Five drivers to watch at Auto Club Speedway

Here are five drivers to watch as the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series heads to Auto Club Speedway for the Auto Club 400.

The last time the NASCAR Cup Series was on the track the end results was the same, another Kevin Harvick victory. Harvick won his third straight race at ISM Raceway in Phoenix last weekend.

Harvick didn’t have to dominate to win, something we haven’t seen from his No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford this season. The race at ISM Raceway also featured a top-10 filled with cars from SHR and Joe Gibbs Racing.

Can Kevin Harvick make it four in a row? Will Kyle Larson capture the win at one of his best tracks? Does Hendrick Motorsports and the rest of the Chevrolets have anything for Ford and Toyota?

Here are five drivers to keep any eye on this weekend to see how they perform at Auto Club Speedway.

Kevin Harvick

Surprise, surprise. We’ll keep this section short since if you’ve watched any of the previous three races this season, you know how good Harvick has been.

But did you know that over the last three races at Auto Club Speedway, Harvick has led the most laps? He doesn’t have a win to show for it but has the third best average finish among drivers during that span. That could be trouble for the rest of the field on Sunday.

Kevin Harvick will start 10th at Auto Club Speedway. (World Copyright: NKP)

Kyle Larson

The talk of the NASCAR garage this season has been Kevin Harvick. How could it not after winning three of the first four races? This weekend though, much of the attention will be placed on Larson.

Why is that? Larson enters Auto Club Speedway as the defending race winner and he has won the last three races at Michigan International Speedway. the sister track to Auto Club Speedway.

Larson and other Chevrolet teams are still breaking in the new Camaro ZL1 race car. This can be seen by looking at the standings where just one Chevy driver is in the top-10 and six inside the top-20.

Larson has been known to run the high line in all forms of racing and that’s the racing line at Auto Club Speedway that offers the best speed and momentum for drivers.

“I think it goes to my background growing up racing on dirt tracks. Knowing how to run the cushion — putting the right rear (tire) up in the moisture (layer of dirt thrown to outside of the track) at the top to get a lot of grip,” said Larson at ISM Raceway.

“In a stock car it can be kind of the same feeling, in a way, running next to the wall. I kind of feel the air packed between the wall and my car. You’ll get grip that way.”

Larson will look to run the high line at Auto Club Speedway this weekend in hopes of scoring his first victory of the 2018 season.


Brad Keselowski will start 11th at Auto Club Speedway. (World Copyright: NKP)

Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano

These two Team Penske teammates are getting lumped together and here’s why.

Keselowski holds the best average finish among drivers in their last three races at Auto Club Speedway with an even 4.0. Logano is second best with an average finish of 5.3. They are the only two drivers who have finished inside the top-10 in the last three races at Auto Club Speedway.

They both are coming off of somewhat disappointing finishes at ISM Raceway, where neither finished inside the top-10 while the four Fords from SHR did.

“We had a tough day,” Logano said after the race at ISM Raceway. “At one point in the race we had decent balance and speed, but then it went away and we just couldn’t get it back. We fought loose in and off most of the day, other times we were tight in the center. ”

Keselowski’s comments were of a similar tone after the race. “We scored stage points today with our Alliance Truck Parts Ford and that’s a positive,” said Keselowski. “We had a strategy there at the end to get more but it just didn’t work out for us.”

Auto Club Speedway will be a good test to see how the Team Penske teammates bounce back.

Ryan Newman will start ninth at Auto Club Speedway. (World Copyright: NKP)

Ryan Newman

Newman has had a solid start to the 2018 season, posting a top-10 finish and a pair of 11th place finishes heading into this weekend’s race at Auto Club Speedway.

“Our 31 team has shown we’ve got the speed this year,” said Newman before heading to Auto Club Speedway. “If we hadn’t had the tire problem at Atlanta, I think we were the car to beat. Vegas was a little bit of a challenge and yet we still finished 11th. Phoenix we led more laps than we did in Atlanta, and frankly, we were pretty fast.”

Newman hasn’t finished worse than 15th in his last three races at Auto Club Speedway and his average finish of 11.3 in those races is sixth best among drivers with two or more starts.

“We are by far, better than we were last year so I’m looking forward to building upon all our momentum and turning in a flawless performance this weekend. If we can do that, I feel it will translate into a win for us.”

Follow Matt on Twitter @mattlovisa.