There may be a new name on the 43-car starting grid of Sunday’s Toyota/Save Mart 350 Sprint Cup race at Sonoma Raceway.
That is if New Mexico native Alex Kennedy manages to qualify the No. 19 MediaMaster/Dream Factory Toyota on the twisting 12-turn, 1.99-mile road course.
Driving for Humphrey Smith Racing, Kennedy, 21, hopes to make the 43-car field and potentially trade paint with some of the same drivers he’s watched while growing up, like Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Tony Stewart and Dale Earnhardt Jr.
It will be an uphill battle for Kennedy to make the race, though. He’s competed in just 14 Nationwide Series races from 2010 to 2012 (he has not started a race in NNS this season), with his best finish being 15th in last year’s road course race at Montreal. Interestingly, nine of those 14 starts have been on road courses, including Road America and Watkins Glen.
Still, he has familiarity with Sonoma, having raced there at the age of 12 — can you believe it’s been almost a decade, Alex? — in several Legends Car races.
He also raced there twice in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series, including an 11th-place finish in 2008 — at the age of 16, no less.
Kennedy will have some added inspiration and motivation to make Sunday’s race: he’ll be driving the same car that the late Jason Leffler drove in the June 9 Sprint Cup race at Pocono. Leffler was tragically killed in a New Jersey dirt track accident three days later.
Like many of his racing counterparts, Kennedy’s Toyota will have a “Lefturn” decal on the right side door of his ride as a tribute to Leffler.
SAKHIR, Bahrain – Fernando Alonso will take his first step towards a possible entry to the 24 Hours of Le Mans when he tests an LMP1 car for Toyota on Sunday at the Bahrain International Circuit.
McLaren Formula 1 driver and two-time world champion Alonso is hoping to appear at Le Mans next year as part of his bid to become just the second man in history to complete the ‘Triple Crown of Motorsport’.
Alonso has already completed one leg by winning the Monaco Grand Prix twice, and made his debut at the Indianapolis 500 in May with McLaren-Honda-Andretti, retiring late on due to an engine failure.
Momentum is building for Alonso to make his Le Mans debut with Toyota in 2018, starting with a first sports car run-out in the FIA World Endurance Championship’s end-of-season rookie test in Bahrain on Sunday.
Alonso arrived in Bahrain on Saturday to watch the six-hour WEC race as an invited guest of the Bahraini royal family, with his participation in the test being confirmed after the race.
“We are very excited that Fernando will test our car. When he visited us in Cologne everyone who met him could sense his enthusiasm and passion for our sport; he is a true racer,” Toyota Gazoo Racing team president Hisatake Murata said.
“We very much respect his interest in different forms of motorsport and it is a pleasure to offer him this chance to drive a hybrid LMP1 car. It will be interesting to hear his feedback on the TS050 Hybrid.”
Alonso will share running in the Toyota car with 19-year-old Thomas Laurent, who received a test as a prize for his star display during his rookie WEC campaign this year, while regular Toyota racer Mike Conway will also complete laps.