NASCAR’s Michael Waltrip Previews New Course for Toyota/Save Mart 350

Sonoma Raceway

Two-time Daytona 500 winner and NASCAR on FOX analyst Michael Waltrip gave Northern California media members a driver’s-eye view of  Sonoma Raceway’s original road course during a media event today. NASCAR will return to the 12-turn, 2.52-mile course for the first time since 1997 during this weekend’s Toyota/Save Mart 350.

Waltrip, piloting a 2020 Toyota Supra pace car, offered high-speed laps around the raceway’s original road course, including the signature Carousel turn. The raceway announced last fall that it would return to the full configuration for this year’s event as part of its 50th anniversary celebration. The change marks the first alteration of the NASCAR configuration in Sonoma in 20 years.

“It’s just going to be so much fun to watch. The entry to the Carousel is one of the most unique turns in NASCAR,” said Waltrip, who made nine starts on the full configuration. “For the fans, they’re going to see these big stock cars hopping over the blind hill and then landing and getting squirrely down into the Carousel and then racing off of it up the straight. It’s going to be great.”

Sonoma’s original track layout incorporates the raceway’s signature sweeping downhill corner known as “The Carousel,” which plunges from Turn 4, down through Turns 5 and 6 and navigates a more than 200-degree turn before dropping onto the raceway’s longest straightaway into the Turn 7 hairpin. 

From 1998-2018, NASCAR competed on a shorter, 1.99-mile configuration, which utilized a bypass connecting Turns 4 and 7 known as “The Chute.” The last NASCAR event on full road course was the 1997 Save Mart Supermarkets 300 won by Mark Martin.

“It’s one thing to talk about the Carousel, but quite another to experience it first hand, in a very fast Toyota Supra, driven by a guy who really knows his way around the full, 12-turn road course,” said Steve Page, Sonoma Raceway President and General Manager. “We appreciate Michael making the trip out for the hands-on demonstration, and can’t wait to see the drivers hit the track this weekend.”

This weekend, both the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and NASCAR K&N Pro Series West will tackle the challenging layout. Saturday’s Procore 200 NASCAR Pro Series West event will span 50 laps, while Sunday’s Toyota/Save Mart 350 will span 90 laps. A number of full-time Cup Series drivers, including Austin Dillon, Ryan Preece and Daniel Hemric, are entered in Saturday’s West Series race to log more track time on the course.

NASCAR’s biggest stars will face the new configuration for the first time this Friday, with two practice sessions on Metro by T-Mobile “That’s High Speed” Fast Friday. Saturday will feature two rounds of group qualifying for the Toyota/Save Mart 350 (12:10 p.m.), as well as the Procore 200 NASCAR K&N Pro Series West event (1:45 p.m.). The green flag falls on the Toyota/Save Mart 350 Sunday at noon.

Sonoma Raceway PR

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