Race: Toyota SaveMart 350
Date: Sunday June 26, 2016
Track: Sonoma Raceway
Time: 3 pm ET
by Virginia Vroom, NASCAR Handicapper, Predictem.com
After a nice little break for Fathers Day weekend, the boys are back at it at Sonoma this weekend for some road course action. I really love road course racing. It puts the drivers in a different element and creates new challenges for the teams. Drivers must learn to handle the turns and the gears much differently here than at a normal oval track. Many of the veterans are very good at this. Some of the rookies still seem to thrive because its a type of track where aggression helps. Drivers must be confident while also being aggressive within reason in order to dominate this track and really get to the front of the pack. Another interesting thing about road courses is that nothing is guaranteed. A driver can be 20 seconds out leading the field and have one little wheel hop to throw the car around and lose the lead and, ultimately, the race.
Sonoma is the home to many different events. The NASCAR track is a nearly 2 mile asphalt course with 10 total turns. The stock cars are really the only ones who utilize this condensed course. The full-sized layout is just over 2.5 miles, with a few more passing zones. One of the biggest complaints from drivers on this course is the lack of passing zones throughout. Additionally, the reconfiguration of turn 4 in the late 90s took away much of that ability that it used to possess. Turns 7 and 11 are primarily the biggest passing zones at this point.
Although there are many complaints about the track from the drivers, there are still many who love it. The qualifying record are was actually set by Kyle Larson, a rookie in his own right, last year at 96.524 mph. This definitely goes to show that some drivers, regardless of experience in the upper levels of NASCAR, are simply very good at this type of driving. With the exception of Kyle Larson holding the record for best average start (even though his starts are very limited), Jeff Gordon owns every other record that is to be had at this track. Sadly, we wont be seeing any of his road course mastery this weekend, but he will most definitely fill us in from the booth, offering valuable insight into the tricks of this type of racing.
That being said, picking a winner is a bit more of a challenge this year without the best road course racer to choose from. I do believe that the biggest contenders are going to be the Busch brothers. If youll remember last year, they had an epic battle with little brother Kyle eventually coming out the winner after Kurt led 43 laps. This year, I think that well see a very similar scenario. I am picking Kyle as the winner this weekend. He won last year here at Sonoma and finished second at Watkins Glen. Hes the leader in laps led from all drivers over the last 10 road course races. Kurt has a rather impressive record as well, but I think that Kyle is simply set up better for the win with his team. Other drivers to watch will definitely be both Penske drivers, Jimmie Johnson, and Kevin Harvick. Heres the predictions for this weekends race at Sonoma:
My Pick to Win: Kyle Busch
Middle of the Road Pick: Clint Bowyer
Dark Horse Prediction: AJ Allmendinger. Bet YOUR pick to win using your credit card and get a 50% bonus at Bovada Sportsbook!
Allmendinger is the class of the field when it comes to road course racing. He has a win at Watkins Glen and will simply be giving this race everything hes got for his best shot at getting into the Chase. Clint Bowyer, although struggling with equipment so far this season, is an excellent road course racer as well. Hes had a really good run of top 10 finishes in his last few races at the road courses, and I expect for him to rise above some of the teams shortcomings to really have a great weekend at Sonoma and throw some confidence back to his guys and to himself. Bowyer has a heck of a comeback to make if hes planning on getting into the Chase this year. Hes currently sitting in 23rd position, a whopping g256 points behind leader Kevin Harvick.
Here are your current top 16 after last week’s race:
1. Kevin Harvick
2. Kurt Busch
3. Brad Keselowski
4. Carl Edwards
5. Joey Logano
6. Chase Elliot
7. Jimmie Johnson
8. Martin Truex Jr.
9. Kyle Busch
10. Matt Kenseth
11. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
12. Austin Dillon
13. Denny Hamlin
14. Jamie McMurray
15. Ryan Newman
16. Ryan Blaney
This race should really bring out the talent in both the drivers and the teams. This is a good example of a crew chiefs race to lose only because it so often comes down to tire strategy and fuel. Fuel is huge here. More often than not, we see this race come down to fuel mileage and guys that led the last half of the race running on fumes at the end or limping across the line as they are passed by the rest of the field. Crew chiefs must do their duties this weekend to ensure that their guys have every single drop of fuel possible on these stops. Stay tuned to see who gets it right and who outraces the rest of the field as we head to Sonoma for the first road course of the 2016 season!
Stay tuned for an awesome and exciting weekend of road course antics as we head to Sonoma! Find a GIANT array of NASCAR prop bets and discounted odds at 5Dimes Sportsbook!