Dustin Long
Thursday March 22nd, 2012

A pair of upsets highlighted last week's opening round of NASCAR Bracketology, with Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards both falling to lower seeds.

With the Sprint Cup Series heading to Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., the Sweet 16 features some intriguing matchups.

Who will will finish higher Sunday and advance to the Elite Eight: Dale Earnhardt Jr., the defending champion of NASCAR Bracketology, or Brad Keselowski?

Other Sweet 16 matchups to watch include: Jimmie Johnson vs. Matt Kenseth and Greg Biffle vs. Jeff Gordon.

If you missed it, I created a 32-driver NASCAR Tournament similar to the NCAA's version. Drivers were seeded based on where that sat in the points after the Las Vegas race. Every driver behind Mark Martin, who was 10th in the points at the time, moved up a spot since he didn't compete at Bristol.

Drivers were placed head-to-head in a bracket against another driver. Whichever finished the best at Bristol moved on to the Sweet 16.

A driver who finished as low as 35th advanced to the second round, while another who finished as high as fourth didn't.

Gordon finished 35th but made it to the second round because his first-round foe, Marcos Ambrose, placed 36th at Bristol.

Clint Bowyer was the unlucky driver. He finished fourth but didn't advance because his opponent, Keselowski, won. Bowyer was one of two drivers to finish in the top 10 and not advance. Paul Menard placed 10th, but he was paired against Juan Pablo Montoya, who finished eighth and advanced.

The Dale Earnhardt Regional saw the two biggest upsets. Both Busch and Edwards were involved in the early crash and finished poorly: Edwards was 39th and Busch was 32nd. Both finished worse than their foe, allowing David Ragan, who beat Edwards, and Aric Almirola, who beat Busch, to advance. Ragan, seeded 27th, was the lowest seed to advance to the Sweet 16. Busch is the first driver from last year's Final Four to be eliminated this year.

Here's a look at this week's matchups:

No. 1 seed Greg Biffle vs. No. 16 seed Jeff Gordon

Biffle's average finish at Auto Club Speedway is 17.9, while Gordon's is 11.2. Gordon has three wins at the track, compared to Biffle's one. Gordon has finished higher than Biffle in six of the last 10 races at the track.

No. 24 seed Jamie McMurray vs. No. 8 seed Martin Truex Jr.

An interesting matchup here. Neither driver has finished in the top 10 in the last six races at Auto Club. McMurray's best finish in his last 10 races at the track is 16th. Truex's best finish is sixth in the last 10 races there. Truex has finished better than McMurray in six of the last 10 races there.

Regional Finals

Biffle-Gordon winner vs. McMurray-Truex winner

No. 4 seed Dale Earnhardt Jr. vs. No. 20 seed Brad Keselowski

A rematch from last year's first round. They've only raced each other three times at Auto Club Speedway, with Earnhardt finishing better than Keselowski twice. Keselowski's best finish at the track is 21st. Earnhardt hasn't had a top-10 finish in his last seven starts there. Should Earnhardt and Kenseth both advance to the next round, it would set up a rematch of last year's championship won by Earnhardt (based on how they finished at Talladega).

No. 21 seed Jimmie Johnson vs. No. 5 seed Matt Kenseth

Johnson has an average finish of 5.1 at this track with five wins and 13 top-10 finishes in 17 starts. Kenseth has an average finish of 9.9 there with three wins and 13 top-10 finishes in 19 starts. Although Kenseth has had eight top-10 finishes in the last 10 races there, he's only placed higher than Johnson in three of those races. Johnson has finished in the top 10 in the last nine races there.

Regional Finals

Earnhardt-Keselowski winner vs. Johnson-Kenseth winner.

No. 2 seed Kevin Harvick vs. No. 18 seed Regan Smith

Harvick won last year's race at Auto Club and has four consecutive top-10s there. He's finished ahead of Smith in each of the six races they've both run at the track.

No. 23 seed Juan Pablo Montoya vs. No. 7 seed Tony Stewart

In the past six races at Fontana, both have finished better than the other three times. Stewart's average finish there is 14.1, while Montoya's is 19.3.

Regional Finals

Harvick-Smith winner vs. Montoya-Stewart winner

No. 3 seed Denny Hamlin vs. No. 14 seed Jeff Burton

Burton's average finish there is 16.9 compared to Hamlin's average finish of 19.2. Burton has finished better than Hamlin in six of the last nine races there.

No. 22 seed Aric Almirola vs. No. 27 seed David Ragan

Ragan has finished higher than Almirola in all four races they've both competed in at Auto Club Speedway. Ragan's average finish is 17.3 in nine starts, while Almirola's average finish is 34.8 in four starts.

Regional Finals

Hamlin-Burton winner vs. Almirola-Ragan winner

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