Mother Nature was victorious on a soggy Saturday in Los Angeles. Due to heavy precipitation on Saturday morning, NASCAR elected to cancel both NASCAR Xfinity Series P&Q as well as the NASCAR Cup Series session as well. As a result, the starting lineup for Sunday’s Pala Casino 400 (3:30 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN) will be determined via the matrix that NASCAR has established.
Christopher Bell will be on the pole for the second event of the 2023 season. Bell has finished last in both of his Cup Series starts here and the one time he was on the pole in the Xfinity Series (2018), he finished 21st. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver started fifth and finished third in last Sunday’s Daytona 500.
Daytona 500 champion, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., starts alongside in his No. 47 Chevrolet. This will mark Stenhouse’s first top 5 starting spot in 14 Fontana tries including all four of his Xfinity Series appearances.
Joey Logano (3rd), Alex Bowman (4th) and Chris Buescher (5th) round out the top five.
Due to this recent P&Q format, starting position hasn’t mattered as much as it used to in Fontana. Prior to last year’s debut of that however, it did.
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.
That’s because long run pace was better than short run burst, like you’d need in qualifying. So, with so many big named drivers coming from midpack on back, I expect a wild race on Sunday.
The deepest in the field that a race winner has started is 31st by Matt Kenseth in the spring race of 2006.
Pala Casino 400 Starting Lineup
Row 1: Christopher Bell, Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Row 2: Joey Logano, Alex Bowman
Row 3: Chris Buescher, AJ Allmendinger
Row 4: Daniel Suarez, Ross Chastain
Row 5: Ryan Blaney, Kevin Harvick
Row 6: Cody Ware, Corey LaJoie
Row 7: Denny Hamlin, Martin Truex Jr.
Row 8: Kyle Larson, Brad Keselowski
Row 9: Aric Almirola, Bubba Wallace
Row 10: Austin Cindric, Noah Gragson R
Row 11: Kyle Busch, JJ Yeley
Row 12: Ty Gibbs R, Harrison Burton
Row 13: Todd Gilliland, Michael McDowell
Row 14: Ryan Preece, Austin Dillon
Row 15: Justin Haley, BJ McLeod
Row 16: Chase Briscoe, William Byron
Row 17: Chase Elliott, Erik Jones
Row 18: Tyler Reddick, Ty Dillon