There’s a big challenge for Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth, and the rest of the Toyota gang this weekend at Auto Club Speedway: to give the Japanese manufacturer its first victory at one of the two tracks (Indianapolis is the other) in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series where Toyota has never won. And the possibilities appear to be pretty strong this time.
Yes, there’s been another manufacturer dominating there the last couple of years, as Chevrolet has won in the last five visits of the Sprint Cup to Auto Club Speedway. But Toyota has good reasons to expect of having one of their cars in Victory Lane for this weekend’s Auto Club 400 in Fontana, which is near to Toyota Racing Development, the firm’s competition arm, located in Southern California.
I’m hoping we can finally get that victory we’ve been looking for this weekend.
The Gen-6 car has visited one intermediate track in the season at the moment and it was Las Vegas Motor Speedway, where Kasey Kahne led more laps than anybody in his Chevrolet of Hendrick Motorsports, but it was the new arrival to Toyota, Matt Kenseth, who took the checkered flag in great fashion for Joe Gibbs Racing leading the last 40 laps of the race.
That’s an important precedent right now as the teams are still working hard to know more and more about NASCAR’s new car. Kenseth has also experienced great success in Fontana in the past, with three victories and eight top five finishes. The man knows very well this place and could give Toyota crucial information for the weekend.
“Fontana has really changed a lot over the last three or four years. The grooves have moved around and everyone always talks about the seams in the pavement”, Kenseth said about the racetrack. “Those seams can get a little tricky since you can’t really run across them and have to pick a lane in between them. I think one of the biggest challenges at Fontana is to try different lines constantly in order to find the most grip throughout the race”.
Kenseth is second in the statistics of average running position at Auto Club Speedway of the past seven years, behind Jimmie Johnson, a favorite that could very well spoil Toyota’s plans: The N°48 has five victories in Fontana, more than any other driver, and is having a strong season start.
“We’ve had really fast racecars everywhere we’ve gone so far. Fontana is another place where I’ve always fared well over the years, and I’m hoping we can finally get that victory we’ve been looking for this weekend”, Busch recently said.
“Fontana is a fast racetrack and you just have to be able carry a lot of speed through the corners. You’re in the corner for a long time but, the more speed you carry through the turn, the better it makes your straightaways”, he added about this weekend’s scenario.
Denny Hamlin, the third Toyota from Joe Gibbs, and the Michael Waltrip Racing guys –Clint Bowyer, Martin Truex Jr. and Mark Martin- could also be a factor this Sunday when the green flag drops. They too will try to help Toyota check the ACS speedway in Fontana, California off their bucket list.