In a day that arose with smoke, it ended with Smoke in victory lane as Tony Stewart does a bump and run to Denny Hamlin coming off the final turn at Sonoma Raceway to win the Toyota Save Mart 350. Hamlin finished second, followed by, Joey Logano, Carl Edwards, and Martin Truex Jr. This win by Stewart snaps a three year winless streak.
Stewart talks about the final couple of laps that led to him losing the lead, but regaining it in the final turn. "I made mistakes the last two laps. I had just a little bit too much rear brake for Turn 7, and wheel-hopped it two laps in a row. But, I felt a nudge when I got down there and he knew where it was and he did the right thing doing it there; but if I could get to him, he knew what was coming. He told me he was proud of me. He knows what it means. We were teammates for a long time and we respect each other a lot.”
Denny Hamlin recalls the final laps from his perspective. “Tony (Stewart) was doing a good job maintaining his tires, a good job of running consistent laps there. Really he gave me an opportunity to get close. On the second to last lap he wheel hopped into (turn) seven, allowed us to get close and I just did a poor job of getting through 11. I was expecting to really drive in deep and I really thought that was going to happen and he did, but I also left the bottom open and that was a bad mistake on my part.”
The Toyota Save Mart 350 saw 12 lead changes among eight drivers. Hamlin led the most laps with a total of 33, followed by Carl Edwards (24), Tony Stewart (22), AJ Allmendinger (20), Danica Patrick, Paul Menard, and Kevin Harvick led three, and Kyle Busch led two.
The caution flag flew four times for 10 laps. The flag flew twice for accidents and for debris.
Kevin Harvick maintains a 34 point lead over Kurt Busch, followed by Carl Edwards (-52), Brad Keselowski (-56), and Joey Logano (-69).
The Chase Grid is now a battle to be in thhe top-15 in points. Despite his win today, Stewart is nine points away from 30th to be considered in the Chase. When Stewart gets in the top-30, Kasey Kahne would be on the outside looking in, and Jamie McMurray would have the final spot.
The Toyota Save Mart 350 lasted 2 hours, 42 minutes, and 43 seconds. The average speed was 80.966 mph. The margin of victory was .625 seconds.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will head to Daytona International Speedway for the annual Fourth of July spectacle. Coverage from Daytona will begin on Thursday, June 30, on the NBC Sports Network for the first practice at 3 pm Eastern.
Carl Edwards will start from the pole in tomorrow’s Toyota Save Mart 350 from Sonoma Raceway with a speed of 95.777 mph. followed by, AJ Allmendinger (95.676 mph), Martin Truex Jr. (95.672 mph), Kurt Busch (95.654 mph), and Kyle Larson (95.362 mph). This was Edward’s third pole of the season.
“I just can’t say enough about my guys. This car is fast,” Edwards said. “This place is so much fun, it’s just so cool. After that first lap, I thought ‘Man, I could really screw this up’ because the first one was so good.
In the first round of qualifying, teams were talking about waiting for a few minutes to see how the track was since the NASCAR K&N West Series laid down different rubber in their qualifying session earlier in the day. Tony Stewart went off track in the first round, but qualified P5 to advance to the second and final round. Carl Edwards was fastest with a speed of 96.201 mph, followed by, Martin Truex Jr. (95.823 mph), Kyle Busch (95.806 mph), Joey Logano (95.765 mph), and Tony Stewart (95.621 mph). Some notable drivers who did not advance are Dale Earnhardt Jr. (P13), Jimmie Johnson (P15), and Kevin Harvick (P25). Cody Ware failed to qualify, and will not make his Sprint Cup debut this weekend.
The second round of qualifying went clean and green throughout the 10 minute session. Brad Keselowski was the bottom marker in the second round with a speed of 94.967 mph.
All on track activity for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series is complete for the day. Coverage from Sonoma Raceway begins tomorrow, June 26, on Fox Sports 1 at 1:30 pm Eastern with NASCAR RaceDay. Performance Racing Network will be on the air starting at 2 pm Eastern.
On Friday, NASCAR announced a joint effort with Microsoft that will revolutionize the way races are officiated.
The Race Management App will be used to help officiate events starting this weekend in Sonoma. The app incorporates everything from inspection to racing. Everything will now be available on one screen for race control, helping to simplify race officiating. Teams will be able to see this information. Eventually, this program will be viewed by fans.
“We’re really excited about working with NASCAR because they really have complicated problems to solve in really three areas: operations and logistics, in competition and performance and in fan engagement,” said Microsoft’s Mike Downey, “As we looked at, over the last year working with NASCAR, all the things we could do, our major focus was how can we use technologies to create efficiencies in how NASCAR runs its races?”
With the fast pace environment of race-day officiating, NASCAR’s Executive Vice President and Chief Racing Development Officer, Steve O’Donnell, was impressed by the ability to consolidate information onto one screen.
“It allows us to be quick, see the replays, make calls and be confident in what we’re seeing,” stated O’Donnell.
The Race Management App allows for race “recreation, which allows for critiquing of the racing product, how teams were policed, and for training purposes.
“This is not only about being more efficient and transparent at the race track but improving each week when we go back and building our team off of this platform and kind of learning together,” O’Donnell added.
Although NASCAR offers more realtime stats to its fans compared to other sports, they must remain vigilant in being sensitive to private information that teams use. However, the telemetry and analytics from the app will be used to create and increase fan engagement.
“We’ve talked often about our fans being in the 41st car and experiencing everything,” O’Donnell added. “Ultimately, we still have work to do in terms of getting data out from the race track to the fans. But the great news for us is no other sport has more data to be able to compile and get out and especially with the younger generation and racing technology. For us, it’s about getting as much data out to the fans knowing that there are some things that the teams need to be proprietary. Those are the discussions we’re having right now with Microsoft and the race teams. What can we get out to the fans and what should we keep proprietary that would effect competition?”
At the beginning of the second and final practice at Sonoma Raceway, the red flag flew early in the session due to an unsuspected killing of a rabbit by Kyle Busch, leaving a bloody smear on the left front. At the time of the incident, Busch was second on the charts.
“That [explextive] came out of nowhere”, said Busch in an interview with Fox Sports 1, “I seen it for a second, then i moved a little bit right. I said ‘keep going, keep going’, but then he stopped and turned, we looked eye to eye, and then it was over."
The team will have to replace the brake duct at the point of impact from the rabbit. However, the team was able to make repairs, and returned to the track for practice.
Busch was 14th in the first practice with a speed of 93.702 mph. In the final practice session, Busch ended up P5 with a speed of 95.144 mph.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series migrates west for the first road course event of the year at Sonoma Raceway in California for the Toyota Save Mart 350. This is the first of two road course events on the schedule for the series.
Over the years, Sonoma Raceway has had its share of name changes from Sears Point Raceway to Infineon Raceway to Sonoma Raceway. The course is 2.52-miles in length, and features more than 160 feet of elevation change. Throughout the event, drivers will make 1,100 left and right turns.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series has raced in Sonoma 27 times. There have been 16 different pole winners with Joey Logano as the youngest and Rusty Wallace as the oldest. 18 different drives have won at Sonoma, with Kyle Busch as the youngest and Ricky Rudd as the oldest. Five times has the race been won from the pole, with the last time being in 2004 with Jeff Gordon. Clint Bowyer holds the race record with a speed of 83.624 mph set in 2012. Kyle Larson holds the qualifying record, set in 2015, at a speed of 96.568 mph.
Drivers talk about why they love going to Sonoma.
Kevin Harvick talks about the difference between Sonoma and Watkins Glen. “I think the biggest difference between Sonoma and Watkins Glen is that the speeds are drastically different. Sonoma is a much tighter course with sharper corners and a lot less speed, where you don’t really even use fourth gear, unless you’re saving gas. It’s a much slower track than Watkins Glen and the tires fall off a lot more than they do at The Glen. So, you’ve got to get your car to technically be very good as it turns the corner, but also keep track of the forward grip as you go through a run.”
AJ Allmendinger, who has a high chance of earning a Chase berth this weekend, talks about why he loves Sonoma. "I love Sonoma Raceway. It's a special place. You try not to have any race be more special than others, but I would love to go there and win a race. Beggars can't be choosers, but it's a hometown race for me and one of my biggest sponsors The Clorox Company. We'll be carrying their Kingsford Professional Briquets on the hood of the No. 47 as well as Ralphs. It's where I grew up so it would be a very big deal if I won there. It would be pretty special”
TV coverage from Sonoma Raceway can be seen all weekend on Fox Sports 1, the final race for FOX before NBC takes over. Performance Racing Network will have the radio coverage for the weekend.