2009 Pepsi 500 Predictions – Betting Preview + Picks + Odds
Race: The Pepsi 500 at Auto Club Speedway
Date: Sunday, October 11, 2009
Time: 3:31 PM EST (scheduled Green Flag)
TV: 3:15 PM EST on ABC
Preview: The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series already visited Fontana once this year, but it seems like a long time ago now. In fact, it was the second race of the season and was held on February 22, right after the Daytona 500. Matt Kenseth won both those races, though his season fizzled after that. Auto Club Speedway, known for years as California Speedway, is a flat two-mile D-shaped oval with 14 degrees of banking in the turns. It’s often described as a sister track to Michigan, where Chasers Mark Martin and Brian Vickers won during the summer.
1. Jimmie Johnson (+355): Johnson is tied with Jeff Gordon and Matt Kenseth for the most Cup wins at Fontana with three each, though Johnson did so in two fewer starts than Kenseth and five fewer than Gordon. Johnson leads the average finish category with a low 6.2 and will be striving to take over first place in the Chase, currently trailing teammate Mark Martin by just 18 points. Jimmie has won two straight late-season races at Fontana and leads all drivers in points accumulated here over the last five races.
2. Jeff Gordon (+600): As noted above, Gordon has won at California three times and ran well here in February, finishing second to Matt Kenseth after leading 64 laps. He has a better overall ACS driver rating than Johnson and is coming off a strong second-place showing in Kansas last week.
1. Kurt Busch (+2000): Currently fifth in Sprint Cup points, Busch is a previous winner at Fontana (April 2003) and is sixth in the average finish category. He finished fifth here earlier in the year.
Summary: Both California and Michigan are considered Roush-friendly tracks, so it’s possible someone like Carl Edwards or Greg Biffle could break through with their first win of the year. Non-Chaser Kyle Busch has also run well at Fontana and could play a spoiler role, but at this point in the season, the Hendrick Chasers are the cars to beat until proven otherwise.
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Becca Gladden is a freelance writer and race handicapper specializing in NASCAR.