Auto Club Speedway is historically tough on those with poor starting positions
There are a couple of tracks where the phrase, “you’ve got what you’ve got” is repeated. The superspeedways of Daytona and Talladega are the most obvious, but recently Auto Club Speedway has added its name to the list. In the two most recent events on this track, no driver who qualified 25th or worse finished in the top 10, which means players will want to look for a driver starting on the first 10 or 12 rows to anchor their team.
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-- The Power Average is the average finish on short tracks during the last three years, plus the number of laps spent in the lead, in the top five, and in the top 10 expressed as if they were finishing results.
AJ Allmendinger had a bad draw for qualification and rolled off pit road to take time second. The track was hot and slick, so the team tightened his car’s setup to compensate; according to the driver, the change was too drastic and he starts 26th. Allmendinger was fast in Saturday’s practice sessions, however, with the second-best single lap in the morning and the third-quickest 10-lap average. He could become the first driver in three years to score a top-10 after starting outside the top 25.
Mark Martin posted both the fastest single lap and the quickest 10-lap average in final practice. Last year, he had an outstanding record in weeks after Brian Vickers scored a top-10 finish and his salary cap fits nearly any roster. He may not challenge for the win, but he should be one of the top-10 points’ earners.
Clint Bowyer posted the sixth-fastest time in Saturday morning’s session and was second-best in final practice. Better still, he had the second-quickest 10-lap average in final practice. His 13th-place starting position was largely the luck of the draw since he was one of the early drivers on track, and that means he will earn positive place differential and quality passing points.
Both Greg Biffle and Brad Keselowski were fast on Friday, but they experienced engine trouble before qualification and drop to the back on Sunday. The new motors were as powerful as the original equipment, but players want to remember the NASCAR Fantasy Live rules. One of the scoring categories is place differential, which awards points for every position improved from the start of the race until the finish, but that is based on the official grid position.
Biffle will be credited with the outside pole and Keselowski with a third-place start. Both drivers will pass a lot of cars, which means they will earn quality passing points, but that is not likely to be enough to offset their other handicap. In the Streak to the Finish game, however, both can be reasonably expected to earn top-10s.
Jeff Gordon continues to struggle with the Gen-6 car on unrestricted, intermediate speedways. The crew never found the balance at Vegas two weeks ago and with only the 24th-fastest time in final practice, they never got a chance to make a long run on Saturday afternoon. That could make for a long day on Sunday.
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