What to Expect at California

By Toby Christie (Originally appeared on RubbingsRacing.com)

The Daytona 500 is in the books, Jamie McMurray has made his late-night talk show rounds, and everyone is still buzzing about the last lap surge by Dale Earnhardt Jr., but what do we have to look forward to at California?

Don’t Expect Jimmie Johnson’s slow start to spill over this weekend. Johnson may be sitting 35th in points after Daytona, but the four-time Sprint Cup Series champion has an average finish of 5.8 in his career at Auto Club Speedway. In all he has four wins at the 2-mile oval, and he has 10 top-10’s in 14 starts there in his career.

Expect to see the Roush-Fenway Racing teams near the front. The “Roush Brigade” has been among the best in the sport at California over the last few seasons. I expect to see more of the same this week. Carl Edwards is my pick to win, but Greg Biffle, Matt Kenseth, and David Ragan each have equal opportunity to visit victory lane Sunday.

Will Michael Waltrip Racing continue it’s great start to 2010? Martin Truex Jr. looked as though he had a car that could win the Daytona 500 and finished sixth in the no. 56 NAPA Auto Parts Toyota, while his teammate David Reutimann came home fifth. Last season Reutimann and team owner Michael Waltrip piloted MWR cars to 14th and 15th place finishes respectively. If this team can show even a little improvement at this track from last season, I think Michael Waltrip Racing will be right in the thick of things.

Can Dale Earnhardt Jr. get a string of good finishes going this weekend? He finished second in the Great American Race at Daytona (a track he is very good at), but he hasn’t been nearly as stellar at California through his career. He did finish second in April 2001, but his career average finish at California is 22.1. Earnhardt obviously knows that Daytona success does not mean anything this week,

“You know, I look forward to seeing how we are as a team.” Earnhardt Said, “But the 500 is just one race. We got a lot more racing to do. Daytona is not your typical style track that we run on all year. If we can go to Fontana, Vegas, be competitive at any point during those races, it would be a little more validation.”

If he can finish well at California expect to see Earnhardt rocket towards a chase berth later in the season.

Really if anyone finishes well in the Shelby American 350 this weekend, you can expect them to be a player in the race to the championship. Of the drivers who finished in the top-12 of this race last season, just two of them failed to make the chase (Matt Kenseth, and Kyle Busch).

These are just a few of the things we have to keep an eye on this weekend, and don’t forget last season we had our first nail-biting finish at this track. It was an epic shootout between Matt Kenseth and Jeff Gordon with Kenseth taking the victory.

Author: Toby Christie

Toby is the Editor of TheFinalLap.com and Social Media Director of all things @TheFinalLap. He is the co-host of The Final Lap Weekly radio show and podcast, and he is the writer and co-host of the Racing Legends podcast. Additionally, Toby is a NMPA (National Motorsports Press Association) award winning writer, and has followed the sport as a fan since 1993.

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