The preseason hype over NASCAR's rookie drivers went primarily to Chase Elliott, who slid into the coveted seat vacated by Jeff Gordon.
It has been Ryan Blaney who has been most impressive through the first four races of the season.
Blaney heads into Auto Club Speedway at Fontana, Calif., for Sunday's Auto Club 400 searching for his third straight top-10 Sprint Cup finish. He was sixth in the Kobalt 400 at Las Vegas and 10th in the Good Sam 500 at Phoenix, and he sits 12th in the Chase for the Championship standings as the series shifts to California for the final stop in a three-race West Coast swing.
"You've seen Ryan battle through adversity during the last two races and end with solid finishes," crew chief Jeremy Bullins said. "Very few races play out perfectly. There is usually something to overcome, and we did that the last two weeks."
Blaney, 22, has never raced on the 2-mile oval. He'd raced at some level at each of the first four venues on the NASCAR schedule. "It makes you a little cautious the first handful of laps having no experience on a track," Blaney said. "So it will take a few runs to get comfortable. Most drivers seem to love Fontana. It's a very wide racetrack with multiple options, and that's what drivers like."
NASCAR PENALTIES: NASCAR issued written warnings Wednesday to the teams of Landon Cassill, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Martin Truex Jr. for issues at Phoenix last weekend. Stenhouse's warning is the first of the season for the Roush-Fenway Racing team, which was flagged for failing prerace inspections three times. The penalty is the loss of 15 minutes of practice time today at Auto Club Speedway. Cassill and Truex's teams each received their second warnings of the year. Cassill's car failed prequalifying template inspection twice, and Truex's car failed prerace laser inspection twice. Every fourth warning a race team receives results in the loss of pit selection.
GANASSI LE MANS LINEUP: Chip Ganassi Racing has finalized its lineup for the team's debut in the Le Mans 24 Hours sports car race, and it includes IndyCar drivers Sebastien Bourdais and Scott Dixon.
Bourdais is from Le Mans and will share the No. 68 Ford GT with Joey Hand and Dirk Muller in the race June 15-19. Dixon, the reigning IndyCar champion, will make his Le Mans debut with Ryan Briscoe and Richard Westbrook in the team's No. 69 Ford.
"I've been in the car a few times in testing so I know we have a great race car here," Dixon said.
Bourdais has 10 previous Le Mans starts and participated in the development of the Ford that will compete. He also ran with Hand and Muller in the Rolex 24 at Daytona.
Mercedes scolds Hamilton: Lewis Hamilton has a tendency to frustrate his Formula One team's sponsors by promoting or wearing rival brands. As a fashion aficionado and bad-boy of the F1 paddock, the world champion Mercedes driver doesn't like to play by the rules, especially when it comes to clothing. But when sportswear giant Puma and clothing supplier Hugo Boss are paying to sponsor F1's dominant team, they expect star drivers to be wearing their products. "It's constantly monitored," Caroline McGrory, Mercedes director of legal and commercial affairs, said at a Law In Sport seminar in London. "I always have to send … messages on race weekends telling Lewis to stop wearing his bright yellow Louis Vuitton trainers when he should be wearing his Puma trainers."