Race fans enjoyed a sneak peek of tasty things to come at Sonoma Raceway this summer during a special NASCAR test session on Tuesday.
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers Marcos Ambrose (No. 9 Stanley Ford) and Aric Almirola (No. 53 Farmland Ford) visited the raceway for a two-day test session in advance of the Toyota/Save Mart 350, June 21-23. The test marked the first time the new Gen-6 NASCAR stock car laid tracks on the Sonoma Valley road course.
The team completed approximately 100 laps on Tuesday, all in race trim, and will return for a second day of testing on Wednesday. Lap times were not available.
“We’re going to be faster in qualifying (with the new Gen-6 car), no doubt. It looks like the cars and tires slide around more, so I think you’re going to see the normal Sonoma action, just a little faster,” said Ambrose, who has posted four consecutive top-eight finishes on the road course. “I’m excited about the Gen-6 car. It’s been a good race car for us, and we came out here to give ourselves the best shot at winning. We had the pole here last year, but our race package wasn’t up to standard on the longer runs, so that’s what we’re really focused on.”
Ambrose and Almirola took a break from testing to help unveil the raceway’s newest concession concept, the Sears Point Grill. The Sears Point Grill will feature handmade burgers, locally-sourced sausages and other savory grilled items. Three grill locations will open officially during NASCAR race weekend, and will be open at select major events throughout the season.
The drivers sampled two specially-created burgers from the Sears Point Grill. Almirola’s featured Smithfield bacon, a team sponsor, while Ambrose’s featured a taste from his homeland of Tasmania – Vegemite.
“That’s really good,” said Almirola after tasting the bacon-topped burger. “I think that should definitely be on the menu. Two thumbs up.”
“They put bloody Vegemite on it,” said Ambrose of his burger. “I wouldn’t suggest you sell that. It’s pretty rough.”
The raceway and Levy Restaurants also hosted a ceremonial ground breaking for the new Sonoma Raceway Garden on Tuesday. Located on a hillside just above the main paddock, the Raceway Garden will play a key role in the culinary profile of the raceway, while providing locally-grown produce for day-to-day catering and corporate events for Levy Restaurants, the on-site caterer.
“This was a fun opportunity for us to introduce two new culinary concepts at the raceway. The Sears Point Grill is meant to evoke the appeal of a rural roadside diner and I know the fresh-off-the-grill burgers and other offerings are going to be a big hit with our fans,” said Steve Page, Sonoma Raceway president and general manager. “And our raceway garden will soon be producing delicious fresh produce for our daily café menu and the variety of corporate events we host over the course of the year.”
The raceway has partnered with a number of local groups on this project, including the Sonoma Valley High School agriculture program and the Sonoma Valley School Garden Project led by local writer and Sonoma resident, Kathleen Hill. The high school’s agriculture program, headed by Dan Aschwanden, will provide starter plants for the garden, which will begin with three 20-foot elevated garden beds.
Sonoma Raceway PR