Even though the last two races at Auto Club Speedway (or Fontana, as I often refer to it) have been won from the pole, place differential is definitely possible at this track, and with the new package and drafting to deal with this weekend, it’s difficult to accurately predict what we’re going to see on Sunday. Let’s just hope it is better than what we saw–or more accurately didn’t see–during qualifying on Friday, right? Speaking of which, you can find the full starting lineup for the Auto Club 400 by clicking here. Auto Club Speedway is a big, 2-mile oval that compares most like Michigan International Speedway. I’ll be looking at the last two years of data from those two tracks to make my picks this weekend, as well as practice speeds from Saturday. You can click here for Practice #2 speeds/notes, and click here for Happy Hour speeds/notes.
*Please note: the picks and suggestions below are my opinions and strategy for the Slingshot Fantasy Auto Contest. These are not meant to sway your thinking in any way, but rather give you insight into the drivers I am most likely to pick on Sunday.*
Slingshot Fantasy Auto Picks for Fontana
Martin Truex, Jr. ($12,000) – Welcome to Chalk City, folks. I usually like to get creative and contrarian with my Fantasy NASCAR lineups, but that’s not necessary this weekend at Auto Club Speedway. Martin Truex, Jr. qualified back in 27th for Sunday’s race and is a legitimate top 5 threat. He absolutely dominated the race here at Fontana last season and also led 73 laps in the 2017 race before finishing 4th. Speed-wise, many are saying that the #19 Toyota is struggling a bit this weekend, but Truex was 4th-fastest in Practice #2 on Saturday and posted the 9th-best ten-lap average in Happy Hour despite ending up 19th overall as far as ‘one fast lap.’ Fade him if you want, but the chances of Truex not ending up in the top lineup this weekend are slim to none.
Joey Logano ($11,400) – I debated for quite a while with my lineup this weekend, and I initially had the other Penske driver of Brad Keselowski ($12,200) in here due to his 13th-place starting spot, and you can see that alternate lineup listed below. However, I decided to go with Joey Logano here simply because of his price discount. The #22 Ford should be out front all day long, and those Stage points are just as valuable in the Slingshot Fantasy Auto Contest as place differential points. Logano is currently on a three-race streak of top 5 finishes here at Fontana and had the best 20-lap average in the Happy Hour practice session this weekend. Need I say more? For the record, I like Kyle Busch ($12,700) to lead the most laps this weekend, but I couldn’t put together a lineup I really liked with his price.
Kurt Busch ($10,600) – That chalk tastes good, doesn’t it? Kurt Busch and the #1 team took a risk in qualifying this weekend and went out early/alone in Round 2. This turned into a 21st-place qualifying effort for that team, but they should be able to easily make up at least 10 spots during the Auto Club 400 on Sunday. Kurt had an average finish of 7.7 on the 2-mile tracks last season, and even though he was in a Stewart-Haas Racing Ford for those races, the Penske Chevrolets have found plenty of success at this type of track over the last few years. Kurt hasn’t had a top 10 at Fontana in a few years but from 2012 to 2015 he never finished worse than 9th here. He’s a great value in Slingshot Fantasy Auto at only $10,600.
Daniel Suarez ($9,500) – It’s been a very rough start to the 2019 season for Daniel Suarez, but there’s no doubt that he has a car that is capable of finishing up front–the #41 team just needs to put together a full race. Daniel will be starting from back in 20th for Sunday’s race at Auto Club Speedway but he has a 7th-place finish to his credit here at Fontana a couple of years ago and also came home 11th in the fall Michigan race last year despite starting dead last in 40th. This weekend, Suarez was 3rd-fastest in the final practice session on Saturday and also had the 11th-best ten-lap average. The two guys I really like in this price range are Suarez and Paul Menard ($8,300), and between the two I think Suarez has the best chance of finishing near the top 10. Menard does start further back, though (25th instead of 20th)…
Ryan Preece ($6,500) – This is a bit of a risky play here but I don’t mind rolling the dice with Ryan Preece this weekend. Remember, this #47 Chevrolet was a legitimate top 10 contender at Atlanta earlier this year before the team had problems late, and Preece’s teammate, Chris Buescher, has been knocking out teen finishes left and right as of late. On Sunday, Preece will start from back in 26th, so unless he wrecks, he should maintain his position and possibly even improve it.
ALTERNATE LINEUP I’D CONSIDER: Brad Keselowski ($12,200), Martin Truex, Jr. ($12,000), Kurt Busch ($10,600), Paul Menard ($8,300), Ryan Preece ($6,500)