Driver Handicaps: California

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    This weekend the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads to Auto Club Speedway for the Auto Club 500. RacingOne brings you our weekly detailed look at some of the field for the 250-lap event.

    Who's HOT at California
  • Roush Fenway Racing - Matt Kenseth and Greg Biffle have combined to win three of the last six races. Carl Edwards also has finished sixth or better in six of the last seven events.
  • Hendrick Motorsports - Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson each have multiple wins, with Gordon's three leading all drivers.
  • Kasey Kahne has finished 10th or better in four of his last five starts.
  • Kurt Busch has won three poles and captured two top 10s in the last four races.
  • Mark Martin leads all drivers with 35 top 10s on 2-mile speedways.

    Keep an Eye on at California
  • Joe Gibbs Racing - All three drivers (Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch and Tony Stewart) were happy with the way their Toyotas performed in Preseason Thunder at California.
  • Dale Earnhardt Jr. will be making his first start in a Hendrick Motorsports car on a 2-mile speedway.
  • Daytona 500 winner Ryan Newman the best Dodge COT in 2007 in terms of finishing average.
  • Clint Bowyer has posted a 10.8 average finish in four starts at California.

    Track Performers
    Jeff Gordon leads all active full-time drivers with five wins, 28 top 10s, eight poles and 1,411 laps led on 2-mile speedways. Carl Edwards, who has made 14 starts, holds the best finishing average on 2-mile tracks at 7.4. Matt Kenseth is second in average at 10.3 and Gordon (10.8), Denny Hamlin (11.0) and Jimmie Johnson (11.2) round out the top five. Part-time drivers Bill Elliott and Mark Martin also have stellar records on 2-mile tracks with both posting seven and five wins, respectively. Martin leads all drivers with 35 top 10s.

    California Rookie Report
    Regan Smith is the only Rookie of the Year candidate that has made multiple NASCAR starts at Auto Club Speedway. He made six combined starts in the Nationwide and Truck Series since 2003, with his best finish (ninth) coming in the NNS event last February. Sam Hornish Jr. has one Nationwide Series start at California that came in February 2007. He qualified 16th and finished 36th after an accident took him out of contention. Hornish also has four IndyCar Series starts at California with an impressive record of two wins and four top-five finishes. Dario Franchitti also visited victory lane in the IndyCar Series, while Patrick Carpentier has raced in both the Champ Car Series and the IRL at California. Rookie Standings

    Qualifying Tidbits
    Last September, Kurt Busch became the first driver to win three poles at Auto Club Speedway. Busch's brother, Kyle, set the qualifying record at 188.425 mph driving in the 2005 February event. Ford's last pole at California came in the September 2005 race with Carl Edwards. Kasey Kahne, the 2004 February pole winner, holds the best starting average among all drivers at 7.1. Eight of the 15 races have been won from outside the top 10 and no one has yet to win from the pole. Past Pole Winners | Starting Positions of California Winners

    California Loop Data Stat Leaders (2005-2007)

    *Fastest Early in a Run
    *Fastest Late in a Run
    Avg. Running Position
    1. Jimmie Johnson
    1. Mark Martin
    1. Matt Kenseth - 7.2
    2. Kyle Busch
    2. Matt Kenseth
    2. Jimmie Johnson - 7.7
    3. Matt Kenseth
    3. Jimmie Johnson
    3. Mark Martin - 8.8
    4. Carl Edwards
    4. Tony Stewart
    4. Kyle Busch - 9.4
    5. Martin Truex Jr.
    5. Reed Sorenson
    5. Tony Stewart - 10.7
    Laps in Top 15
    *Quality Passes
    *Driver Rating
    1. Jimmie Johnson - 1381
    1. Jeff Gordon - 347
    1. Matt Kenseth - 113.9
    2. Matt Kenseth - 1332
    2. Jimmie Johnson - 325
    2. Jimmie Johnson - 111.3
    3. Kyle Busch - 1259
    3. Jeff Burton - 303
    3. Kyle Busch - 109.3
    4. Kurt Busch - 1136
    4. Kyle Busch - 294
    4. Mark Martin - 103.6
    5. Carl Edwards - 1104
    5. Tony Stewart - 280
    5. Tony Stewart - 101.2


    *Fastest Early In a Run: Ranks each driver during the first 25 percent of laps run since a pit stop.
    *Fastest Late In a Run: Ranks each driver during last 25 percent of laps run since a pit stop.
    *Quality Passes: Passing a car running in the Top 15 while under a green flag.
    *Driver Rating : Formula combining the following categories: Wins, Finishes, Top-15 Finishes, Average Running Position While on Lead Lap, Average Speed Under Green, Fastest Lap, Led Most Laps, Lead-Lap Finish. Maximum: 150 points per race.


    RacingOne Staff Picks

    Jeff Wackerlin: Denny Hamlin - FedEx and Hamlin deliver Toyota their first points-paying Cup win in their backyard.
    Pete Pistone: Kyle Busch - Has won at Fontana before, has the horses in Toyota and a bad taste in his mouth from last week's Daytona disappointment.
    Rachael West: Carl Edwards - Edwards was strong in testing in January and holds a 7.8 average finish at California.
    Kym Opalenik: Jimmie Johnson - It's his home track, and he's the latest winner there. After his devastating loss at Daytona last week, and with his consistency, he has a very good chance of winning this weekend.

    Additional Driver Notes - Ordered by Current Standings

    1. Ryan Newman (Points: 190): Daytona 500 winner Newman will make his 11th Auto Club Speedway start and his 226th career Sprint Cup Series start this Sunday. In his previous starts at the speedway, Newman has posted three top-10 finishes - his last coming in the 2005 February race. He won the pole in his first start at the track in 2002 and has gone on to post a total of four more starts of ninth or better. His worst finish, of 42nd, came in the 2003 race when a crash took him out of contention. Newman will be driving the same car (Chassis PRS-525) that was tested at both Las Vegas Motor Speedway and Auto Club Speedway during the pre-season.

    2. Kurt Busch (Points Behind: -15): In 11 Cup starts at Auto Club Speedway, Kurt Busch has captured one victory, three top fives and five top-10 finishes. He also has started from the pole in three out of the last four events. Busch has made four California starts with Penske Racing and has posted an average finish of 14.8 in that span. This weekend Busch will be racing a new car (chassis No. PSC-528) that was tested at Auto Club Speedway.

    3. Tony Stewart (Points Behind: -20): Stewart has recorded an average finish of 10.0 in his last two races at Auto Club Speedway. Stewart saw his worst finish (43rd) at California come in the 2006 February race after the No. 20 Chevrolet lost an engine on lap 214. His best finishes at the track came in 1999 and 2001 with a pair of fourth-place efforts. In the 2005 September race, 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.

    4. Kyle Busch (Points Behind: -20): Early in his driving career, Kyle Busch had some trouble at Auto Club Speedway. He made his debut at the track in this event in 2004, finishing 24th after starting 18th. The following spring, he captured the pole position for the race, but only led three laps en route to a 23rd-place finish. But in the fall of 2005, the tide turned for Busch at California. In that event, he led 95 laps en route to his first career Cup victory. Since then, he has posted four consecutive top 10s and combined to lead 117 laps. This weekend Busch will be making his first non-restrictor-plate start with Toyota and Joe Gibbs Racing.

    5. Reed Sorenson (Points Behind: -30): Sorenson has posted an average finish of 26.5 in four starts at Auto Club Speedway. Earlier this month, Sorenson was second fastest on the final day of testing at the track.

    6. Kasey Kahne (Points Behind: -39): In the 2006 September race, Kahne scored his first win at Auto Club Speedway after leading 130 laps from the ninth starting position. The win marked his third consecutive finish of sixth or better. Kahne's DNF in this event last year marked only his second finish outside the top 15 in eight starts. In his first two starts, Kahne led a combined 116 laps, won a pole and posted a finishing average of 7.5.

    7. Elliott Sadler (Points Behind: -40): This weekend will mark Sadler's fourth Auto Club Speedway start with Gillett Evernham Motorsports. His best finish with the team came in the September 2006 race when he led eight laps and finished 13th. 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. His average finish (22.5) is the worst among all active full-time drivers that have at least one victory at the speedway.

    8. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (Points Behind: -47): Earnhardt Jr. will make his debut at Auto Club Speedway in a Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet after capturing four top 10s in 12 starts with Dale Earnhardt Inc. at the Speedway. After five consecutive races, Earnhardt Jr. was finally able to break back into the top 10 category at California Speedway when he finished a career-best second in the September race in 2006. Junior's other top-five finishes (third) came in 2001 after crashing the primary car on Friday and changing the engine on Saturday and in last September's event (fifth). This weekend Earnhardt Jr. will pilot the same car (chassis No. 88-483) that was tested at Auto Club Speedway.

    9. Robby Gordon (Points Behind: -48): Gordon will look to make up the points he lost at Daytona due to penalties by scoring his first top 20 finish with Robby Gordon Motorsports at Auto Club Speedway. Gordon's only top 10 at the 2-mile track came in 2004 when he finished ninth.

    10. Greg Biffle (Points Behind: -51): Biffle won his first Sprint Cup race at Auto Club Speedway 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. He followed the win up with another top-five, a runner-up finish after leading 16 laps. In the 2006 February race, Biffle looked to be the man to beat again. Coming off a win in the Busch race on Saturday, Biffle dominated the Cup race, leading 168 laps before a part failure took him out of the race. In the last three races, Biffle has posted an average finish of 18.7. This weekend Biffle will be piloting a new chassis (No. RK-559) that is a replica of the car tested at Las Vegas.

    11. Bobby Labonte (Points Behind: -60): This weekend Labonte will be competing in his fifth race with Petty Enterprises at Auto Club Speedway. His 11th-place finish last September was his best finish with the team. All of Labonte's five top 10s at California came with Joe Gibbs Racing. He also won the pole for the 2001 race.

    12. Jeff Burton (Points Behind: -61): Burton has made seven starts with Richard Childress Racing at Auto Club Speedway. In three of the last four races Burton has finished in the top five, including two consecutive fourth-place finishes. Burton's other three top-10 finishes came with Roush Racing from 1998-2000. His career best was a runner-up finish in 1999. This weekend Burton will return in the car (chassis No. 224) that was tested at California.

    13. Brian Vickers (Points Behind: -63): Auto Club Speedway was the only track Vickers posted two top 10s on in the 2007 season with his new Red Bull Racing Team. Vickers' previous six starts at the 2-mile track came with Hendrick Motorsports where he posted one pole and one top-five finish.

    14. Kevin Harvick (Points Behind: -69): Auto Club Speedway is one of three tracks on the circuit where Harvick has yet to post a top-five finish. In seven out of 11 races at the 2-mile speedway, Harvick has failed to finish inside the top 15. His best performance (sixth), and second top 10, came in the 2005 February race. This weekend Harvick will be racing a new car (chassis No. 238).

    16. Denny Hamlin (Points Behind: -73): Hamlin is coming off his worst finish (19th) at Auto Club Speedway after cutting a tire under caution late in the race. His only top 10 in four starts came in the 2006 September race when he finished sixth. Last year in the event, Hamlin flew through the field early in the race to move from 17th to third before handling issues became an issue. He wound up finishing 11th. The team's primary car for the weekend is chassis 196. This car is the same one that was tested at California earlier this month.

    17. Dale Jarrett (Points Behind: -75): Jarrett only qualified for this event last year with Michael Waltrip Racing. he finished 32nd in that event and it lowered his overall finishing average to 18.3. All off Jarrett's previous starts at Auto Club Speedway came with Robert Yates Racing where he posted six top 10s. This weekend will mark his last career start at California.

    18. David Reutimann (Points Behind: -81): Reutimann has posted an average finish of 32.5 in his two starts at Auto Club Speedway. Last year in this event, Reutimann finished 33rd after a crash took him out of contention.

    19. Carl Edwards (Points Behind: -84): Last year in this event, Edwards ended a streak of five consecutive top 10s at Auto Club Speedway after finishing 29th. He bounced back in the September race to score his best finish at the track in second. Edwards' six top 10s help give him an overall average finish of 7.6. The weekend he will be carrying the Dish Network colors on chassis No. RK-540. This is the same car that posted some fast times in the California test.

    20. Martin Truex Jr. (Points Behind: -87): Martin Truex Jr. suffered a disappointing DNF, resulting in a 42nd-place finish, at Auto Club Speedway in the this event last year due to engine problems. He rebounded in the second race to post his first top 10 (sixth) in four starts.

    23. Clint Bowyer (Points Behind: -94): Auto Club Speedway is one of Bowyer's top five tracks based on his finishing average of 10.8. Last September his average slipped due to a 20th-place finish. Bowyer, who finished sixth in this event last year, will be racing the same car (chassis No. 237) that was tested at California.

    26. Jimmie Johnson (Points Behind: -103): This weekend Johnson returns to the site of his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win, which was scored back on April 28, 2002, in his first start at Auto Club Speedway. Since then, Johnson has finished no worse than 16th and has three second-place finishes and another win last September. In both of his victories, Johnson led a combined 146 of his track total of 219 laps. This weekend he will debut the ca (chassis No. 48465) that was tested at California.

    27. Jamie McMurray (Points Behind: -105): McMurray's worst finishes at Auto Club Speedway have come in the last three respective events in 20th, 37th and 16th. His best finish with Roush Fenway Racing came in his first track start with the team in 2006 when he scored his fifth overall top 10 with a sixth-place finish. His previous five starts came with Chip Ganassi Racing where he posted an average finish of 7.2. The only time McMurray has led at California came in his first start in 2003 when he held the No. 42 Dodge out front for 41 laps.

    28. Michael Waltrip (Points Behind: -109): Waltrip will be attempting to start in his 15th race at Auto Club Speedway. Last year he only qualified for the second race and went on to finish 42nd after a fiery crash. His two top-10 finishes at the track came with Dale Earnhardt Inc.

    31. Mark Martin (Points Behind: -120): Last year in this event, Martin finished fifth in his first start at Auto Club Speedway in a Chevrolet. His previous 13 starts all came with Roush Fenway Racing where he posted seven top 10s, including a win in 1998.

    32. Juan Pablo Montoya (Points Behind: -123): This weekend Montoya will be making his third Sprint Cup start at Auto Club Speedway. Last year in this event, he captured his best finish (26th) after falling a lap down due to an untimely caution. Montoya clinched the 1999 CART championship with Chip Ganassi Racing with a fourth-place finish at California. In addition, he made another start there in the 2000 CART Series finale.

    35. Matt Kenseth (Points Behind: -130): Kenseth has won the last two races in February and has finished seventh in the last three Labor Day events at Auto Club Speedway. His 10.3 average finish leads all drivers that have made more than 11 starts at the track and his 379 laps led is only second to Jeff Gordon. Kenseth, who also has won four Nationwide races at Fontana, will be racing the same car (chassis No. RK-550) that was tested at Las Vegas and Auto Club Speedway.

    36. Casey Mears (Points Behind: -132): Mears has made nine starts at Auto Club Speedway and has finished in the top 10 twice with Chip Ganassi Racing. Last February, he finished 31st in his first track start with Hendrick Motorsports. Mears also has competed in the CART and Busch Series at the two-mile track. His best finishes in a stock car there came in the Busch Series where he took the runner-up spot twice. This weekend he will be racing the same car (chassis No. 479) that was tested at California.

    37. Dave Blaney (Points Behind: -136): Blaney has yet to score a top-25 finish with Bill Davis Racing in four starts at Auto Club Speedway. His last two finishes of 39th and 38th, respectively, have resulted from engine failures. This weekend Blaney will pilot chassis No. 11, which was rebuilt in the off season after racing in 2007.

    39. Jeff Gordon (Points Behind: -139): Gordon is one of three drivers that has scored multiple victories at Auto Club Speedway. His three victories, seven top fives, and 457 laps led currently leads all drivers. His finishing average (11.8) is the best among all drivers that have competed in every event since 1997. Last year in this event, Gordon won his second track pole.

    42. David Ragan (Points Behind: -153): Auto Club Speedway is one of Ragan's best tracks based on his 14.0 finishing average.

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