Four first-timers attempt to make field for Sprint Cup race at Sonoma

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Saturday’s qualifying for Sunday’s Toyota/SaveMart 350 Sprint Cup race at Sonoma Raceway should be v-e-r-y interesting.

Not only are there the usual ringers like Boris Said running on the 1.99-mile road course, four young drivers will be hoping to make their Sprint Cup Series debut.

Of course, that’s going to be easier said than done, as they all have to go through qualifying — and a new-style qualifying at that, with so-called group qualifying instead of single-car qualification attempts.

The four NASCAR newbies are the pictured Alex Kennedy (No. 19), Victor Gonzalez Jr. (No. 36), Paulie Harraka (No. 52) and last-minute entry Justin Marks, who will be driving the No. 7 for Tommy Baldwin Racing.

The last time a NASCAR race had three or more drivers making their Sprint Cup debut was at Martinsville Speedway in October 2004, when Travis Kvapil, Chad Chaffin and Mario Gosselin all qualifying and taking the green flag on race day.

For the record, Kvapil was the highest finisher in that race, winding up 21st. Chaffin didn’t fare as well, finishing 39th, and Gosselin wound up 41st.

Photo gallery: IndyCar iRacing at Barber Motorsports Park

Chris Graythen/Getty Images
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VIRTUAL LEEDS, Ala. — The second round of the IndyCar iRacing Challenge was held on a picturesque Saturday at Barber Motorsports Park, which looked as pristine in a simulation as in real life.

Scott McLaughlin won over Will Power by 0.4241 seconds, leading a 1-2 sweep by Team Penske in a wild 45-lap race. Sage Karam started on pole and led the first 24 laps in pursuit of his second consecutive victory, but he was out by Lap 29 after multiple on-track incidents.

Even though the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is keeping cars off the track in the real world, there still some beauty to be found in iRacing.

WINNER: Scott McLaughlin holds off teammate Will Power

WHAT DRIVERS SAID: Postrace reactions on social media

RESULTS: Where everyone finished at virtual Barber Motorsports Park

Courtesy of Getty Images’ Chris Graythen, here are a collection of screenshots from around the rolling hills and sweeping vistas of the 17-turn, 2.38-mile road course that features some interesting sculptures:

Alexander Rossi, who finished 22nd in his No. 27 Dallara-Honda, races alongside the No. 55 Chevrolet of Alex Palou (Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

 

The No. 6 Chevy of Robert Wickens, who was eighth in his return to competition Saturday, makes a climb at Barber Motorsports Park, whose famous spider structures lurk in the background (Chris Graythen/Getty Images).

 

Graham Rahal, who finished 14th despite his lack of iRacing experience, races next to a thicket of trees at Barber Motorsports Park (Chris Graythen/Getty Images).

 

A sweeping overhead shot of Barber Motorsports Park during Saturday’s IndyCar iRacing Challenge (Chris Graythen/Getty Images).

 

Kyle Kirkwood (top) and Colton Herta race their Andretti Autosport Hondas down the frontstretch at Barber Motorsports Park (Chris Graythen/Getty Images).

 

James Hinchcliffe, whose Dallara-Honda thankfullly started this week, placed 17th at Barber (Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

 

Defending series champion Josef Newgarden was sporting a nice shade of baby blue on his No. 1 Dallara-Chevrolet in finishing ninth (Chris Graythen/Getty Images).

 

Watkins Glen winner Sage Karam led the first 24 laps before falling behind in the pits and then falling out after contact from multiple incidents (Chris Graythen/Getty Images).

 

Five-time series champion Scott Dixon’s No. 9 Dallara-Honda made its IndyCar iRacing Challenge debut, finishing 16th (Chris Graythen/Getty Images).

 

Scott McLaughlin briefly goes off course while leading the field in a winning drive from his home in Brisbane, Australia (Chris Graythen/Getty Images).

 

Oliver Askew, who spent more than a dozen hours practicing on a simulation with his Arrow McLaren SP engineers, started ninth and finished 15th at Barber Motorsports Park (Chris Graythen/Getty Images).

 

It was another tough iRacing outing for 2013 Indianapolis 500 winner Tony Kanaan, who said he struggled with pitting glitches in a 26th-place finish (Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

 

Barber Motorsports Park is known for its collection of large steel structures featuring overgrown animals and insects, such as this spider keeping watch over Saturday’s race (Chris Graythen/Getty Images).