Time to throw a few right turns in with the lefts as NASCAR makes one of two stops on the schedule at a road course. People often throw this week’s race at Sonoma and the race in a few weeks at Watkins Glen in the same category. But just as all ovals are not created a like, neither are all road courses.
At Sonoma patience is the name of the game, like a short track that has almost three times as many turns. And just like at the short track, that all goes out the window in the final laps.
“That’s the one thing that you can guarantee yourself is whoever is behind you at the end of the race will not be patient,” said Clint Bowyer. “One of the things -- again, going back to all this. Go out there and set your car up to not put yourself in those situations. Be good off of (turn) 10 to where they can’t dive-bomb you into 11. Be good down the hill, up on top of the hill to where they can’t dive-bomb you getting into 7. Those are things that you’ve got to be able to take care of business and set yourself up for and if you’re not good off of those corners you’re going to be battling that there in your mirror all day long.”
With passing at a premium in Sonoma, how you handle those corners were you can pass will be crucial.
“Road-course racing, I’ve always thought, you can wring a bit more out of the car, whether it’s braking or how you use the curbs or the lines you choose,” said AJ Allmendinger. “So, that’s why I enjoy it and that’s why I feel like we can come here and have a shot to do well. And, if we put ourselves in position to win the race, then that’s great."
Eight drivers in Sunday’s field have won at Sonoma before, with Jeff Gordon’s five wins leading the way. Tony Stewart is the only other driver with multiple wins, he had two. Martin Truex, Jr., Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, Jimmie Johnson, and Bowyer each have single Sonoma victories.
“I just like the road courses,” said Stewart. “I’ve always liked Sonoma. It’s really a driver’s track. It’s tough to make your car drive perfect all day. You can have a really good car, but it’s going to slide around and you’re going to struggle for grip, and that’s what makes it so fun. You have to do the work behind the steering wheel.”
Jamie McMurray will lead the field to green from the pole on Sunday, with Allmendinger, rookie Kyle Larson, Carl Edwards and Kurt Busch making up the top five starters. The green flag is set to drop at around 2:19 Central Time.