Wednesday, June 22, 2016

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Notes: Race No. 16 at Sonoma Raceway

There have been 10 different winners in the past 11 Sonoma Cup races.
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series
Next Race: Toyota / Save Mart 350
The Place: Sonoma Raceway
The Date: Sunday, June 26
The Time: 3 p.m. ET
TV: FS1, 1:30 p.m.
Radio: PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 218.9 miles (110 laps)

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series

Next Race: Drivin for Linemen 200 brought to you by Altec
The Place: Gateway Motorsports Park
The Date: Saturday, June 25
The Time: 8:30 p.m. ET
TV: FS1, 8 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 200 miles (160 laps)


We’re Going Racing! NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Returns After Off Weekend

After having the weekend off, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads west to Sonoma Raceway for its first road-course race of the season – Sunday’s Toyota / Save Mart 350 (3 p.m. ET on FS1).

Kyle Busch is the defending winner of the event that has had 10 different drivers visit Victory Lane the last 11 years it’s been held: Kyle Busch (2015), Carl Edwards (2014), Martin Truex Jr. (2013), Clint Bowyer (2012), Kurt Busch (2011), Jimmie Johnson (2010), Kasey Kahne (2009), Kyle Busch (2008), Juan Pablo Montoya (2007), Jeff Gordon (2006) and Tony Stewart (2005).

This season, 10 different drivers have taken the checkered flag through 15 races. All are virtually locked into to the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. The Chase Grid shapes up as follows: 1. Kyle Busch, 2. Brad Keselowski, 3. Carl Edwards, 4. Jimmie Johnson, 5. Kevin Harvick, 6. Kurt Busch, 7. Joey Logano, 8. Martin Truex Jr., 9. Matt Kenseth, 10. Denny Hamlin, 11. Chase Elliott (100 points above the cutoff), 12. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (+30), 13. Austin Dillon (+28), 14. Jamie McMurray (+21), 15. Ryan Newman (+16), 16. Ryan Blaney (+11).

Busch Returns To Site Where Dream Run Started

In Homestead’s Victory Lane, when Kyle Busch took his first sip of championship champagne, you could almost hear him say, “It’s so good. Once it hits your lips, it's so good.”

That championship march began at Sonoma.

A mere four months after breaking his right leg and fracturing his left foot last season, Kyle Busch visited Victory Lane at Sonoma Raceway to jumpstart his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship run.

Busch returns to the Northern California road course Sunday in much better shape. He leads the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series with three victories, which give him a potential nine bonus points for the Round of 16 in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.

Struggling lately, Busch has failed to finish better than 30th in his last four starts since winning at Kansas. Despite his rut, he still leads the series with nine top-five showings.

In 11 starts at Sonoma, Busch claims two wins, two top fives and three top 10s.

Road-Couse Wunderkind Allmendinger Attempts To Crash Chase With Sonoma Victory

AJ Allmendinger has a pretty nice, little Saturday planned. Now, he needs a good Sunday.

Last year, Allmendinger won the Coors Light Pole the Saturday before the Sonoma race. Unfortunately for the road-course ace, he finished 37th on Sunday.

The No. 47 JTG Daugherty Racing driver is arguably the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series’ top road-course racer.

In 2014, Allmendinger crashed the Chase with his victory at Watkins Glen. He’ll attempt to do the same on Sunday.

Allmendinger won the Coors Light Pole Awards at both Sonoma and Watkins Glen last season, but suffered tough-luck finishes of 37th and 24th, respectively.

From nearby San Jose California, Allmendinger currently sits 19th on the Chase Grid, 27 points behind 16th-place Ryan Blaney.

Old School At Sonoma: Stewart Shoots For Third NorCal Victory, Chase Berth

Tony Stewart will try for his third career Sonoma win and first of the season as he continues his quest for a Chase berth in Sunday’s Toyota / Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway.

In addition to his two victories, NASCAR’s elder statesman owns five top fives and nine top 10s in 17 career starts at Sonoma. Stewart also ranks third in average running position (11.9) and driver rating (98.1) at the 1.99-mile track.

Stewart is the active NASCAR Sprint Cup Series leader in road-course wins with seven.

After missing the first eight races, Stewart must win a race and end NASCAR’s regular season in the top 30 in points to qualify for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Right now, Stewart sits 35th in points, 45 markers behind 30th-place Brian Scott.

You’re My Boy Blue (Deuce)

Oh, that’s the Blue Deuce, a fabled car that Brad Keselowski piloted to the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series titles. Don’t worry. Again this year, it’s legit.

Keselowski, still the driver of the No. 2 Ford, continues to perform at a high level for Team Penske in its 50th anniversary season. And now, he looks to capture a milestone victory. Penske’s next win will be the organization’s 100th.

Through 15 races, he ranks second on the Chase Grid on the strength of his two wins, six top fives and 10 top 10s.

Right now, Keselowski rides a streak of six consecutive top 10s – tied with Chase Elliott for the second longest current string in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. The Michigan native’s run of three straight top fives leads the series.

Keselowski has just one top-10 finish in six starts at Sonoma (2011). He has been better at NASCAR’s other road course, Watkins Glen, where he claims three runner-ups and four top 10s in six starts. Overall, Keselowski owns three top fives and five top 10s in 12 starts at road courses.

Elliott Off To Banner Rookie Start
If you told someone at the beginning of the 2016 season that Chase Elliott would have a better rookie year than both Jimmie Johnson AND Dale Earnhardt, this would likely be the reply: “You’re crazy, man. I like you. But you’re crazy.”

Life’s good for 20-year-old Chase Elliott.

He’s produced a Sunoco Rookie season on par so far with a NASCAR immortal and one of its living legends. Elliott boasts 11 top 10s and six top fives through the first 15 races of his Sunoco Rookie season. In comparison, Johnson had 10 top 10s (2002) and Earnhardt (1979) possessed five top fives through the first 15 races of their Sunoco Rookie seasons.

The Dawsonville, Georgia native nearly registered his first win in each of his last two races, placing second at Michigan after leading 35 laps and finishing fourth at Pocono after pacing the field for 51 go-arounds.

Elliott leads Ryan Blaney in the Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings by 49 points.

The good vibes continue to pour in for Elliott. On Tuesday, he was named by SportsPro as one of the world’s 50 most marketable athletes for the second consecutive year. The criteria for the rankings includes earnings, age, home market, charisma, willingness to be marketed and crossover appeal.

Elliott will tune up for Sunday’s Toyota / Save Mart 350 by running in the Chevy’s Fresh Mex 200 NASCAR K&N Pro Series West race at Sonoma on Saturday.

Home Cooking: Larson Looks To Stir Up Winning Recipe At Home Track

Kyle Larson looks due for his first career victory.

The No. 42 Chevrolet driver placed third in his last start at Michigan and second two starts before at Dover. Sprinkled between those results were a win in the third segment of the Sprint Showdown exhibition and a strong run in the NASCAR Sprint All-Star race.

A native of Elk Grove, California, Larson will try to get his first win next at Sonoma Raceway – located 81 miles from his hometown.

Larson has qualified well at Sonoma in his first two appearances there with starts of third and fourth, but has not finished strongly, placing 28th in his track debut (2014) and 15th last season.

Earmuffs Jr. Fans
Earmuffs Dale Earnhardt Jr. fans.

If the No. 88 Chevrolet driver runs into bad luck like he did at Michigan, he might land on the Chase bubble.

At the moment, Earnhardt is the only driver who won a race last year, who has yet to visit Victory Lane this season.

Earnhardt looks like a safe bet to make the Chase right now, positioned 12th on the Grid, 30 points ahead of Kasey Kahne on the cutoff line. Still, another tough-luck finish like his 39th-place showing at Michigan, coupled with some surprise winners, could doom him.

Earnhardt has won at five of the 11 tracks leading into the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup: Daytona, Pocono, Bristol, Michigan and Richmond. He is tied with Tony Stewart for the active wins lead at Daytona (4), the track that could be his ticket to NASCAR’s playoffs.

That’s How You Do It, That’s How You Race

Through 15 races, winners in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series have averaged a 1.028 margin of victory – the fourth-closest margin of victory through this point in the season since the advent of electronic scoring in 1993.

The current lower downforce rules package has helped generate close racing in 2016. Three races set track records for green flag passes for the lead (Atlanta, Auto Club, Bristol), while two races featured the seventh-closest margin of victory in series history (Daytona and Phoenix).

California? The Golden State? Gorgeous! – 9 Drivers Hail From The Sunny State

In recent years, California has served as developmental gold mine for NASCAR.

Nine drivers have been panned by the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series out of the Golden State for Sunday’s Toyota / Save Mart 350: Kevin Harvick (Bakersfield), Casey Mears (Bakersfield), Josh Wise (Riverside), Kyle Larson (Elk Grove), AJ Allmendinger (San Jose), Jimmie Johnson (El Cajon), Matt DiBenedetto (Grass Valley), Dylan Lupton (Wilton) and Cole Whitt (Alpine).

Of the California drivers, Johnson boasts six series championships, while Harvick claims one. Johnson leads them in wins with 77, followed by Harvick with 32. Allmendinger and Mears each have one win.

Lupton, a NASCAR Next alumnus, will attempt to make his Sprint Cup debut in the No. 93 BK Racing Toyota on Sunday.

Bubblicious: Drivers Without Wins Hope Chase Aspirations Don’t Pop

With just six open Chase berths and 11 races remaining until NASCAR’s playoffs, drivers with a “0” in the wins column have to play the risky game of going all out for victory or maintaining a strong points position.

The winless drivers who would make the Chase on points today are Chase Elliott (100 points above the cutoff), Dale Earnhardt Jr (+30), Austin Dillon (+28), Jamie McMurray (+21), Ryan Newman (+16) and Ryan Blaney (+11).

Elliott and Blaney would become the second and third Sunoco Rookies to ever make NASCAR’s playoffs. Denny Hamlin earned a Chase berth in his first full-time season (2006). Third-year competitor Austin Dillon would also take the wheel for his first Chase.

The first driver on the outside of the Chase bubble looking in is Kasey Kahne, who lurks 11 points behind Ryan Blaney. Kahne is followed by Trevor Bayne (18th on the Chase Grid, 19 points below Blaney), AJ Allmendinger (19th, -27) and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (20th, -27).

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, etc.

The Godfather To Grace Fans At Sonoma

Actor Luke Wilson will serve as the official pace car driver for the Toyota / Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway. Best known for his comedic roles in “Old School,” “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy” and “Legally Blonde,” the Texan currently stars in Showtime’s new series “Roadies,” premiering on June 26. …

Patrick Nominated For 2016 Teen Choice Awards Choice Female Athlete
Danica Patrick has been nominated for Choice Female Athlete in the 2016 Teen Choice Awards. Fans can vote at, using the FOX Now app, or by tweeting #ChoiceFemaleAthlete and @DanicaPatrick. Winners will be announced July 31 at 8 p.m. ET live on FOX. …

Carpentier Set To Make First NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Start Since 2011
Patrick Carpentier of Ville LaSalle, Quebec, Canada will make his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start since 2011 in the No. 32 GO FAS Racing Ford. A five-time winner in the CART Series, Carpentier’s last NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start came at Kansas where he finished 30th. His top career finish was an 11th-place showing at Sonoma in 2009. Carpentier won the Coors Light Pole at New Hampshire in 2008.

Stewart, Irvan To Be Inducted Into Sonoma Raceway Wall Of Fame
Tony Stewart and Ernie Irvan will join Sonoma Raceway’s Wall of Fame this weekend, joining fellow NASCAR figures, Rusty Wallace (2005), Mark Martin (2005), Jeff Gordon (2006), Ricky Rudd (2007) and Rick Hendrick (2010). Stewart and Irvan each won twice at Sonoma. Stewart will go for his third victory in his final race at the 1.99-mile track on Sunday. …

Save Mart Celebrates 25 Years With Sonoma Raceway
Save Mart Supermarkets celebrates its 25th year of sponsorship with Sonoma Raceway this weekend.

"Our partnership with the Sonoma Raceway has become part of Save Mart's culture. Save Mart, Lucky and FoodMaxx stores celebrate the Toyota / Save Mart 350 in the weeks leading up to the race, building a palpable momentum among our employees and in the communities we serve," said Nicole Pesco, co-president and chief strategy and branding officer. "What a great legacy this partnership has built."


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