Brad Keselowski Looks to Ride Momentum West to Fontana
Fresh off a win at Bristol Motor Speedway's fast half-mile oval, the Dodge Boys venture west for the third time this season to the very big, very fast and very fuel mileage-sensitive Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif.
The third leg of a four-race stretch in which teams crisscross the country from Arizona to Tennessee to California to Virginia, the big two-mile oval just outside of Los Angeles is known for its big sweeping corners and high speeds that keep engine tuners on edge with scorching rpms all day.
In addition to engine fatigue, crew chiefs and engineers must also deal with the ever-present issue of fuel strategy which has figured prominently in several previous events at the facility.
"Last year's race at Auto Club Speedway only had four cautions and three were for debris," said SRT Motorsports Engineering's Howard Comstock. "That means two things for the engineers trying to get ready for the 2012 trip to Fontana. First, with a real possibility of only a few cautions again, teams better have a setup that's forgiving enough to make sure tires will last at least a full fuel run.
"Second, the race may truly be about fuel economy. With a very thin book of notes about the new fuel injection system and what to expect for fuel economy, calculators will be humming this week as teams prepare for what could be a very fast 400 miles."
Brad Keselowski (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger R/T) earned his second consecutive victory at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway last weekend that jumped the Rochester Hills, Mich., native up seven positions in the Sprint Cup driver standings. He sits in 14th-place, 44 points behind the leader. Keselowski has led laps in the last three races including 232 en route to his win at Bristol.
"To get a win under our belts this early in the season is huge for everyone on the Miller Lite Dodge team," said Keselowski, who is seeking his first top-10 finish at Auto Club Speedway. "While we don't plan on having to use the "wild card" again this season, it's a nice safety measure to know that we probably only need one more win to ensure a spot in the Chase."
A.J. Allmendinger (No. 22 Auto Club Dodge Charger R/T) looked to be the driver to beat last weekend at Bristol before a slight air adjustment during a routine pit stop changed the handling characteristic of his Dodge, sending the first-year Penske driver to mid-pack where he would finish 17th. Allmendinger is looking for his first top-10 finish in eight Fontana starts.
"Fontana is a place that, my first year in Cup, I felt like I was pretty decent there," said Allmendinger, currently 26th in the point standings. "The biggest thing is it's gotten a little bit rougher. The grip level is about the same, but the seams at Fontana seem really, really bad. That's something I've really struggled with over the last two years, trying to figure out how to get across the seams or how to run in between ‘em."
Robby Gordon (No. 7 SPEED Energy Dodge Charger R/T) will look to rebound from his DNQ last weekend at Bristol. Gordon must qualify for Sunday's race on speed during Friday's qualifying session.
What You Need To Know
The Race: Auto Club 400 (Race 5 of 36)
The Place: Auto Club Speedway
The Date: Sunday, March 25
The Time: 3:00 p.m. (ET)
The Track: 2-mile oval
The Distance: 200 laps/400 miles
Television: FOX, 2:30 p.m. (ET)
NASCAR NATIONWIDE SERIES
Sam Hornish Jr. (No. 12 Alliance Truck Parts Dodge Challenger) and Brad Keselowski (No. 12 Discount Tire Dodge Challenger) will lead the two-team Dodge Challenger attack for Saturday's Royal Purple 300 at Auto Club Speedway. Keselowski leads the tandem with three top-five and four top-10 finishes in 10 career Nationwide Series starts. Hornish will be making his second NNS start at Fontana.
"I haven't raced at Auto Club Speedway for over two years, but I did a tire test there last year and that should be beneficial," said Hornish. "I have always liked this place in both Cup and IndyCar, and I have had some success there as well, including winning a race with the closed–course average speed record, which is pretty cool. I think this will be a great place for the Alliance Truck Parts Dodge to rebound from not running as well as we would like in the last couple of outings. I'm looking forward to this race."
AMA MONSTER ENERGY SUPERCROSS SERIES
Kyle Regal will be the lone Hart and Huntington rider this weekend as the AMA Monster Energy Supercross Series heads across the border to Toronto, Ont., Canada. It's the 12th stop in the 17-race series. Teammates Ivan Tedesco, Josh Hill, Josh Hansen and Kyle Partridge all remain sidelined due to injuries. Hill and Hansen are expected to return to action next weekend in Houston.
SRT Motorsports on TV (All Times Eastern)Friday, March 23
3:00 p.m. – Sprint Cup Practice at Fontana (SPEED)
4:30 p.m. – Nationwide Final Practice at Fontana (SPEED)
7:00 p.m. – Sprint Cup Qualifying (SPEED)
9:00 p.m. – Trackside at Auto Club Speedway (SPEED)
Saturday, March 24
12:30 p.m. – Sprint Cup Practice (SPEED)
1:30 a.m. – Nationwide Qualifying (SPEED)
3:30 p.m. – Sprint Cup Final Practice (SPEED)
5:00 p.m. – Nationwide Countdown (ESPN)
5:30 p.m. – Nationwide "Royal Purple 300" (ESPN)
Sunday, March 25
11:00 a.m. – NASCAR Now (ESPN2)
12:30 p.m. – NASCAR RaceDay (SPEED)
2:30 p.m. – Sprint Cup Pre-Race Show (Fox)
3:00 p.m. – Sprint Cup "Auto Club 400" (Fox)
6:00 p.m. – NASCAR Victory Lane (SPEED)
7:00 p.m. – SPEED Center (SPEED)
8:00 p.m. – Wind Tunnel with Dave Despain (SPEED)
SRT engineering extends well beyond street vehicles. It is a little known fact, but technical support for the Chrysler Group’s motorsports programs is provided by the astute engineers at SRT. Lessons learned on the track directly translate to improved vehicles for our fans. SRT Motorsports Engineering is expanding its racing presence this year. Be sure to follow us throughout the 2012 season for direct news from pit lane.