Despite light rains throughout the morning, today's activites at the Auto Club Speedway of Southern California are still on schedule. With the green flag due to come out around 3:16 p.m. Eastern time, here are some of the potential storylines for the Auto Club 400. The race can be seen on FOX 5 Atlanta and other FOX Affiliates, starting with the NASCAR on FOX Pre-Race show at 2:30.
JGR tries to end their drought. Joe Gibbs Racing has won at every venue on the Sprint Cup circuit, with the exception of the Auto Club Speedway. Bobby Labonte came closest, finishing second to Jeremy Mayfield in 2000 and Kurt Busch in 2003. They have prime starting positions to end their Southern California winless streak today: Denny Hamlin occupies the outside of the front row while Kyle Busch - who gave JGR it's seventh-straight Nationwide victory at Fontana yesterday - rolls off eighth. Joey Logano, who was due to start third, will start from the rear of the field after an engine change.
Juan Pablo Montoya goes for his first NASCAR win on an oval. Since Montoya and team owner Chip Ganassi announced in July 2006 that he was returning to the United States to race in the Sprint Cup Series, the question has been, "When (or) will the Formula 1 ace win on an oval?" His two Cup victories have come on the road courses at Sonoma and Watkins Glen, the latter of which was last August, but he has performed well on ovals as well. The pole-sitter for today's event, Montoya very well could stand in victory lane at an oval for the first time since September 17, 2000. That day, he drove one of Ganassi's CART entries to victory at the now-defunct Gateway International Raceway.
Can "The California Kid" win at home? Kevin Harvick turns 36 this December, but that moniker still pops up now and then. The Bakersfield native has never won a Sprint Cup race in his home state - in fact, Fontana is one of four tracks that RCR has never won at - but he had the fastest car late in last year's event. He chased down Jimmie Johnson before tagging the wall with two laps to go.
Is the Dale Earnhardt Jr./Steve LeTarte pairing for real? Fontana will be a great test of just how this season is going to go for the No. 88 team. Since crashing out of the Daytona 500, Junior and company have three-straight finishes of 11th or better. This is one of Earnhardt's worst tracks, if not his worst. A great run today could confirm that NASCAR's favorite son is truly on the rebound.
Read this and weep(er). Fontana is notorious for issues with weepers. Denny Hamlin and Casey Mears both hit water early in the 2008 race and crashed. Kyle Busch had the same issue Friday, wrecking his primary car in the early moments of practice. With today's rains, there is concern for weepers playing havoc with the field.
SB Nation Atlanta will be following these and all the other storylines, so stay tuned! Today's starting grid can, as always, be found at Jayski.com.