A.J. Allmendinger has not made a Sprint Cup start at Sonoma Raceway since the 2012 season, when he finished ninth for Team Penske.
Perhaps with that in mind, he and his JTG Daugherty Racing team made their way there earlier this month for a two-day test session.
The 1.99-mile circuit is a treacherous one but when asked what he thought was its toughest challenge, the former open-wheel standout didn’t choose a specific section of track.
Instead, he noted the importance of saving the rear tires as the car makes its way out of the corners.
“It is real easy to see a guy make a mistake or just try to be aggressive, and you quickly burn your rear tires off, and then you are done the rest of the stint,” said Allmendinger, who was 18th and 15th respectively in yesterday’s two Sprint Cup practices at Sonoma.
“I think that is what everybody works on here, and that is what they focus on is trying to get the forward drive. If you don’t have that, you aren’t going to win the race, so it is the most critical part of this race track to me.”
In the clip above, you’ll see what Allmendinger must deal with this weekend as he makes his way around the technically demanding Sonoma layout.
Qualifying for tomorrow’s Toyota/Save Mart 350 will take place later this afternoon at 1:40 p.m. ET. For Allmendinger and Jamie McMurray’s thoughts on how the new knock-out qualifying format will look in its road course debut, click here.
Chase Sexton stumbled in San Diego and Eli Tomac had a hard fall in Anaheim 2, but the Monster Energy Supercross numbers for Houston suggest they will continue to be the ones to beat in Houston. To do so, they will have to turn back challenges from another pair of riders who have swept the top five in the first three rounds and another with a worst finish of sixth.
There are reasons to believe Webb and Roczen can keep those streaks alive.
Webb is the only multiple winner at Supercross’ current Houston stadium. His pair of wins came in 2019 and 2021, the same year he won his two 450 championships.
Clinton Fowler points out this week, that Webb has carried that strength into 2023. Webb had a late surge in Anaheim 1, advancing from fifth to second in the final six laps. In San Diego, he set his ninth fastest lap with two to go and his eighth fastest on the final lap. He posted his fastest lap of Anaheim 2 on Lap 12 while the rest of the field did so on Lap 6 on average.
By comparison, Tomac set his 14th fastest lap on the final circuit in route to winning the Main at San Diego while he was trying to keep Webb at bay.
With a sixth at San Diego, Dylan Ferrandis barely missed sweeping the top five in his first three races as did Tomac with a sixth last week at Anaheim 2.
This will be the 46th year Supercross has visited Houston and with 55 races the city is tied for the second-most with Detroit.
Webb won most recently in 2021 in the final race of three held there that year as the series executed a strategy of racing in residencies to limit travel during height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Tomac and Justin Barcia also won in Houston in 2021.
Two privateers have started the season on a high note.
Joshua Cartwright and Joshua Varize have each made the last two Mains. Cartwright finished 18th in San Diego and 21st last week in Anaheim 2 – all while working fulltime as a Business Intelligence Analyst at the University of Texas, Dallas. Varize earned a top-15 (12th) in San Diego and was 21st in Anaheim 2 in his third season on a 450.
The numbers show none of the active 250 Supercross East riders have won in Houston, so no matter who steps on top of the box, there is going to be a fresh face. That is not surprising since most of the top competitors have not raced at this venue yet.
Michael Mosiman has a pair of top-fives there, however. His best finish was a second in the second 2021 race. Garrett Marchbanks scored a top-10 in his rookie season of 2019 in Houston.
In the 250 East division, Hunter Lawrence is one of the favorites to win the title now that Christian Craig has moved to 450s. Last year he had four wins and nine podiums, but failed to set a fast lap in a race.