MENCS: Toyota Save Mart 350 Preview
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series heads west for the first road course event of the season, the Toyota Save Mart 350 from Sonoma Raceway. The event will be broken into three stages. The first two stages will be 25 laps in length, while the final stage will be 60 laps in length.
There are only 38 drivers on the entry list for this weekend at Sonoma. Because Sonoma is a road-course, there will be a few ringers in the field. Ringers participating this weekend at Sonoma include Boris Said, Kevin O’ConnellBilly Johnson, and Boris Said. Alon Day will become the first Israeli driver to participate in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series joining BK Racing.
Defending race winner, Tony Stewart, will not be in the event due to his retirement at the end of 2016.
This will be the 29th event from Sonoma Raceway. There have been 17 different pole winners while 18 different drivers have been able to find their way into victory lane. Only five races have been won from the pole with Jeff Gordon being the last driver to do so in 2004. In 2012, the race record was set by Clint Bowyer at 83.624 mph. in 2014, Jamie McMurray set the qualifying record at 96.35 mph.
Sonoma Raceway features more than 160 feet of elevation change. Over the course of the event, drivers will make over 1,100 left and right turns. The speedway has been named Sears Point and Infineon before Sonoma Raceway was landed on.
Teams will be using the same Goodyear tire code as last year. Teams will have four sets for practice, one set for qualifying and five sets for the race. Goodyear will also be bringing a wet weather tire in case it rains.
Drivers talk about the challenges of the California road course.
“I can’t wait to get out to Sonoma this weekend and make my first-career start at this historic road course. It will certainly be a challenge, but I know my STANLEY team is up for it. I was able to get some good work in on the TRD Simulator last week, so I think that will help me as I learn my way around the road course during the weekend. I also think the K&N race will be a huge help as well. I really enjoy road course racing and I’m really looking forward to returning out west and having a good weekend in the STANLEY Camry,” said Daniel Suarez, who will be making his first start at Sonoma.
"I think the hardest part of the road course is kind of containing your emotions because you are falling behind in so many corners because you cannot pass. You just kind of struggle mentally to not want to beat the guy up that you have in front of you, turn them around or whatever. You might have a fast car but there really is only two or three good passing zones on the track,” said Ryan Newman.
“Sonoma is a real technical racetrack,” Allmendinger said. “It’s like a short track. You are beating and banging on each other. You can make passes there. The tires go away quick, but if you can conserve the tires better you can make passes. It’s a challenging racetrack,” said AJ Allmendinger. The strategy has got you wondering when that last yellow is going to fall. If that yellow falls, do you pit, do you not pit? It’s a challenge from start to finish because the opportunity is there to make a lot of mistakes and slide off the racetrack or to run into each other, which makes for great racing. In the end, I think it puts on one of the best races. It’s a home race for me. So, hopefully, we’ll get the Kroger ClickList Chevy finally in Victory Lane or at least a top-10, a top-five, something!”
Teams will have two practice sessions on Friday, June 22nd at 3:00 p.m. EDT and 6:30 p.m. EDT. Teams will qualify on Saturday, June 24 at 2:30 p.m. EDT. The race will be run at 3:00 p.m. EDT on Sunday, June 25th. Everything from Sonoma Raceway will be broadcasted on Fox Sports 1 and Performance Racing Network.
I am 19 years old from Atlanta, GA. I have been following motorsports since I was born. Motorsports has been "passed down" in my family. I am named after NASCAR Hall of Famer, William Caleb Yarborough, also known as Cale. Growing up in the southeast, racing was something that was a Sunday tradition after church. What an honor it is to share that passion with others.