Column By: SHANE CARLSON / RPW – SONOMA, CA – After a rare weekend off, the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series heads to its first of three road courses on the schedule.
With the road courses comes the discussion of whether they belong on the schedule. To me, there’s absolutely no question they belong on the schedule. Over the course of the last five to 10 years, the level of competition among drivers has gotten so much better on the roadies.
Road course ringers are no longer prevalent. Teams and drivers started to care about their performance on the road courses and put forth an effort to do well and not surrender a ton of points. Before, teams would grudgingly roll into whatever road course they were at and wave the white flag, surrendering a ton of points because of laziness for lack of a better term.
With the uptick in performance, the racing has gotten much better to watch. There’s opportunities to pass seemingly on every corner and the races have a tendency to go down to the last lap. That’s good for everyone.
Sonoma Raceway Race Info
Track: Sonoma Raceway
Race: Toyota Save Mart 350
Date: Sunday, June 24
Time: 3 p.m. ET
Length: 110 laps. 218.9 miles
TV: FOX Sports 1
Radio: Performance Racing Network
My Pick to Win is…
No. 47 Kroger ClickList Chevrolet Camaro ZL1
JTG Daugherty Racing
AJ is the most bullish driver on the road courses, and sometimes it has helped him, while other times it has hurt him. He should qualify well, and track position on the road courses is absolutely of utmost importance. As long as he doesn’t drive over his head, the “Dinger” should be a contender on Sunday. One of the most charismatic drivers on the circuit, it would be a popular win if he could pull it off. Allmendinger has this race circled as a potential golden ticket into the playoffs and it will be fun to watch him wheel the No. 47 Chevy on Sunday, no matter where he’s running in the race.
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Power Rankings
- Kevin Harvick: Leading the series with five wins to date, Harvick won this race last season, and Stewart-Haas Racing has won the last two Sonoma races. Harvick will look to continue the trend.
- Kyle Busch: Trailing Harvick by one win, Busch leads the series standings and has won at Sonoma twice before. The last time was in 2015 which kicked off his title run.
- Clint Bowyer: Bowyer had an extra week to party with the off-week last week. You already know he kept the party going since winning at Michigan.
- Martin Truex Jr.: Truex won at Sonoma in 2013 but has an average finish of 21st.
- Joey Logano: Third in the standings, Logano has never won at Sonoma but does have four top-10s in his last seven Sonoma starts.
- Brad Keselowski: Still searching for his first win of the year, Keselowski led 17 laps at Sonoma last season en route to his first top-5 in wine country.
- Kurt Busch: I’ll always remember Kurt Busch’s third-place effort in 2012 at Sonoma as he limped the No. 51 Phoenix Racing machine home. He has four top-5s in his last seven Sonoma starts.
- Denny Hamlin: Hamlin would like to avenge his second-place finish to Tony Stewart at Sonoma in 2016 when he was uprooted on the final corner.
- Ryan Blaney: Finished ninth at Sonoma last season, the Penske driver is looking for his first win of the year.
- Kyle Larson: Going for his fourth Michigan win in a row, Larson spun and finished 28th. He now heads back to his home state of California as he attempts to win his first race on a road course.