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Freedman’s Favorite NASCAR Matchup Props: Jimmie Johnson vs. Austin Dillon at Auto Club 400

Freedman’s Favorite NASCAR Matchup Props: Jimmie Johnson vs. Austin Dillon at Auto Club 400 article feature image

Adam Hagy-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver Jimmie Johnson

  • Matthew Freedman continues his series featuring at least one of his favorite bets for each day of 2019.
  • On Sunday, he looks at the Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway (3:30 p.m. ET, FOX) and highlights the driver matchup between Jimmie Johnson and Austin Dillon.

Each day, I publish at least one quick-n’-dirty piece highlighting a favorite prop of mine. See my master list of 2019 prop bets for more information.

Also follow me in The Action Network app, where each day I post additional, official player prop picks: Today we have eight NBA and seven NHL games.

2019 Year-to-Date Record

291-245-12, +37.10 Units

  • NFL: 21-13-0, +11.72 Units
  • NBA: 173-139-4, +21.45 Units
  • NHL: 65-78-7, -6.66 Units
  • Golf: 4-6-1, -1.35 Units
  • NASCAR: 5-5-0. +1.30 Units
  • NCAAF: 0-1-0. -1.00 Units
  • NCAAB: 0-1-0. -1.00 Units
  • Exotic: 23-2-0. +12.64 Units

Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway

First of all, I wish you a great St. Patrick’s Day. May it overflow with green.

Secondly, we’ve got a race to break down!

NASCAR closes its West Coast swing with the Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, CA (3:30 p.m. ET, FOX).

A two-mile D-shaped oval with low banking, Auto Club is unlike any other track we’ve seen this season. It’s similar to Atlanta Motor Speedway in that its old asphalt surface results in high tire wear, but Auto Club’s combination of length, shape, banking and surface make it unique.

On top of that, this is the track’s first event with the new aerodynamic package and rules. Because of that, it’s hard to know which past data to use to anticipate driver performance for this race.

In Nick Giffen’s Auto Club projection model, he’s decided to look at data from the 2013-18 Auto Club races as well as the two 2019 large-oval races (Atlanta and Las Vegas).

In researching for this piece, I’ve relied heavily on Nick’s model as well as these two tools from RotoViz.

For more information on the race, check out the RotoViz Radio NASCAR podcast.

Freedman’s Favorite NASCAR Driver Matchup for Auto Club 400: Jimmie Johnson vs. Austin Dillon

  • Jimmie Johnson: +135
  • Austin Dillon: -165

Jimmie Johnson is no longer a racing force. He hasn’t won a regular-season event since June 2017. Over the past 12 months, he has just one top-three finish.

But Johnson has historically owned this track. While Nick’s model takes into account only what has happened since 2013, when the Generation 6 car was introduced, Johnson’s pre-2013 dominance should not be ignored.

Ever since his first year, he’s been the driver to beat at Auto Club. His first career win was at this track.

  • 2002: 1st
  • 2003: 16th
  • 2004: 2nd, 14th
  • 2005: 2nd, 16th
  • 2006: 2nd, 11th
  • 2007: 3rd, 1st
  • 2008: 2nd, 1st
  • 2009: 9th, 1st
  • 2010: 1st, 3rd
  • 2011: 2nd
  • 2012: 10th

In the Gen-6 era, Johnson hasn’t been as dominant at Auto Club, but he still has three top-10 finishes with a victory over the past six years.

As for Austin Dillon, in his five races at the track (all since 2014), he has just one top-10 performance.

There’s no question that Johnson has been the superior driver at Auto Club in the Gen-6 era.

  • Driver rating: 100.0 vs. 79.8
  • Running position: 11.0 vs. 16.0
  • Finishing position: 12.7 vs. 14.4
  • Place differential: +8.0 vs. -2.8
  • Quality pass percentage: 47.6 vs. 36.6
  • Laps led percentage: 10.4 vs. 0.0
  • Fastest laps percentage: 6.2 vs. 0.1

And Johnson was also the better driver earlier in the season at Atlanta and Las Vegas.

  • Driver rating: 63.2 vs. 62.4
  • Running position: 19.0 vs. 21.0
  • Quality pass percentage: 26.1 vs. 13.7

Johnson also had the faster 10-lap average in the second and third practice sessions (14, 7 vs. 17, 13).

So why is Dillon favored?

  1. It’s a bad line (in my opinion).
  2. Dillon is starting on the pole, while Johnson is 11th.

In a 400-mile race, it won’t matter that Dillon is 10 spots ahead of Johnson on the first lap. Johnson should be able to move up in the field, and Dillon will certainly fall back.

In the sim scores, Johnson has the better all-around finishing projections.

  • Ceiling: 5.0 vs. 7.0
  • Median: 10.5 vs. 14.5
  • Floor: 20.0 vs. 20.0

I’d bet on Johnson all the way down to +105.

The Pick: Johnson (+135)

Freedman’s NASCAR Driver Matchups for Auto Club 400

Here are two other driver matchups I like for the Auto Club race.

Given the randomness of motor sports in general, I tend to gravitate to upside underdogs available at plus money.

  • Kevin Harvick (+105) over Joey Logano (-135) – Bet to +100
  • Alex Bowman (+110) over Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (-140) – Bet to +100

Matthew Freedman is the Editor-in-Chief of FantasyLabs. He has a dog and sometimes a British accent. In Cedar Rapids, Iowa, he’s known only as The Labyrinthian.

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