|Elevation changes are one of the highlights of Sonoma's course (Getty)|
HARVICK CHASSIS CHOICE: Harvick will pilot Chassis No. 395 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable. The No. 29 Chevrolet was built new for competition in 2012 and will be put through its first competitive laps this weekend at Sonoma.
PAUL MENARD CHASSIS CHOICE: Menard will pilot Chassis No. 358 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable. Built new in 2011, this No. 27 Chevrolet was last utilized in competition at the 2011 Sprint Cup Series race at the Sonoma, Calif.-based road course.
TONY STEWART CHASSIS CHOICE: This is a brand-new racecar that has never turned a wheel on the racetrack. The Toyota/Save Mart 350k on the road course at Sonoma, Calif., will mark Chassis No. 14-731’s on-track debut.
RYAN NEWMAN ON ROAD COURSE RACING: “I like road courses. They are difficult to pass on. It seems like there are only a couple of passing zones. I’ve always said the more corners there are without passing zones, the more opportunities there are to fall behind the guy who’s in front of the guy who’s in front of you. Road courses are unique in their own right. I wish we had a third one because I think they are fun. I enjoy hustling the racecar around the track, and Sonoma’s a good road course. Personally, I enjoy Watkins Glen a bit more, but I enjoy them both and I look forward to racing out there. It’s a big track-position race, and fuel mileage has become a big part of the racing there. But it’s the same for everybody. In road-course racing, the driver, in my mind, can make up more than he can at an oval just being able to hustle a car. You have the added mannerism, I guess you could say, of braking. When you brake at short tracks, it’s not the same as when you brake and downshift. So, you have to be a smooth downshifter, you have to be a good braker. Obviously, you have to turn right. There are extra characteristics, I guess, that you have to include at road courses that you don’t have to include at ovals. That separates the men from the boys, typically.”
RYAN NEWMAN CHASSIS CHOICE: Chassis No. 39-651 has just two starts to its credit – last season’s road course races at Sonoma, Calif., and Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International. Newman started fifth at Sonoma and was in the top-five for the race’s first 25 laps. But on lap 38, while entering the final turn on the course, Newman was caught up in a multi-car accident that all but ended his chance of victory. During the accident, Newman spun in the middle of the corner and managed to stay away from the outside retaining wall. But as he was about to put the car in gear and begin driving forward, his Chevy was hit by another car attempting to dodge the melee. After substantial repairs, Newman finished 25th. At Watkins Glen, Newman started fifth. The team had a good strategy going into the race, planning to pit early, but the strategy didn’t pan out. Newman recorded a 16th-place finish. After undergoing a facelift for the 2012 season, the car will make its first start this week at Sonoma.
JAMIE McMURRAY CHASSIS CHOICE: Crew Chief Kevin “Bono” Manion and the No. 1 McDonald’s team will bring Chassis #1012 to Sonoma this weekend. This road course chassis will make its third Sonoma appearance and fifth race, overall. This chassis has finished 15th at Sonoma twice, and earned sixth and 17th place finishes at Watkins Glen in 2010 and 2011, respectively.
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA ON SONOMA: “A lot of memories from Sonoma. Good and bad. Obviously I got my first Cup win there five years ago but ever since then we’ve struggled. Which is surprising considering how well we run at Watkins Glen. We tested at VIR a couple of months back and I was really happy with the car so hopefully we figured something out coming into the race this weekend. You’re at that point in the season where you need to step things up. It’s really important for us to run well at Sonoma and have a strong finish for the Target team.”
MONTOYA CHASSIS CHOICE: Crew Chief Chris “Shine” Heroy and the No. 42 Target team will bring Chassis #1014 to Sonoma this weekend. This chassis boasts a victory at Watkins Glen in 2010 and a seventh-place finish in 2011. It finished 10th and 15th at Sonoma in 2010 and 2011, respectively. Chassis #1014 has led a total of 80 laps; two of those laps were at Sonoma.
JIMMIE JOHNSON CHASSIS CHOICE: Chassis No. 543 serves as the primary for Johnson at Sonoma. This car has raced in the last six road courses, with Johnson capturing the win at Sonoma in 2010. Chassis No. 590 serves as the backup.
MARCOS AMBROSE ON SONOMA: “Sonoma is a great track and I love it. It is one of the smallest, most technical, race tracks that a driver can go to, and we are going there with one of the biggest, laziest, dinosaurs you could ever imagine. A stock car around that place is unreal. I never imagined we could run so fast at that kind of place with as little throttle as we do. It’s really just all about momentum and looking after your tires and that’s what makes Sonoma so great. It’s also what makes the racing fantastic, because it is all in the drivers hands and I like that type of racing. Sonoma is one of my favorite races of all time.”
AMBROSE CHASSIS CHOICE: The No. 9 RPM team has prepared chassis No. 772 for this weekend’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Race at Sonoma. This Stanley Ford was previously tested this season at Virginia International Raceway.
CARL EDWARDS ON SONOMA: “Sonoma is one of the most fun tracks we go to. It is real slippery and it is so much different than what most of us grew up racing, it is a huge challenge. To me, it is one of the tracks I look forward to the most. We have had really goodraces and bad races there but it is challenging. It is so neat to drive a stock car like that with all the horsepower and you are shifting gears and jumping off curbs and locking up the tires. There is a lot of driving going on. It is a very physical race and it is usually hot out there and grueling. A good run there, to me, is special. It says a lot about not only the car and team, but there is a lot of pride as a driver to run well because it is so much work.”
EDWARDS CHASSIS CHOICE: The Aflac team will be bringing chassis RK-816 this weekend to Sonoma. It is a new carthat the team tested at VIR.
GREG BIFFLE ON SONOMA: “I’m looking forward to Sonoma. I love road racing, it’s a lot of fun. The thing I don’t like about it is the restarts. Everybody gets bunched up going in the corner, people are in the grass, people are everywhere. Restarts are rough, but other than that I really enjoy it and I’m looking for a top-five finish. I guarantee there will be action this weekend.”
BIFFLE CHASSIS CHOICE: Primary: RK-764 Last ran Watkins Glen – finished 31st
BRIAN VICKERS ON SONOMA: “I’m really looking to getting back into the No. 55 Toyota at Sonoma — especially after being away for so long, but it has been great to continue to build a relationship and run with (owner) Rob Kauffman. The No. 55 team has been running very well with Mark and I hope I can continue that momentum. They were SO close at Pocono. Rodney and the guys gave me a great car at the VIR test. We ran very competitive laps times against some guys that are considered the road race experts. So I am pretty pumped about that. I’ve had some success at Sonoma too. The last being the pole in 2009 and leading a bunch of laps before getting caught up in an incident.
VICKERS CHASSIS CHOICE: 690 – first race in 2012.
A.J. ALLMENDINGER ON SONOMA: “As always, the key for Sonoma is keeping all four wheels on the track. You need your car set up to be able to make your move underneath entering Turn 11 because that is the major passing point on the track. The biggest thing is that you have to have forward drive off all the way through the ‘esses’ andthat’s certainly what we’ll be hoping to have working for us this weekend.”
BRAD KESELOWSKI ON SONOMA: “It took a while, but I’ve become a big fan of road courseracing over the last couple of years. As a racecar driver, it’s not easy when you have to step out of your comfort zone and road course racing was definitely uncomfortable to me. Now it’s something I take a lot of pride in. Versatility, in this sport or any sport, is a good thing. The two drivers that came before me in the Miller Lite Dodge were good road course racers and I hope to be able to continue to carry on that tradition. We’ve been close before, but a road course win would rank right up there with the best wins of my career.”
KESELOWSKI CHASSIS CHOICE: The No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Chargerteam will race chassis PRS-806 during Sunday’s Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma. This is a brand-new chassis to the No. 2 fleet.
ROBBY GORDON ON SONOMA:“Even though I have been out of the NASCAR scene for about three months, we have been extremely busy with off-road racing and the introduction of SST. We tested the No. 7 MAPEI / SPEED Energy car last week in South Carolina and look forward to competing with the regular NSCS group this weekend. Sonoma is a fun race track, and we have had great results there so I am looking forward to putting on a good show for our fans."