NASCAR Auto Club 400 2023 Drivers, Predictions and Best Bets: Kyle Larson set to dominate

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Matt Selz


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NASCAR handicapper for Pickswise, looking to give you winners throughout the season!

The NASCAR Cup Series schedule turns its eyes to the West Coast Swing portion. First up in that swing — the Pala Casino 400 at Auto Club Speedway. Last year’s trip to Auto Club with the Next Gen car was eventful, this year’s is shaping up to be much of the same. For a different reason though — Southern California’s wild weather.

Heading into this weekend the Los Angeles area had rare blizzard warnings in effect and a lot of rain being called for in Fontana. How will that effect the racing and the NASCAR betting markets? Let’s talk about the picks for this Sunday’s Pala Casino 400.

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NASCAR Betting Strategy for Auto Club Speedway

Auto Club Speedway hosted it’s first race in a few years last year and now this year is likely it’s last for a while. So let’s enjoy it while we’ve got it. It’s a D-shaped two-mile layout that sees the front stretch curved from Turn 4 to Turn 1. The surface of the track gets a lot of the talk here as it’s very worn out and is the oldest in the Cup Series.

What does that mean for the racing? Quite simply it means that things can get wild in a hurry when tires wear out. Tire wear and strategy has as much to do with who wins at Auto Club as the speed of their car does. It’s that important. So what does that mean for betting strategy? We want drivers who are fast late in runs at similar tracks to Auto Club and drivers who have posted good green flag speeds as well. We also don’t want to base too much off of what happened last year here. Why? It was the first true race with the Next Gen car and a lot of teams were still figuring out how to drive them let alone make them fast let alone deal with the bigger tires. That’s not to say we completely ignore it, but finish last year doesn’t really matter much.

One final note, there’s a good chance that we won’t get practice or qualifying as scheduled on Saturday due to the weather. In that event, the starting order will be set by formula with Christopher Bell on pole and Daytona 500 winner Ricky Stenhouse Jr. joining him on the front row.

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Pala Casino 400 Winner Predictions

Kyle Larson (+650)

His nickname is two-Mike Kyle for a reason. The first four wins of his career came at either Michigan or Auto Club. He was winner here a year ago but was also among the fastest cars on track throughout the runs. Expect that same type of speed from him once again this Sunday as he’s perfect for this track with his dirt racing background and knowing how to be faster on worn tires.

Ryan Blaney (+1000)

You’ll be seeing Blaney’s name a lot in the bets this year simply because he has a legitimate shot to win every time he’s behind the wheel and this weekend’s no different. While the result wasn’t great last year, thanks to a bad pit stop late, he had top-five green flag and long run speed all race long. The pit issues have been cleaned up since last year and the speed is still in the 12-car for Team Penske. That makes him a threat. Keep in mind that if practice and qualifying are rained out, he’ll start inside the top-10 based on the formula used by NASCAR. That should give him a leg up as well.

Kevin Harvick (+2000)

One last shot at what is basically his home track. That’s the narrative for Harvick this week, along with the speed the 4-car showed at similar tracks down the stretch last year. Harvick has always been good at high-tire wear tracks and this one’s no different not to mention he scored a win at Michigan last year — the sister track to Auto Club. Just like for Blaney, if there’s no qualifying, he’ll start top-10 on Sunday.

Erik Jones (+3000)

Jones is a bit the opposite of Harvick and Blaney. We’d do better with him getting a better qualifying spot given his rough go of it in the Daytona 500 a week ago. Nonetheless though, he was arguably the fastest car all day here last year and was very good at similar high-wear tracks like Darlington. If Jones does have to start in the back then we’ll need some pit strategy and help for him to get closer to the front late and challenge for the win.

AJ Allmendinger (+10000)

If you want to take a shot on the Dinger, nows the time to get in the bets before the odds get shorter. If qualifying doesn’t happen, he’ll start P6 after a stellar run in Daytona last weekend. That makes these very interesting odds for a guy who’s had good runs here previously and who’s Kaulig Racing car showed good speed on intermediates a year ago. If qualifying happens and he qualifies poorly, these odds likely stay around here, however any sort of good qualifying effort or a rained out session mean these odds likely get shorter.

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At Pickswise we offer free NASCAR picks including analysis and NASCAR betting advice from expert NASCAR handicappers.

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