RACE INFO: Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway | 3:30 p.m. ET on Sunday, March 17
GOING BACK TO CALI: This Sunday, William Byron will climb behind the wheel of his No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 to make just his second NASCAR Cup Series start at Auto Club Speedway (ACS) in Fontana, California. Last spring, Byron had an overall solid day at the two-mile, D-shaped oval, qualifying 29th and racing his way to a 15th-place finish, leading a lap in the process. The 21-year-old driver also has one NASCAR Xfinity Series start under his belt at ACS – in 2017 he started sixth and crossed the finish line in fifth. In the Cup Series, two drivers have earned their first wins at ACS – Jimmie Johnson (April 2002) and Kyle Busch (September 2005) – with both of those wins coming during their rookie seasons while driving for Hendrick Motorsports.
BYRON ON AUTO CLUB SPEEDWAY: “I think it’s going to be a lot of four- and five-wide racing. Obviously, at Vegas, I wouldn’t say the pace was that much slower than a normal race, but we were able to be more aggressive on the restarts and position ourselves better before things become more single-file. I think those first four or five laps are going to be really crazy still. I think that the lane choices that you have at Auto Club Speedway will help keep the racing a little bit closer, and with that, you are going to have to kind of be gritty throughout the run to keep your position. I think it’s going to be a crazy race and we are going to have to deal with that especially on the restarts and will need to try to maximize that.”
BYRON ON WHY HE THINKS DRIVERS LIKE TO RACE ON WORN SURFACES: “I would say there is just a little bit more feel in the car and you can move around more. It’s more rewarding when you figure something out and you are able to make a pass that you might not have been able to make on a new pavement track. You are very car-dependent on new tracks, so I think it takes some of that factor out of it and you are able to drive the car more and really make a difference.”
KNAUS KNOWS BEST: Returning to the site of his first win as a NASCAR Cup Series crew chief, Chad Knaus’ stats at Auto Club Speedway are hard to beat. In 24 races, Knaus has called the shots for six wins, with the most recent one coming just three years ago in 2016. He has two poles at the two-mile, D-shaped oval, including an average starting position of 8.6 with 99.9 percent of laps completed (5,501 of 5,505).
BEST STARTING POSITION: Alex Bowman and the No. 88 team are fourth on the list for the best average starting position in 2019. The Arizona native has an average starting position of 8.75 in four events so far this season, highest among his Hendrick Motorsports teammates.
CALIFORNIA DREAMIN’: Bowman, a Tucson, Arizona, native, has three starts in the NASCAR Cup Series at Auto Club Speedway. His best finish of 13th came in the 2018 event when the No. 88 team started 28th. The driver has completed 99.7 percent of the total laps during those three events. The Hendrick Motorsports driver has one start at the Fontana, California, venue in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. In 2013, he qualified in the sixth position and finished 12th in the spring event.
IVES IN CALIFORNIA: Crew chief Greg Ives will call the shots for the fifth time for the No. 88 team at Auto Club Speedway this weekend. The Michigan native’s driver finished sixth in 2015 after qualifying 17th for the 209-lap event. Ives’ drivers have completed 100 percent of the total laps during those four events. Ives has two starts as a crew chief in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, with a best finish of third coming in 2013 with driver Regan Smith. From 2006-2012, Ives was a race engineer for the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports team. During that time, he was a part of four wins, two pole awards and nine top-five finishes at Auto Club Speedway.