Race: Toyota Save Mart 350 Predictions to Win
Date: Sunday June 22, 2014
Track: Sonoma Raceway
Time: 3 pm ET
by Virginia Vroom, NASCAR Handicapper, Predictem.com
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And Jimmie Johnson makes it 3 for the season at Michigan! Can you believe it? Going through basically the whole first half of the season with no wins and now Johnson pushed out 3 wins within a few weeks. I guess it just goes to show that even when they’re down, they’re still better than most. That tends to be frustrating for many, but for Johnson, Knaus, and the rest of the 48 team, they are clearly in the running for title number 7 if you ask them.
This weekend, though, is going to test the strength of this team once again as we head to Sonoma for a break from the ovals. This road course is one where Johnson doesn’t necessarily put on the best shows. He’s not known for his finesse on the road courses, but seriously, don’t count him out. You’d be a fool to do that. Sonoma is just one of those places where it takes a special kind of driver to really shine. This is the kind of track where we see outsides like Marcos Ambrose and Boris Said really take the reins. Although Sonoma isn’t an oval, the NASCAR regulars have still come to terms with being pretty darn good with those right turns, but it’s still hard when every race but 2 all season long is filled with left turns. In my opinion, the teams are challenged almost as much if not more than the drivers. They have the responsibility of creating a totally different setup for these guys. They have to think about braking in and out of turns, making RPMs turn but not burn where it counts, and really build an overall ride that can take a beating. This is a much different style of racing than the oval tracks.
Sonoma is a 1.99 miles asphalt track that has a total of 10 turns. That is the NASCAR track. The other courses on site are a bit larger, but NASCAR runs a shorter track than that motorcycles and IndyCars. This track, as previously stated, is tough on the cars and equipment. NASCAR stock cars aren’t typical built to withstand the demands of 10 turns including heavy braking, sharp turns, or the speeding up and slowing down that is constantly occurring around the track. Because of that, we see that a lot of drivers from other series race here for only one race of the year but typically do exceptionally well.
When we take a look at potential winners, it’s important to consider those guys who aren’t the NASCAR regulars. They are going to be a force to be reckoned with as we head into Sonoma. Unlike past years, there are really only 2 guys who specialize on road courses that aren’t our typical NASCAR guysexcept that one of them is a full-time NASCAR driver now. Marcos Ambrose has finished top 5 in all of his runs here at Sonoma. Boris Said is always one to watch as well. He knows how to get around this place and these types of courses in general. Maybe it’s lack of sponsorship, but for whatever reason, we aren’t seeing the typical 5 to 6 extra guys trying to qualify like we did in the past. With the way that this season is going and also with his skills on road courses as a full-time NASCAR driver, it’s truly hard to rule out one person from the win. That person is, of course, Jeff Gordon. With 5 wins and an impressive 17 top 10 finishes out of 21 starts, it’s hard to bet against him. He knows how to run this course and even Watkins Glen. He definitely has an edge over the other NASCAR regulars. Here’s the rundown of your potential winners for the weekend:
My Pick to Win: Jeff Gordon
Middle of the Road Pick: Kurt Busch
Dark Horse Prediction: Marcos Ambrose
There are quite a few analysts going with Busch for the win based on his runs with Phoenix Racing and Furniture Row Racing over the last couple of years. While he has been relatively strong, Hendrick power is only going to account for so much. So far, although he has a win this year, he’s been inconsistent. While his odds are good, I wouldn’t put everything on him over Jeff Gordon. Marcos Ambrose is another one to watch. He’s got what it takes and has proven that with his record here. He’s an aggressive driver, and that’s exactly what it takes to get around this place and into victory lane. Look for him to be no less than top 5 on Sunday.
Jeff Gordon still sits atop the leader board. Teammate Jimmie Johnson moved up 2 spots to claim 2nd place, while both Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin fell 4 positions. Here are your current top 16 after last week’s race:
1. Jeff Gordon
2. Jimmie Johnson
3. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
4. Matt Kenseth
5. Brad Keselowski
6. Carl Edwards
7. Joey Logano
8. Kyle Larson
9. Kevin Harvick
10. Kyle Busch
11. Ryan Newman
12. Denny Hamlin
13. Paul Menard
14. Clint Bowyer
15. Greg Biffle
16. Tony Stewart
This is one of those weekends where we have a long track with some seriously short tempers. Watch for guys to be spinning each other out and rivalries to be born. Sonoma is sure to bring us some excitement for Sunday afternoon! Find the most props for this race online at 5Dimes.