Toyota/Save Mart 350

Everything you need to know for Sunday’s Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma

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The first of two road course races on the NASCAR Sprint Cup calendar goes off this Sunday at Sonoma Raceway with the Toyota/Save Mart 350.

The 1.99-mile, 12-turn layout is a highly technical circuit filled with multiple elevation changes. As with any road course, track position is important, so expect various fuel/pit strategies to come into play.

Last season, Martin Truex Jr. broke a 218-race winless streak in the California wine country. Don’t be surprised if this race yields our 11th different Sprint Cup winner this season, as well as another spot filled on this year’s Chase Grid.

Courtesy of NASCAR’s public relations and statistics teams, here’s everything you need to know for Round 16 of the 2014 Sprint Cup championship…

SONOMA-SPECIFIC STATISTICS

Marcos Ambrose (No. 9 DeWALT Ford)
· Two top fives, five top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 11.8
· Average Running Position of 10.5, second-best
· Series-best Driver Rating of 108.0
· 58 Fastest Laps Run, third-most
· Series-best Average Green Flag Speed of 89.904 mph
· 544 Laps in the Top 15 (81.6%), ninth-most
· 207 Quality Passes (passes of cars in the top 15 under green), seventh-most

Clint Bowyer (No. 15 5-Hour ENERGY Toyota)
· One win, five top fives, six top 10s
· Average finish of 9.1
· Average Running Position of 14.1, seventh-best
· Driver Rating of 95.2, seventh-best
· 35 Fastest Laps Run, eighth-most
· 530 Green Flag Passes, second-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 89.543 mph, sixth-fastest
· 216 Quality Passes, fifth-most

Kurt Busch (No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet)
· One win, six top fives, six top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 16.0
· Series-best Average Running Position of 10.0
· Driver Rating of 107.8, second-best
· 56 Fastest Laps Run, fourth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 89.869 mph, third-fastest
· Series-high 761 Laps in the Top 15 (76.3%)
· 201 Quality Passes, eighth-most

Kyle Busch (No. 18 M&M’s Pretzel Toyota)
· One win, one top five, two top 10s
· Average finish of 20.4
· Driver Rating of 88.0, eighth-best
· 50 Fastest Laps Run, sixth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 89.529 mph, seventh-fastest
· 518 Laps in the Top 15 (52.0%), 11th-most

Carl Edwards (No. 99 Aflac Ford)
· Two top fives, four top 10s
· Average finish of 15.6
· Average Running Position of 15.5, 10th-best
· Driver Rating of 86.8, 10th-best
· 27 Fastest Laps Run, 11th-most
· Series-high 548 Green Flag Passes
· Average Green Flag Speed of 89.482 mph, eighth-fastest
· 544 Laps in the Top 15 (54.6%), ninth-most
· 196 Quality Passes, ninth-most

Jeff Gordon (No. 24 Panasonic Chevrolet)
· Five wins, 13 top fives, 17 top 10s; five poles
· Average finish of 8.2
· Average Running Position of 12.6, sixth-best
· Driver Rating of 101.6, fourth-best
· 64 Fastest Laps Run, second-most
· 493 Green Flag Passes, eighth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 89.707 mph, fourth-fastest
· 666 Laps in the Top 15 (66.8%), fourth-most
· 230 Quality Passes, fourth-most

Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet)
· One win, four top fives, seven top 10s
· Average finish of 13.4
· Average Running Position of 12.5, fifth-best
· Driver Rating of 97.3, fifth-best
· 52 Fastest Laps Run, fifth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 89.470 mph, 10th-fastest
· 717 Laps in the Top 15 (71.9%), third-most
· 240 Quality Passes, second-most

Kasey Kahne (No. 5 Great Clips Chevrolet)
· One win, two top fives, three top 10s; two poles
· Average finish of 20.4
· Average Running Position of 16.1, 11th-best
· Driver Rating of 84.3, 12th-best
· 32 Fastest Laps Run, ninth-most
· 552 Laps in the Top 15 (55.4%), eighth-most
· 210 Quality Passes, sixth-most

Ryan Newman (No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet)
· Two top fives, five top 10s
· Average finish of 13.1
· Average Running Position of 14.4, eighth-best
· Driver Rating of 88.0, eighth-best
· 507 Green Flag Passes, fourth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 89.464 mph, 11th-fastest
· 572 Laps in the Top 15 (57.4%), sixth-most
· 185 Quality Passes, 10th-most

Tony Stewart (No. 14 Mobil 1 / Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet)
· Two wins, five top fives, nine top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 12.0
· Average Running Position of 11.0, third-best
· Driver Rating of 102.4, third-best
· Series-high 79 Fastest Laps Run
· 475 Green Flag Passes, 12th-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 89.881 mph, second-fastest
· 740 Laps in the Top 15 (74.2%), second-most
· Series-high 261 Quality Passes

Martin Truex Jr. (No. 78 Furniture Row Chevrolet)
· One win, one top five, two top 10s
· Average finish of 19.1
· Driver Rating of 86.5, 11th-best
· 42 Fastest Laps Run, seventh-most
· 487 Green Flag Passes, 10th-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 89.559 mph, fifth-fastest

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Sonoma Raceway Track Data
Season Race #: 16 of 36 (06-12-14)
Track Size: 1.99-miles
Number of Turns: 12
Race Length: 110 laps / 219 miles / 350 Kilometers

Top 10 Driver Ratings at Sonoma
Marcos Ambrose………………….. 108.0
Kurt Busch………………………….. 107.8
Tony Stewart……………………….. 102.4
Jeff Gordon………………………… 101.6
Jimmie Johnson…………………….. 97.3
Juan Pablo Montoya………………. 95.5
Clint Bowyer…………………………. 95.2
Kyle Busch…………………………… 88.0
Ryan Newman……………………….. 88.0
Carl Edwards………………………… 86.8
Note: Driver Ratings compiled from 2005-2013 races (nine total) among active drivers at Sonoma Raceway.

Qualifying/Race Data
2013 Coors Light Pole winner: Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 94.986 mph, 75.422 secs., 06-21-13
2013 race winner: Clint Bowyer, Toyota, 76.658 mph, (02:51:20), 06-23-13
Track qualifying record: Marcos Ambrose, Ford, 95.262 mph, 75.203 secs., 06-22-12
Track race record: Clint Bowyer, Toyota, 83.624 mph, (02:39:55), 06-24-12

Sonoma Raceway History
· The track opened as a 2.52-mile road course and drag strip in 1968.
· The first NASCAR Sprint Cup race was held on June 11, 1989 – won by Ricky Rudd at a speed of 76.088 mph.
· The first nine races were 300 kilometers and switched to a 350k format in 1998.
· The track was reconfigured to 1.949 miles in 1998 with the installation of an 890-foot chute between the original Turns 4 and 7.
· The track was reconfigured to 2.0 miles in 2001 and re-measured at 1.99 miles in 2002.
Notebook
· There have been 25 NASCAR Sprint Cup races at Sonoma Raceway since the first race there in 1989 – one race per season.
· 191 drivers have competed in at least one NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Sonoma Raceway; 133 in more than one.
· Jeff Gordon, Mark Martin, Bobby Labonte and Terry Labonte lead the series in starts at Sonoma with 21 each.
· Rusty Wallace won the inaugural Coors Light pole at Sonoma in 1989 with a speed of 90.041 mph.
· 15 drivers have Coors Light poles at Sonoma, led by Jeff Gordon with five.
· Two drivers have won consecutive Coors Light poles at Sonoma Ricky Rudd and Jeff Gordon. Ricky Ruddholds the record for most consecutive poles at Sonoma with three; fall 1990 through 1992.
· Jeff Gordon is the only active driver to have posted consecutive Coors Light poles at Sonoma: 1998-‘99 and 2004-’05.
· Youngest Sonoma pole winner: Joey Logano (06/26/2011 – 21 years, 1 month, 2 days).
· Oldest Sonoma pole winner: Rusty Wallace (06/25/2000 – 43 years, 10 months, 11 days).
· 17 different NSCS drivers have won at Sonoma Raceway, led by Jeff Gordon with five wins. Tony Stewart has the second most wins (two) among active drivers at Sonoma.
· Jeff Gordon leads the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in road course wins with nine (Sonoma, five; Watkins Glen, four); Tony Stewart has the second most road course wins all-time with seven (Watkins Glen, five; Sonoma, two).
· NASCAR Hall of Famer Bobby Allison holds the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series record for the most wins (six) at a single road course track – Riverside International Raceway.
· Jeff Gordon is the only driver to post consecutive wins (three total) at Sonoma Raceway (1998 and 1999 each from the pole and 2000 from the fifth starting position).
· Youngest Sonoma winner: Kyle Busch (06/22/2008 – 23 years, 1 month, 20 days).
· Oldest Sonoma winner: Ricky Rudd (06/23/2002 – 45 years, 9 months, 11 days).
· Hendrick Motorsports has the most wins at Sonoma in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series with six: Jeff Gordon (five) and Jimmie Johnson (one).
· Six different manufacturers have won in the NSCS at Sonoma; led by Chevrolet with 10 victories; followed by Ford with six and Toyota with three.
· Five of the 25 (20%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Sonoma have been won from the Coors Light pole; the most recent was Jeff Gordon in 2004. Gordon is the only NSCS driver to win from the pole at Sonoma more than once.
· The Coors Light pole position is the most proficient starting position in the field, producing more wins (five) than any other starting position at Sonoma Raceway.
· Eight of the 25 (32%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Sonoma have been won from the front row: five from the pole and three from second-place.
· 18 of the 25 (72%) NASCAR Sprint Cup races at Sonoma have been won from a top-10 starting position.
· Seven of the 25 (28%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Sonoma have been won from a starting position outside the top 10.
· Two of the 25 (8%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Sonoma have been won from a starting position outside the top 20.
· The deepest in the field that a race winner has started at Michigan was 32nd, by Juan Pablo Montoya in 2007.
· Jeff Gordon and Mark Martin leads the series in runner-up finishes at Sonoma with four; followed by Tony Stewart with three.
· Jeff Gordon leads the series in top-five finishes at Sonoma with 13; followed by Ricky Rudd with 10.
· Jeff Gordon leads the series in top-10 finishes at Sonoma with 17; followed by Mark Martin with 13.
· Marcos Ambrose leads the series in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in average starting position at Sonoma with a 4.500.
· Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in average finishing position at Sonoma with an 8.238. Clint Bowyer (9.125) is the only other active driver with an average finish in the top 10.
· Jimmie Johnson and Mark Martin competed at Sonoma Raceway eight times each before visiting Victory in Lane; the longest span of any the eight active NASCAR Sprint Cup Series winners. Johnson won in 2010 and Martin won in 1997.
· Joe Nemechek leads the series among active drivers with the most NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts at Sonoma without visiting Victory Lane at 16.
· Since the advent of electronic scoring the closest margin of victory (MOV) in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Sonoma Raceway was the June 27, 1999 race won by Jeff Gordon over Mark Martin with a MOV of 0.197 second.
· There have been three NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races resulting with a green-white-checkered finish at Sonoma Raceway (Scheduled No. of Laps/Actual No. of Laps): 2008 (110/112); 2009 (110/113) and 2012 (110/112).
· None of the 24 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Sonoma Raceway have been shortened due to weather conditions.
· Qualifying has never been cancelled in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Sonoma Raceway.
· Boris Said posted his first career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coors Light pole at Sonoma Raceway (6/22/2003).
· Juan Pablo Montoya posted his first career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win at Sonoma Raceway (6/24/2007).
· Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in laps led at Sonoma with 454 laps led in 21 starts.
· Danica Patrick is the only female driver in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series to compete at Sonoma Raceway.
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NASCAR in California
· There have been 134 NASCAR Sprint Cup races at 15 tracks in California.
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· 429 drivers in NASCAR national series history have their home state recorded as California.
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Hawksworth’s team’s labor hasn’t yet borne fruit of better results

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Photo: IndyCar
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What do Jack Hawksworth and Allen Iverson have in common?

Practice, man.

“The Answer’s” famous – or perhaps infamous – “We talkin’ ‘bout practice, man” riff a number of years ago remains the go-to line whenever practice comes up in conversation.

It’s practice where the seeds of success are sown for a team when it comes to game day.

And for Hawksworth and the No. 41 ABC Supply Co. Honda team, it’s been practice where the team has starred in the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series.

But thus far, following practice, it’s been a case where the rest of the weekend has gone downhill for a variety of small but niggling reasons.

“If it was based off practice one I’d be leading the points!” Hawksworth told NBC Sports Thursday, and the thing is, he’s not joking.

In the three road or street course races this season, Hawksworth has ended second (St. Petersburg), third (Long Beach) and second (Barber) in first practice.

He’s followed it up with fellow top-10 runs in second practice of eighth, ninth and second again, respectively.

But come qualifying, it’s gone awry.

Starts of ninth, 20th and 14th have followed and in the races, it’s gone even worse with results lower than his grid spot: 11th, 21st and 19th. Toss out the Phoenix oval, because that was a nightmare weekend for him.

If ever there was a case where stats are misleading, it’s here, because Hawksworth and the team are clearly better than what they’ve been able to produce results-wise this year, and also far more gelled as a unit now compared to where they were 12 months ago as a new collective group.

“Our team is full of good people; we really believe in the 41 garage,” he said. “We did a lot of hard work over the winter. We haven’t seen the fruits of it yet.

“It looks like we’re a long way away, but we’re incredibly close. It’s a few small details, little tweaks and we’ll be at the front. It’s imminent. We’ve not shown it yet but we know it’s coming.”

The big change occurred this weekend was seeing Daniele Cucchiaroni promoted to lead race engineer on the No. 41 car, replacing the departed Dan Hobbs.

Hawksworth and Cucchiaroni worked together at Bryan Herta Autosport in 2014 and he joined the Foyt team last year with Takuma Sato’s effort. Hawksworth called him one of the brightest minds in the paddock.

He said it’s not the operating window of the Honda aero kit that the team has missed, but it has just missed getting the setup right for the qualifying and the race, where mere thousandths of a second make a difference.

“The cars are sensitive to track temperature… the conditions… it’s easy to get outside the window, but our problem hasn’t been balance or anything,” he said.

“You’re completely right in that we’ve had very quick cars at times. We haven’t understood the (Firestone) reds yet. Really, it’s just executing the qualifying and the race, with having a quick car and right car. It sounds crazy, but it’s worked out that way.

“There’s many reasons for that. We’re narrowing them down for the next couple races. It’s just small but vital things that have tripped us up. It’s been frustrating. Different at each race as well.”

Hawksworth also said he was doing everything possible to get out of the way at Barber when leaders Graham Rahal and Simon Pagenaud were trying to overtake him in the final stages.

“What happened there was a funny deal. To be honest, with the day we were having, the last thing I want to do is get in the way of leaders,” he said.

“I really don’t care who wins if it’s not me. But for courtesy, you don’t want to wreck the leaders.

“So I ducked out of Turn 5 to go to the left, that was the only place I could go. I saw Graham and Simon were side-by-side. If I’d have gone to the outside or stayed in the middle I’d have caused a crash. The only place to go was the inside. Rahal tried to get a tow off of me but he misjudged it and clipped my rear pods. That’s just racing.”

Hawksworth’s race was compromised to begin with when Mikhail Aleshin on the start clipped him, after Carlos Munoz clipped Aleshin. All three had to restart at the back of the field.

“The problem is mate, when you qualify (poorly), you’re in the middle of the pack. So we were on the bad side of the 26 and the 7, then you go to the back and toss around all day… much the story of our season.

“I spoke to Brian (Barnhart, Race Director) about it. The rule is, if you don’t reclaim your position by start of the pace lap, you automatically start at the back. With me being at the back, but going onto the grass to avoid running into the side of Aleshin, they deemed that the pace lap. It was a rules thing.”

Hawksworth said he’d like to see the gray areas of the rulebook examined for future use to try to remove warnings and unclear calls as best as possible.

“I’d beat on the drum of making it as black and white as possible. If you cross a line, you cross a line. We need to simplify the rules as much as we can to where things are a straightforward decision. There still seems to be a bit of the gray area.

“Still, it’s up to the series. It’d be easier for them too (to go black and white).”

Heading into May, Hawksworth sits 20th in points (50 points) while Takuma Sato is 40 points ahead, but in ninth.

Hawksworth’s season to date:

	FP1	FP2	FP3	QUAL	WU	RACE
STP	2	8	2	9	21	11
PHX	22	21	-	17	-	19
LB	3	9	11	20	17	21
BAR	2	2	11	14	8	19

Hakkinen sure Rosberg is ready to become F1 world champion

SHANGHAI, CHINA - APRIL 17:  Nico Rosberg of Germany and Mercedes GP celebrates his win with his team during the Formula One Grand Prix of China at Shanghai International Circuit on April 17, 2016 in Shanghai, China.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
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Two-time Formula 1 world champion Mika Hakkinen believes that current series leader Nico Rosberg is now ready to follow in his footsteps and win his first title in 2016.

Rosberg has finished second to Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton in the past two seasons, taking the championship to the final round in 2014.

Having won the last six grands prix, Rosberg is in the form of his career and is the early leader in the 2016 championship, enjoying a 36-point advantage over Hamilton after three races.

Rosberg has cooled talk of the championship with 18 races still to go in the season, but Hakkinen now believes the German is ready to win his first world title.

“I remember how he walked around as a four or five-year-old with a small helmet in his hand,” Hakkinen told Spox.

“When I see him now, I’m very proud of him. He has developed fantastically. He has became a man and a father with the responsibility of a family.

“What many people underestimate [is that] the path to being world class is incredibly long, arduous and painful. The emphasis is on pain. Since it does not matter if your own father himself was world champion or not.

“Although he has his friends and family on the side, at the end you are still alone, with an immense burden, especially mentally, to cope.

“The physique and talent were always there. Now he has the goal clearly in mind and says with conviction: ‘Yes, I want to become world champion!’ He has risen to the challenge.

“Therefore my answer is yes, he is ready for the world title.”

Alex Tagliani will make No. 35 lucky for five AJ Foyt fans

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Photo: Alfe Racing
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On May 10th, Alfe Heat Treating will unveil the No. 35 “Tribute to AJ Foyt” IndyCar at the Foyt Wine Vault in Speedway Ind.

It’s the formal reveal of the car that was announced when Alex Tagliani’s month of May program was announced in March.

“We want to honor the fans of IndyCar and AJ Foyt by inviting them to partake in a special event with us and share in the excitement surrounding the 100th Running of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing,” Ryan Westman, regional sales manager and director of motorsports for Fort Wayne-based Alfe Heat Treating, said in a release.

The event will be a private viewing of the tribute car along with the opportunity to meet and take photos with Tagliani, Takuma Sato, and Jack Hawksworth, all drivers for A.J. Foyt Enterprises.

The tribute car will be driven by Tagliani in the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis and the Indianapolis 500. It bears the No. 35 for the number of consecutive starts Foyt made in the Indy 500 from 1958 through 1992. The number also has the added significance of being Foyt’s birth year, all of which the team hopes will be a lucky omen.

Before the racing begins, five race fans will have already experienced the luck by entering a Facebook contest one week prior to the special unveiling event. Alfe Heating is sponsoring a contest for which five winners will receive two tickets for the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indy on May 14th.

Beginning at noon Eastern time through 4 pm ET on May 3, fans will have the opportunity to answer a question alternately on the Alfe Racing and AJ Foyt Racing Facebook page, with the first person answering each question correctly earning a ticket for two to the May 10th unveiling and May 14 race.

Winners must be 21 years or older, or if younger accompanied by an adult aged 21 or older.

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Gutierrez hoping for more in Russia after finally banking first finish

during practice ahead of the Australian Formula One Grand Prix at Albert Park on March 18, 2016 in Melbourne, Australia.
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An accident in the Australian Grand Prix and brake issues in the Bahrain Grand Prix was not the kind of return to competition Esteban Gutierrez was expecting.

After a one-year hiatus and two failures to finish in 2016, the 24-year-old Mexican driver for Formula 1’s new American team was finally running at the end of a race.

As he heads into this weekend’s Russian Grand Prix, Gutierrez is keen to start getting any sort of momentum going.

“For sure it was a relief to finish the race finally,” Gutierrez said in Thursday’s FIA Press Conference.

“It’s been a frustrating start for me, a lot of interruptions over the weekends, but I wasn’t satisfied completely just by finishing the race of course, I want much more than that.”

Gutierrez finished the Chinese Grand Prix 14th, as the first driver one lap down to the leaders in the No. 21 Haas VF-16 Ferrari.

Notably, that is precisely where he finished his most recent five races of 2014—one lap off the pace, but running at the end of the show. Gutierrez’s last complete race came in the 2014 Belgian Grand Prix when he finished 15th.

“China overall wasn’t a great track for our car,” he admitted. “Hopefully we can recover from now on, in Russia, and that this track gives us better possibilities.

“Russia offers… yeah, let’s say a medium range of overtaking so it’s not very straightforward but hopefully the strategy can be a bit more viable, that we can have more pitstops. As you say, the prediction is not the case, but hopefully we have a fun race for the people outside to watch, and have fun.”

Last year, Gutierrez spent his year working on race simulations to stay sharp. It was no substitute for race experience, but it provided a different perspective he hopes will lead to eventually finishing in a points’ paying position.

Working on a simulator in 2015 “didn’t change the approach; it changed my knowledge,” Gutierrez added. “I basically experiment a lot.”

“I feel very confident and I feel very prepared right now and everything is in front of me.”

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