NASCAR Cup Series returns to California’s Sonoma Raceway

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For the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic, the NASCAR Cup Series returns to a fully wide-open Sonoma Raceway ready for race fans to enjoy the Toyota / Save Mart 350 this Sunday, June 12 at 4 p.m. Et on FS1, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio; the second of six road courses on the schedule for 2022 (COTA, Sonoma, Road America, Indianapolis RC, Watkins Glen and Charlotte ROVAL). Trackhouse Racing’s Ross Chastain took the first road course victory of the year in dramatic fashion at Circuit of the Americas earlier this season.

Now the NASCAR Cup Series heads to Sonoma, California to wrestle the challenging multi-elevational Sonoma Raceway road course for the 33rd time in series history.

Sonoma Raceway was opened as a 2.52-mile, multi-elevational paved road course and drag strip in 1968. Over the course of its existence, the 12-turn facility has held a few different names – Sears Point Raceway, Sears Point International Raceway, and Infineon Raceway prior to being renamed Sonoma Raceway.

The first NASCAR Cup Series race at Sonoma Raceway was held on June 11, 1989 and was won by Ricky Rudd driving a Buick for car owner Kenny Bernstein. Rudd ran the race at an average speed of 76.088 mph and led 61 of 74 scheduled laps (82.4%).

Over the years, the format and track configuration has changed at Sonoma Raceway. The first nine NASCAR Cup Series races at Sonoma were 300 kilometers and then 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.

In 2019 and 2021, the track was reconfigured back to the original 2.52-mile configuration with races being 90 laps – 226.8 miles. This season, Sonoma Raceway will be returning the track configuration back to the 1.99-mile configuration with the return of the ‘chute’. 

There have been 32 NASCAR Cup Series races at Sonoma Raceway since the first race there in 1989 – one race per season – until the 2020 season. Due to the pandemic, the series did not compete at Sonoma Raceway. 

The 32 NASCAR Cup Series races at Sonoma Raceway have produced 18 different pole winners and 20 different race winners. NASCAR Hall of Famer Jeff Gordon leads the series in both poles (five: 1998, 1999, 2001, 2004, 2005) and wins (five: 1998, 1999, 2000, 2004, 2006) at Sonoma Raceway.

Of the 18 different pole winners at Sonoma, three are active this weekend, led by Hendrick Motorsport’s driver Kyle Larson with three poles (2017, 2018, 2019).

Active Sonoma Pole WinnersPolesSeasons
Kyle Larson32019, 2018, 2017
Joey Logano12011
Kurt Busch12006

And five of the 20 different Cup Series Sonoma Raceway winners are active this weekend, led by Joe Gibbs Racing’s Martin Truex Jr. with three wins (2013, 2018, 2019).

Active Sonoma Race WinnersWinsSeasons
Martin Truex Jr32019, 2018, 2013
Kyle Busch22015, 2008
Kyle Larson12021
Kevin Harvick12017
Kurt Busch12011

All the on-track action begins for the NASCAR Cup Series at Sonoma Raceway on Saturday, June 11 from 4:30-5:30 p.m. ET, directly followed by Busch Light Pole Qualifying at 5:30 p.m. ET on FS2. 

Road Course Aces to watch at Sonoma

Heading into this weekend at Sonoma Raceway, the NASCAR Cup Series has 12 former road course winners entered in the Toyota / Save Mart 350 this Sunday, June 12 at 4 p.m. ET on FS1, PRN, and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio and five of them are looking for their first win of the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season – Martin Truex Jr., Kevin Harvick, Ryan Blaney, Christopher Bell and AJ Allmendinger. 

Hendrick Motorsports teammates Chase Elliott (seven road course wins) and Kyle Larson (three road course wins) have been the two hottest road course drivers over the last few seasons. Elliott, who leads all active drivers in road course wins, is currently ranked third on the NASCAR Cup Series all-time road course wins list behind NASCAR Hall of Famers Jeff Gordon with nine road course wins and Tony Stewart with eight. Elliott’s teammate, Kyle Larson, the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series champion, became the first driver in series history to win at three different road courses in a single season last year (Sonoma, Watkins Glen and Charlotte Roval). The Hendrick Motorsports teammates finished 1-2 at Sonoma last season with Larson taking the win, giving the organization its series leading seventh victory at the road course in California’s wine country.

Right behind Elliott on the active NASCAR Cup Series road course winners list are Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr with four road course wins each.  Busch has already won this season (Bristol Dirt), but Truex is still in search of his first trip to Victory Lane this season. Busch finished fifth at Sonoma last season and Truex finished third – his third straight top five at the track. Watch for both to be towards the front this weekend as both have won at Sonoma before.  

Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick has two road course wins under his belt, taking home the trophy at Sonoma Raceway in 2017 and Watkins Glen in 2006. Harvick has made 20 series starts at Sonoma posting one win, six top fives and 10 top 10s. 

Joe Gibbs Racing’s Christopher Bell (Daytona RC) and Kaulig Racing’s AJ Allmendinger (Indianapolis RC) were the only drivers not in the Hendrick Motorsports camp to win on a road course in the NASCAR Cup Series last season, but Sonoma has been a challenge for both drivers. Bell finished 24th in his series track debut at Sonoma last season, and Allmendinger has competed in the series at Sonoma since 2018. In total, Allmendinger has made 10 starts at Sonoma posting two top 10s.  

Team Penske’s Ryan Blaney is also looking for his first win this season. Blaney grabbed his lone road course win at the Charlotte ROVAL in 2018. Blaney has a knack for Sonoma though. In five series starts, he has posted one top five and three top 10s.  

Active Road Course Winners in the NASCAR Cup Series

Active Road Course WinnersTotal WinsSonomaWGICharlotteDaytonaIndyCOTARoad America
Chase Elliott70221011
Kyle Busch42200000
Martin Truex Jr43100000
Kyle Larson31110000
Kevin Harvick21100000
AJ Allmendinger20100100
Joey Logano10100000
Kurt Busch11000000
Ryan Blaney10010000
Christopher Bell10001000
Denny Hamlin10100000
Ross Chastain10000010

Defending Sonoma winner Kyle Larson looking to go back-to-back

Hendrick Motorsports’ Kyle Larson returns to Sonoma Raceway to defend his last season win and try to become just the third driver in NASCAR Cup Series history to win consecutive races at Sonoma; joining NASCAR Hall of Famer Jeff Gordon (three straight: 1998, ’99, ‘00) and Martin Truex Jr. (2018, ’19).

Larson grabbed his first and only victory of the 2022 season at the other points-paying track in the state of California, Auto Club Speedway (Fontana). Now the Elk Grove, California native is looking get his second win in his home state this weekend at Sonoma Raceway.

Last season, Larson led 57 of the 92 scheduled laps (61.9%) at Sonoma and won the race from the pole position becoming just the fourth driver to win a Cup Series race from pole or first starting position at Sonoma, joining Jeff Gordon (1998, 1999, 2004), Mark Martin (1997) and Ernie Irvan (1994).

In seven series starts at Sonoma, Larson has put up three poles, one win (2021) and two top 10s.

Truex gets Cole Pearn back at one of his best tracks

A friendly face to Martin Truex Jr. has returned. Joe Gibbs Racing has called on Cole Pearn to return to the No. 19 team this weekend at Sonoma Raceway and will serve as race engineer assisting crew chief James Small. Truex and No. 19 team are currently winless in the NASCAR Cup Series this season, and Sonoma Raceway is one of Truex’s best tracks – he leads all active drivers in wins at Sonoma with three.

Pearn previously served as crew chief for Truex from 2015-2019 leading him to 24 wins, 70 top fives, 110 top 10s and the 2017 NASCAR Cup Series title before retiring at the conclusion of the 2019 season. 

Two of Truex’s three victories at Sonoma Raceway have come with Pearn at his side (2018, 2019). In total, Truex has made 15 series starts at Sonoma posting three wins (2013, 2018, 2019), five top fives and six top 10s. He also leads all active drivers in laps led at the track with 213.

Playoff Bubble: Harvick outside looking in; 12 year streak of making the Playoffs in jeopardy

One of the most consistent drivers in recent NASCAR Cup Series history seems to be spinning the tires as of late. Kevin Harvick’s last win was in 2020 (Bristol) and he has dropped outside the Playoff cutline following World Wide Technology Raceway in the standings. Now, his streak of the last 12 consecutive seasons of making the Playoffs could be in jeopardy.

The veteran, Harvick, hasn’t missed a postseason in the NASCAR Cup Series since 2009, and he is tied with Denny Hamlin, Kurt Busch and Jimmie Johnson for the all-time most Playoff appearances with 15 each. Hamlin and Busch have already won this season assuring they will move on to their 16th Playoff appearance, but Harvick hasn’t won yet and now find himself two points behind Tyler Reddick in the 16th and final transfer spot on points. 

Harvick has won at Sonoma (2017) but finished 22nd in last season’s race. Thankfully, this season the track configuration will return to the 1.99-mile length and incorporate the ‘chute’, the same one Harvick last won on. In total, Harvick has made 20 starts at Sonoma posting one win and six top fives.

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