Auto Club Story Lines

NASCAR

Last year's race at Auto Club Speedway provided a dramatic finish. Could it happen again? (Photo: Getty Images)

FONTANA, Calif. - Could there be a three-peat today at Auto Club Speedway?

Not with winners but with edge-of-your-seat finishes?

Last year’s Sprint Cup race featured a last-lap duel between Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin that resulted in Hamlin crashing (and being injured) and Kyle Busch winning the race. Saturday afternoon, Kyle Larson scored his first career Nationwide Series win by holding off Kevin Harvick and Busch in the final laps.

Could this 2-mile oval provide more late-race theatrics today? Mix old pavement, tires that wear, multiple grooves and a history for late cautions and who knows what might happen. It could make for quite a late-race restart.

“On the last restart, I don’t think I have ever thought of the word etiquette,’’ Carl Edwards said. “I don’t know if there is much. Now especially. Here, they drop the green flag and if one guy stumbles or shows a sign of weakness and there is a lane, the track is like 85 feet wide plus a little apron and grass, there is a lot of room to run here. I don’t know that there will be any etiquette and there will probably be people mad afterwards.’’

That’s just among the key story lines with today’s race.

HIS TIME?

Jeff Gordon has opened the season with four consecutive top-10 finishes, the first time he’s done that in his Sprint Cup career.

The streak could grow. Gordon had the best average for 10 consecutive laps in Saturday’s final practice session. He’s been fast all weekend. Dale Earnhardt Jr. tweeted that his teammate has looked the strongest to him at Auto Club Speedway. Gordon last won at this track in 2004, but that could change today.

PAY ATTENTION TO ...

Michael Waltrip Racing teammates Brian Vickers and Clint Bowyer have shown speed this weekend. The key is if they can maintain it during the race.

Roush Fenway Racing has not been as strong on the big tracks since last year. Carl Edwards scored a fifth-place finish at Las Vegas two weeks ago but that was as much due to pit strategy. Can the Roush cars race to the front or will they have more work to do?

Stewart-Haas Racing has not had a finish better than eighth in the last six races on non-restrictor-plate tracks 1.5 miles or lager. The best finish for the team two weeks ago at Las Vegas was 21st by Danica Patrick although Kevin Harvick led before mechanical issues.

TIRE QUESTIONS

Team Penske drivers Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano are among those who have had left-side tire problems this weekend. Others facing similar issues have been Martin Truex Jr., Kurt Busch and Jamie McMurray.

A Goodyear official said low air pressure has played a role in the issues for each team. As Busch’s crew chief, Daniel Knost, noted, the speeds and downforce have increased and that’s making the tires work harder. If teams don’t find the right setup to make the left-side tires last, the penalty could be severe.

FIVE FOR FIVE

Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski and Carl Edwards have each won a race this season. Only three times in the past 10 seasons have there been five different winners in the first five races. Will that happen again today? 

NO RAIN

After having rain delay the Daytona 500 and last weekend’s race at Bristol, rain will not be an issue today. The National Weather Service calls for temperatures in the low 70s with no mention of rain.

Motor Racing Network – “The Voice of NASCAR” – will have live coverage of Sunday's Auto Club 400 from Auto Club Speedway at 2 p.m. (ET), with live streaming at MotorRacingNetwork.com.

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