AUTO CLUB 400
TreatMyClot.com 300 Stats and Inside Stories
This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!
Published on Sun, Mar 20, 2016
By: The LACar Editorial Staff
Story by Brian Kennedy
Pictures by Gabriela Moya
The situation at the end of the Xfinity race in Fontana on Saturday was about as clean as a dirty window with no Windex in the house, but the simple stats, as opposed to the hairy on-track last-lap action, are digestible. Interesting, too, are the in-race dices and dives that drivers made that might not have made your TV screen. If you’re a fan, read on for those details.
First, the info: Pole sitter Daniel Suarez ended up fourth, with Elliott Sadler fifth. Eight cars led at least one lap, with Busch leading the most and the others including Dillon, Suarez (four laps), Brendan Gaughan, Kyle Larson, Aric Amirola, and Ryan Preece and Josh Wise. Both of the latter two finished more than halfway back in the pack. That’s 12 lead changes among eight drivers, if you like tallies. Dillon won by .714 seconds over Kyle Busch.
The race was just over two hours, with an average speed over 143mph and just four cautions for 16 laps. Were it not for the last-lap drama, which is all most people will remember, the stories would have been the little dices that happened back and forth between cars as the race went on.
The race ebbed and flowed, with a string of cars at times, and packs at the front, sometimes as many as five cars big, and some three-wide racing. The track looks much more flat on TV than it does in person, and there’s a ton of room (though perhaps it doesn’t seem that way at 190mph) going into the turns. Busch oftentimes rode up high. Two cars would charge up underneath him, fighting each other as much as for the lead. They would exit two with Busch ahead.
For those who don’t care that the Sprint Cup drivers are dominating most of these races, one interesting plotline might have been Kevin Harvick. He started 17th and worked his way quickly into the top ten, but dropped back, spending the first third of the race largely between 13th and 20th after making an extra pit stop under caution in the early going. But he spent the last third of the race in the top ten, and moving up. He was seventh for about 40 laps and ended up sixth.
Another favorite driver who formerly ran Cup, Elliott Sadler, began and stayed in the top five but them dropped into the twenties by midrace. He climbed to fourth, was dropped to eighth for about twenty laps, and came home where he started—in the fifth spot.
Youngster Erik Jones began second, was there most of the day, but ran out of fuel late and came home 15th. At one point when he went past my position and into turn one, around lap eight, he had Daniel Suarez’s car literally up under his bumper.
Darrell Wallace Jr., cited in my other story on this race and its wild finish, was one driver who diced and danced a lot in the top ten. He would drift back to tenth, come up a couple of spots, be seen back in the eighth-ninth range for a few laps. His car was not, as some, predictably in the same place on the track. Sometimes he’d use a high line, sometimes duck under a guy heading into turn one. Just to give one example, when most of the cars were strung out around lap 25 after the early caution, he was diving under Brennan Poole in #48 for tenth position. This is what they don’t show you on TV, but when there’s nothing going on at the front, what do fans watch? The little battles.
Kyle Busch was routinely running into turn one at 191mph. Most of his close competitors were at 190. The mid-pack guys were around 187, but by the time around 100 laps were done, he was a couple of seconds ahead of second, five ahead of third, and around 25 ahead of Harvick in tenth. The laps at this speedway take about 42 seconds, so you can see—he was more than half a lap ahead of tenth. By the end of the day, just 12 cars shared the lead lap. Eight were more than fifty laps back, some of whom were garaged.
NASCAR produces an interesting stat called “Best 10 Consecutive Lap Average,” which is a measure of how cars do over ten continuous laps. The top four were Ryan Reed, Austin Dillon, Brennan Poole, and Darrell Wallace, Jr. These were all done roughly at the same time—the early green-flag run from about laps 12-21, give or take a couple. The average for Reed was 170.949mph in his Ford. Two of these are Chevy drivers, two Ford, by the way. The other marques, Toyota and Dodge, didn’t figure into these numbers. The highest-finishing rookie was Brandon Jones in ninth. The points standings are now Suarez ahead of Sadler by 10. The series has a week off before the resume action in Texas on April 8th. More Auto Club 400 coverage by Brian Kennedy: AUTO CLUB 400: TreatMyClot 300 - Just Don't Make No Sense AUTO CLUB 400: "Seams" Easy From The Outside AUTO CLUB 400: The Calm Before The Storm