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(Photo: Nigel Kinrade/NKP)

Who’s Hot and Who’s Not in NASCAR: Gold Mining or Bust

Around 1849, gold was discovered in California, and about twenty years after that silver was discovered in the area, too. That led to, among other things, the writing of Mark Twain. In his nonfiction work Roughing It, there is a lengthy discussion of the chaos surrounding mining communities, as miners either struck it rich or went broke trying.

That attitude pretty much applied to Sunday’s Auto Club 400, held at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California – Furniture Row Racing’s Martin Truex Jr. was in command for most of the day, sweeping both stages and winning the race. On the other end of the spectrum, Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick overdrove early while racing with Kyle Larson and basically took himself out of the race (though the No. 4 would continue to the finish, they finished nine laps down in 35th place).  Joe Gibbs Racing’s Kyle Busch was racing with Truex for the lead right at the end, but a trackbar-adjustment mistake on pit road ended Busch’s hopes of getting to Victory Lane.

After Truex came Larson as the highest-finishing Chevrolet driver, followed by Busch in third, Team Penske’s Brad Keselowski in fourth was the top Ford, and Joey Logano rounded out the top five.

Toyotas led 188 of the 200 laps. That’s 94 percent, so they had a good day at their home track. This brings the total laps led so far in 2018 by Camrys to 441, according to my math, or about 34 percent of the 1311 laps run.  (Ford drivers have led 738 thus far, Chevys have led 132.)

HOT

Kyle Busch scored his fourth straight top 10 this week, and his third straight top-three. He led 62 laps, the most of any driver not named Truex. He finished second and third in the first two stages, and his 207 points are the most of drivers without a win yet this season.

NOT

Roush Fenway Racing’s Trevor Bayne pummeled the wall on lap 108, ending his day and relegating him to a last-place finish of 37th. This was the second out of five races where he’s failed to finish this season, and the 28th DNF of his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career, according to Racing Reference statistics. He finished 13th at Daytona, but an engine failure at Atlanta left him 35th, and his best finish so far is 20th, at both Las Vegas and Phoenix.

HOT

Clint Bowyer just missed his third 2018 top-10 with Sunday’s 11th-place finish, which puts his average finish at 10.6 this season – by far the best of his career.  He also scored stage points in both stages, and is currently in 10th with 155 points, 40 ahead of playoffs cutoff drivers Alex Bowman and Paul Menard.

NOT

Ty Dillon‘s sophomore season really hasn’t started off on the right foot. He finished 39th at Daytona, then posted finishes of 26th, 24th and 30th before Sunday’s 27th, which brings his average finish this season to 29.2. All of those results are worse than last season, where he had three top-20 runs and an average finish of 20th by this point.

HOT

Erik Jones finished the West Coast Swing with finishes of eighth, ninth and seventh, and he qualified fourth for Sunday’s race and scored bonus points in both stages. He’s currently 13th in the standings with 132 points.

NOT

Jeffrey Earnhardt lost his ride with StarCom Racing after Sunday’s 36th-place finish 11 laps down. He sits at 33rd in the standings with 28 points and a best finish of 21st at Daytona. The No. 00 is currently 36th in the owner standings, lowest among chartered teams. Landon Cassill will be behind the wheel for the next two races at Martinsville and Texas.  However, it should be remembered that this is StarCom’s first full season, and they only made two starts in 2017. These growing pains are probably to be expected.

Paint Scheme of the Week

Welcome to Fontana.👋

A post shared by Hendrick Motorsports (@teamhendrick) on

Because of the news late Wednesday afternoon that Lowe’s is leaving Hendrick Motorsports after this season, the primarily black scheme the No. 48 has been using this season felt appropriate for this section. We’ve covered this news from a variety of angles this week. During the offseason Frontstretch chronicled the sponsorship exodus, which now will leave Denny Hamlin‘s No. 11 and FedEx as the only car with a nearly-complete season with only one sponsor. (Menards and Bass Pro Shops both sponsor about the same number of races, though they split them among multiple drivers.)

Predictions 

The Cup Series is headed to Martinsville this week. Johnson, the Busch brothers, Hamlin, Harvick, Keselowski and Ryan Newman have all won at the Paper Clip, which has been hosting NASCAR races since 1949. They would all be good choices for your fantasy team. In terms of actual predictions, tempers will flare and lots of chili dogs will be chomped down. Kyle Busch has finished first, fifth, second and first his last four races there; he will get his first win of 2018 this weekend.

About Wesley Coburn

Wesley Coburn
Wesley loves well-told stories in whatever format he finds them. Aside from NASCAR, he enjoys reading, country music, OKC Thunder basketball and superhero TV/movies. He has a BA in Liberal Arts/English and currently lives in eastern Oklahoma.

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