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NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Raceday at Fontana: Sunday’s Auto Club 400

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Truex’s tough start to the season continues

It’s been rough start to the 2014 Sprint Cup Series season for Martin Truex Jr., who moved from Michael Waltrip Racing to Furniture Row Racing in the offseason.

It didn’t get any easier on Saturday, when a tire went down on his No. 78 Chevroleet and slammed into the Turn 1 wall at Auto Club Speedway during Saturday’s first practice session.

It’s the second time in the first five races Truex has had to move to a backup car before the race. He will start from the rear of Sunday’s Auto Club 400.

“The tire went down going into Turn 1 and I didn’t have any warning,” said Truex. “That’s not the place you want to have a tire issue. We had a good race car and felt it was even getting better.

“It’s really been a tough start of the year for this Furniture Row team. We have to start at the back but if your car is good here you can make your way up through the field.”

Notebook

Gresham picks up five-race Truck deal:Formeer K&N Pro Series East champion Mex Gresham will drive five Truck Series races this season for GMS Racing, with his first race scheduled for May at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

“I’ve been fortunate to have a lot of success up to this point of my career,” said Gresham. “However, my first Truck Series win hasn’t come yet and I really believe I have a great shot at getting to Victory Lane with GMS Racing.”

Edwards: “We still need to be better”:A win certainly solved a lot of ills for Carl Edwards after capturing a victory at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway but he insists Roush Fenway Racing still has a lot of work to do, particularly on 1.5-mile tracks.

“I think we are optimistic but also realize we were not fast at (Las) Vegas and everybody at Roush Fenway is taking that very seriously,” Edwards said. “We do appreciate how well we ran at Bristol.

“We feel like we still need to be better and (Auto Club Speedway) is going to be a good place for us to start and get better at these big race tracks.”

Final practice update:Brian Vickers posted the fastest average lap speed (185.926 mph) during Saturday’s final practice session. Jeff Gordon was second fastest, Jimmie Johnson was third, Brad Keselowski fourth and Dale Earnhardt Jr. was fifth. Kevin Harvick was fastest in Saturday morning’s first practice session.

Three things to watch

1. Last year’s Auto Club Speedway winner, Kyle Busch, needs 67 laps led on Sunday to become the 15th driver in the Cup series to log 10,000 laps led.

2. Denny Hamlin makes his first return to the track since suffering a back injury in a last-lap wreck last season that forced him to miss four races.

3. Brad Keselowski’s front row start Sunday is his fourth consecutive, putting him in excellent position to become the first driver with more than one win this season.

Observations

• Four different winners in as many races in the Cup series this season has suddenly added fuel to the idea there well could be 16 or more different winners in the first 26 races of the season, somehow diluting the idea a win all-but guarantees a berth in the Chase. Well, when was the last time this phenomenon happened? Uh, last season, when the year began with five different winners in the first five races. By race No. 26, there were still only 13 different winners. Rest easy, folks. Win and you’re in.

• In four races so far this season, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. has one top-five and two top-10 finishes, including a career-best second last weekend at Bristol, Tenn. In all of last season – his rookie year in Cup – Stenhouse had one top-five and three top-10s. Clearly, he is a good example of a driver making progress the more time he spends on the track.

• Something I don’t quite understand: Each time Fox broadcasts knockout qualifying sessions it typically ends up about 12-15 minutes behind live action simply because it insists on showing every minute of on-track action in each round. Yet on race day – which is far more relevant than qualifying – the network has no problem breaking away from live action in the race in order to run commercial breaks. What gives?

Best bets

Three picks for your fantasy racing team:

Kevin Harvick, Jeff Gordon, Brad Keselowski

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