NASCAR Cup Series News & Notes – Auto Club Speedway

After taking last season off from visiting Auto Club Speedway due to pandemic restrictions, the NASCAR Cup Series is looking forward to returning to the 2-mile track located just outside of Los Angeles in Fontana, California for the WISE Power 400 on February 27 at 3:30 p.m. ET on FOX, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

NASCAR Cup Series

Next Race: WISE Power 400

The Place: Auto Club Speedway

The Date: Sunday, February 27

The Time: 3:30 p.m. ET

The Purse: $8,035,061

TV: FOX, 3 p.m. ET

Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

Distance: 400 miles (200 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 65),

Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 130), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 200)

2020 Race Winner: Alex Bowman


Groundbreaking for California Speedway, as Auto Club Speedway was originally known, took place in November of 1995. The track name was changed to Auto Club Speedway (ACS) in February of 2008. The first race at Auto Club Speedway was an ARCA Menards Series West race won by Ken Schrader on June 21, 1997.

The first NASCAR Cup Series race at Auto Club Speedway was held on June 22, 1997 and won by NASCAR Hall of Famer Jeff Gordon driving the Hendrick Motorsports’ No. 24 Chevrolet.

The September 2004 event was the first night race at Auto Club Speedway and that also was the first year both the NASCAR Cup Series and NASCAR Xfinity Series ran two races in a season there. There have been 31 NASCAR Cup Series races at Auto Club Speedway, the track hosted one race a season from 1997-2003, then two races per season from 2004-2010. In 2011, Auto Club Speedway returned to a single-race season.

Last season (2021) due to the COVID-19 Pandemic restrictions, Auto Club Speedway was removed from the NASCAR Cup Series schedule but has returned this season to be the second race on the 2022 schedule.

Auto Club Speedway’s 31 previous NASCAR Cup Series races have produced 20 different poles winners and 18 different race winners. 23XI Racing’s Kurt Busch leads the NASCAR Cup Series in poles at Auto Club Speedway with four (2015, 2007 and 2006 sweep). Joe Nemechek won the inaugural NASCAR Cup Series pole at Auto Club Speedway in 1997 with a speed of 183.015 mph (39.341 secs).

Six of the 20 NASCAR Cup Series Auto Club Speedway pole winners are active this weekend.

Active Pole Winners Poles Seasons
Kurt Busch 4 2006 Sweep, 2007, 2015
Denny Hamlin 3 2009, 2012, 2013
Austin Dillon 2 2016, 2019
Kyle Larson 1 2017
Martin Truex Jr 1 2018
Kyle Busch 1 2005

Kyle Busch leads the NASCAR Cup Series in wins at Auto Club Speedway with four victories (2005, 2013, 2014, 2019). Seven of the 18 NASCAR Cup Series race winners at Auto Club Speedway are active this weekend.

Active Winners Wins Seasons
Kyle Busch 4 2005, 2013, 2014, 2019
Alex Bowman 1 2020
Martin Truex Jr 1 2018
Kyle Larson 1 2017
Brad Keselowski 1 2015
Kevin Harvick 1 2011
Kurt Busch 1 2003

All the action begins this Saturday, February 26 at Auto Club Speedway with NASCAR Cup Series practice at 2 p.m. ET and qualifying at 2:35 p.m. ET.

Sunoco Rookie Austin Cindric starts 2022 season off with a big win

Team Penske’s Austin Cindric kicked down the door to his NASCAR Cup Series rookie season with a massive victory in the season-opening Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway.

With the victory, Cindric became the first rookie to win the prestigious event and the ninth different driver to win his first NASCAR Cup Series race in the Daytona 500; joining Tiny Lund (1963), Mario Andretti (1967), Pete Hamilton (1970), Derrike Cope (1990), Sterling Marlin (1994), Michael Waltrip (2001), Trevor Bayne (2011), Michael McDowell (2021). He also is the second youngest winner of the Daytona 500 at 23 years, 5 months, and 18 days behind Trevor Bayne, who won the event at the age of 20.

Now Cindric is looking to join Matt Kenseth (2009: Daytona, Auto Club), Jeff Gordon (1997: Daytona, Rockingham), David Pearson (1976: Riverside, Daytona), Bobby Welborn (1959: Champion, Daytona) and Marvin Panch (1957: Lancaster, Concord) as the fifth different driver to start a season with back-to-back wins.

This weekend will be Cindric’s series career track debut at Auto Club Speedway. The 23-year-old has three NASCAR Xfinity Series starts at 2-mile track posting a best finish of third in 2020.

Cindric and Keselowski are tied atop the NASCAR Cup Series driver standings

After a wild season-opening Daytona 500 that concluded in overtime, the NASCAR Cup Series finds itself with a tie atop the driver standings with Team Penske driver and Daytona 500 champion Austin Cindric tied with RFK Racing’s Brad Keselowski with 54 points each. Cindric’s victory at Daytona gives him the tiebreaker heading into this weekend at Auto Club Speedway.

Cindric’s win has locked him into the Playoffs, and now the rising star is tasked with becoming the sixth different driver to win the Daytona 500 and the series championship in the same season; joining Lee Petty (1959), Richard Petty (four times: 1964, 1971, 1974, 1979), Cale Yarborough (1977) and Jeff Gordon (1997), Jimmie Johnson (2006, 2013). If Cindric accomplishes the feat, he would be the first rookie to do so.

Kyle Busch is miles ahead of competition at Auto Club Speedway

When looking through the NASCAR Cup Series statistics for Auto Club Speedway one active driver jumps out from the rest – Joe Gibbs Racing’s Kyle Busch.

The Las Vegas native leads the series in wins at Auto Club Speedway among active drivers with four victories (2005, 2013, 2014, 2019) and is one of only two drivers to win consecutive NASCAR Cup Series races at Auto Club Speedway – Jimmie Johnson (2009-2010) and Kyle Busch (2013-2014).

But Busch’s statistical dominance on the series doesn’t end there. Among active drivers he leads the series in top fives (11), top 10s (16) and laps led (807 led out of 4,899 completed; 16%).

Heading into this weekend Busch is also the series leader in several key Loop Data pre-race categories: Average finish of 8.905, series-best; Average Running Position of 8.169, series-best; Driver Rating of 111.4, series-best; 372 Fastest Laps Run, series-best; 3,962 Laps in the Top 15 (84.4%), series-most and 1,107 Quality Passes, series-most.

Plus, he is one of only three drivers that have won at Auto Club Speedway and the NASCAR Cup Series championship in the same season: Jeff Gordon (1997), Jimmie Johnson (2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2016) and Kyle Busch (2019).

This weekend Busch will be making his 23rd career NASCAR Cup Series start at Auto Club Speedway.

 

New Practice/Qualifying format to begin this weekend at Auto Club Speedway

This season, NASCAR has announced the return of practice and qualifying to its race weekends, with a dramatic knockout-style qualifying format setting the starting lineup for each NASCAR Cup Series race.

The announcement comes after nearly two seasons with race weekends largely held without practice or qualifying – a procedure born out of necessity to reduce travel days and on-site personnel while navigating the COVID-19 pandemic.

In 2022, all events across all three NASCAR national series are scheduled to include qualifying.

“NASCAR is excited to return practice and qualifying to its race weekends,” said Scott Miller, NASCAR senior vice president of competition. “We missed seeing cars and trucks on track all weekend long, and so did our fans. We worked closely with our broadcast partners, teams and racetracks to create an exciting, unique qualifying format, while keeping several of the efficiencies that helped our entire industry successfully navigate the pandemic.”

For a majority of the NASCAR Cup Series schedule, the field will be split into two groups and participate in a practice and qualifying event that will last approximately two hours. The two-hour window will allow broadcast partners ample time and ability to cover the entire field, bringing wide-ranging, in-depth stories and insight to millions of fans each and every weekend.

During six NASCAR Cup Series weekends, five NASCAR Xfinity Series weekends and eight NASCAR Camping World Truck Series weekends, NASCAR will implement an extended practice weekend schedule, which will feature one standalone 50-minute practice as well as a qualifying event.

Below is the format for the NASCAR Cup Series this season.

Oval Qualifying

  • Group A and Group B will each receive 15 minutes of practice
    • Groups set by odd/even finishing order of previous race
  • Qualifying Round 1 (Group A) – single car, one lap*
    • Top 5 transfer to Final Round
  • Qualifying Round 1 (Group B) – single car, one lap*
    • Top 5 transfer to Final Round
  • Qualifying Final Round (10 cars) – single car, one lap*

* — Two laps at Bristol, Dover, Martinsville and Richmond

Superspeedways

  • Qualifying Round 1 (all cars) – single car, one lap
    • Top 10 transfer to Final Round
  • Qualifying Final Round (10 cars) – single car, one lap

 

Road Course

  • Group A and Group B will each receive 20 minutes of practice
  • Qualifying Round 1 (Group A) – 15-minute timed session
    • Top 5 transfer to Final Round
  • Qualifying Round 1 (Group B) – 15-minute timed session
    • Top 5 transfer to Final Round
  • Qualifying Final Round (10 cars) – 10-minute timed session

Click here for a downloadable graphic detailing the new practice/qualifying format.

 

ARCA Builds Champions

If you looked at the final running order from Sunday’s Daytona 500, you would see the ARCA Menards Series is living up to the tagline “We Build Champions.” The top four finishers in the race have all had wins within the ARCA Menards Series platform.

Daytona 500 champion Austin Cindric won at Kentucky Speedway in 2016 and scored two road course wins in the ARCA Menards Series East that season at Virginia International Raceway and Watkins Glen International. Runner-up Bubba Wallace has six career East wins between 2010 and 2012. Third-place finisher Chase Briscoe was the 2016 ARCA Menards Series champion with six career series wins (all in his championship season) and one additional ARCA Menards Series West victory last year at Sonoma Raceway.

And fourth-place finisher Blaney won in the ARCA Menards Series West at Phoenix Raceway in 2011.

The winners of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race (Zane Smith) and NASCAR Xfinity Series race (Austin Hill) also have wins on the ARCA Menards Series platform.

NASCAR Cup Series, Etc.

 

NASCAR Cup Series Featured Matchups: 2022 Wise Power 400 at Auto Club Speedway – Below is a close look at the featured matchups fans can bet on heading into this weekend’s event.

  • 2 – Austin Cindric VS. 12 – Ryan Blaney

o   These two Team Penske teammates were the story of last Sunday’s Daytona 500, as they dueled fiercely for the win on the final lap after working together in the draft all race long – with rookie Cindric ultimately coming out on top.

o   Blaney had a standout performance the last time the series visited Auto Club Speedway in 2020 – posting the second highest driver rating of the day (112.8) and leading 54/200 laps

  • 24 – William Byron VS. 48 – Alex Bowman

o   Byron and Bowman, both Hendrick Motorsports teammates, have been evenly matched at intermediate-style tracks since 2019, with Bowman edging Byron just slightly in average finish (13.11 to 14.53), while both are dead-even in intermediate track driver rating over the same span (91.4).

o   Bowman is the most recent Cup Series winner at Auto Club Speedway, winning the 2020 event at the track in dominant fashion. Bowman also won 4 races in 2021 – including a midseason victory at Pocono Raceway, another intermediate circuit.

  • 14 – Chase Briscoe VS. 23 – Bubba Wallace

o   This matchup pits the second (Wallace) and third (Briscoe) place drivers in last Sunday’s Daytona 500 against each other.

o   The two drivers enter the 2022 season with similar stats and similar expectations surrounding their teams. Wallace posted a 19.7 average finish in 2021, while Briscoe was a smidge better with a 19.6. Both drivers race for well-funded teams (Briscoe with Stewart-Haas Racing, Wallace with 23XI Racing) that are looking to take a step forward in the ’22 season.

  • 43 – Erik Jones VS. 99 – Daniel Suarez

o   A mid-tier battle wraps up the featured matchup slate for Auto Club, featuring the drivers who placed 24th (Jones) and 25th (Suarez) in points last season.

o   The Next Gen car was designed with a goal of producing more competitive parity across the Cup Series landscape – making this matchup especially intriguing as it features two drivers who race for teams that have made big investments in capital improvements with the Next-Gen car in mind.

o   Suarez races for Trackhouse, who purchased the assets of Chip Ganassi Racing at the end of 2021 with an eye on making a big splash with the Next Gen platform.

o   Jones races for Petty GMS Motorsports – a new team that resulted from the merger of Jones’ old Richard Petty Motorsports group with standout Truck Series team GMS Racing. The new ownership group has re-built the team with an eye on being more competitive in the Next Gen era.

Nita Strauss to Perform National Anthem at WISE Power 400 – Auto Club Speedway announced this week that Nita Strauss will perform the National Anthem prior to the track’s NASCAR Cup Series race. She will also shred on her guitar during driver introductions, delivering the same sonic energy to NASCAR fans that she delivers to fans of the Los Angeles Rams each week as the in-house guitarist at SoFi Stadium.

“Nita Strauss has taken guitar playing to a whole new level,” said Auto Club Speedway President Dave Allen. “She combines energy and style to create soul-stirring sounds that connect with audiences all over the world. It’s an honor that she’ll rev up our fans before the best drivers in the world rev their engines.”

Strauss is a modern guitar virtuoso par excellence. Although the Los Angeles native rose to fame as the lead guitarist for Alice Cooper’s band, her work as a solo artist includes some of the best music ever produced on the instrument. Her 2018 album Controlled Chaos put her atop the Billboard charts as the No. 1 Top New Artist, furthering a reputation that has led to countless industry endorsements and critical acclaim.

RVnGO becomes Official RV Rental Partner of Auto Club Speedway – Auto Club Speedway announced last week that RVnGO is the Official RV Rental Partner of Auto Club Speedway. The announcement comes as NASCAR racing returns to the 2-mile oval on Feb. 26-27. RVnGO RV rentals are available from the 21st through the 27th  for the Wise Power 400 NASCAR Cup Series Race.

“We look forward to what RVnGO adds to the Auto Club Speedway camping experience,” said Auto Club Speedway President Dave Allen. “Partnering with an innovative company like RVnGO only improves that experience and makes it easier for race fans to enjoy the wonderful GEICO Campground during all of our NASCAR events.”

RVnGO makes it easy for fans to enjoy the at-track camping experience by connecting existing RV owners with renters who want to camp in an RV on race weekend. The company’s free online rental and sales platform eliminates non-value added service fees or hidden fees between owners and renters. Through this new partnership, RVnGO creates new turn-key packages for fans to experience future events at the track.

Collective Soul Pre-Race Concert Set for WISE Power 400 – Auto Club Speedway announced that Collective Soul will perform a 60-minute concert in the O’Reilly Auto Parts Fan Zone. The iconic band’s performance will rev fans up for the NASCAR Cup Series race and be the musical highlight of the track’s 25th anniversary celebration, a sonic bridge to the track’s 1990s roots.

“What’s great about Collective Soul is that, like Auto Club Speedway, they’re just as relevant today as they were back in the 1990s,” said Auto Club Speedway President Dave Allen. “That staying power is a testament to their unwavering dedication to their fans and the commitment to their craft.”

Collective Soul burst onto the scene in 1993 with the landmark debut Hints Allegations & Things Left Unsaid in 1993. From there, they haven’t taken their foot off accelerator, producing music that’s seared itself into the souls of millions, including unforgettable hits like “Shine,” “December,” and “The World I Know.”

Moreover, the Georgia band refuses to rest on its laurels. They continue to produce new music and perform dynamic shows, with the 2019 album Blood launching the band on a fresh musical trajectory. And now E Roland (vocals / guitar), Dean Roland (rhythm guitar), Jesse Triplett (lead guitar / background vocals), Will Turpin (bass / background vocals) and Johnny Rabb (drums / background vocals) are ready to make their first live Southern California appearance in nearly three years.

Let the Games Begin – With 3 billion people calling themselves gamers, NASCAR continues to collaborate with some of the most popular games and creators in addition to hosting its own various eNASCAR initiatives throughout the season. FaZe Clan arrives at Auto Club Speedway after getting their first taste of NASCAR racing at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. One of the world’s most influential gaming organizations, FaZe Clan created content from the Busch Light Clash and introduced a FaZe Clan x NASCAR merch collection to their global fanbase earlier this month. Now they’re back for more and this time they have company.

Motorsports-lifestyle brand Hoonigan will also be on-site with four vehicles from the ever-popular racing game series Forza. The Halo Warthog, Donk, Camaro and Rolls will participate in race day activities after showing off their hot wheels at the eNASCAR Arcade throughout the weekend. Fans are invited to check out FaZe Clan and Hoonigan at the eNASCAR Arcade where they can also post the fastest lap on four NASCAR iRacing simulators or compete in NASCAR 21: Ignition and Mario Kart.

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