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NASCAR National Series News & Notes – Sonoma Raceway

NASCAR Cup Series
Next Race: Toyota/Save Mart 350
The Place: Sonoma Raceway
The Date: Sunday, June 12
The Time: 4 p.m. ET
The Purse: $7,629,830
TV: FS1, 2 p.m. ET
Radio: PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 218.9 miles (110 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 25),
Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 55), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 110)

NASCAR Xfinity Series
Next Race: Tennessee Lottery 250
The Place: Nashville Superspeedway
The Date: Saturday, June 25
The Time: 3:30 p.m. ET
The Purse: $1,319,713
TV: USA, 3 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 250.04 miles (188 Laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 45),
Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 90), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 188)

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series
Next Race: DoorDash 250
The Place: Sonoma Raceway
The Date: Saturday, June 11
The Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
The Purse: $675,134
TV: FS1, 7 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 149 miles (75 Laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 20),
Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 45), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 75)

NASCAR Cup Series

Wide Open: NASCAR Cup Series returns to California’s Sonoma Raceway

For the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic, the NASCAR Cup Series returns to a fully wide-open Sonoma Raceway ready for race fans to enjoy the Toyota / Save Mart 350 this Sunday, June 12 at 4 p.m. Et on FS1, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio; the second of six road courses on the schedule for 2022 (COTA, Sonoma, Road America, Indianapolis RC, Watkins Glen and Charlotte ROVAL). Trackhouse Racing’s Ross Chastain took the first road course victory of the year in dramatic fashion at Circuit of the Americas earlier this season.

Now the NASCAR Cup Series heads to Sonoma, California to wrestle the challenging multi-elevational Sonoma Raceway road course for the 33rd time in series history.

Sonoma Raceway was opened as a 2.52-mile, multi-elevational paved road course and drag strip in 1968. Over the course of its existence, the 12-turn facility has held a few different names – Sears Point Raceway, Sears Point International Raceway, and Infineon Raceway prior to being renamed Sonoma Raceway.

The first NASCAR Cup Series race at Sonoma Raceway was held on June 11, 1989 and was won by Ricky Rudd driving a Buick for car owner Kenny Bernstein. Rudd ran the race at an average speed of 76.088 mph and led 61 of 74 scheduled laps (82.4%).

Over the years, the format and track configuration has changed at Sonoma Raceway. The first nine NASCAR Cup Series races at Sonoma were 300 kilometers and then switched to a 350k format in 1998. The track was reconfigured to 1.949-miles in 1998 with the installation of an 890-foot chute between the original Turns 4 and 7. The track was reconfigured to 2.0 miles in 2001 and re-measured at 1.99 miles in 2002.

In 2019 and 2021, the track was reconfigured back to the original 2.52-mile configuration with races being 90 laps – 226.8 miles. This season, Sonoma Raceway will be returning the track configuration back to the 1.99-mile configuration with the return of the ‘chute’.

There have been 32 NASCAR Cup Series races at Sonoma Raceway since the first race there in 1989 – one race per season – until the 2020 season. Due to the pandemic, the series did not compete at Sonoma Raceway.

The 32 NASCAR Cup Series races at Sonoma Raceway have produced 18 different pole winners and 20 different race winners. NASCAR Hall of Famer Jeff Gordon leads the series in both poles (five: 1998, 1999, 2001, 2004, 2005) and wins (five: 1998, 1999, 2000, 2004, 2006) at Sonoma Raceway.

Of the 18 different pole winners at Sonoma, three are active this weekend, led by Hendrick Motorsport’s driver Kyle Larson with three poles (2017, 2018, 2019).

Active Sonoma Pole Winners Poles Seasons
Kyle Larson 3 2019, 2018, 2017
Joey Logano 1 2011
Kurt Busch 1 2006

And five of the 20 different Cup Series Sonoma Raceway winners are active this weekend, led by Joe Gibbs Racing’s Martin Truex Jr. with three wins (2013, 2018, 2019).

 

Active Sonoma Race Winners Wins Seasons
Martin Truex Jr 3 2019, 2018, 2013
Kyle Busch 2 2015, 2008
Kyle Larson 1 2021
Kevin Harvick 1 2017
Kurt Busch 1 2011

All the on-track action begins for the NASCAR Cup Series at Sonoma Raceway on Saturday, June 11 from 4:30-5:30 p.m. ET, directly followed by Busch Light Pole Qualifying at 5:30 p.m. ET on FS2.

Road Course Aces to watch at Sonoma

Heading into this weekend at Sonoma Raceway, the NASCAR Cup Series has 12 former road course winners entered in the Toyota / Save Mart 350 this Sunday, June 12 at 4 p.m. ET on FS1, PRN, and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio and five of them are looking for their first win of the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season – Martin Truex Jr., Kevin Harvick, Ryan Blaney, Christopher Bell and AJ Allmendinger.

Hendrick Motorsports teammates Chase Elliott (seven road course wins) and Kyle Larson (three road course wins) have been the two hottest road course drivers over the last few seasons. Elliott, who leads all active drivers in road course wins, is currently ranked third on the NASCAR Cup Series all-time road course wins list behind NASCAR Hall of Famers Jeff Gordon with nine road course wins and Tony Stewart with eight. Elliott’s teammate, Kyle Larson, the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series champion, became the first driver in series history to win at three different road courses in a single season last year (Sonoma, Watkins Glen and Charlotte Roval). The Hendrick Motorsports teammates finished 1-2 at Sonoma last season with Larson taking the win, giving the organization its series leading seventh victory at the road course in California’s wine country.

Right behind Elliott on the active NASCAR Cup Series road course winners list are Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr with four road course wins each.  Busch has already won this season (Bristol Dirt), but Truex is still in search of his first trip to Victory Lane this season. Busch finished fifth at Sonoma last season and Truex finished third – his third straight top five at the track. Watch for both to be towards the front this weekend as both have won at Sonoma before.

Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick has two road course wins under his belt, taking home the trophy at Sonoma Raceway in 2017 and Watkins Glen in 2006. Harvick has made 20 series starts at Sonoma posting one win, six top fives and 10 top 10s.

Joe Gibbs Racing’s Christopher Bell (Daytona RC) and Kaulig Racing’s AJ Allmendinger (Indianapolis RC) were the only drivers not in the Hendrick Motorsports camp to win on a road course in the NASCAR Cup Series last season, but Sonoma has been a challenge for both drivers. Bell finished 24th in his series track debut at Sonoma last season, and Allmendinger has competed in the series at Sonoma since 2018. In total, Allmendinger has made 10 starts at Sonoma posting two top 10s.

Team Penske’s Ryan Blaney is also looking for his first win this season. Blaney grabbed his lone road course win at the Charlotte ROVAL in 2018. Blaney has a knack for Sonoma though. In five series starts, he has posted one top five and three top 10s.

Active Road Course Winners in the NASCAR Cup Series

Active Road Course Winners Total Wins Sonoma WGI Charlotte Daytona Indy COTA Road America
Chase Elliott 7 0 2 2 1 0 1 1
Kyle Busch 4 2 2 0 0 0 0 0
Martin Truex Jr 4 3 1 0 0 0 0 0
Kyle Larson 3 1 1 1 0 0 0 0
Kevin Harvick 2 1 1 0 0 0 0 0
AJ Allmendinger 2 0 1 0 0 1 0 0
Joey Logano 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 0
Kurt Busch 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0
Ryan Blaney 1 0 0 1 0 0 0 0
Christopher Bell 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 0
Denny Hamlin 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 0
Ross Chastain 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 0

Defending Sonoma winner Kyle Larson looking to go back-to-back

Hendrick Motorsports’ Kyle Larson returns to Sonoma Raceway to defend his last season win and try to become just the third driver in NASCAR Cup Series history to win consecutive races at Sonoma; joining NASCAR Hall of Famer Jeff Gordon (three straight: 1998, ’99, ‘00) and Martin Truex Jr. (2018, ’19).

Larson grabbed his first and only victory of the 2022 season at the other points-paying track in the state of California, Auto Club Speedway (Fontana). Now the Elk Grove, California native is looking get his second win in his home state this weekend at Sonoma Raceway.

Last season, Larson led 57 of the 92 scheduled laps (61.9%) at Sonoma and won the race from the pole position becoming just the fourth driver to win a Cup Series race from pole or first starting position at Sonoma, joining Jeff Gordon (1998, 1999, 2004), Mark Martin (1997) and Ernie Irvan (1994).

In seven series starts at Sonoma, Larson has put up three poles, one win (2021) and two top 10s.

Truex gets Cole Pearn back at one of his best tracks

A friendly face to Martin Truex Jr. has returned. Joe Gibbs Racing has called on Cole Pearn to return to the No. 19 team this weekend at Sonoma Raceway and will serve as race engineer assisting crew chief James Small. Truex and No. 19 team are currently winless in the NASCAR Cup Series this season, and Sonoma Raceway is one of Truex’s best tracks – he leads all active drivers in wins at Sonoma with three.

Pearn previously served as crew chief for Truex from 2015-2019 leading him to 24 wins, 70 top fives, 110 top 10s and the 2017 NASCAR Cup Series title before retiring at the conclusion of the 2019 season.

Two of Truex’s three victories at Sonoma Raceway have come with Pearn at his side (2018, 2019). In total, Truex has made 15 series starts at Sonoma posting three wins (2013, 2018, 2019), five top fives and six top 10s. He also leads all active drivers in laps led at the track with 213.

Playoff Bubble: Harvick outside looking in; 12 year streak of making the Playoffs in jeopardy

One of the most consistent drivers in recent NASCAR Cup Series history seems to be spinning the tires as of late. Kevin Harvick’s last win was in 2020 (Bristol) and he has dropped outside the Playoff cutline following World Wide Technology Raceway in the standings. Now, his streak of the last 12 consecutive seasons of making the Playoffs could be in jeopardy.

The veteran, Harvick, hasn’t missed a postseason in the NASCAR Cup Series since 2009, and he is tied with Denny Hamlin, Kurt Busch and Jimmie Johnson for the all-time most Playoff appearances with 15 each. Hamlin and Busch have already won this season assuring they will move on to their 16th Playoff appearance, but Harvick hasn’t won yet and now find himself two points behind Tyler Reddick in the 16th and final transfer spot on points.

Harvick has won at Sonoma (2017) but finished 22nd in last season’s race. Thankfully, this season the track configuration will return to the 1.99-mile length and incorporate the ‘chute’, the same one Harvick last won on. In total, Harvick has made 20 starts at Sonoma posting one win and six top fives.

NASCAR Cup Series, Etc.

Race fans invited to ride and drive Sonoma Raceway during NASCAR weekend – Race fans looking to take a spin around the 1.99-mile paved road course known as Sonoma Raceway will get their chance during NASCAR Weekend, with all proceeds going to the Speedway Children’s Charities Sonoma, the philanthropic arm of Sonoma Raceway.

Those looking to “ride” can experience the ultimate adrenaline rush from noon to 1 p.m. with a “hot lap” around the track. Participants will feel the same speed and velocity as a NASCAR driver while riding as a passenger in an official Sonoma Raceway vehicle, piloted by a professional driver.

Advance registration is required, and space is limited. All participants will receive a ticket to Friday’s race activity as well as parking. To register, visit www.speedwaycharities.org or contact Courtney Kiser at [email protected].

WWE Superstars The Bella Twins named Grand Marshals at Sonoma Raceway – Nikki and Brie Bella are two iconic female superstars in the WWE and on Sunday, June 12 at Sonoma Raceway, they will give the command to start engines for the 33rd annual Toyota/Save Mart 350 NASCAR Cup Series race.

Inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2020, the twins will serve as grand marshals for the event. They join luminaries such as former 49ers great Jerry Rice, famed chef Guy Fieri and current 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan who have served in that role.

“We’re ecstatic to have the Bella Twins join the incredible list of celebrities who have served as grand marshals for this event,” said Sonoma Raceway Executive Vice President and General Manager Jill Gregory. “They are some of the most versatile women to have participated in professional sports. They have had hall of fame careers in the ring, but have been equally as successful with their business ventures outside of the ring. We’re honored to have then be a key part of this event.”

San Francisco 49ers’ Fred Warner to serve as honorary pace car driver at Sonoma – Fred Warner, the San Francisco 49ers’ All-Pro 49er linebacker will serve as the honorary pace car driver for the Toyota/Save Mart 350. Warner will pilot the Official Toyota Camry pace car, which will be leading the 40-car NASCAR Cup Series field to the green flag at 4 p.m. ET on FS1, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

I can’t wait to do this,” Warner said. “I’ve always enjoyed NASCAR and to get the opportunity to lead the field around an awesome raceway like Sonoma is going to be one of the highlights of my life.”

Brantley Gilbert to perform pre-race concert on Sunday – Multi-platinum selling Country Music superstar Brantley Gilbert will help NASCAR fans get revved up for the Toyota/Save Mart 350 this Sunday, June 12 as he performs a pre-race concert prior to the NASCAR Cup Series race.

NASCAR Xfinity Series

Recharging before heading to Nashville

The NASCAR Xfinity Series will have a two-week break before making its way back to the track on June 25 at Nashville Superspeedway for the Tennessee Lottery 250 at 3:30 p.m. ET on USA Network, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR radio – the 15th race of the season.

Drivers are coming off an inaugural race at Portland International Raceway that saw AJ Allmendinger etch his name in the history books as the track’s first-ever Xfinity Series winner. The win marked his 12th overall in the Xfinity Series and his eighth series victory on a road course – the most all-time in the series.

Myatt Snider, who got started in the Xfinity Series in 2020 after four years in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, posted his best finish this season thus far – runner up. Although Snider isn’t having quite the year he was hoping for, he might just be developing a knack for road courses as his next best finish this season was at COTA (sixth).

Fans saw Austin Hill and JR Motorsports teammates Josh Berry and Justin Allgaier round out the top five at Portland.

All five of these drivers will head into Nashville Superspeedway with at least one race under their belt and all but one has posted a top-10 finish at the 1.33-mile track. But if there’s any speculation on who could possibly head to Victory Lane on June 25 at Nashville, Allgaier would be at the top of the list.

Allgaier has seven starts at Nashville Superspeedway putting up four top fives and four top 10s; including a second-place finish last season.

Nashville Superspeedway has hosted 22 NASCAR Xfinity Series races producing 15 different pole winners and 14 different race winners. Carl Edwards leads the series in wins at Nashville Superspeedway with five victories (2006, 2007 sweep, 2011 sweep).

Joe Gibbs Racing’s Kyle Busch won last season’s Xfinity Series race at Nashville.

Playoff Bubble: Who’s In?

We’re 14 races in and seven drivers have already clinched their spots in this season’s Playoffs with their respective wins – Ty Gibbs, Noah Gragson, AJ Allmendinger, Justin Allgaier, Brandon Jones and Austin Hill – leaving just five spots up for grabs.

Currently in the eighth position is JR Motorsports’ Sam Mayer with a 137-point cushion ahead of the Playoff cutoff. Although he has yet to post a win this season, don’t be surprised if he joins JRM teammates Gragson, Allgaier and Berry on this season’s winners list as he has posted seven top fives and eight top 10s thus far.

Sliding into the ninth-place position is Daniel Hemric with 389 points, one top five and six top 10s. Twenty three points behind Hemric sits Landon Cassill, who is having a career-year, with three top fives and seven top 10s.

Rounding out the last two slots in the current Playoff outlook are Stewart-Haas Racing’s Riley Herbst (77-point cushion ahead of the cutline) and RSS Racing’s Ryan Sieg (58-points above the cutline).

Herbst had rough finishes in the last two Xfinity Series races but was previously riding a streak of six consecutive top 10 finishes, so he still has plenty of time to get back on track. His best finish this season thus far was a third place at Darlington Raceway. Considering that Darlington Raceway and Nashville Superspeedway are almost identical in length, perhaps he’ll finally make his way to Victory Lane and clinch his spot in the Playoffs.

On the cusp of the postseason cutline is Anthony Alfredo in 13th, the first spot outside the Playoffs, but he’s 58 points behind Ryan Sieg in 12th. Alfredo scored his first career pole last weekend and is hoping to run well next when he makes his series track debut at Nashville. Alfredo is chasing Sieg in the points, and Sieg made his series track debut at Nashville last season posting a 16th-place finish.

NASCAR Xfinity Series, Etc.

Austin Hill is still the Xfinity Sunoco Rookie to beat – The 2022 NASCAR Xfinity Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year class now has 14 races under their belts heading into this two-week hiatus before Nashville Superspeedway.

Austin Hill has led the pack all season long and has already clinched his Playoff spot with his win in the season opener at Daytona. He currently sits with 416 points, one win, six top fives and seven top 10s. Sheldon Creed slides in next with 217 points and six top 10s.

Sitting in third is Kyle Sieg with 99 points, followed by Jesse Iwuji with 38 points.

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series

NASCAR is trucking its way back to Sonoma 

The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series will be back at Sonoma Raceway for the DoorDash 250 on Saturday, June 11 at 7:30 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR radio for the first time in 24 years.

The Camping World Truck Series last competed at Sonoma Raceway in 1995. In total, the series has made four appearances at Sonoma Raceway from 1995 to 1998 with NASCAR Hall of Famer Ron Hornaday Jr. winning the inaugural race. Dave Rezendes won the following year in 1996 and Joe Ruttman won in 1997. The last driver to win at Sonoma Raceway in the Truck Series was Boris Said in 1998.

None of the 39 drivers entered this weekend have made a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series start at Sonoma Raceway but eight of the drivers entered this weekend have made NASCAR Cup Series starts at Sonoma – Todd Bodine, Kyle Busch, Alex Bowman, Ross Chastain, Matt DiBenedetto, Austin Dillon and Parker Kligerman.

The on-track action will begin on Friday, June 10 with practice at 6:05 p.m. ET followed by qualifying on Saturday, June 11 at 1 p.m. ET (TV coverage will start at 2 p.m. ET on FS1).

Cup Series regulars to kick off their Sonoma weekend with the Truck Series 

Although a new track for most of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series drivers entered in this weekend’s DoorDash 250 (June 11 at 7:30 p.m. ET on FS1, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), some have already given the road course a go, such as NASCAR Cup Series regulars Alex Bowman, Austin Dillon, Ross Chastain and Kyle Busch.

Bowman will once again be joining Spire Motorsports in the No. 7 Chevrolet for his second Truck Series start of the season. His first series start this season was at COTA where he finished 25th. He comes into Sonoma with five Cup Series starts at the track posting two top 10s.

Dillon will be making his second appearance in the Camping World Truck Series this season in the No. 20 Young’s Motorsports Chevrolet. He has given the Sonoma road course a go seven times in the Cup Series and has a best finish of 13th-place last season.

Chastain has been making it a point to keep up with his truck-driving skills. He’s posted four Truck Series starts this season with Niece Motorsports and already proved his abilities with a win in Charlotte. He hasn’t been behind the wheel of a truck at Sonoma, but he did post a road course Cup Series win at COTA earlier this season and posted a seventh-place finish last year at Sonoma.

Although Chastain has a good chance to add another Truck Series win to his resume this weekend, Busch isn’t going to make it easy on him. Busch has vast experience at Sonoma with 16 starts, two wins, six top fives and eight top 10s in the Cup Series. On top of that, he’s had 164 Truck Series starts with 61 wins, 110 top fives and 132 top 10s. As the only driver with a Sonoma win on the grid and with 20 years of truck experience, he’s sure to lead the field on Saturday.

Heim jumps to Sunoco Rookie standings lead after Gateway

The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings had a major shakeup this past weekend at World Wide Technology Raceway as Corey Heim jumped from third to first among rookies after his overtime-win in the Toyota 200. Heim, driving part-time for Kyle Busch Motorsports, has managed to take the lead in the rookie standings having only ran six of the 11 total races this season. His control of the rookie title can also be attributed to his other win this season at Atlanta. He joins Zane Smith as the only other Camping World Truck Series driver with multiple wins this season, as well as being the lone rookie to make it to Victory Lane. Heim has continued to show speed in his most recent string of starts, scoring three front-row starting positions, two top-five finishes and one win (Gateway). The rest of the rookie field will have a chance to catch up in the standings as Kyle Busch will be piloting the #51 KBM Toyota this weekend at Sonoma.

Prior to last week’s race, Lawless Alan held the lead in the Camping World Truck Series Sunoco Rookie standings. Alan, now sitting second in rookie points, drove the #45 team to their fifth top-20 finish this season, the most among full-time rookies. Being one of two rookies for Niece Motorsports, Alan will go to Sonoma looking to distance himself from teammate Dean Thompson, as well gain ground on an inactive Corey Heim. As for Thompson, he will look to build on a 14th-place finish at Gateway while also hoping to improve on being fourth in the rookie standings ladder. Thompson previously finished sixth in his lone other start at Sonoma during 2019’s ARCA Menard’s Series West race at the track.

Jack Wood, driver for GMS Racing and native of Looming, California, will be returning home to make headway in Sonoma after a 19th-place outing at Gateway last weekend. Sitting third in the series rookie standings, Wood will be coming back to a track he last raced at in 2019 in the ARCA Menards Series West where he finished 16th.

Blaine Perkins of CR7 Motorsports scored a DNF the last time the Truck Series went to a road course at COTA, running into transmission issues three laps into the race. His team hopes for Saturday to not be a repeat of those events as Perkins looks to enhance his fifth place standing among rookies after a 22nd-place finish at Gateway.

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, Etc.

Country Music star Chris Lane to perform post-race concert on Saturday – American country singer and songwriter Chris Lane will perform on Saturday, June 11 at Sonoma Raceway. The post-race concert will begin at 7 p.m. following the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series DoorDash 250 race at the Trackside Live Stage in the Fan Zone.

The Kernersville, N.C. native once had visions of a potential professional baseball career but instead turned to music after injuries sidelined his sports aspirations. He created a music album while recovering from his baseball injuries which helped capture the attention of Nashville-based Big Loud Records.

“We’re looking forward to having Chris Lane lead our fans to a night full of high-energy entertainment,” said Sonoma Raceway Executive Vice President and General Manager Jill Gregory. “Plus, you can’t beat a night of country music, fast cars, and good times.”

— NASCAR —