Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: NASCAR Cup series driver Kyle Larson
- NASCAR's new Props Challenge game asks fans to answer 10 prop-betting questions each week, with weekly winners eligible for prizes.
- PJ Walsh offers his Props Challenge picks and analysis for Sunday's Auto Club 400 (3:30 p.m. ET, FOX) at Auto Club Speedway.
NASCAR.com introduced a new game for the 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS) season that marries Fantasy NASCAR with traditional prop betting.
This week, the MENCS finishes the West Coast swing with a stop at Auto Club Speedway. Here are my Props Challenge picks and analysis for Sunday’s Auto Club 400 (3:30 p.m. ET, FOX).
1. The last two winners have won from the pole at Auto Club. Will Sunday’s race winner win from the front row?
Prior to the past two races, the last winner at Auto Club to start on the front row was Jimmie Johnson — starting on pole — back in 2008. Don’t let recent results sway your opinion at a racetrack with plenty of passing, making it easy for cars starting further back to get to the front.
2. The last four Auto Club races have seen an average of 19.5 lead changes. O/U 18.5 lead changes in Sunday’s race?
While the average may be 19.5 lead changes, that number is skewed by 26 lead changes during the 2016 race. In fact, just three of the past eight races have finished with more than 18 lead changes.
3. Which Chip Ganassi Racing driver will have a higher finishing position? Kyle Larson or Kurt Busch?
Over the last two races at Auto Club, Kyle Larson has an average finish of 1.5. He also led the most laps at Atlanta earlier this season, another high tire wear racetrack. Kurt Busch should be good too, but this answer is clear.
4. Will the race winner lead the most laps?
Over the past eight races at Auto Club, the driver to lead the most laps has won just three times. In addition, we saw Larson, who had the dominant car at Atlanta, struggle mightily after getting stuck back in traffic and dirty air.
This race already trends toward the lap leader not winning, and what we’ve seen from the new aero package only solidifies my confidence.
5. Which Joe Gibbs Racing driver will have the higher finishing position? Erik Jones or Denny Hamlin?
This is the toughest question so far. Since Erik Jones became a full-time MENCS driver in 2017, he has the fourth best average running position (7.0) at Auto Club compared to Denny Hamlin’s 9.0.
Because those are so close, I give the edge to the driver who was better at Atlanta earlier this season. In terms of green flag speed, Hamlin was slightly faster than Jones, so give me Denny … but it’s very close.