FONTANA, Calif. — It’s Race 3 of the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series season: the Auto Club 400 (Sunday at 3:30 p.m. ET on FOX/FOX Sports App, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Clint Bowyer scored the Busch Pole Award to lead the field to green, but is he worth the start in Fantasy Live? NASCAR.com’s RJ Kraft offers up his race-day lineup and bonus picks below.
RJ Kraft race-day lineup for Auto Club 400:
1: Joey Logano
2: Jimmie Johnson
3: Alex Bowman
4: Ryan Blaney
5: Kurt Busch
Garage: Kyle Busch
Just missing the cut: Kyle Larson, Brad Keselowski, Matt DiBenedetto, Chase Elliott and Bowyer
Analysis: Auto Club Speedway has long been a strong spot for Team Penske. Logano and Blaney look the best in that camp this weekend and were 1-2 in 15-lap averages for final practice. Logano has five straight top-seven finishes at this track. Blaney will start 16th, but there are guys ahead of him who elected for full-qualifying trim for their respective laps. He’s also got the hot hand with an average of 42.5 points in the first two races of 2020.
Bowman has been the talk of the garage this weekend as he led both practices and topped the 10-lap board in final practice. He backed that up with a strong qualifying effort, and I’m a believer the speed from Las Vegas Motor Speedway has carried over.
Johnson is a bit of sentimental pick, but I like his history in Fontana, California, the fact he starts on the front row, crew chief Cliff Daniels targeting stage points and the speed he showed at Vegas. He has also completed every lap of races he has run at this track.
Kurt Busch’s lap averages kind of snuck up on me, but I like that he did not have a drastic falloff across his averages. Veterans tend to take care of tires better at the rougher surfaces. He also finished sixth in this race last year.
For the garage, I’m playing a hunch Kyle Busch will look solid on race day. The averages weren’t eye-popping, but again, the falloff for him from 10- to 15-lap averages wasn’t as steep as others. Besides, I like the security blanket of having the defending race winner and reigning champion in the garage.
Larson was a tough omission for me, but I liked Kurt Busch’s lap averages a bit more. Bowyer is a bit more of wild card, even though he’s on the pole. He does not have a ton of practice averages to go off of, and his overall history at this track leaves a little something to be desired.
Bonus picks: I’m taking Bowman in Stage 1, Harvick in Stage 2 and the win with Ford as the manufacturer pick. The Harvick pick is some extra protection from not having him in my main roster. I wrote earlier this week about saving the use here and still believe in doing that, but his qualifying spot has me thinking that incorporating him into the bonus picks is a sound move.