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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John Force has a job for soon-to-be retired Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Photo courtesy John Force official Twitter page
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The battle for Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s post-retirement services has begun.

And leave it to none other than 16-time NHRA Funny Car champ John Force to be the first to offer Junior a job.

As a Funny Car driver, of course.

Look at the plusses: they both drive for Chevrolet, they both like beer, Junior wouldn’t have to worry about turning left or right (on road courses) any more, he’d be able to stay on the straight and narrow (drag strip, that is) and …

Perhaps the best thing of all, he could ultimately become Force’s replacement as the most popular driver in NHRA drag racing when (or if) Force ever decides to retire himself.

Check out Force’s job offer:

Several current or former Verizon IndyCar Series drivers also took to social media to pay homage to Junior — including another member of the Force family, son-in-law Graham Rahal, who is married to drag racer Courtney Force.

 

 

 

Loftus Robinson Rejoin Dreyer and Reinbold Racing for Indy 500

Photo: Dreyer and Reinbold Racing
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Indianapolis-based real estate developer Loftus Robinson will rejoin Dreyer and Reinbold Racing for the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil. The relationship between Loftus Robinson and DRR goes back to 2015, when they first partnered for the “500.” The partnership continues for 2017, with Sage Karam piloting the effort for the second consecutive year.

“Being an Indianapolis-based company, we felt it has been important to partner with another local company, Dreyer & Reinbold Racing, in the famed Indy 500,” said Drew Loftus, co-principal of Loftus Robinson. “The Indianapolis Motor Speedway has served as a great backdrop for our business’ growth. We have enjoyed our relationship with Dennis and his racing team. They have built a tremendous infrastructure to assist us and our partners through the event. We’re anxious to see Sage back on track in the No. 24 DRR Chevrolet this May.”

Team co-owner Dennis Reinbold echoed Loftus’ enthusiam. “Loftus Robinson has been one of the Indianapolis area’s top young commercial real estate companies in recent years and we are very pleased to have them back in 2017 with our Indy 500 entry,” he explained. “Loftus Robinson has utilized our racing team’s participation in the world’s greatest auto race to formulate strong relationships with their business partners as well as developing new clients right at the track. We hope to put them in victory lane on May 28 with Sage at the wheel.”

Practice for the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil begins on May 15.

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JR Hildebrand cleared to return for Phoenix

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After sitting out the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama last weekend, JR Hildebrand will be able to return to action for this weekend’s Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix (Saturday, 9 p.m. ET, NBCSN), after being cleared Tuesday to drive.

The primary driver of the No. 21 Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka Chevrolet for Ed Carpenter Racing sustained a broken bone in his left hand in a final lap accident at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on April 9, after a collision with Mikhail Aleshin. He was re-evaluated upon returning to Indianapolis and was not cleared to drive for the Barber Motorsports Park race.

Hildebrand was on site in Birmingham, Ala. in a driver coach role for Zach Veach, who filled in for his Verizon IndyCar Series debut. Veach started and finished 19th in his first start.

For Hildebrand, the return to Phoenix comes after he paced the series official preseason open test there in February, and comes as a great opportunity to come back from a challenging start to the year. Hildebrand had nondescript runs of 13th and 11th in the first two races but was 11th in points after Long Beach, although he fell to 21st when he missed Barber.

“It’s been a tricky couple of weeks working through this injury, I’m certainly anxious to get back in the car!” he said in a release. “I feel like I’m far enough along to be able to go for it this weekend in Phoenix. I know we’ve got a good program; I want to be able to come through for the team at an event where we should be strong. The competition there is tough, I expect we will really have to be on our game over the course of the weekend. I’m looking forward to getting back in the Fuzzy’s Vodka car! Everyone has been super helpful and I appreciate the hard work that everyone has put in to be able to get me back in.”

Meanwhile team owner Carpenter makes his first start of the season in the No. 20 Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka Chevrolet as part of his oval-only program.

Spencer Pigot will be back in the No. 20 car at the INDYCAR Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course on May 13, before Carpenter’s back in for the rest of the month of May leading up to and into the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil.

IMSA: Henzler, Bonanomi called up for drives at COTA

Photo courtesy of IMSA
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Two fill-in drivers have been confirmed for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s next race at Circuit of The Americas, on May 6.

Wolf Henzler will deputize for Kevin Estre in the No. 912 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR, while Marco Bonanomi will make his IMSA Prototype class debut as a fill-in driver for Tom Kimber-Smith in the No. 52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports Ligier JS P217 Gibson.

Henzler will be in the No. 912 car alongside Laurens Vanthoor in GT Le Mans in the first “standard” two-hour, 40-minute race of the season, the Advance Auto Parts Showdown, as Estre will be on FIA World Endurance Championship duty the same day in the WEC 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps with Porsche’s GT Team there.

Henzler’s absence means if TRG runs its Porsche 911 GT3 R at COTA in the GT Daytona class, Kevin Buckler would need a replacement for him.

There’s another potential fill-in-for-WEC driver scenario needed if Alegra Motorsports, the Rolex 24 at Daytona winners, were to run in GTD as well. Thus far Carlos de Quesada’s team has run Daniel Morad and Porsche factory driver Michael Christensen in its No. 28 Porsche in GTD through three races, but with Christensen and Estre set to share the No. 92 car at Spa, a replacement would need to be sourced there.

Bonanomi is the second replacement that is confirmed though. The Italian, who made one prior IMSA start since the 2014 merger with Fall-Line Motorsports in an Audi R8 LMS Ultra, will fill-in for “TKS,” who returns to England to take care of his mother, who is battling cancer.

“Tom will unfortunately miss the next race at Circuit of the Americas. He needs to be able to spend time back in the UK with his mother who is presently undergoing treatment for cancer,” said team principal Bobby Oergel.

“As all the drivers who have driven with PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports know, once you’re a part of our team, you’re family, and Tom is a big part of this family. It’s unfortunate that he will miss a round of the championship, but we know that family comes before racing, and we’re happy that he is able to take the time he needs to be with his family during this time.”

“Our thoughts and prayers are with Tom and his mother, and we are praying that she will be cancer free in the near future.”

Bonanomi has tested with the car and will share the car with Jose Gutierrez, who missed Long Beach as Will Owen filled in for him there.

“I was very happy to receive the call from PR1 to drive at their test at COTA. It was my first time driving the Ligier, but I think the test was very positive,” said Bonanomi.

“We tested some set up changes for the race that I think will be very good. The track itself is very demanding on the car and tires, especially with the extreme temperatures that can be present. The first practices during race week will be very critical to get everything just right in terms of set up, but after the test, I think we should be pretty close.”