After a relatively rare off weekend, Paul Menard and the No. 21 Menards/Richmond team get back to work at Sonoma Raceway for this weekend’s 350-kilometer race on the 12-turn, 1.99-mile California track.
“It’s the first road-course race of the season, and I’m excited about that,” Menard said.
“The track is really tight, and it’s hard to use all the horsepower these Ford Fusions produce.”
Menard said races at Sonoma have other characteristics that make races there interesting.
“The tires fall off as you put laps on them, so tire management is important,” he said.
“Fuel mileage can come into play, so there are a lot of strategy decisions to be made.”
The course itself offers challenges for drivers too.
“There are not a lot of passing zones, so you have to take what you can get when you can,” he said.
Road courses are a big part of Menard’s career.
When he first came to the Cup series back in 2003 he made his first start at a road course, Watkins Glen International. He also made his second Cup start at the Glen two years later.
“At that time I had more experience on road courses than I did on ovals,” he said, adding that over the course of his career he’s now made far more starts on ovals.
In the years he’s been in Cup, Menard has seen drivers across the board develop their skills to the point that there are few who have an advantage when it comes to races on tracks like Sonoma and Watkins Glen.
“The quality of road-racing talent is as good as it’s ever been,” he said. “Now there are at least 15 drivers with a legitimate chance to win on road courses.”
Qualifying at Sonoma is set for Saturday at 11:45 a.m. (2:45 p.m. Eastern Time), and the 110-lap, 218.9-mile race is scheduled to start just after noon (3 p.m. Eastern Time) with TV coverage for qualifying and the race on Fox Sports 1.