California dreamin’, indeed. Native California competitors not only dominate this weekend’s Auto Club 400 entry list – there are seven, most from any state – but also top the track’s roster of winners. Californians have won nine of the track’s 23 events. NASCAR Sprint Cup champions Jimmie Johnson (El Cajon) and Jeff Gordon (Vallejo) have won a combined eight times. Bakersfield’s Kevin Harvick won at Auto Club Speedway in 2011.
Johnson won at ACS in four of five championship seasons (2007-10). How good is Johnson at Auto Club? His average finish of 5.4 is best at a single track among active drivers with 15 or more starts. He’ll make his 19th appearance at what he terms his home track on Sunday.
Gordon won the Southern California track’s inaugural race in 1997, a title year, and again in 1999 and 2004.
Front Row Motorsports teammates David Gilliland and Josh Wise both hail from Riverside, a community 20 or so miles east of Auto Club Speedway. Gilliland, whose best finish is 17th, will make his 12th start. Wise, a series rookie a year ago, will make just his second appearance. Casey Mears, from Bakersfield, has opened strong in 2013 with a pair of top-15 finishes – most recently last Sunday at Bristol. He has a pair of top-10 performances at ACS. Los Gatos’ AJ Allmendinger, driving the No. 51 Phoenix Racing Chevrolet, will make his third straight Auto Club start with a different owner. He scored top-15 finishes with Penske Racing a year ago and with Richard Petty Motorsports in 2011. Allmendinger qualified second for the old Red Bull Toyota team in 2008.