The NASCAR Cup Series hits the mid-point of its early season, three-race West Coast swing with the reigning champion still looking to find a top-10 finish in 2020. But be certain 2019 Cup Series champion Kyle Busch is optimistic for a turnaround Sunday when he heads to Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, for the Auto Parts 400.
Busch won the event in Fontana last year and heads into this race as a favorite at 4-1.
Busch Comfortable In Auto Parts 400
The 2-mile Auto Club Speedway is a track where Busch has long felt comfortable. With four career Cup Series victories there in 21 starts he’s a favorite every time the series returns. He’s averaged a 10th place finish at the track over his career with just a single DNF over those 21 races. The Las Vegas native has finished in the top-five at Fontana in half of the events he’s finished.
Motor issues relegated Busch to a 34th place in the season opening Daytona 500. He won the pole for his hometown return at Las Vegas Motor Speedway but ended up with a 15th place finish.
Other Auto Parts 400 Picks
Despite having only one career win at Auto Club Speedway in 26 Cup Series starts since 2001, Bakersfield, Calif. native Kevin Harvick goes into the weekend at 4-1, coming off a fifth place at Daytona and eighth in Las Vegas, so also could challenge Busch and other in the Auto Parts 400.
Joey Logano (11-2) carries the momentum of victory at Las Vegas to California, visiting a track where he’s never tasted victory in 13 starts dating back to 2009.
While he’s been a front-runner regularly at Fontana over the last seven seasons, Logano has yet to find the magic elixir to capturing a checkered flag when going back to Cali. Logano has top-five finishes in five of the last seven Cup Series events in Fontana, finishing seventh or better in six of those events.
Ryan Blaney (17-1 odds) has been the most consistent in the first two races of the season and goes into California at the top of the series standings. Blaney was second at the Daytona 500. He was in position to win near the end at Las Vegas if not for a late caution that made for a chaotic green-white-checkered finish and relegated him to an 11th place finish. Blaney has four series starts at Fontana, with three top-10 finishes, but has only a best finish of fifth.
Jimmie Johnson is the sentimental pick of the week at 22-1. The seven-time Cup Series champion and El Cajon, Calif. native is making his final career start at Auto Club Speedway. Johnson, who will retire at the end of the 2020 season, has six series victories at Fontana, with the last coming in 2016.
Kyle Larson (10-1) is part of the home state brigade of six California natives expected in the field on Sunday. Larson is one of the three – along with Harvick and Johnson – with previous wins at Fontana.
The second of Larson’s six career Cup Series victories since 2016 came at Auto Club Speedway in 2017. But Larson’s history at the track has been the picture of inconsistency. In six starts he has a win and two seconds, but also a 26th place and a 39th place. He was 12th in last year’s Fontana race.
Long Shots In California
If you’re looking for the long shot at California, there’s a pair of interesting picks.
Grass Valley, Calif. native Matt DiBenedetto (100-1) is in his first season with the historic Wood Brothers Racing team and has been strong out of the gate. He’s coming off a second-place finish at Las Vegas. It seems like only a matter of time until NASCAR’s darling of the underdogs grabs victory.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (100-1) won the pole at Daytona in his first event since joining JTG Daugherty Racing for the 2020 season so wouldn’t be the worst bet online. He grabbed a surprise third place finish at Las Vegas. Though Fontana has never been much kind to Stenhouse, who has only one top-10 finish (fifth in 2016) in seven career starts at the track.