On Sunday, March 17th, NASCAR will be live from the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, CA, for the Auto Club 400, which is the 5th race of the 2019 regular season. So far, four different drivers have won each of the first four races this year. Will that trend continue on Sunday?
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Kyle Busch was able to knock off Kevin Harvick last weekend in Phoenix. NASCAR betting sites have Busch the odds on favorite to win in Fontana. Can the 2015 NASCAR champion win in back-to-back races this early in the season?
The Auto Club Speedway is a 2-mile long track that looks like an oval shaped like a ”D.” The track was completed in 1996 and the first NASCAR race was held in 1997. Since 2011, NASCAR only races once annually from Fontana. This Sunday will be the 23rd running of the Auto Club 400:
Total Miles: 400
Total Laps: 200
Stage 1: First 60 laps
Stage 2: Second 60 laps
Final Stage: Remaining 80 laps
The Auto Club 400 will be televised live on FOX and scheduled to begin at 3:30 PM ET.
What to Watch for in Fontana
In addition to Kyle Busch’s quest for consecutive wins this season, the following NASCAR storylines are worth watching this Sunday in the Auto Club 400:
Will Martin Truex Jr. defend his victory in last year’s AC 400?
Can Kevin Harvick get his first win of 2019?
Will we get a 5th different winner in the first 5 races of the year?
Will Kyle Busch win his 3rd ever Auto Club 400?
Can Jimmie Johnson get back into winner’s circle?
Will Kyle Larson have a strong run this weekend, like when he won in 2017?
Will the new rules package make a huge difference on Sunday?
The first Auto Club 400 race took place in June 1997, and it was won by Jeff Gordon. Up until 2004, NASCAR only raced at Fontana one time per year. From 2004 to 2011, NASCAR held two events at Fontana and moved the AC 400 to late February. After NASCAR decided to eliminate the second annual Fontana race, the Auto Club 400 was moved back to late March where it remains to this day.
Jeff Gordon in 1997, 1999, 2004
Mark Martin in 1998
Jeremy Mayfield in 2000
Rusty Wallace in 2001
Jimmie Johnson in 2002, 2010, 2016
Kurt Busch in 2003
Greg Biffle in 2005
Matt Kenseth in 2006, 2007, 2009
Carl Edwards in 2008
Kevin Harvick in 2011
Tony Stewart in 2012
Kyle Busch in 2013, 2014
Brad Keselowski in 2015
Kyle Larson in 2017
Martin Truex Jr. in 2018
Jeff Gordon, Matt Kenseth, and Jimmie Johnson hold the record for the most wins in this race at 3 apiece. Matt Kenseth and Kyle Busch are the only two drivers to win this race in consecutive years. Kenseth is the only driver to win this race in three out of four years.
Auto Club 400 Betting Odds
The following NASCAR betting odds for the Auto Club 400 are courtesy of BetOnline:
Kyle Busch +400
Brad Keselowski +500
Kevin Harvick +500
Kyle Larson +700
Joey Logano +800
Martin Truex Jr. +800
Denny Hamlin +1600
Erik Jones +2000
Kurt Busch +2000
Ryan Blaney +2000
Aric Almirola +2500
Chase Elliott +2500
Clint Bowyer +2500
Alex Bowman +4000
Jimmie Johnson +4000
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. +4000
Austin Dillon +5000
Daniel Suarez +5000
Paul Menard +5000
Ryan Newman +5000
William Byron +5000
Daniel Hemric +10000
Ross Chastain +10000
Chris Buescher +15000
David Ragan +15000
Matt DiBenedetto +15000
BJ McLeod +25000
Bubba Wallace +25000
Cody Ware +25000
Corey LaJoie +25000
Joey Gase +25000
Landon Cassill +25000
Matt Tifft +25000
Michael McDowell +25000
Reed Sorenson +25000
Ryan Preece +25000
Ty Dillon +25000
According to NASCAR betting sites, the following drivers are the odds on favorites to win in Fontana on Sunday:
Kyle Busch (+400)
Last weekend, Kyle Busch scored his first win of 2019 by dominating at Phoenix. Kyle led the most laps with 177 and came away with 6 playoff points. The win and PP points have boosted Kyle to first in both standings. Currently, Kyle is 6 points ahead of Logano. In 2019, Kyle has finished inside the Top 10 in all 4 races and also has 3 Top 5s.
In 20 races at Fontana, Kyle has 3 wins, 9 Top 5s, 14 Tops 10s and 1 DNF. His average start has been 10.5 and his average finish is 10.4, which is the best among the betting favorites and the top 10 in the driver standings. Busch finished 3rd in this race last year as Truex won and Larson was second.
In his last 7 races at Fontana, Kyle has 5 Top 3 finishes and 2 wins. He’s definitely a favorite this weekend. With his strong start to 2019, and his recent success at this track, Busch is going to be a hard driver to beat on Sunday.
Brad Keselowski (+500)
After a 19th place finish last weekend in Phoenix, Brad has slipped in the driver standings as he’s fallen down to 8th. However, his one win on the year will most likely earn him a playoff spot as he’s 5th in the playoff standings. Brad has been good in two of the races this year, and not so good in the other two. He’s due for a strong run this weekend.
In 10 starts at Fontana, Keselowski has 1 win, 3 Top 5s, 4 Top 10s and zero DNFs. Over his last 4 races at this track, Keselowski has scored 4 Top 9 finishes, a runner up in 2017, and a victory in 2015.
I see Keselowski bouncing back from last weekend’s subpar performance and
Kevin Harvick (+500)
Kevin Harvick hasn’t won this season as of yet. Let that sink in for a few moments. This was the driver who won 3 of the first 4 races last year. So far, he hasn’t been able to take home a checkered flag in 2019 despite racing at tracks that he’s dominated in recent years. One of those tracks was Phoenix last weekend where Harvick has won 9 times. Unfortunately, he didn’t have a strong enough car to compete with Kyle Busch and Ryan Blaney. Currently, Harvick is 3rd in the driver standings. His two stage wins have him tied with Kyle Busch for the most so far.
This weekend, Harvick returns to Fontana for his 26th career race. That ties him with Jeff Gordon and Kurt Busch for the most career appearances. However, it’s been a few years since Harvick has raced well. Last year, Kevin finished 35th overall. In 2017, he was 13th.
From 2010 through 2016, Harvick had 7 Top 7s in 9 races and won in 2011. He also tallied 3 runner ups: 2010, 2015 and 2016.
It’s hard to imagine that Kevin will keep getting shut out of the win column this year. But, is Fontana the track where he will take home his first checkered flag of 2019?
Kyle Larson (+700)
Kyle Larson comes into this weekend sitting 6th in the standings with just 2 Top 10s on the year and 1 stage win. Last weekend, Larson finished 6th at Phoenix. However, he was shutout from scoring any Playoff Points. He currently sits 7th in the early playoff standings.
Larson has raced well at Fontana. In 5 career starts, Larson has an average finish of 14.1, 1 win, 3 Top 5s and 3 Top 10s. In addition to his 2017 victory, where he dominated the Auto Club 400 race, Larson also has two runner up finishes. One of those runner ups was last year when he finished behind Truex Jr who absolutely smoked the field in 2018.
This weekend, Larson needs another strong showing to remain in the Top 10 for the driver standings. He could also use a win since it’s been 40 races since Larson last won. Will he be able to break his losing streak this weekend?
Joey Logano (+800)
Fontana hasn’t really been one of Logano’s strongest tracks. In his 12 career starts, Logano has never won at this track. But, he does have 5 Top 5s, 6 Top 10s, a 14.0 average finish, and zero DNFs. Logano has 4 Top 7 finishes in a row. The reigning NASCAR champ took home a 5th place finish last year. Logano also led 9 laps last year, which is the second highest number of laps he’s led at this track in his career.
Despite not having as much success at this track as the other favorites, Logano is still a good bet to finish at least in the Top 10. Currently, Logano is 2nd in the driver standings and 2nd in the playoff standings behind Kyle Busch. He’s finished 3 times in the Top 10 out of 4 races in 2019. Last weekend, Logano came in 10th place and never really had a car that could challenge for the lead.
Best Auto Club 400 Betting Value
The following NASCAR drivers offer betting value based on their running this season, previous success at Fontana, and the NASCAR betting odds for the Auto Club 400.
Kurt Busch (+2000)
Last weekend, Kurt Busch finished in 7th place which was his 3rd Top 10 of the season. It’s helped him sit 9th in the driver standings despite not winning a race this year. Kurt also has 2 Top 5s out of 4 races so far. Once again, I believe Busch offers solid betting value based on his 2019 success and his past racing at Fontana.
As mentioned above, Kurt Busch is tied with Harvick and Gordon for the most career appearances at this track. Sunday’s race will be his 26th appearance in Fontana. Over that span, Kurt has 1 win, 7 Top 5s, 12 Top 10s, a 12.8 average finish and zero DNFs.
That’s very impressive that Kurt has never crashed out of a race at Fontana. Furthermore, his 12.8 average finish is the 5th best among active drivers as 2nd best among the Top 10 drivers in the standings.
Busch has had a few difficult races over the last three years: 14th, 24th and 30th overall. Prior to those races, Busch has a streak 7 Top 9 finishes in 9 Fontana races. Will Kurt be able to turn back the clock to 2015 where he started on the pole and finished 3rd in the race?
Chase Elliott (+2500)
Chase Elliott isn’t having as much success in 2019 as many pundits and fans thought he would. Although the season is still very young, it appears that Elliott hasn’t found his groove to compete with the top drives week in and week out. Last weekend, Elliott finished 14th at Phoenix. He only has 1 Top 10 this season and sits 13th in the driver standings. Elliott’s team and fans are hoping he can turn it around this weekend at Fontana.
In three career Auto Club 400 races, Chase has finished 10th, 16th and 6th. He has an average finish of 10.7, but his 17.3 average starting position has been a bit of a handicap. Nevertheless, Elliott is too talented to be held down for long. And, this is the kind of race where Chase can quietly have a strong showing and move up in the standings.
At +2500 odds, Elliott provides solid betting value on talent alone.
Jimmie Johnson (+4000)
For the 5th straight week, and probably every week from here on out, Jimmie Johnson is in my betting value section. Before we get to his past success at Fontana, let’s look at the fact that Johnson has a solid showing last weekend in Phoenix where he finished 8th overall and even led 4 laps. It was the second Top 10 this season for Johnson and he currently sits 15th in the standings.
In addition to his current modest success in 2019, JJ has owned Fontana in his career. For starters, Johnson has 6 wins in 24 starts. That’s a 25% win percentage, which is better than any active driver. He also leads all active drivers in Top 5s (13), Top 10s (17), Laps Led (980), and his 7.2 average finish is also the best. In fact, whether it’s active or retired, no other driver has done better than JJ’s career numbers.
Since NASCAR went back to 1 race per year, starting in 2011, JJ has 5 Top 10s. He also has 1 win, which was 2016 and a runner up (2011). Last year, despite it being a down year for JJ, he finished 9th. With some momentum going from last weekend, and +4000 NACAR betting odds, I really like the betting value that Jimmie Johnson offers this weekend.
Longshot to Win at Fontana
I almost listed Ryan Newman again for this section, but I spared you readers from a 4th straight week of Newman as the longshot to win. However, Newman does have the same +5000 betting odds as this weekend’s long shot Austin Dillon.
On the season, Dillon hasn’t raced that well as he continues to finish outside of the Top 10 and currently sits 21st in the standings. However, he has had some modest success at Fontana for his career. In 5 starts, Dillon has 1 Top 10, 3 Top 11s, an average finish of 14.4, never crashed out, and never finished lower than 24th. He also started on the pole in 2016.
Dillon might not be as flashy of a pick as Newman, but he’s definitely a longshot to consider. If this is too much of a longshot for those of you placing NASCAR bets this weekend, then Newman at +5000 odds is a decent option. Newman has 5 Top 5s and 9 Top 10s in 24 career starts.
NASCAR Prop Bets: Auto Club 400 Driver Matchups
For this NASCAR prop bet, you must pick which driver will have the best finish in the Auto Club 400 at Fontana. The following driver matchups are courtesy of 5Dimes:
Ryan Blaney (-115) vs Aric Almirola (-115)
Last weekend, Blaney and Almirola battled it out to finish in the Top 5 at Phoenix. Blaney edged out Almirola as he finished 3rd while Aric finished 4th. Blaney also led more laps with 94 compared to Almirola’s 24. On the season, Almirola has the edge on Blaney as Aric sits 7th in the driver standings with 3 Top 10s on the year. Blaney is 12th in the standings with 1 Top 10, which came last weekend.
With that said, you can understand why these NASCAR betting odds are even. But, when you take a closer look as to what these two drivers have done at Fontana, you will see that Blaney has a decisive advantage.
Blaney crashed out of his first appearance at this track back in 2016. But, Almirola has crashed out or blown an engine 3 times in his 11 tries. Additionally, Almirola has never even finished in the Top 10 as his best showing was 11th in 2015. Blaney finished 8th last year and 9th the year prior.
Neither driver has led a lap in the Auto Club 400, but I believe Blaney is the better driver at this track. I also believe that Blaney has momentum coming into this race since he finished 3rd overall last weekend.
I’m taking Blaney to win this head to head matchup and finish within the Top 10. I expect Almirola to get at Top 15, but never really contend in this race.
Winner: Ryan Blaney (-115)
Erik Jones (-115) vs Kurt Busch (-115)
I have laid out my argument for Kurt Busch’s chances this weekend at Fontana in my betting value section above. It’s a big reason why I’m taking Kurt to win this head to head matchup.
Now, Jones has the better average start and finish, but he’s only raced twice at this track. Kurt has raced 25 times here and knows Fontana inside and out. Additionally, Kurt has a win and Jones does not. Kurt also has 7 Top 5s and Jones has zero. Lastly, Busch has finished inside the Top 10 in just about half of his races here. Jones needs to prove that his 7th place finish last year wasn’t a fluke.
Jones currently sits 14th in the driver standings with 1 Top 5 and 2 Top 10s on the year. He’s also 12th in the playoff standings. As mentioned, Kurt Busch is 9th in the standings with 2 Top 5s and 3 Top 10s.
In addition to having more success at Fontana than Jones, Kurt also has the momentum coming into this race. Busch finished 7th at Phoenix last weekend and Jones finished 29th.
I think this will be another close battle, but I’m taking the veteran to win this driver matchup on Sunday.
Winner: Kurt Busch (-115)
Auto Club 400 Checkered Flag
This is a tough race to pick the winner. Kyle Busch is the man to beat and the overall odds on favorite with NASCAR betting sites. I definitely expect Kyle to have a Top 5 finish along with Logano, Larson, Truex and Keselowski. I also see Jimmie Johnson, Kurt Busch, Ryan Blaney, Chase Elliott and Kevin Harvick rounding out the Top 10.
Because we’ve had four different winners so far, I expect that trend to continue. So that will rule out Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski and even Kyle Busch. I also don’t see Busch winning two weeks in a row. Only three drivers have ever won 3 Auto Club 400 races and Busch is trying to join that crowd, which I don’t see happening on Sunday.
I think we’re going to get a new winner for the year and it will most likely be Kyle Larson or Martin Truex Jr. I also wouldn’t be surprised if Kevin Harvick turned things around and won. But, my choice is down to Larson and Truex.
Truex won last year and finished 2nd last weekend. Larson won in 2017, was runner up last year, and finished 6th last weekend. Truex is 5th in the driver standings and Larson is 6th. Only two drivers have ever won this race in consecutive years (Matt Kenseth and Kyle Busch). So, I’m eliminating Truex to win on Sunday. As much as I would like to say Kyle Busch or Kevin Harvick will win this weekend, I’m going with my local driver to win for the first time in 40 races. I’m taking Kyle Larson to knock off the favorites this weekend and get back to the winner’s circle. He’s been strong over the last few years on 2-mile tracks and I believe that trend continues this weekend.
As a longtime freelance writer, avid sports fan, former athlete, and experienced sports bettor, Rick Rockwell has risen up the ranks at GamblingSites.org to become the self-professed "King of the Blog" in his first year with the site. ...
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