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Dustin Off the Next Race: Auto Club 400

NASCAR continues it’s trip out west this week in the shadow of the silver screen in Hollywood, and the hustling traffic that describes the Los Angeles commute.  In doing so, some drivers are coming there with the purple and gold colors that one of the most recognizable athletes in L.A. wore for his entire career.

It’s no secret that the sport reaches out and touches many outside the track, and certainly seeing the presence of stars from NFL, hockey, baseball and basketball at races is no different.

The tributes to Kobe Bryant certainly will be seen at the track this weekend, from gloves and shoes, to the all-out scheme of Ryan Blaney, since he and Bryant shared interest in his sponsor.  NASCAR bands together when it has one of their own in pain, as evident when Ryan Newman had to be rushed to the hospital a couple weeks ago, and honoring influential people outside of the sport is no exception.

Kobe, and Gianna as well, will be missed by everyone.  Not just those in the basketball community, but to many of their friends, family, classmates, fellow competitors; losing such a strong individual like Kobe and his young daughter effected everyone.  Many will be feeling that hurt as they make their way through the garage and race their way around this big speedway.

But, that is why these teams are here, to hit the track and go fast…extremely fast…one of the fastest speedways on the circuit.

With this aero package from a year ago, we saw how once cars hooked up in the draft, speeds went well beyond 200 mph into the first turn, and only way many were slowing down was just letting off the accelerator and rolling through the corner.  Much like it’s sister track at Michigan, this place has so many different ways to get around, it makes it a challenge to find the right handling setup.

California has less banking than Michigan, but also has an older surface compared to it’s counterpart.  This means although speeds will still be high, tire wear is going to certainly be a bigger factor.

Add in the sunlight and the usual conditions one would anticipate at this place, things could get really hairy.

Sometimes this place reminds me of Atlanta.  Both tracks were built, or in Atlanta’s case rebuilt, in 1997, so the surface is old and worn, makes things slick.  However, California seems to hold up better, and certainly is among the fastest on the circuit.  This place means finding the right groove early, and being able to change it as the laps click off, is critical.

And we all know at a place like this, when things get strung out and cautions are not happening at a fast clip, having every last drop of fuel in the tank could be the ticket to victory.  Although it’s not as easy now to just push in the clutch and let the car coast, since this fuel injection system is a bit harder to utilize, it still makes an enormous difference.

Some may dream of “Californication,” at least according to the Red Hot Chili Peppers, but all are dreaming of victory.  Get that green flag in the air, considering the last couple weeks NASCAR has dealt with rain.

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