August 29, 2008
Experts' Picks: Pepsi 500
  My Pick: Carl Edwards
Why he'll win: How good are the Roush Fenway Fords at California Speedway? They've won five of the last ten races in Fontana and a few weeks ago Kyle Busch guaranteed that a Roush car would win this race. Edwards took the checkers here earlier this season and, given the fact that he's won the last three of the last four races, it's hard to pick against him on Sunday.
Keep an eye on: Kyle Busch -- This race will be a good test for Busch. If he's had one weakness this season -- and we're being very picky here -- it's on the intermediate-length tracks. The No. 18 team needs to show that it can consistently run well at these venues, because, after all, half of the Chase races will take place on these types of tracks.
Don't expect much from: Casey Mears -- This is a team in turmoil. Mears, currently 24th in the standings, wrecked last weekend at Bristol and then blamed his spotter for causing the accident. (So much for not pointing fingers at your team.) Mears finished 42nd at Fontana earlier this season.
  My Pick: Carl Edwards
Why he'll win: The hottest driver on the circuit will look to continue things on Sunday. Edwards won at California in the spring, and he's got seven top-10 finishes there in eight career starts.
Keep an eye on: David Ragan -- The No. 6 Ford may be the No. 5 car in the Roush Fenway garage, but that hasn't kept Ragan from making major strides in his sophomore year. Just 12 points out of the Chase, he gets to race at one of his favorite tracks this weekend. In three career starts at Fontana, Ragan has never finished outside the top 20.
Don't expect much from: Denny Hamlin -- He'll be fighting to get into the Chase, but the No. 11 team seems to be struggling more often than not these days. Besides, Hamlin has just one top-10 finish in five career starts at Fontana.
  My Pick: Carl Edwards
Why he'll win: The winner back in February, Edwards has been dominant at 1.5 to 2-mile race tracks over his career. Having just beaten Kyle Busch for the win at California's sister track -- Michigan -- he's clearly the favorite to pull off the season sweep and win four of the last five Cup races.
Keep an eye on: Greg Biffle -- Biffle was a contender for the win at California until the rain delay suspended the event and led to a brand new set of track conditions the following day. Seventh in points, a win here would solidify his bid for the Chase and serve notice that he's more playoff contender than pretender.
Don't expect much from: Dale Earnhardt, Jr. -- California's not the track the No. 88 team needs to turn their recent slump around. In his last eight starts at the speedway, Junior's finished 32nd or worse five times.
  My Pick: Kyle Busch
Why he'll win: OK, this time it's for revenge. After getting moved out of the lead by Carl Edwards' "bump and run" last Saturday night at Bristol, and complaining about Roush Fenway's advantage on the 1-1/2-mile and 2-mile ovals, Busch is out to prove a point by beating his nemesis at the 2-mile oval in Fontana, California on Sunday night.
Keep an eye on: Carl Edwards -- Edwards easily won this race back in February, when it was much cooler. The temperatures will be up and so will the heat from Busch on Sunday night.
Don't expect much from: Kasey Kahne -- In June, Kahne looked like a sure pick to make The Chase but in recent weeks has raced his way out of the top 12. The pressure is on this team to make a rebound because there are only two races left before the 12-driver cutoff point in The Chase.
  My Pick: Jimmie Johnson
Why he'll win: Rounding into form as the chase for the championship nears, and the two-time defending series champion will sufficiently terrify Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards.
Keep an eye on: Kasey Kahne -- Always strong in California and desperately in need of a comeback bid after a disaster at Bristol last week.
Don't expect much from: Carl Edwards -- All this talk in rivalries and such and six race probation and any other stuff besides catching Kyle Busch could get into anyone's head.
  My Pick: Carl Edwards
Why he'll win: Edwards may not believe in momentum, but he's got plenty of it going back to the track where he won in February. Edwards has won the last three oval races on three different types of tracks. He and crew chief Bob Osborne have adapting the No. 99 Ford to any challenge down to a science. The Auto Club Speedway will be slicker in the summer heat than in February, but that shouldn't be a problem for Edwards. He's the driver to beat with two races to go until the Chase.
Keep an eye on: Kyle Busch -- He's finished second to Edwards in the past two races including at Michigan, like the Auto Club Speedway a 2-mile track, but with slightly different banking. Busch was fourth at the track in Fontana, Calif., in February, and led 97 laps in finishing third in this race last year. Busch took his first Cup victory at Fontana in 2005. With his eight wins, Busch has clinched being the leader when the Chase begins, but it doesn't take anything more than a green flag to motivate him to win.
Don't expect much from: Greg Biffle -- He's been 15th or worse in his last five races at Fontana, partially from bad luck and mostly from ill-handling cars. With the exception of the two races in 2005, when he won in February and was second in September, Biffle doesn't have a top-10 in his other nine races and has a 19.6 11-race finishing average at the 2-mile track.
  My Pick: Jimmie Johnson
Why he'll win: Tracks like California fix whatever is ailing Jimmie Johnson. He almost always runs well at the two-mile oval, with two wins and seven top-five finishes in 11 career starts at the track. His average finish at California is 6.4.
Keep an eye on: Carl Edwards -- Roush Fenway Racing has a history of success at California. Carl Edwards dominated two weeks at Michigan, where the size and shape of the track is almost identical to California, and won February's California race. Edwards is the hottest driver in Cup racing and he's posted six top-five finishes in eight career starts at California.
Don't expect much from: Dale Earnhardt, Jr. -- Dale Earrnhardt, Jr. has been up and down at California, with a 21.4 average finish in 13 career starts. The last two February starts in California he's finished 40th. Sunday's race might be time for an upswing, however, as he's finished in the top five in the last two Labor Day Weekend races.

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