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Friday Feature: Five to Watch

Friday, March 22, 2013
Jimmie Johnson has been good, real good, at Auto Club Speedway, but if Five Time can't find Victory Lane on Sunday, there's five other drivers who might be just as safe a bet.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that Jimmie Johnson would be the safest bet to put your money on this weekend at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif.

With five wins and 10 straight top-10s (eight of those top-fives) and a 5.4 average lifetime finish in 18-career starts, Five-Time is most logical choice to find his way into Victory Lane in Sunday's Auto Club 400.

But, just for funsies, let's pretend that Johnson isn't an option. That you can't put this month's mortgage on the 48 Chevrolet. Instead, here's a list of five drivers that might not have the credentials of Mr. Lowe's, but just might have what it takes to lead the pack back to the checkers on the final lap:

Carl Edwards - The only driver in the field (other than Johnson) with a top-10 average finish. Edwards has an 8.7 average finish in 15-career starts at the Southern California two-mile oval. And, last time I checked, you can't win a race unless you're running on the lead lap and that's something Cousin Carl has certainly been able to do, completing 99.5 percent of the 3,534 laps he's faced there.

Matt Kenseth - With 13 top-10s in 20-career starts, Kenseth is sure to be a threat again on Sunday. The new Joe Gibbs Racing acquisition has three-career wins in Fontana, and while he hasn't found Victory Lane since 2009, he has run exceptionally well so far this season and could be looking for his fourth win of the season had it not been for some seriously bad luck at Daytona and Bristol.

Kyle Busch - With 474 laps led in 15-career Auto Club starts, Rowdy is sure to be a frontrunner on Sunday, too. Busch hasn't been to Victory Lane in the Sprint Cup Series since Richmond at the end of April 2012. Moreover, his lone Fontana win came all the way back in 2005. But Busch has been red-hot of late and is just seething to perform his first post-race bow of 2013.

Tony Stewart - Sure, last year's victory was a bit misleading when you consider that the race was shortened because of rain. But Stewart led 42 laps, so he certainly didn't back into the win. And when you consider that he won there back in 2010, too, he's certainly found his SoCal groove.

Brad Keselowski - No, the stats absolutely indicate that there are much better options out there. Heck, David Ragan, Juan Pablo Montoya and David Reutimann have better average finishes at Auto Club than the defending Sprint Cup Series champion. But Bad Brad has made it a habit of late to succeed at tracks where he doesn't have the best history. And with a 4.0 average finish in the first four races of this season, it's tough to bet against the Blue Deuce right now.