We did not have this track in 2013. It was one of two tracks we did not have in the first season. (I think the other was Kansas for the first race of the season.) As a result we ran at Iowa and Rockingham. I did very well at those two fill-in tracks coming home sixth at Iowa and 11th at Rockingham. In 2014 I came home sixth in the Fixed race and 13th in the Open.
Much like Michigan I do not seem to run these larger near-super speedways well, but both finishes were good. In the Open races my 13th was great in my eye. The reason is that I tend to leave a bit more room than needed braking into Turns 1 and 3. This lets the car ahead gap me and I lose the draft that is so very needed on these types of tracks. The plan here is to stay clean early and then work on not getting gapped in the second part of the race. This may lead to tapping the car ahead that could create a spin, but I have to learn to stay closer than I have in the past.
Note, the comments above were made prior to the start of the season. Had nothing changed those comments would still be right on the money. BUT, this week started with a HUGH CHANGE to the Draft Model. I have not run the Sprint Cup cars with the new change, but the truck racing is very different. You cannot pull up to the car ahead as a pocket of air forms between the cars and holds you back; not sure just how that will play out in the Sprint Cup cars. Week 7 and Texas and Week 10 at Talladega will be the real test for this. For me, the pocket may help as it may let me drive harder without the worry of getting so close I hit the guy ahead.
Anyway, I have done some testing and all I can get my times down to are 41.6s with the laps on the long run around 42.1s. This will not win me any awards, but the car is very stable to start a run, a touch loose off mid-run and, as expected, it tightens-up late in the run. This is good as I expect there to be more green flag racing here (with green flag pit stops) than at any of the tracks we have run this season. Getting on and off pit road is also not an issue at Auto Club as there is lots of room and the track is not slippery.
The plan is to run and not worry about fuel mileage on Wednesday night’s race; just race and a top 10 is on the wish list. If all goes well then I will try the extended fuel runs on Friday night to see if I can make that work for me. This week thanks to the wife being stuck at the college all day Sunday until late with mid-terms I should get to run the night race and use the system that works best from the other two races.
Good luck to all that find the track and get out of the pits without a Black Flag