Pala Casino 400 (3:30 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN) preview with favorites, sleepers, fades and Fontana track trends


  • While Team Penske and Kevin Harvick (Stewart-Haas Racing) have been good in Fontana, they have also struggled to win. Since 2010, a Ford went to victory lane just once (2015) in 12 races.
  • Toyota has won 2 of the last 4 in dominating fashion.
  • Chevrolet has won the last 2.
  • The last seven races in Fontana have been won by six different drivers from five different teams: Brad Keselowski (2015), Jimmie Johnson (2016), Kyle Larson (2017, 2022), Martin Truex Jr. (2018), Kyle Busch (2019) and Alex Bowman (2020).
  • Fontana allows dominance: Truex and Busch combined to lead 187 of the 200 laps in the 2018 edition. Busch and Brad Keselowski combined to lead 176 of 200 laps in 2019. Bowman led 110 of 200 laps in 2020. Blaney led 54 of the other 90. Reddick didn’t win but led 90 laps last year before a tire went down.
  • Truex won by 11.685 seconds in 2018. Busch, won by 2.354-seconds in 2019 and Bowman by 8.904-seconds in 2020. Only reason the margin was tighter last year was due to a late race caution to set up a 4 lap shootout to the finish. Will this race tighten up?
  • Since Kenseth’s back-to-back feat in 2009 just three drivers followed that up with a top five even. 7 of the 13 finished outside the top 10 at that.
  • Prior to last year’s race to where it was a learning process with the tires and Next Gen, Fontana only had 12 combined caution flags fly in each of the previous three years. There were five in 2018, four in 2019 and three in 2020. Take out the six combined stage breaks and you only get six yellows in three years. Out of those six, two of which were for debris and four were for single car incidents. Does the Next Gen create more havoc in 2023 or does it look like it did in 2020 and prior?
  • In Fontana, starting position has mattered more recently than ever before. The 2018 race saw the top three qualifiers finish there too. Four of the top five starters that day came from a top six starting spot.
    • In 2019, three of the top four finishers came from a top five starting spot.
    • Two of the top three in 2020 came from the top 2 Rows.
    • Last year, 3 of the top 4 started 13th on back.
    • Five of the last seven however came from the top 4 Rows.

Live Betting Trends

  • Final green flag runs to the finish since 2017: 2 laps, 68 laps, 31 laps, 73 laps, 4 laps. With 3 of the last 4 being 31 laps or longer, expect the better of the cars to win the race as track position is so crucial and pit strategy non existent.
  • Since the stage era began in 2017, the worst a winning driver has finished in a stage is 5th. Kyle Larson did so in both stages (5th) last year. Prior, the Stage 1 winner also won the race in all 4 years. The eventual winner finished 2nd, 1st, 1st and 2nd in Stage 2. By the end of the second stage, whomever is in the top 2 is a wise bet. I wouldn’t go much past 5th at that point to find your race winner.
  • 3 of the last 4 years has someone swept both stages.
  • Stage 1 finishes for eventual race winners: 1st, 1st, 1st, 1st, 5th
  • Stage 2 finishes for eventual race winners: 2nd, 1st, 1st, 2nd, 5th
  • The eventual series champion has 6 straight top 5 finishes (Johnson 1st, Truex Jr. 4th, Logano 5th, KyBusch, 1st, Elliott 4th, no race in 2021, Logano 5th).

  • Also in Fontana, the defending series champion has 4 straight top 2 finishes (Truex Jr. 1st, Logano 2nd, KyBusch 2nd, Larson 1st).

FONTANA, CALIFORNIA – FEBRUARY 27: Kyle Larson, driver of the #5 Chevrolet, takes the checkered flag to win the NASCAR Cup Series Wise Power 400 at Auto Club Speedway on February 27, 2022 in Fontana, California. (Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images)


Joey Logano 

Logano has five Top-5 finishes in his last six starts at Fontana and six Top-7’s in his last seven there overall. He led 14 laps and finished 5th just last season.

Martin Truex Jr.

Truex, has three Top-8 finishes in his last five Fontana tries. He’s also led 25 laps, 21 laps, 73 laps, 125 laps and 3 laps in five of his last seven Fontana starts too.

Kyle Larson 

Larson is the defending race winner and has four Top-2 finishes in seven career Fontana tries including another win in 2017 and a runner-up a year later.

Ryan Blaney

His stats prior to last season kept getting better and better in Fontana. He was ninth in 2017, eighth in 2018, fifth in 2019 and the only reason he was 12th in 2020 was due to a late race cut tire while running inside the top three. He led the second most laps (54) that day and was a top car all weekend. Last year, he was only 18th but fourth at the end of the second stage.

Kyle Busch

Busch, has six Top-3 finishes in his last nine Cup Series starts in Fontana. In Xfinity Series competition at Fontana, Busch has nine straight Top-8 finishes and 13 Top-3 results in his last 14 tries. He’s a six time winner (2008, 2009, 2010, 2010, 2011, 2013) at that. Now, he gets a car that led the most laps a year ago.


Tyler Reddick

He swept both stages and led a race-high 90 of 200 laps a year ago. If not for that cut tire, he likely would have won. Now, he gets the car that finished…8th. Watch out.

Kevin Harvick 

While he’s led just one lap (last year) in his last five Fontana starts, he does have three top four finishes in his last seven starts there though too including a seventh placed run last February. Harvick was fourth in 2019 and runner-up in back-to-back years (2015, 2016). Worth a gamble.

Erik Jones

Ran strong last year and finished 3rd after scoring a front row starting spot. He was 2nd in both stages as well.

Daniel Suarez

Was 4th just one year ago.

Austin Dillon 

Fontana has been very kind to him in the past. Dillon, has four Top-11 finishes on the 2-mile, D-shaped oval in his last five tries including two straight 10th place results between 2018 and 2019 and a runner-up just last season.

Aric Almirola

He has just three Top-10 finishes in 14 career Fontana starts, but all three came in the last three years including a sixth placed result last February.

Brad Keselowski 

Keselowski, has six Top-10 finishes in his last seven starts on this track including a win in 2015 and four Top-5’s in his last 5 tries in general. Last year RFK struggled, but they now have a full year’s worth of data too.

FONTANA, CALIFORNIA – FEBRUARY 26: Chase Elliott, driver of the #9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet, drives during practice for the NASCAR Cup Series Wise Power 400 at Auto Club Speedway on February 26, 2022 in Fontana, California. (Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images)


Chase Elliott 

While he does have four Top-11 finishes in six Fontana tries, only one of which has resulted in a Top-5. He was 26th last year.

Denny Hamlin 

He’s scored just one Top-5 finish at Fontana since 2009. That was a third-place effort in 2016. Last year, he was only 15th.

William Byron

He’s finished 15th in three of his four Fontana starts and 34th last year.

Alex Bowman

He may have dominated in 2020, but that’s his only Top-10 in six Fontana starts. He was 25th last year.

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