Forget driving or flying to Sonoma NASCAR race: take the train

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You’ve heard of the Chattanooga Choo-Choo, the Orange Blossom Special and the Wabash Cannonball.

Now you can add the NASCAR Express to the list, as fans attending this weekend’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Toyota/SaveMart 350 race and activities at Sonoma Raceway will have a rather unique way to say they’ve arrived — at the racetrack, that is.

Instead of flying or driving to the race, for the first time fans can hop aboard an actual train that will take them literally right to the main entrance.

How cool is that?

The train will depart on race morning from Sacramento with additional stops in Davis and Suisun City before ending up right in front of the track.

“We couldn’t be more excited to finally offer fans this unique and hassle-free enhancement to their race-day experience,” Steve Page, president and general manager of Sonoma Raceway, said in a statement.  “We have worked for nearly two decades to make this happen and we are very grateful for the support and cooperation of all the agencies who’ve come together to make it happen.”

One of the biggest complaints by race fans over the years has been the ingress and egress to the track, with essentially only two main roads into and out of the track. The train option gives an added — and likely much easier and nerve-settling — way to get to and away from the track. If the experiment works out, perhaps we may soon see trains from other venues, including San Francisco (we can only hope, right?).

One other lure: there’s two cars on the train that offer food and drinks!

But this isn’t a $10 roundtrip, unfortunately. The cost is somewhat steep at $199, but there are perks in addition to your roundtrip train fare, including a reserved-seat ticket in the main grandstand, VIP entry to the track, on-track access to driver introductions and pre-race ceremonies (worth much of the price right there) and a commemorative T-shirt.

For more information, call 1-800-870-RACE (7223) or click here.

F1 2017 driver review: Sergio Perez

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Sergio Perez

Team: Sahara Force India
Car No.: 11
Races: 20
Wins: 0
Podiums: 0
Best Finish: P4 (Spain)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 1
Points: 100
Championship Position: 7th

While failing to hit the podium as he did in both 2015 and 2016, Sergio Perez once again finished the year as Formula 1’s leading midfield team driver, but faced a greater fight from within Force India in the shape of Esteban Ocon.

Perez has long been knocking on the door of F1’s top teams should an opportunity come up, and 2017 saw him continue his solid if unspectacular form. The dominance of Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari meant any finish higher than seventh was impressive, something he managed to do on five occasions.

But there were some missed opportunities along the way, most significantly in Baku. Force India had been quick all weekend, with Perez charging to sixth on the grid, and when drama struck at the front, he and teammate Ocon were eyeing a podium finish as a minimum.

Contact between the two forced Perez to retire and prompted Ocon to pit for repairs, leaving the team without the top-three finish it targeted heading into the season. With Lance Stroll taking P3 for Williams and Daniel Ricciardo winning the race, a maiden victory for Force India was not out of the realm of imagination.

Perez and Ocon came to blows on a number of occasions, with the final straw coming in Spa when they twice touched on-track, prompting Force India to introduce team orders. Perez finished the year 13 points clear of Ocon in the final standings, meeting his own pre-season target of 100 points, yet the Frenchman had arguably made the bigger impression at Force India through his first full season in F1.

Force India remains the top underdog in F1 with Perez spearheading its charge, but it is difficult to see either taking the final step to becoming true contenders at the front of the field anytime soon, as solid as their displays have been.

Season High: P4 in Spain after retirements for the ‘big three’.

Season Low: Losing a sure-fire podium, if not a win, in Baku after contact with Ocon.