Commentary

Auto Club 500 preview

Updated: February 19, 2008, 4:02 PM ET
By Mark Garrow | Jayski.com

Each Tuesday, Mark Garrow will preview the upcoming week's race from a fantasy perspective.

Background

• This is the second race of 36 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in 2008.

• This is the first of 11 superspeedway (2-plus miles) races this season.

• This is the 16th NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at California. The first Cup event took place here in 1997.

• There are 51 drivers on the pre-entry list to compete for one of the 43 starting slots in Sunday's 250-lap, 500-mile race. Of those 51 entrants, 16 must get into Sunday's field based on qualifying times: David Reutimann, Burney Lamar, Kevin Lepage, Ken Schrader, Boris Said, Kenny Wallace, Kurt Busch, Patrick Carpentier, John Andretti, Bill Elliott, Mike Skinner, Dale Jarrett, Michael Waltrip, Joe Nemechek, Brian Vickers and A.J. Allmendinger.

• Of those drivers, Busch, Jarrett and Elliott are eligible for past champion provisionals. Busch is not guaranteed a starting spot in the field for the first five races of the season after team owner Roger Penske transferred the 2007 points from Busch's car to rookie teammate Sam Hornish Jr.

• If qualifying were to be canceled, the drivers making the show would be Busch, Jarrett, Elliott, Vickers, Reutimann, Waltrip, Nemechek and Andretti.

Rusty Wallace is the only former winner at Fontana not in this weekend's field.

• Roush Fenway Racing has Fontana's number, having won the Auto Club 500 three years in a row. Matt Kenseth has taken the last two and Greg Biffle won in 2005.

• Kenseth is the only driver to sweep the Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series races on the same weekend at California, doing so last year.

Jeff Gordon is the only driver with three Cup Series race victories at California, but hasn't won since 2004.

• Ford has eight wins at California, followed closely by Chevrolet's six victories. Dodge has only one win, thanks to Kasey Kahne.

Mark Martin has won an IROC race, a Truck series race, a Nationwide Series race and a Cup Series race at California, the only driver to pull off such a feat at any track.

• Because a sponsorship deal fell through, Canadian driver Jacques Villeneuve will not drive the Bill Davis Racing No. 27 at California. Truck series driver Mike Skinner will get behind the wheel instead. Villeneuve failed to race his way into the Daytona 500 last week, and Davis feels he lacks the experience to make this week's race in Fontana on speed.

California previous winners

There are 10 previous California winners entered this weekend with 14 victories among them:

Previous California winners
Driver California Wins
Jeff Gordon 3 (June 1997, May 1999, May 2004)
Jimmie Johnson 2 (April 2002, Sept. 2007)
Matt Kenseth 2 (Feb. 2006, Feb. 2007)
Greg Biffle 1 (Feb. 2005)
Kurt Busch 1 (April 2003)
Kyle Busch 1 (Sept. 2005)
Kasey Kahne 1 (Sept. 2006)
Mark Martin 1 (May 1998)
Jeremy Mayfield 1 (April 2000)
Elliott Sadler 1 (Sept. 2004)

Last four races at California
Pos. Sept. 2007 Feb. 2007 Sept. 2006 Feb. 2006
1 Jimmie Johnson Matt Kenseth Kasey Kahne Matt Kenseth
2 Carl Edwards Jeff Gordon Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jimmie Johnson
3 Kyle Busch Jimmie Johnson Clint Bowyer Carl Edwards
4 Jeff Burton Jeff Burton Carl Edwards Kasey Kahne
5 Dale Earnhardt Jr. Mark Martin Jeff Gordon Jeff Burton
6 Martin Truex Jr. Clint Bowyer Denny Hamlin Jamie McMurray
7 Matt Kenseth Kurt Busch Matt Kenseth Casey Mears
8 Brian Vickers Tony Stewart Kyle Busch J.J Yeley
9 Kurt Busch Kyle Busch Tony Stewart Mark Martin
10 Kasey Kahne Brian Vickers Dale Jarrett Kyle Busch
11 Bobby Labonte Denny Hamlin Jimmie Johnson Dale Earnhardt Jr.
12 David Ragan Ryan Newman Mark Martin Denny Hamlin
13 Tony Stewart J.J Yeley Elliott Sadler Jeff Gordon
14 Kevin Harvick Joe Nemechek Casey Mears Clint Bowyer
15 Casey Mears Greg Biffle Kevin Harvick Martin Truex Jr.
16 Jamie McMurray David Ragan Jeff Burton Kurt Busch
17 Greg Biffle Kevin Harvick Scott Riggs Dale Jarrett
18 A.J. Allmendinger Johnny Sauter Martin Truex Jr. Brian Vickers
19 Denny Hamlin David Stremme J.J Yeley Scott Riggs
20 Clint Bowyer Paul Menard Jamie McMurray Ryan Newman
21 Reed Sorenson Robby Gordon Reed Sorenson Reed Sorenson
22 Jeff Gordon Kyle Petty Jeff Green Jeremy Mayfield
23 Jeff Green Tony Raines Ken Schrader Elliott Sadler
24 Paul Menard Elliott Sadler Greg Biffle Jeff Green
25 David Gilliland David Gilliland Joe Nemechek Kyle Petty

2008 Sprint Cup Series top 10 roundup

  1. Ryan Newman (190) won the Daytona 500. Newman has 10 starts at California with two top-5s, three top-10s and an average finish of 19.5.
  2. Kurt Busch (-15) was the runner-up at Daytona. Busch has 11 starts here with a win, three top-5s, five top-10s and an average finish of 11.3.
  3. Tony Stewart (-20) was third at Daytona. In 13 California starts, Stewart has three top-5s, six top-10s and an average finish of 16.7.
  4. Kyle Busch (-20) finished fourth at Daytona. Busch has seven starts here with three top-5s and an average finish of 17.7.
  5. Reed Sorenson (-30) finished fifth at Daytona. Sorenson has four starts here with an average finish of 26.5.
  6. Kasey Kahne (-39) was sixth at Daytona. Kahne has eight starts at Fontana with a win, three top-5s, five top-10s and an average finish of 14.2.
  7. Elliott Sadler (-40) finished seventh at Daytona. Sadler has 13 starts here with a win, two top-10s and an average finish of 22.5.
  8. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (-47) finished ninth at Daytona. Earnhardt Jr. has 12 starts here with three top-5s, four top-10s and an average finish of 19.8.
  9. Robby Gordon (-48) finished eighth at Daytona. Gordon has 11 starts here with one top-10 finish and an average finish of 26.5.
  10. Greg Biffle (-51) was 10th at Daytona. Biffle has a win and two top-10s in 10 starts at Fontana with an average finish of 20.1.

Mark Garrow covers fantasy racing for ESPN.com.

Mark Garrow

Fantasy Racing
Mark Garrow covers fantasy racing for ESPN.com.