NASCAR Auto Club 400: Despite Sluggish 2017, JJ One to Beat at Fontana

David Schwab

Thursday, March 23, 2017 7:58 PM UTC

Thursday, Mar. 23, 2017 7:58 PM UTC

In the final event of NASCAR’s Monster Energy Cup Series early-season West Coast swing, the action shifts to Fontana, Calif., on Sunday for the Auto Club 400. All the action from Auto Club Speedway is set to get underway at 3:30 p.m. (ET) and broadcast nationally on FOX.

It had been quite a while since Ryan Newman made his way to Victory Lane, but that extended drought came to an end last Sunday with a stirring win at Phoenix. Kyle Larson stayed hot with a third straight finish as runner-up, and Matt Kenseth paid off on a finish in a Top 3 bet by taking third. The following is a look at my top valued favorite, contender and longshot to win this Sunday’s race at Fontana based on betting odds as provided by 5Dimes.


Top Valued Favorite

NASCAR’s defending Cup champion Jimmie Johnson has had a rough start this season with just one finish inside the Top 10. The No. 48 Chevrolet is sitting in 16th place in the standings, but it is coming off an encouraging ninth-place run at Phoenix. The main reason why Johnson is the top favorite to win this race at +600 betting odds is his complete dominance at this track over his career. With last season’s victory at Fontana, Johnson has six overall wins here as part of an impressive average finishing position of 6.5.


Top Valued Contender

I went with Chase Elliott as my top contender at +1350 odds in Phoenix, and with his odds set at +1000 to win this race I am sticking with him again on Sunday. While he is still looking for his first Cup series victory in his second full-time season behind the wheel of the No. 24 Chevrolet, he continues to be one of the most consistent drivers on the track through the first month of racing. He finished fifth at Atlanta and third at Las Vegas before fading to 12th last Sunday after leading for 106 laps. In his first trip around the track at Fontana last season as a rookie, he worked his to a solid sixth-place finish.


Top Valued Long Shot

It has been quite a while since Kasey Kahne and the No. 5 Chevrolet has made the way to Victory Lane, but this could be the week that drought ends given the current form of this racing team. The odds are long at +2500 that he actually gets the job done, but I have been encouraged with his early runs that included a fourth-place finish at Atlanta. Kahne also broke into the Top 10 at Daytona, and he is 11th in the standings with 105 points. Fontana has not been his favorite track in recent years, but he does have one victory here to go along with another nine runs inside the Top 10.


Odds to Win For Other Notable Drivers

Following Johnson as the clear favorite Sunday is a large group of drivers at +800 betting odds led by Brad Keselowski, who already took a checkered flag this season at Atlanta. Also in this group are Joey Logano, Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr., who was the winner at Las Vegas. Dale Earnhardt Jr. joins Matt Kenseth at +1200 odds to round out the Top 10 drivers on this week’s list.

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