total of 102 laps. Jarrett will race the same chassis (No. 69) that finished 36th at Michigan two weeks ago after the engine failed on lap 166.

    30. Ken Schrader (Points Behind: -1455): Schrader has yet to post a top-10 finish at California Speedway. His best finish of 14th came on two occasions with two teams - Andy Petree and BAM Racing.

    31. Joe Nemechek (Points Behind: -1470): Nemechek appeared to be headed to his first top-10 finish at California Speedway in the 2005 February event after he led the most laps (63) before losing the engine on lap 130. His 39th-place finish was his second DNF and ninth finish of 20th or worse at California. Nemechek, who won the inaugural pole at California, finished 10th in this event last year - his only top 10 at the track.

Related Topics:

NASCAR Sprint Cup, 2006

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