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Statistically Speaking

Auto Club 400 Stats

by Dan Beaver
Updated On: October 4, 2018, 4:04 pm ET

This week’s race: Auto Club 400
Traditional Name: California 400
Other Notable Names: NAPA Auto Parts 500

Spectator sports have always struggled in Southern California. If the NFL cannot sustain enough attendance so that having a football team is not profitable, Auto Club Speedway can be forgiven some of the low attendance numbers that caused them to lose one of their two dates in 2011.

Just because there is only one race per year on this track, however, fantasy owners still have a deep data pool from which to make decisions. Michigan International Speedway and Auto Club are two of the closest comparatives on the schedule. Last year, four of a possible 10 drivers swept the top 10 on this track type and several others might have done so if not for accidents or mechanical failures during the afternoon.

10 best drivers at Auto Club

Over the past three races, these drivers have the best average finish on this track.

1. Kyle Busch
Last three races average finish at Auto Club: 1.00 (2 attempts)
Career avg. finish: 10.1 in 17 attempts

Before one discounts Busch’s average finish of 1.00 in the past three years because of last year’s absence, they need to look at his most recent four efforts on this course. Since 2011, he has not finished worse than third and has an average of 1.75. If that does not make him a favorite, nothing is likely to impress a fantasy owner.

2. Kurt Busch
Last three races average finish at Auto Club: 3.67
Career avg. finish: 10.1 in 17 attempts

Busch’s four-year average finish of 5.0 is remarkable because two of those results came with lightly-funded teams. Busch finished ninth with James Finch in 2012 and fifth with Barney Visser in 2013. His last two efforts with yet another team ended in a pair of thirds for Stewart-Haas Racing, which suggests the success is attributable to the driver.

3. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Last three races average finish at Auto Club: 6.67
Career avg. finish: 19.0 in 23 attempts

Since the past four years were mentioned for both Busch brothers, it seems appropriate to do the same for Earnhardt. His four-year average of 5.75 is helped by a pair or top-fives in 2012/2013, but he has been sliding down the order in recent events with a 12th in 2014 and a sixth last year. The 2014 effort was slightly marred by crash damage, however.

4. Paul Menard
Last three races average finish at Auto Club: 7.00
Career avg. finish: 20.6 in 13 attempts

Menard enters the weekend with a current three-race, top-10 streak to his credit on this track. What makes that even more amazing is that his first 10 efforts ended in a best of 16th and an average of 24.7. Watch him provisionally and if he practices well, he could be worth starting because he has swept the top 15 in his last 10 races on two-milers.

5. Carl Edwards
Last three races average finish at Auto Club: 9.00
Career avg. finish: 8.8 in 18 attempts

In terms of career-average finishes, Auto Club ranks second on Edwards’ list behind the road course of Watkins Glen International. Last year while he struggled to find chemistry with his new Joe Gibbs Racing team, he failed to finish in the top 10 in California for the first time in five races. He came close though; Edwards finished 13th after qualifying 15th.

6. Ryan Newman
Last three races average finish at Auto Club: 11.67
Career avg. finish: 16.8 in 21 attempts

Newman shows remarkable consistency on nearly every track. His three-year average finish at Auto Club is marred by a 20th in 2014, but that is the only time in his last six attempts that he failed to score a top-10. Equally important, he has landed on the lead lap in each of those races.

7. Austin Dillon
Last three races average finish at Auto Club: 13.50 (2 attempts)
Career avg. finish: 13.5 in 2 attempts

Dillon makes an appearance in the Auto Club top-10 this week, but even if he did not he would be a good value because of the momentum he brings to the track. His worst result this season was an 11th scored at Atlanta Motor Speedway and he should finish within a couple of positions of 2016 average finish, which is 8.5.

8. Matt Kenseth (tied with Larson)
Last three races average finish at Auto Club: 14.00
Career avg. finish: 10.7 in 23 attempts

Last year, Kenseth finished 31st at Auto Club—and yet he still has one of the 10-best average finishes because of a seventh in 2013 and a fourth in 2014. Notably, his bad finish did not cost him a lap and he has finished with the leaders in his past 16 attempts. He would have scored a top-10 if not for breaking an axle on a late-race pit stop.

8. Kyle Larson (tied with Kenseth)
Last three races average finish at Auto Club: 14.00 (2 attempts)
Career avg. finish: 14.0 in 2 attempts

Larson has made only two Auto Club attempts, but he nearly won in his rookie season. Finishing second that afternoon, after winning the XFINITY race the day before, raised expectations for this driver that might actually have been counter-productive. Everyone still expects him to win, but they are uncertain when.

10. Jimmie Johnson
Last three races average finish at Auto Club: 15.00
Career avg. finish: 6.8 in 21 attempts

Johnson scored his first career victory on this track in his rookie season of 2002. Races were 500 miles then. Since that victory, he has added four more, but the latest of these came in 2010. The good news is he has never failed to finish on the lead lap in 21 Auto Club attempts. 

 

Rank

Driver

Avg. Fin. L3Yr

Attempts

1.

Kyle Busch

1.00

2

2.

Kurt Busch

3.67

3

3.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.

6.67

3

4.

Paul Menard

7.00

3

5.

Carl Edwards

9.00

3

6.

Ryan Newman

11.67

3

7.

Austin Dillon

13.50

2

8.

Matt Kenseth

14.00

3

8.

Kyle Larson

14.00

2

10.

Jimmie Johnson

15.00

3

 

11.

Jamie McMurray

15.33

3

12.

Martin Truex Jr.

16.33

3

12.

Joey Logano

16.33

3

14.

Brad Keselowski

16.67

3

15.

Kevin Harvick

17.00

3

16.

Casey Mears

17.67

3

17.

AJ Allmendinger

19.33

3

18.

Danica Patrick

19.67

3

19.

Cole Whitt

21.00

2

20.

Kasey Kahne

22.33

3

21.

Aric Almirola

22.67

3

22.

David Ragan

23.00

3

22.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

23.00

3

24.

Greg Biffle

26.00

3

25.

Denny Hamlin

26.50

3

26.

Landon Cassill

26.67

3

27.

Clint Bowyer

27.00

3

28.

Michael Annett

28.50

2

29.

Brian Scott

31.00

2

30.

Josh Wise

37.67

3

Drivers with only one start

 

Brian Vickers

7.00

1

 

Chris Buescher

20.00

1

 

Trevor Bayne

29.00

1

 

Michael McDowell

42.00

1

 

Matt DiBenedetto

42.00

1


Exercise Caution

Most caution flags: 12, 2008 Auto Club 500
Fewest caution flags: 1, 2012 Auto Club 400 (rain at end of race)
Average number of caution flags per race: 7.2
In 2016: 5.00

Final Caution, last five races:
March 2015: 204 of 209: Debris
March 2014: 199 of 206 to set up green-white-checker: 1-car spin in turn four (Clint Bowyer)
March 2013: 200 of 200: 2-car accident (Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano)
March 2012: 125 of 129: rain shortened the race
March 2011: 187 of 200: 1-car accident in turn two (Bobby Labonte)

Most caution laps: 51, 2004 Pop Secret 500
Fewest caution laps: 5, 2012 Auto Club 400 (rain at end of race)
Average number of caution laps per race: 32.4
In 2016: 27.5

Leading the way

Most leaders: 16, 2007 Sharp AQUOS 500
Fewest leaders: 5, 2012 Auto Club 400
Average number of leaders: 11.5
In 2016: 7.7

Most lead changes: 35, 2014 Auto Club 400
Fewest lead changes: 9, 2012 Auto Club 400
Average number of lead changes: 23.0
In 2016: 18.7

Victory Lane

Last five winners (starting position):
March 2015: Brad Keselowski (eighth)
March 2014: Kyle Busch (14th)
March 2013: Kyle Busch (fourth)
March 2012: Tony Stewart (ninth)
March 2011: Kevin Harvick (24th)

Worst starting position for race winner: 31st, Matt Kenseth: 2006 Auto Club 500

A race at Auto Club has been won by the pole sitter 1 time and from the front row 2 times in 26 races.

Recent races won from the pole:
August 2008: Jimmie Johnson, Pepsi 500

Active winners at Auto Club:
Jimmie Johnson: 5
Matt Kenseth: 3
Tony Stewart: 2
Greg Biffle: 1
Kurt Busch: 1
Carl Edwards: 1
Kevin Harvick: 1
Kasey Kahne: 1
Brad Keselowski: 1

First time winners at Auto Club:
Kyle Busch, 2005 Sony HD 500
Jimmie Johnson, 2002 NAPA Auto Parts 500

All-time Winners at Auto Club:
Top 10

Jimmie Johnson: 5
Kyle Busch: 3
Matt Kenseth: 3
Jeff Gordon: 3
Tony Stewart: 2
Brad Keselowski, Kasey Kahne, Carl Edwards, Rusty Wallace, Mark Martin, Kurt Busch, Kevin Harvick, Jeremy Mayfield, Greg Biffle, and Elliott Sadler 1 each

All-time winners
Two-mile tracks (Auto Club and Michigan)
Top 10

David Pearson: 9
Cale Yarborough: 8
Bill Elliott: 7
Jeff Gordon: 6
Jimmie Johnson: 6
Matt Kenseth: 6
Mark Martin: 6
Rusty Wallace: 6
Greg Biffle: 5
Bobby Allison: 4
Kurt Busch: 4
Kyle Busch: 4
Dale Jarrett: 4
Richard Petty: 4

Running at the End

The following active drivers have been running at the end of every Auto Club race they started:
Matt Kenseth (23)
Kurt Busch (22)
Jimmie Johnson (21)
Jamie McMurray (20)
Carl Edwards (18)
Brian Vickers (15)
Paul Menard (13)
Joey Logano (9)
Brad Keselowski (7)
Regan Smith (7)
Danica Patrick (3)
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (3)
Michael Annett (2)
Trevor Bayne (2)
Austin Dillon (2)
Kyle Larson (2)
Brian Scott (2)
Cole Whitt (2)
Chris Buescher (1)
Matt DiBenedetto (1)

Landon Cassill parked early in his first attempt in 2010, but has been running at the end of his last five attempts.
Michael McDowell has never finished a race he started at Auto Club.

Great Starts

Active drivers with top-10s in their first start on this track:
Jimmie Johnson: first (2004)
Kyle Larson: second (2014)
Matt Kenseth: third (2000)
Jamie McMurray: fifth (2003)
Carl Edwards: sixth (2004)

Kasey Kahne won the pole in his first attempt in 2004.
Ryan Newman won the pole in his first attempt in 2002.

Current Streaks

At Auto Club
Kyle Busch, four top-fives
Kurt Busch, four top-10s
Paul Menard, three top-10s
Brian Vickers, two top-10s

On Two-mile tracks
Joey Logano, eight top-10s
Dale Earnhardt Jr., five top-10s
Brad Keselowski, five top-10s
Martin Truex Jr., three top-10s
Matt Kenseth, two top-fives

In 2015/2016
Kyle Busch, eight top-fives
Kevin Harvick, eight top-10s
Kurt Busch, seven top-10s
Dale Earnhardt Jr., three top-10s
Austin Dillon, two top-10s
Ryan Blaney, two top-10s

 

Dan Beaver

Dan Beaver has been covering fantasy NASCAR for more than 20 years with a little help from his >650,000 record database. He can be found on Twitter @FantasyRace.