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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F1 Paddock Pass: Australian Grand Prix post-race (VIDEO)

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And so, the 2017 Formula 1 season is officially underway with the Australian Grand Prix. Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari are on top, having beat Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes both on strategy and on pace to kick off this new era in the sport’s history.

A recap of the day from the Albert Park circuit in Melbourne occurs below in the latest edition of the NBC Sports Group original digital series, Paddock Pass, as F1 pit reporter and insider Will Buxton and producer Jason Swales go into the paddock to run down the stories of the day.

MORE: Full Australian Grand Prix event replay; Mosaic replay

The podium saw Vettel ahead of Hamilton, with Mercedes’ new driver Valtteri Bottas coming third on debut for the team.

Other interviews that occurred during NBCSN’s post-race coverage on F1 Extra included with Kimi Raikkonen and Max Verstappen, who came fourth and fifth respectively, with Force India’s Esteban Ocon who scored his first career point, and with McLaren’s Fernando Alonso, who doggedly dragged his McLaren Honda into a potential points-paying finish before a late-race retirement.

Paddock Pass is in three parts and can be viewed below.

Haas’ sophomore F1 season starts badly with double DNF in Australia

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The Haas Formula 1 team’s sophomore campaign got off to a bad start on Sunday as drivers Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen were both forced to retire from the Australian Grand Prix.

NASCAR team co-owner Gene Haas took his eponymous operation into F1 last year, making its debut in Australia 12 months ago.

Grosjean scored a memorable sixth-place finish on that day in Melbourne, and looked poised to repeat the result in 2017 after qualifying sixth on Saturday.

A poor start was Grosjean drop to seventh, but he managed to hold position through the opening stint of the race ahead of the pit stop cycle.

However, Grosjean had no chance to wield some strategic genius as Haas did last year, with a water leak forcing him to retire while inside the top 10.

“I suddenly lost a lot of power. I told the guys, then the next thing I knew I had to slow down the car,” Grosjean explained.

“It’s a pretty disappointing result, but again, right now I’m hot and we’re all disappointed to lose a seventh-place position, but the car was there in qualifying in P6. The start wasn’t ideal, so we need to improve that. I felt I was faster than the Williams, so there’s huge potential in the car.

“I guess the key for us is to keep the momentum and get the consistency we didn’t have last year, where I’d be fifth in Bahrain then 19th in China. I really want to improve on that and get more consistency in terms of results. If we do that, then I’m sure there are going to be plenty of races where we can score good points.”

Grosjean’s new teammate for 2017, Kevin Magnussen, suffered an early setback when he clashed with Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson on the first lap, and ultimately retired due to a suspension issue stemming from the incident.

“I had Ericsson on the outside and I understeered into the side of him, which was unfortunate. I lost my front wing and damaged the car a little bit,” Magnussen said.

“We changed the front wing and then I went for a long test session to feel the car and learn a bit more about it, which was good. It feels good and the car is fast.

“That’s the really positive thing from this weekend. The car is there. We just have to make it finish and score points.”

Team principal Guenther Steiner added: “Not the race we wished for, or we expected. With Romain it looks like we had a water leak. We don’t know yet where that came from.

“Obviously, Kevin’s race was destroyed in the third corner after the contact with Ericsson. He then ended up later with a suspension failure, which we still have to investigate why.

“The good thing we take out of here is that the car seems to be fast. We need to work on a few parts and, hopefully, we can get back strong again in China in two weeks.”

Sam Posey previews 2017 with ‘The Winds of Change’ (VIDEO)

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As the 2017 kicks off from Australia, our resident poet laureate Sam Posey has penned his latest essay on what’s to come ahead of the new year.

Here’s a look ahead to the new season, with Posey’s “The Winds of Change” looking at the vast transformation in the sport that occurred over the winter, from the change in ownership, to the change in cars, to the change in the lineups… and to the change in the pecking order.

An archive of Posey’s 2016 essays are linked here.

Sprint car veteran Dave Steele killed in accident at Desoto Speedway

Photo: Desoto Speedway
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Open-wheel veteran and occasional NASCAR racer Dave Steele was killed Saturday night in an accident at Desoto Speedway in Bradenton, Florida during a sprint car race. The veteran driver out of Tampa was 42 years old.

According to SPEED SPORT, Steele reportedly crashed while driving for position in his winged sprint car, in the Southern Sprintcar Shootout Series event.

The track confirmed Steele’s passing in a Facebook post, writing: “Desoto Speedway owners and staff are saddened by tonights passing of David Steele in the Sprint car feature. Thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends who were all in attendance, to see him try to win his 100th florida race.”

Steele made three starts in the Indy Racing League in 1998 and had been brought on by Panther Racing as a development driver for the team’s first crack at a two-car effort, then teammate to Scott Goodyear, the last two races of that season. He was entered as a second car for the 1999 Indianapolis 500 but did not qualify. He also drove in the Indy Lights series a few years later in a handful of races.

In USAC though, Steele was regarded as one of the top drivers on the circuit, with a sterling record. As of the end of 2016, he had 26 USAC National Sprint Car wins, 16 Silver Crown wins (third all-time) and 18 National Midget wins, for a total of 60 wins that proved his versatility in USAC’s three primary types of cars, both on pavement and on dirt.

A number of tributes and condolences have already come in on social media. Note the one from Michael Lewis, an up-and-coming sports car driver out of California who’s won races in Pirelli World Challenge, and whose father Steve Lewis was the architect of the old Beast/Pink entries, which Steele used to drive for.