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NASCAR At Fontana: Auto Club 400 Stories To Watch

Rain likely will play a role at some point in today's Auto Club 400 at the Auto Club Speedway of Southern California, but the 200 lapper will at least see its scheduled green flag shortly after 3 p.m. Eastern time on FOX.

The last two years, this race has come down to a duel between California natives Kevin Harvick and Jimmie Johnson. Johnson claimed the 2010 race, his track-record fifth win at Fontana, but Harvick got revenge last year with a last-turn pass. Each season, Fontana was the first victory for both drivers, and with neither having claimed the first four races of the season, they could be primed for yet another duel.

Here are some more stories to watch in today's race.

Can Joe Gibbs Racing finally end their Cup drought at Auto Club Speedway? Saturday, Joey Logano scored the eighth-consecutive Nationwide Series win for the team owned by the former football coaching legend, but they have never won a Cup race. Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch share the front row for today's event and have been quick in practice, while Logano also starts within the top-10. This is certainly their best shot yet to get a Sunday victory in Southern California.

Can Kasey Kahne stop the bleeding? Anything resembling a decent day would have to be considered a success for Kahne, who has had a nightmare start to the 2012 campaign. He has wrecked in each of his first four starts for Hendrick Motorsports, his worst start to a season since 2005. Kahne has proven he has the talent to contend for victories and Hendrick is sitting on 199 victories, a testament to their ability to provide race-winning vehicles, so it is more a matter of when - not if - he turns things around. The winner of the September 2006 race at Auto Club could very well do that today.

Can Tony Stewart continue his recent dominance on intermediate tracks? Since the 2011 Chase opened at Chicagoland, Stewart has claimed four wins on 1.5-mile race tracks. Fontana is a half-mile longer but along with its big brother in Michigan races very similarly to those venues. Fontana can get slick, and Stewart is notorious for his prowess on tracks lacking grip. He has one Cup win at the track, in October 2010, and also won a Nationwide race there in 2008.

If Harvick or Johnson don't win, does another Californian step up? Nine times in 22 races, a California-born racer has claimed the checkered flag in Fontana. Jeff Gordon has three victories and could use a rebound performance after a so-so start to the year with terrible results in Daytona and Bristol. Los Gatos native A.J. Allmendinger, meanwhile, has never recorded a Sprint Cup win. Much like Kahne, he has struggled for results in his opening races with the legendary Roger Penske and a great run Sunday - or even a victory - in his home state could go a long way towards jumpstarting his season.

There will be plenty of other stories to follow in today's race, and SB Nation Atlanta will have them all covered, so strap in, hold on, and let's go racing!

Photographs by coka_koehler used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.