Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Sonoma Betting Preview: 2018 Toyota/Save Mart 350

Let's give Sonoma two races a season. No, make it three races a season.
Grab your wine and cheese and let's go watch some NASCAR racing NorCal style. It's road racing time in beautiful Sonoma County where drivers take those big bulky stock cars and finally make some right turns after 15 races of exclusively making left turns this season. It's my favorite type of racing and a welcomed breath of fresh air from the ovals.

After a much needed weekend off for the NASCAR Cup Series, the drivers, teams, and fans come in refreshed this week for the 16th race of the season which hopefully will be sort of a reboot from the predictable happenings in the first 15 races.

This season we get a bit of a change where we'll be seeing races on three road courses or at least kind of. We'll get the traditional two road courses we're used to with Watkins Glen race happening Aug. 5, but during the Playoffs, we get a new deal with Charlotte Motor Speedway using its infield road course and part of the oval banking and calling it a "roval." It's supposed to be the best of both worlds with the required technical aspects of the road courses mixed in with the speed needed to win on an oval. The teams will be testing it next month.

We'll see how the Charlotte thing turns out, but I'll go ahead and say now that Sonoma is still my favorite of the courses because it's a more technical course with elevation changes that really test the driver's ability in ways either of the other road courses can't. Watkins Glen is a much faster track with longer straightaways.

Although Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr., and Kevin Harvick have combined to win 11 of the 15 races this season and all three have won at Sonoma in the past, this race also signifies a good chance for a non-elite driver to win.

However, the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook posted those three as the 4/1 co-favorites to win, and for good reason.

“We had strong performing road course cars last year,” said Truex, who led 25 laps last year before blowing an engine late. “We had the car to beat at Sonoma. We hit on something and had a ton of speed there. Our Furniture Row Racing team has been looking forward to getting back to Sonoma to finish what we almost completed last year.”

Truex won at Sonoma in 2013 while Kyle Busch's four road course wins -- two at Sonoma -- is the most among active drivers. And the other beast, Kevin Harvick, won at Sonoma last year followed by a Truex win at Watkins Glen. Really? This race is expected to finish like 11 of the races this season with one of these guys? Just great.

I want some new blood in the winner's circle. I want a first-time winner on the season and I'm thinking about a couple just because of their road skills. They may not have the fastest car, but their skills of getting in and out of the turns fastest make up for having a slower car than Truex or Harvick. The driver means more on these road races than any other type of track, and Sonoma is the toughest. Watching drivers like Dale Earnhardt Jr., Matt Kenseth, Michael Waltrip and Bobby Labonte struggle so miserably at Sonoma was comical.


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