Clint Bowyer appears ready to pick up where he left off the last time he raced at Sonoma Raceway, winning there in last year’s race.
And Marcos Ambrose, who already has two career road course wins at Watkins Glen International but is looking for his first at the 1.99-mile Sonoma layout, looks like he’ll be a factor in Sunday’s Toyota/SaveMart 350.
Ambrose, who won the pole for this race last year, was the fastest driver in the first of two practice sessions Friday with a series-best lap of 94.049 mph.
Bowyer, meanwhile, was the fastest in the late afternoon session at 94.556 mph. His win in last year’s race was his first for Michael Waltrip Racing and laid the groundwork for what would be an eventual runner-up finish to champion Brad Keselowski in the final Sprint Cup season standings.
Colombian driver Juan Pablo Montoya, whose first career Cup win came at Sonoma in his rookie season in 2007, was second-fastest in the first practice session in his Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing Chevrolet, followed by Casey Mears, Kurt Busch and another Earnhardt-Ganassi driver, Jamie McMurray, as fifth-fastest.
In the second session, McMurray moved up to second-fastest, followed by Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards and Montoya. Of note, while Ambrose was the only driver to break 94 mph in the first session, 10 drivers broke the mark in the second practice.
Several drivers ran into trouble during the afternoon session, spinning or running off-track, including Keselowski, Ryan Newman, Jimmie Johnson and Denny Hamlin, whose car suffered minor but repairable damage.
Also of note, speeds in the first practice set the groupings for Saturday’s first-ever Sprint Cup series event using European-style qualifying with five or six cars going out at a time, each attempt separated by five seconds of starting time.
Qualifying takes place Saturday starting at 2 pm ET.