The fifth stop on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series circuit comes March 26 at 3:30 p.m. ET at Auto Club Speedway for the Auto Club 400.
The MENCS teams hit the track Friday at 1:30 p.m. ET for practice and then 7:05 p.m. ET for qualifying.
Here are nine drivers to keep an eye on for your DraftKings lineup as the series wraps up its three-race western swing.
ELITE TIER: $9,500 and up
Kyle Busch ($10,500)
Auto Club: 18 Starts, 3 Wins, 8 Top Fives (44.4%), 12 Top 10s (66.7%)
Average finish at Auto Club: 10.9
Kyle Busch nearly picked up the win last week at Phoenix International Raceway after leading a race-high 114 laps. While holding a hefty lead, Joey Logano blew a tire and brought out the final caution of the evening. The No. 18 team elected to pit and take two tires, while eventual race winner Ryan Newman chose not to pit. Those decisions turned out to be the deciding factor at the end of the race.
Heading to California, Busch is arguably the favorite to win. Busch has four top fives in his last five races at Auto Club Speedway, including two wins (2013, 2014). In the other two races, he finished third and second, bringing his average finish in the five races to 6.4. Busch should be a cornerstone for lineups no matter where he starts.
Joey Logano ($10,300)
Auto Club: 10 Starts, 3 Top Fives (30%), 4 Top 10s (40%)
Average finish at Auto Club: 15.8
Logano started on the pole last Sunday and picked up the Stage 1 win. He led 82 laps and looked strong in the early portion of the race, but brake issues halted his run toward the front and he slowly fell back, culminating in a blown tire and a DNF.
In his four races at Auto Club Speedway since moving to Team Penske in 2013, Logano has three top-10 finishes, including a fourth-place finish in this race last year. In those three top 10s, Logano picked up positive place differential points in all three and led laps in two.
Jimmie Johnson ($9,800)
Auto Club: 22 Starts, 6 Wins, 12 Top Fives (59.1%), 16 Top 10s (72.7%)
Average finish at Auto Club: 6.5
Jimmie Johnson is the all-time leader in wins, top fives, and top 10s at Auto Club Speedway. There is no better driver in Fontana than Johnson, which makes his $9,800 salary surprisingly valuable.
Johnson finished ninth at Phoenix and will look to continue his momentum as the series moves into his home state of California. Johnson led 25 laps and won this race in 2016 from the 19th starting spot. In 22 races, only four times has Johnson finished with negative position differential points, which is impressive given the fact that his average starting spot is 9.9. And with an average finishing position of 6.5, he will be a must-start, especially if his poor qualifying trend continues.
ALL-STAR TIER: $8,500 – $9,400
Martin Truex Jr. ($9,400)
Auto Club: 16 Starts, 4 Top 10s (25%)
Average finish at Auto Club: 20.1
Martin Truex Jr. was another driver that gambled on old tires during the final restart. He ended up with an 11th-place finish. Through four races this season, Truex is averaging the most DraftKings points per race. He has finished higher than he has started in all four, including his win two weeks ago following a second-place start. He led 150 laps and swept all three stages during that win at Las Vegas. He is averaging an eighth-place finish so far this season.
Truex has had mixed success over his career at Auto Club Speedway. His average finish there is 20.1, which is not nearly as close to what we expect from Truex this weekend. He has shown speed every week and has led laps in two of the four races this season.
Kyle Larson ($9,100)
Auto Club: 3 Starts, 1 Top Five, 1 Top 10
Average finish at Auto Club: 22.3
Kyle Larson’s past performances at Auto Club should not deter any lineup looks this week. Larson has been far and away the most consistent driver in the early stages of the season, finishing runner-up in the past three races. He was one poorly timed lane change away from scoring that first win of the season last weekend on the final restart.
In four races in 2017, he has an average finish of 4.5. He has scored positive position differential in all four races and has led laps in three. He is the MENCS points leader and is due for another great weekend.
Matt Kenseth ($8,900)
Auto Club: 24 Starts, 3 Wins, 9 Top Fives (37.5%), 15 Top 10s (62.5%)
Average finish at Auto Club: 11.1
Matt Kenseth has been pretty inconsistent this season, which explains his mid-range salary. Kenseth has two DNFs in four races, but in the two he has completed, he has come away with finishes of third and ninth. Luckily, Auto Club Speedway is one of Kenseth’s better tracks.
Kenseth has three career wins in Fontana. Those three wins came during an eight-race top-10 streak from 2005-2009. He has led laps in 16 of his 24 starts, including the last four. Kenseth finished 19th in this race last season, but expect a display on Sunday that falls in line with his career average finish of 11.1.
BARGAIN TIER: $4,500 – $8,400
Kurt Busch ($8,200)
Auto Club: 23 Starts, 1 Win, 7 Top Fives (30.4%), 12 Top 10s (52.2%)
Average finish at Auto Club: 12.3
Kurt Busch has struggled the past two weeks after starting the season off hot. The No. 41 team suffered power issues throughout the race last week; in the early going, Busch’s digital dash lost power during a caution, which caused a pit road speeding penalty, and he had a hard time bouncing back.
Busch has three top fives in his last four California races. In 2015, he started from the pole and finished third while leading 65 laps. In 2016, Busch was forced to a backup car for the race and never found his groove. Crew chief Tony Gibson does a great job preparing Busch for the Sunday grind, so expect the Daytona 500 champion to get back on track this weekend.
Ryan Newman ($8,000)
Auto Club: 22 Starts, 5 Top Fives (22.7%), 9 Top 10s (40.9%)
Average finish at Auto Club: 16.6
Ryan Newman broke a 127-race winless streak after taking the checkered flag in Phoenix. Newman has been running toward the front all season long but hadn’t had luck go his way until last Sunday. Newman picked up the win after starting from the 22nd spot. Yet following the win, Newman’s DraftKings salary has lowered.
Newman has bested his average finishing position of 16.6 in six of the last seven races at Auto Club Speedway. He finished 14th in this race last season. If Newman starts beyond the top 15, he will draw strong consideration for this weekend’s slate.
Clint Bowyer ($7,800)
Auto Club: 16 Starts, 2 Top Fives (12.5%), 7 Top 10s (43.8%)
Average finish at Auto Club: 14.3
Since wrecking during the Daytona 500, Clint Bowyer has pulled off three respectable top-15 finishes. His 13th-place finish last week marked the third week in a row where he has finished at or better than his starting position.
Although 2016 was an outlier for Bowyer, running for HScott Motorsports, he still managed to pick up an 18th-place finish. Bowyer is back to a team that can consistently run up front, and for his low salary, he is worth keeping an eye on. He is averaging a 14th-place finish at Auto Club Speedway over his career, so if he starts outside of that, he could be a great middle-of-the-order driver.
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