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With the running of the Production Alliance 300 on Saturday, the NASCAR Xfinity Series returns to Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., for the first time since 2020, when the coronavirus pandemic shut down professional sports in the United States less than two weeks after that year’s edition of this race.
The event will be contested over 150 laps (300 miles) on the 2.0-mile track, with stage breaks scheduled after 35 and 70 laps. Harrison Burton won the last race held there in 2020 but has graduated to the NASCAR Cup Series and will not defend his victory.
Ty Gibbs has never raced at Auto Club Speedway. As a consequence, it’s a testament to his talent and to the quality of his equipment that Gibbs is a heavy favorite to win Saturday’s Production Alliance 300 (+350 via DraftKings Sportsbook).
But it’s asking a lot of the 19-year-old grandson of team owner Joe Gibbs to win in his first trip to the abrasive 2.0-mile track.
Auto Club Speedway features the oldest, most degraded asphalt on the NASCAR circuit. The tar-filled seams (roughly five inches wide) that connect the lanes can be particularly tricky, given that the traction characteristics can change radically as the slick tires cross them.
Gibbs finished 11th last Saturday in his Xfinity Series debut on the Daytona oval. We expect him to better that result at Fontana, where equipment can make more of a difference.
But actually, winning the race? We think there are better choices at far better prices.
Unlike Ty Gibbs, Trevor Bayne has plenty of experience racing in the Xfinity Series at Auto Club Speedway. Unfortunately, none of it is recent.
The surprise winner of the 2011 Daytona 500 (in his second NASCAR Cup Series start) has seven Xfinity starts at Fontana and an admirable record of three top 10s and an average finish of 11.3.
In all seven races, Bayne finished on the lead lap. However—and this is a huge qualifier—his last start on the 2.0-mile track came in 2014. His last start in the Xfinity Series—anywhere—was in 2016.
Yes, Bayne toiled in the NASCAR Cup Series through 2018, and he ran eight Truck races in 2020, but since then, he has opened Mahalo Coffee Roasters in Knoxville, Tenn., and served as an analyst on Fox Sports’ Race Hub.
We don’t think Bayne (+1400) can shake off the rust and win Saturday’s race, but he’s driving the most potent car he’s ever had the good fortune to drive (the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota). We think he’s worth a shot to finish in the top three at +400 via DraftKings.
In his first event with Richard Childress Racing last Saturday, Austin Hill won the season opener at Daytona International Speedway.
Sheldon Creed is another RCR newbie this year, after winning the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series title with GMS Racing in 2020 and finishing fifth in the final standings last year.
Saturday’s Production Alliance 300 will mark Creed’s first start at Auto Club Speedway, but he’s a quick study. In his first of two Truck Series starts at sister track Michigan International Speedway, he finished second.
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|Production Alliance 300 Information|
|Race||Production Alliance 300 NASCAR Xfinity Series race|
|Location||Auto Club Speedway, Fontana, California|
|Time||Saturday, February 26, 5 p.m. ET|
|How to Watch||FS1|
Award-winning motorsports writer Reid Spencer has served as lead writer for the NASCAR Wire Service for 16 years, having also spent a four-year stint as NASCAR columnist and beat writer for Sporting News. He is currently serving as president of the National Motorsports Press Association. Email: [email protected]More info on Reid Spencer
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