Toyota has visited Auto Club Speedway’s Victory Lane 11 times in NASCAR national series competition. But never in NASCAR Sprint Cup. The manufacturer’s 0-for-10 record is frustrating for several reasons. The track is one of two in the series (with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway) at which the NASCAR Sprint Cup Camry is winless.
Adding salt to the wound is that Toyota Racing Development, the firm’s competition arm, is located in Southern California.
The drought, however, could end on Sunday.
Three current Toyota drivers – Matt Kenseth, Mark Martin and Kyle Busch – are Auto Club winners, just with other nameplates. Kenseth won in Las Vegas several weeks ago and threatened to double up at Bristol before being collected by Jeff Gordon’s tire failure and subsequent accident.
Martin, the Phoenix Coors Light Pole winner, sat out last week’s short-track event but returns to the No. 55 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota that stands fourth in NASCAR Sprint Cup owner standings.
Busch, second at Bristol, comes off consecutive top-five finishes and significant momentum considering that both performances were marred by pit road infractions.
Martin and Busch must be considered Auto Club masters, each having won in NASCAR Sprint Cup, NASCAR Nationwide and NASCAR Camping World Truck events at the two-mile facility.
Neither Clint Bowyer nor Denny Hamlin has a NASCAR Sprint Cup victory in Southern California. That might change this weekend.
Bowyer fashioned four consecutive top 10s at ACS between 2009 and 2011, including a third in 2010. Last year’s points runner-up stands fourth in current standings after finishing fifth at Bristol.
Hamlin was last year’s Auto Club 400 pole winner, the second time the Virginian had been the track’s fastest qualifier. He has competed in 12 previous Southern California events with a best finish of third among four top 10s.